ODIs: What Once Felt Shorter Now Feels Longer

With Ben Stokes announcing his retirement from ODIs yesterday, and the ECB sacrificing our domestic 50 over competition to accommodate The Hundred, I thought now would be a good time to publish this guest post from Haren Shylak. With T20 bringing in so much money, and Test cricket still the purists’ favourite, will ODIs be the format that slowly dies?

Since the first ODI was played in 1971, the format has always evolved. The format has seen revolutionary changes such as coloured clothing, numbered kits, D/N games, and field restrictions. The 50-over format attracted larger crowds and cricket gained popularity in itself. It seemed more engaging and less tiring for the fans. It also drove Test cricket towards becoming a more result-oriented game. Commercially viable ODIs led to championships like the World Cup, knockout tournaments, and the Champions Trophy. The ODI World cup is still the pinnacle of the sport. ODIs bring a balance between old ideas and modern-day strategies.

All said and done, however, the one-day format is now struggling to find context in the modern-day game. With the rise of the shortest format and the projected impact of the World Test Championship, many nations shunt aside the one-day format in their busy calendars. South Africa, for example, have just pulled out of an ODI series against Australia even though they need the points on offer to qualify automatically for the World Cup. Indeed, ODIs now only seem to be relevant in the ICC tournaments themselves.

Some plausible reasons for this downfall are,

  1. Games can take anywhere between 8–10 hours to finish. This is too long for the fast-paced world.
  2. Rules that highly favour the batsmen instead of striking a balance in the battle between bat and ball.
  3. Boring middle overs. People are not interested in watching batsmen rotate strikes whilst the ball does nothing.
  4. Growth of other formats with better commercial scope.

The rise of other formats

T20s became the focus of attraction amongst the general populace. Franchise cricket started booming soon after the inaugural T20 World Cup. The success of the Indian Premier League changed cricket’s global environment, particularly the relationship between players and national boards. The IPL, one of the sport’s most prestigious competitions, has become a festival of cricket in India. It opened new doors for cricketers to earn vast sums of money. With innovations like player auctions and new rules, the revolution started in cricket. The IPL auction in itself has millions of viewers analysing strategies even before cricket begins. The viewership skyrocketed.

Players now have ample opportunities with many nations starting their leagues, such as the Big Bash, CPL, PSL, and more, creating a global T20 circuit. The ICC has started adjusting its calendars concerning different leagues. There is no limit to innovation in the shortest format. BBL started imposing new and entertaining rules. Newer formats have started to arise in cricket, like the T10 league and The Hundred. But it’s implausible for these formats to run past T20. Also, the talks about the Women’s IPL next year and WBBL that already exist do benefit the sport. T20 cricket has provided cricket with a much-needed injection of excitement and interest, whilst benefiting governing bodies with monetary boosts that have helped develop the sport.

Test Cricket — The best cricket

On the flip side, Test cricket is still widely considered the best format of the game. Test matches have an appropriate name because, in essence, it tests mental strength, technical skills, and discipline like no other format. Both the mental prowess and physical fitness required to play the five-day game are demanding. Many players have found it difficult to transition between formats. Since the skill and temperament required for T20s and Tests have day and night differences, players started becoming specialists in one. It is every player’s dream to represent their country in the Test format. Though the rise of T20 and franchise competitions has seen some players opt for lucrative contracts over the honour of playing the longest form for their country.

It is hoped that the World Test Championship will rejuvenate Test cricket. Pink ball Tests are another innovation. Every other Test match had its impact on the WTC. There might be some flaws, but the tournament is still evolving, and it is the best start required. Superstar players have always promoted test cricket. Virat Kohli, the poster boy of Indian cricket, proclaimed: “For me, this is the absolute pinnacle of the game. I will give everything to Test cricket for the time I play, I can assure you of that”. The Ashes between traditional rivals Australia and England is something else. It’s still the most famous and historic series in cricket that magnetises the cricket world.

What next?

In the battle of formats, T20 and Test cricket have their USP, which leaves ODI with a big question mark. From the player’s perspective, it might be too much of an ask to be at their best in all leagues, formats, and geographies. With the ICC’s plan of a major tournament every single year, it should also find a balance between formats and leagues worldwide for the benefit of cricket as a whole. But for now, the uneasy coexistence between the formats is inevitable.

Haren Shylak

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