The credibility of 50-over cricket

28 Jan 2010 by Mahendra Prasad in Cricket Rules

Cricket was first played over a span of five days between a few teams like England, Australia and South Africa. This five-day format is called test cricket. Soon, other countries too joined in and started playing cricket, taking it as a serious sport.

Test cricket was at its peak until the first ever 60-overs one-day international match was played between Australia and England at MCG in January 1971. Soon, this format of the game became so popular that the first limited-overs World Championship of Cricket was played in England just four years later, which West Indies won.

Ever since then, the one-day game has been prone to changes. For example, in the 1980s, the ICC reduced the amount of overs in a limited-overs fixture from 60 to 50, making the game more interesting for spectators. And till today, a one-day international (ODI) game remains a usual 50-over affair.

Since the era of commercializing cricket perhaps began in the 90’s, it was expected that the ODIS would be a hit among sponsors as well, who would be willing to advertise as viewers across the world are glued to their television sets watching a cricket match intensely as ever. More World Cup tournaments were held with coloured clothing introduced in the 1992 edition of the World Cup, which was the idea of Kerry Packer, the Australian who advocated cricket with coloured clothing as early as the 70’s.

White balls were introduced, making it possible to host day-night matches using white balls. Soon white balls were given the thumbs-up to be used in day matches as well which even required new, black sight-screens. Thus the one-day game became a favourite amongst every cricket lover.

But then came perhaps the golden phase of cricket. In 2003, a new version of limited overs cricket called the T-20’s was introduced in England. This format meant that unlike matches in which each team had to bat 50 overs, here the teams have to bat just 20 overs each or 120 balls in simple terms.

This implied that matches would get over quickly and runs would be scored at a faster rate. Twenty-20 became a hit in England and thus like the one-day game was spread across the world. And it has also become internationally-acclaimed when the ICC introduced the T-20 internationals concept in 2005. Since then, T-20 has taken the world by storm. It has reached heights as spectators would be more willing to watch a much more exciting and short T-20 game rather than a relatively boring and a longer 50-over game.

So the question rises – Can the 50-over survive for long?

It may not, as the inaugural T-20 World Cup in 2007 in South Africa, saw a large number of audiences in the stadium as well as on television, bettering the 2007 50-over World Cup in the West Indies by far. And to top it, India won the T-20 World Cup, resulting in more fan-following as India is a popular team in most cricketing countries.

As a matter of fact, the T-20 was a mode of cricket getting globalized and not just commercialized through India. Soon, the Indian Premier League (IPL) followed which was the Indian cricket board’s (BCCI) brainchild. And this tournaments played between the top 8 cricketing cities across India, became a hit amongst viewers across the world as well as international players in the first edition itself in 2008.

Then Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, made sure that the tournament took place in South Africa in 2009 despite security threats. South Africa, too embraced T-20s like never before. Looking at this, other countries like England and Australia are planning to form their own tournaments based on the concept of IPL as cricket then would reach to a new level in the countries due to the dwindling interest of people there in the one-dayers. The ICC too is reckoning whether the IPL must have a place in the future tours programme (FTP), which is basically the international cricket calendar.

However, the one-day game still has a place in cricket even if cricketers give importance to either test cricket or T-20s. The one-dayers determine whether a batsman is wholesome, i.e, if he can defend as well as attack, reacting to the situation as demanded. It shows whether bowlers are skilled enough to face challenges in test cricket. It tests the pressures of fielders, therefore one-dayers can determine fielding standards of a team.

So, the one day game can survive as long as the ICC gives meaning to it in its FTP. It could foster national pride within players as well rather than they wanting to play in tournaments such as the IPL. Or like Sachin Tendulkar suggested that the one-day format could be further revamped by making it like a longer T-20 in the test style where each team bats 25 overs in two innings each and are followed by strategic time-outs.

This makes the scoring rate faster like the T-20s and could rekindle the interest of audiences across the world. Perhaps more matches could also take place with top one-day teams clashing against each other, such as India, Australia and South Africa. The ICC has tried to make the one day game survive by the successful organizing of the Champions Trophy every two years in different countries. They have also taken a risk by making the game batting-friendly by allowing 20 overs of the power play for the batting side, i.e. fielding restrictions.

However, the one day format of cricket is falling apart thanks to all countries accepting T-20’s as the future of the game. T-20’s seem to be a practical way of playing cricket these days. With events such as the IPL, the one day game is nowhere at the moment. Even Tendulkar’s idea will take time to be implemented by the ICC and accepted by people warmly.

Reducing ticket prices won’t help if people aren’t interested and patient in watching 50-over cricket. So, its true that cricket needs to respect the 50-over format and recognize players appropriately for their achievements, like in the 90’s. The 50-over game can survive if the ICC doesn’t act like a puppet to the BCCI and respects the quality of cricket rather than the money involved in it. In fact, I believe that if 50-over cricket will grow money if its quality is good enough to appeal fans across the world.

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