Cricket Australia has listened to the public but ignored its players after pushing through a split-innings one-day domestic trial before the national team attempts a fourth consecutive victory at next year's World Cup. The introduction of the 45-over format means the country's only 50-over matches in 2010-11 will occur at international level.
In an unusual effort to counter the imbalance, Cricket Australia is already considering private fixtures for fringe members of the World Cup squad if they are short of game-time in the global format. The change towards the four-innings regulations for the entire domestic one-day tournament over-ruled the initial plan to break up the event, which would have scheduled traditional fixtures when the international representatives were available.
Ricky Ponting, who is unbeaten as a World Cup captain, was not in favour of the alterations during the planning phase and after the announcement the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) said 78% of its surveyed members rejected the idea. Despite the criticism, Cricket Australia's board passed the changes on Friday and the new format will begin when Queensland host Tasmania at the Gabba on October 6.
James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, said the players' views were extremely important, but they were not the only ones involved in a redesign being employed to revitalise the one-day concept. "In talking to stakeholders, the ultimate thing was the tournament should be played over the course of a whole year," Sutherland said. "To do a proper trial and to ensure the public fully understands the way it is played. There is no doubt there are issues for individual players and preparation for the World Cup coming up."
One of the major ones is the lack of 50-over games for the squad members who will not appear regularly during the seven-match Australia-England ODI series in January and February. A 15-man World Cup unit will be named in December and Michael Brown, Cricket Australia's deputy, said the board had approved the option for "possibles versus probables" contests to ensure the right sort of preparation.
"I'll work with the selectors to determine whether they want some particular players, for example Brett Lee or Callum Ferguson, or people coming back from injury, and if that's the case we'll put on private matches to give them a chance to perform at optimum level for the World Cup," Brown said. England and South Africa also don't play any 50-over competitions at domestic level despite the ICC saying it has no plans to over-haul its preferred one-day genre.
Sutherland said split innings would lead to a sense of "cat and mouse" and provide more strategy. Under the changes, the 20-over first innings will be followed by 25-over conclusions. There will be teams of 12, with only 11 batting or fielding, but no Powerplays or super strikers. Bowlers will be allowed to deliver two bouncers an over and have a maximum of 12 overs.
Paul Marsh, the ACA chief executive, said the players weren't consulted properly until a decision had been made to push ahead with the trial. "For the people that play and know the game better than anyone, this process has been difficult to comprehend and players are very disappointed," Marsh said. "Players are open to changes to any format of the game that can make the game better.
"They acknowledge that the one-day format has had its recent challenges and as a collective they want to help those running the game find the best solution. However, the players don't believe the split-innings format is the best solution."
Marsh was on the Cricket Australia committee - it also included Mark Taylor, Greg Chappell and Matthew Hayden - that recommended the final product, but he detailed the dissent of the ACA members. "We surveyed the players and an overwhelming majority (78%) rejected the split-innings format," he said.
"They are adamant that radical format changes are not the highest priority for the one-day game. Players continue to believe that administrators need to address the far bigger issues of the lack of context in one-day international cricket and the excessive number of one-dayers that continue to be programmed."
Sutherland said the ACA had been consulted heavily throughout the process. "The public told us to act and we have," he said. "The fans told us, through formal research, that they like ODI cricket best, but they want to see it refreshed and they want to see it with a short-form identity that is distinctively different from fast-emerging T20 cricket.