June 21, 2012

Is it time to bury the ODI?

As far as the limited-overs formats go, the 50-overs game has showed it has probably outlived its usefulness

The success of Twenty20 cricket, in the form of the mushrooming of domestic leagues around the world, is accompanied by concern about the future of Test and ODI cricket. Some of us have already signed a death warrant on these two more traditional forms of the game; that is obviously a hasty and dramatic conclusion. Cricket is actually at a very interesting stage in its evolution and it's too early to say where this game will be in 20 years' time; what we see today are only trends.

One sight that shook me last year, though, was that of a half-full stadium when India played England on a Sunday afternoon in an official ODI. This year the same stadium, the Wankhede, was packed to capacity for a domestic IPL game featuring Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders.

Going forward I think it is 50-overs cricket, not Test cricket, that is more vulnerable as a format with the arrival of T20 in general and the IPL in particular. The main reason being that Test cricket is so completely different from T20 cricket that it will never be in competition with it. That will remain Test cricket's great strength.

T20 is the new, faster-paced version of 50-overs cricket, like a new processor in a computer, which mostly does the same things but quicker.

As I said earlier, recognising trends is important. The need for the constant tweaking of one-day rules is telling us something about one-day cricket. In today's world it is just not exciting the masses as much as it used to. T20 seems to have whetted the appetite for shorter, faster-paced cricket.

It would be a mistake to assume that the success of the last World Cup was a success of 50-overs cricket. That tournament was a hit because it was a World Cup, where nearly every match had relevance, unlike with most ODIs held every year. Also, the fact that many of the games were played in India added to the thrill and festivity. India doing well and reaching the final also assured a large fan following for the event right through.

Outside of that, I have had a problem with one-day cricket for a while now. Like its name suggests, it is cricket with limits - a format that never fully extended itself. A lot of cricketers with limited talents - bits-and-pieces cricketers, in-betweeners, neither very good batsmen nor very good bowlers - made long careers out of it. Neither this nor that, that is what 50-overs cricket is now, and that is its big weakness, which makes it the most dispensable form of the game today.

One-day cricket did some real good when it arrived on the scene, but we don't realise how much damage it has also done to cricket as we knew it. I remember the great Kapil Dev once telling me how one-day cricket had almost killed his outswinger. Kapil was forced to bowl a lot straighter than he would normally do, just to be economical in ODIs and also to make sure that he wasn't wided by the umpire every time that beautiful outswinger swung a little more. It was with great effort that Kapil finally got his outswinger back - which, he said, was by training himself to think like a Test bowler even when playing one-dayers.

Take a hard, critical look at it and you will see that ODI cricket has slowly but surely helped rid the game of pace, swing, spin, and harmed the techniques of batsmen and bowlers, and negatively affected the basic cricketing skills that made the game worth watching

Bowlers in one-day cricket stopped thinking in terms of taking wickets long ago and started thinking instead of stopping runs being scored. Bowlers in ODIs became like men pulling out water pistols in a wild-west gunfight. Think of how much harm this basic change in mindset has done to the sport as a spectacle.

For a large chunk of a 50-overs innings - from the 15th to the 40th - we have a situation where a batting team is happy to get four runs an over and the opposition is happy to concede them. Where is the contest?

Fifty-over cricket has also ensured the flattening-out of pitches, giving rise to a breed of successful attacking batsmen who hit through the line without moving their feet.

Take a hard, critical look at it and you will see that ODI cricket has slowly but surely helped rid the game of pace, swing, spin, and harmed the techniques of batsmen and bowlers, and negatively affected the basic cricketing skills that made the game worth watching.

All this is not to say T20 is not also a limited-overs format, which shares some of the ills of ODI cricket. It is, but it does not limit itself as much as 50-overs cricket does. It takes certain cricketing skills to the extreme - attacking batting, for instance; it also pushes bowlers to the edge, forcing them to dig deep and bring out all their skills to survive in response to extreme threat.

It's no surprise that we often see some really fast spells in T20 cricket from genuine fast bowlers. This is an attacking response, made possible because the fast bowler knows he is not going to be bowling more than four overs a day, and often just one over in a spell (an example of where limits actually help). So he does not tend to hold back. The same can be said about fielding too.

Learning from the damage done by one-dayers, if the number of T20s played is kept down and matches are made relevant, T20 cricket can do no worse than ODI cricket - and its appeal is far greater and its financial benefits more far-reaching. I do believe the time has come for administrators to stop expending their energies on bringing life back into one-day cricket. There is only so much you can do with its basic concept. The market too has spoken against one-dayers - sponsors are not excited about them unless it's a World Cup. Administrators would be better off instead diverting their energy and time to Test cricket, which needs attention. In my next piece: how to make Test cricket viable in today's times.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sudhakar on June 24, 2012, 15:34 GMT

    In my opinion both T20 and ODI in its current form should be scrapped... T20 - because it is too short a format to really test the complete skills of 11 members in a team and ODI - because it has some very boring middle overs. The ideal balance will be 40-40 over cricket with 4 bowlers bowling up to 10 overs. T20 also has nothing in it for" genuine" spinner and only a format that has at least 40 overs can bring in the full repertoire of a spinner to light. Also with the 5th bowler being taken out of the equation the new format would give the batting team an additional batsman (which could still be what "common man" looks for entertainment) and it will be balanced with the bowling team having 4 best bowlers bowling all the overs.

