It’s a slow death. And a painful one. It’s a death where your very own brother poisons your coffee and triumphs over the end of your life. It’s a fratricide that sacrifices blood relations in the face of survival crisis.
Yes, such family melodrama is no longer the monopoly of Indian soaps. Cricket, now commercialized like never before, is gradually recognizing the fratricide melodrama in reality.
With the ICC putting an abrupt end to the Champions Trophy in order to accommodate the World Test Championship; it will not be surprising if the One Day version of the game, smothered by its kinfolk T20 and Tests, ultimately ends up being a chapter in the history of cricket within the next few years.
One Day Internationals first saw the light of the day when the long, grueling battles within the 22 yards forfeited to the need for entertainment and nimble crispness. The five-day long arduousness was reduced to an eight-hour long lissome contest between teams that brought color to the usually monotonous greens.
Decades later, the restless generation of impatient people gave birth to a shorter, slimmer, crunchier and faster version of ODIs. The 50 over slogging was trimmed down to a matter of 20 overs and the duration ebbed to just three hours.
With T20s now serving the primary requirement for entertainment in cricket and Tests firmly establishing the traditional heritage of the sport, one wonders what exactly is left for the ODIs to achieve.
While cricket continues to be the staple entertainment for the loyal viewership in the subcontinent, the same cannot be said for the Western nations that enjoys equal patronage to other sports. Their attitude echoes in the words of Australian greats Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee as they express their opinion regarding the silent demise of the ODI format right after the 2015 World Cup.
Research reports reveal a steep declination of viewership of ODIs in Australia in the last couple of years. Such has been the pervasive popularity of T20s, that ODIs have been found wanting across the whole of the West. England has got rid of the format in its domestic calendar while promoting the 40 over Pro tournament which has earned much flak from former skippers like Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss.
The prematurely planned tours are of no help either. West Indies playing two Asian teams in a trilateral series in order to generate revenue only goes on to emphasize the lack of enthusiasm regarding the format outside the subcontinent, if not already evident from the deficiency of Caribbean support in the stands. Even the deodorant commercials on the television triggers more attention than India touring Zimbabwe in what is expected to be a completely one-sided affair.
In a calendar that is overloaded with cricketing action, a follower cannot be blamed for growing tired of the regular drama on the field throughout the year. Too much cricket not only exhausts the players, but also dents the exclusivity of each format. Fatigued with globe-trotting right through the 365 days, there ceases to be a particular tour which is keenly looked forward to by cricketers, critics and enthusiasts alike.
Also the decision of scrapping away a multinational tournament that topped the charts in its final year defies logic just like announcing a seven match bilateral ODI series a couple of weeks later. What ODIs need right now is a tournament that restores the lost interest in the format, and for that matter, a multinational event is, any day, preferable to a bilateral contest.
With overseas teams already losing interest in the intermediate format, the responsibility of advertising cricket in growing markets is better left for T20s to shoulder. Such is the predicament, that it won’t be an exaggeration to vouch for the fact that it’s only days before it becomes a tough job for ODIs to trace back the irreversible path towards the grave.
A fairy-tale resurgence from the ashes of labored attention in the wake of growing adversity can prevent the downfall of the One Day Internationals which has defined a generation or two in the last few decades. But revival seems a remote dream in the times when the tension related to an India-Pakistan encounter has been condensed to nothing greater than a myth.
Miracles are not known to elude cricket, but they are few and far between. The question of survival requires more than just a miracle and going by the current state of affairs, even the most outrageous follies will not predict against the inexorability of the extinction of One Day cricket.
However, with the sport priding itself on a history of uncertainties, it wouldn’t be too wise to dwell on that futuristic inevitability.