ODI Cricket: A tale of the forgotten

World Cup 1996 Semi Final: Australia v West Indies

Evolution is the name of the game…

When Kerry Packer first came up with the idea of World Series Cricket (WSC), even he wouldn’t have been able to imagine the revolutionary ideas that would inundate cricket in the future. Sadly however, while the sport continues to revel in revolutions, the foundations of ODI cricket – directly imbibed from WSC – lie almost crumbled with little takers to continue its pathway into the future.

The tournaments that have been the core of ODIs continue as before – perhaps with even more fanfare than in its initial years. But there’s a sense of disassociation that has crept in. The fervour has remained the same but the mind has started to wander, looking around in search of cricketing pastures anew. There is, then, no sole reason for this disenchantment but rather a collection of events and revolutionary ideas that have led to the bucking of the trend: from ODIs to newer things. Things that, in the eyes of the world today, are definitely improved and better like:

– Rise of T20 Cricket: The 70s ushered in the era of coloured cricketing apparel and play-making in a limited time span amongst various things. The 21st century saw the dawn of Twenty20 or as it is more popularly referenced – T20 cricket. From 50-overs a side to a drastic reduction of 20-overs a side; the reduced time span with truckloads of entertainment quotient invariably ended up sidelining ODI cricket. After all, if a match can be wrapped up within four hours between two teams, 7 hours to watch the same two teams then does start to look quite draining.

– Change in Rules, Reverberation on Viewers’ Attention: In the 80s and the 90s, ODI rules were simpler. These days however, one feels the need to refer to the cricketing rule-book with each passing match and each passing series. Understanding and assimilating the frequent changes to ODI cricket fairly diminishes its value amongst the fans. Sports need to be for entertainment and not to make people memorise stuff that may or may not be of significance, the very next minute.

– Haphazard Tournament Scheduling: The rise in cricketing tournaments held in a given year has gone up so phenomenally that tracking a team  of choice has bec0me quite difficult. At times, there are even tournaments held within another tournament which perplexes the onlooker even more. Cluttering tournament scheduling will only dwindle the fans’ attention-span rather than redirect them back to the sport where they belong.

 Generation of Awareness: Wherever one looks these days, there’s only T20 cricket that holds predominance. And most of these T20 tournaments aren’t even international fixtures. The IPL, the CPL, BPL and the Big Bash League are all national-level tournaments that have gained immense fame for the PR, and in case of the IPL – revenue – that they generate. ODI cricket needs such a thrust too. In the 35-years of its existence, there hasn’t been anything done differently to encourage or increase its fanbase. For those in their 20s, 30s and even in their 50s, ODIs may be the variant of the game that they followed, but for those in their teens, ODI cricket has become passe.

But the biggest factor that has led to ODIs losing its charm is the departure of the players whose names were synonymous with ODIs. The Tendulkars, the Laras and the Dravids, the Warnes and the Muralis, the Khans and the Akrams; the McGraths and the Bevans, the Gillespies, Kumbles and Kluseners; or to go a generation the past, the Richards and the Lloyds, the Bothams and the Chappells. These are some of the inspiration; these, who made ODI cricket. Rather, revolutionised it the way it was supposed to be done. They aren’t a part of ODIs anymore and indeed, it’s their absence – more than anything else – that has left ODIs quite bereft. A change of guard perhaps, but not really a change for the better.

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