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Feature

TV ratings bring good news for 50-over cricket

The seven-match one-day international series between India and Australia, with its sellout crowds and high TRPs, has made the talk of 'the death of ODIs' sound premature

A large crowd turned up despite the 8.30am start, India v Australia, 6th ODI, Guwahati, November 8, 2009

The ODIs between India and Australia drew huge crowds  •  Getty Images

The seven-match one-day international series between India and Australia, with its sellout crowds and high TRPs, has made the talk of 'the death of ODIs" sound premature. Over the last three weeks, the world's biggest cricket market accepted the format with glee: All six matches played were sold out, and TV ratings in India suggested it got more eyeballs than the three big events that preceded it: the World Twenty20, Champions Trophy and Champions League Twenty20.
The whole talk of the irrelevance of the ODI format reached its peak in England in August and September when Australia were beating England 6-1 in a lacklustre series. Curiously, healthy crowds came in to watch those matches but the one-sided contests and consequent lack of meaning in the later games did raise doubts. But the recent series in India seems to suggest it is the scheduling, and not the format, that is at fault.
The Indian ratings (TRPs) compiled by TV audience measurement agency Audience Map (aMap) for the two ICC premier events this year - the World Twenty20 and Champions Trophy - go in favour of the shortest format of the game, but not by much.
While the average TRP for the 27 games of the World Twenty20 was 2.11, the figure was 3.98 when India's games were taken into consideration. In comparison, the average TRP for all matches in the Champions Trophy in South Africa that soon followed plummeted to 1.1 as India fell at the first stage, though their three matches fetched an average of 3.16. In fact, India's matches drew 88 million viewers on the government-run channel Doordarshan 1 (DD1).
The ratings, expressed as a percentage, took into account 15-years-plus viewers across all-India cable and satellite households (CS+15), with the top six metros in India under survey.
The Indian audiences, however, didn't quite warm up to the Champions League - a new tournament and a relatively untested domain where clubs from across the globe jostled for supremacy - according to data from another TV audience measurement agency, TAM Peoplemeter System. Among the target group of CS+4, the tournament delivered an abysmally low TRP of 0.74, even though the Bangalore Royal Challengers and Delhi Daredevils promised much.
The return to form of ODIs was signalled by the India-Australia series, aired in India on Doordarshan 1 and Neo Cricket, which had an average TRP of 5.52 - five times that of the Champions League
The return to form of ODIs was signalled by the India-Australia series, aired in India on Doordarshan 1 and Neo Cricket, which had an average TAM TRP of 5.52 - five times that of the Champions League. The highest figure was recorded for the fifth ODI in Hyderabad at 7.1.
The 50-over format also seemed to enjoy favour from players on both sides in the series. After that heady Hyderabad match, MS Dhoni said: "Whenever there are ODIs played in India, we see lots of people for them. I don't think it will die. It's an art to bat in one-day cricket. [It's] Still interesting. Games like this make it more interesting."
Dhoni was the second-highest run-getter in the series, and the leading scorer, Michael Hussey, also spoke about the art of one-day cricket that made the format interesting. "I think 50-over cricket has a huge future in the game," he said before the series. "It caters to a wide range of players, you can have your very aggressive batsmen, you can have the good runners between the wickets, it calls for tactics, you can have good spinners in the middle. Fifty-overs cricket has a big role to play still."
The marketing man seems to agree. "I always believed the talk about the death of ODIs was premature," said the head of a media-buying agency. "For me the World Cup will always be a 50-over affair. Eventually cricket is not so much about entertainment, it's all about the quality of the games. And one-dayers, which will continue to be a powerful property, have eventually demonstrated that it is good cricket."

Judhajit Basu is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo. Sidharth Monga is a staff writer.