T20 is the rooster that crows the loudest in cricketing circles these days. It’s become a huge hit garnering immediate attention – alongside revenue – for a sport that sees fan-following in a select few countries across the world. What’s then become of the most immediate predecessor of ‘Twenty-20’ cricket – the ODIs? Now them, they are merely facing a threat of extermination thanks to these new-world revolutionary cricketing ideologies.
No one would have envisioned the ODIs to come to such a crossroad. Right from their creation, more than 40-years ago, the format had been in the thick of things encountering myriad problems in the form of purists contesting its very existence. It was quite advanced for its time and in many ways, a show-stopper accounting for people coming out in hordes to watch live cricketing action. It’s not ironic then to see it suffering from a similar fate that it had almost subjected test cricket to.
The biggest difference between the continued existence, the contemporary thriving even, of test cricket and ODIs in present context is perhaps the perception that surrounds about the formats in the minds of ex-players. Where test cricket faced a lack of fan-following, the significance placed on it by players – and ex-players alike – ensured that the format that never died out. That the ICC then is decidedly coming up with ways and means to prolong its future, is proof enough that the format is definitely on the road to revival.
ODI cricket, in contrast, hasn’t exactly generated the same kind of thrust from past players when the topic has turned towards its continuity. In fact, more and more former ODI players – along with majority of the present crop of players – believe that the format isn’t doing anything to brace the sport. As such, it would only be beneficial to do away with it before the format threatens to jeopardise the very ground on which the sport’s braced. This claim is well supported too by the fact that ODIs aren’t raking in enough attention from the fans as much as they would want to.
Though the ODI itinerary for the next few years is expected to be right on schedule, a decisive course of action is being planned out by the sport’s authorities. Amidst circulating theories that ODIs be done away completely, the most possible recourse that can be expected for the format is that of reducing the maximum over count from 50 to 40. The Australians have already been employing the 40-over format for their domestic season and as such are one of the teams keenly advocating its adoption in the international circuit as well.
While reducing the overs of play from 50 to 40 would definitely contribute to an increase in the crowd following, there’s no saying that the reduction would account for steadiness amongst the fans. Furthermore, shortening a maximum of 20-overs in a 100-over game isn’t exactly going to generate a similar kind of moolah-generation for the format in the long run. T20 cricket would still continue to be shorter and compacter and quite possibly, the same set of problematic issues could make an appearance a few months down the line.
Alternatively, doing away with the format altogether isn’t going to solve much of the problem either. The cricketing seasons in today’s times are quite closely packed and allowing T20 cricket to be given centre-stage alongside test cricket would only add to the bottle-necked schedule. As it is, criticisms about the various T20 tournaments are making headway even as the format continues to gain popularity. A potential scrapping of the ODIs then isn’t going to endear T20 to the sport’s cynics. Cynics, who had been acclimatised or rather, had been forced to be acclimatised to the ODI format in the first place.