  • Atif on June 24, 2012, 3:28 GMT

    One has to respect Sanjay's analysis because he has been a practitioner at the highest level. He puts his case forward eloquently with good examples. It did make me think. However, as a fan and someone who takes time out to watch the games I have to admit that I get more value from watching ODI and Tests. T20 is different animal. You could bring a team of unknown players and people will still watch it so long as there is big hitting and pure fast bowling. This format will never, in my opinion, prepare players for the test arena.

    Why not keep T20 purely as a club game whilst keeping ODI and Test as a country level game? If you have 3 formats at international level not only will you get player burnout but also viewer burnout.

    I think there is less correlation of technique between T20 and Test. I take Sanjay's point about killer instinct being developed in T20 but do I really want to see Sangakara trying to hit unorthodox shots in test cricket in order to avoid a draw?

  • Ashok on June 23, 2012, 16:07 GMT

    My answer to Sanjay's Question is a Loud NO. It is time to glorify ODI. Since ODI reperesent the best compromise between a Test & T-20, it has more right to survive than any other format of Cricket. It can be tweaked a bit with regards to D/L rules + better UDRS .But it certainly gives the cricketers the best chance to blossom without compromising their style of batting or bowling. A good spinner will always thrive.If he is spinning the ball, has decent length & direction & is accurate. The same applies to pace bowlers.In T-20 the approach is so different that it is totally focussed on baseball styled cricket. The argument against Test format is time consumed, crowd appeal & possibility of a "Drawn game" at the end of 5 days - No result. It suits old style English gentry who had plenty of time in a horse driven transport era rather than in a jet paced era. Test match is the purest Cricket format & T-20 the most corrupted one whilst ODI a decent compromise. So I say "Long live ODI" !

  • Ashok on June 23, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    Of the 3 formats, ODI represents cricket Fans' compromise best. It is neither too long as a 5 day test match nor too short " Chitty Chitty Banag Bang" like T-20 is.It gives batsmen to settle in and almost play his normal game at an accelerated S/R.It also lets the bowler deliver their normal stuff- either spin or Pace.Dale Steyn, Brett Lee are good examples of pace bowlers success whilst the Pakistan spinners Ajmal. Afridi & Hafeez prove that spin bowlers succeed even in a trio. T-20 is purely of entertainment value - slog fest! It is not cultured way & deprives the game of its majesty & artistry. Test cricket displays the artistry & beauty of the game in both style & grace - superb carpet cover drives, late cuts, leg glances & wristy strokes.It also shows how tactical battles are won.A 5 day game needs a lot of stamina & endurance too under varying weather. Only drawback in the modern fast paced word is that people do not have time to watch it at slow pace.ODI has best of all formats

  • Keith on June 23, 2012, 11:22 GMT

    I think we must be very careful before scrapping ODI's: they are a good way for non-test playing nations to get into the big league. Consider if there were no international ODI's, would T20 be a good start for the then much bigger leap to tests? No, the difference between the two games is too much. The argument could be made that we have enough test playing teams already, I don't agree with that. We need T20 to bring money and interest to the game in general, but it should not take over nor become essentially a different game, only vaguely related to that which spawned it.

  • sanjeewa on June 22, 2012, 22:22 GMT

    50 over cricket should be survived.It's the only and best way of competing large tournaments like WC.Good test than T20 WC.I don't think T20 and Test complement each other to survive and eventually Test will die and That will be the end of the cricket.To survive the cricket it should be reiterated that there is other aspect like bowling,fielding and captaincy than hitting,and normal spectator should be guided to enjoy that aspects of this beautiful game as well.Cricket is not base ball.To me it is the closest game to the life,it has many resemblances to the life.T20 is funny but nothing.

  • Dummy4 on June 22, 2012, 21:58 GMT

    Ridiculous article. T20 is fine but it's nothing compared to an ODI or much less a test. It'll be a sad day in cricket's history if either format is scrapped.

  • Dummy4 on June 22, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    As SM suggested ODI should be reduced 40 overs, also cut down the number of meaningless ODI payed.

  • Dummy4 on June 22, 2012, 8:19 GMT

    I don't think that the current ODI format needs changes or burial. The two formats, test and ODI, are too good to watch and enjoy. After some initial collapse there is some room for resilience in the later stages unlike T20 wherein the governing rule is hitting the ball as hard as possible even at the expense of wickets as the format has limited overs and it doesn't need the batsmen to be on the field for more time.. ICC also thinking to save the time of the players so that they spend that time in money earning formats.

  • Ravi on June 22, 2012, 7:34 GMT

    The problem with T20 is teams that lose early wickets tend to lose all the wickets before the end of 20 overs. That does not bring to the fore much skill. It is either they are successful in hitting out or successful in gifting wickets. Usually it is just one batsman or just one bowler who bails out.

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