The 50-over game has for long been neglected in favour of T20. The upcoming World Cup shows there’s life in it yet
A well played 50-over match is a good game of cricket for both players and fans. It allows enough time for a team to recover equilibrium if they make an early mistake, while also providing aggressive cricket for the fans. And the players feel they have earned their cheque after a decent amount of cricket.
However, the administrators have diminished the format by greatly favouring T20. Players are also guilty for allowing this to happen.
The T20 format attracts big crowds, many of whom are new to the game. T20 franchises also accumulate income for teams and associations that desperately need the money.
There is no doubt it has assisted the game financially but T20 tends to attract too much favourable attention at the wilful expense of other formats. There is a viable place for T20 but the exalted space it occupies in the overall structure of the game is disproportionate.
The ODI has been reduced to virtually depending on a World Cup year for its importance.
That is what we have this year - a tantalising World Cup in India. Adding to the expected drama, the draw includes a blockbuster match between those two fierce rivals, India and Pakistan.
Back in 1996, when India and Pakistan played a series in Toronto, I joined a group of players from both those sides who were happily chatting together. I was moved to ask: “Why is there animosity between the two countries - you both seem to get on well?”
The answer was telling. “We understand each other and eat similar food,” replied a player. “The people mostly get on well but it’s mainly the politicians who like to maintain the rage.” This was a sad but generally true perception, and unfortunately the situation has deteriorated since those days.
The limited-overs World Cup began as a 60-over affair, back in 1975. The tournament ended with a brilliant late-night victory for West Indies over a fighting Australia. That was exactly what the format needed and it seemed to indicate that the limited-overs game had gained universal popularity.
The ODI became a 50-over game but it was eventually undermined by the T20 format. The administrators’ short-sighted approach to 50-over playing conditions, their love affair with the financial benefits of T20, and the acquiescence of the players, has seen the middle format largely reduced to World Cup popularity.
Instead of dangling a carrot to challenge the imaginations of captains and players, the administrators opted to beat ODIs with a big stick
The notion that rocked the 50-over game, that the middle overs were boring, became common among many people - including most administrators. The desire to fight for greater relevance for 50-over cricket was lacking, and the rapid rise of the T20 game took priority. Instead of looking to inject thoughtful competitiveness into the 50-over game, administrators opted for gimmicks. Instead of dangling a carrot to challenge the imaginations of captains and players, the administrators opted to beat the game with a big stick.
That meant the introduction of gimmicks like powerplays, fielding restrictions and shorter boundaries, most of which generally punished bowlers and which tended to dictate the way a team was captained. As the fine former Australia captain Mark Taylor says, “You are virtually told how to captain a 50-over game.”
Those playing conditions were applied rather than captains being challenged by offering them more freedom in their choice of how to play the game.
There could still have been a cap on how many overs a bowler could bowl, but two players in a team could have been allowed a larger quota. Any captain who prefers taking wickets to concentrating on containment should be encouraged, not deterred. And surely a team’s approach to their batting is guided by the chase they face.
There were a number of ways the 50-over game could have been thoughtfully improved to enhance the experience for players and fans. Unfortunately they weren’t adopted and the ODI was allowed to wither.
It’s telling that the 50-over World Cup still attracts large crowds. Despite the general lack of positivity when talking about the format, the 2023 tournament is set to be extremely popular, especially as it features a mouth-watering India versus Pakistan fixture. –Cricinfo