Friday, 25 November 2011

The Case for ODIs

A lot has been said over recent weeks about the "death of test cricket". Yet while people were signing petitions and marching on the ICC to demand that test cricket stays alive, it appears that one of the other formats of the game is in a terminal state.

ODI cricket has been on the decline for a while, arguably (as with test cricket) since the introduction of the evil* twenty20 to the calendar. (*not actually evil) It's been fiddled around with more than any other format, with powerplays, new balls at each end, free hits and general bending of all sorts of rules in order to freshen it up and give it some pizazz.

The main gripe with ODIs is that they're a bit unnecessary and boring. Everyone loves test cricket, and (generally) players are happy to play them every day of every week, and more often than not, supporters are happy to pay attention to them. It may not be the televisually stimulating spectacle to the casual fan, but the main appeal of test cricket is the gradual war of attrition between two teams over the course of five long days. Don't believe the scare-mongering or petitions, test cricket is in rude health. Twenty20 is everything that test cricket isn't, it's rude, loud, in your face, and goes at a million miles an hour. And this works too, because TV companies like to show it, people like to go and watch, and players like to play (and to pick up the vast wods of cash they get for the priviledge).

ODIs don't really have that. As fun, exciting and exhilerating as they were when they first burst onto the scene 40 years ago, the game of cricket has moved on, and they've stood painfully still. 50 over cricket, no matter how many powerplays or free hits are injected into it will almost always have that really dull middle period which isn't quite test and certainly isn't T20. Long, pointless series are shoehorned in to an already packed international calendar, and nobody seems that interested.

So it may not come as a huge surprise when the man who was until last month the best bowler in the format, Graeme Swann, comes out and says that he'd like to see an end to ODI cricket. "It's not enjoyable" says our Graeme, and points to the full calendar and lack of interest from almost all concerned.

But why should we scrap ODIs? I'll be the first to admit that there are too many One Day International matches played, but to completely remove the format from cricket seems a touch extreme. The issue of long, drawn out, one-sided series can be resolved by limiting all ODI series to best of threes - which would also help ease the issue of overcrowding. While money shouldn't really be a factor, it sadly is, and for smaller grounds, the prospect of hosting ODIs is all that can financially keep them going if holding test matches is unlikely. Don't forget, ODI cricket gives the minnows (who not that long ago Graeme was supporting) the chance to compete and grow, with test status also unlikely to be forthcoming. And lest we forget, while some ODIs can be dull, so can certain tests and T20 games. The last World Cup was filled with giant-killings, dramatic finales, chokes and epic wins, which was nigh on the perfect advert for the format.

Yes, ODIs are far from perfect, and the ICC will need to seriously consider changing the format from 50 over to a forty over affair, but to scrap the format completely smacks of a man who's just been part of a team who've been whitewashed by the world champions. But relax ODI fans, Graeme Swann's word isn't law (yet), which means that the chances of an RIP for ODIs is quite a way off yet.

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