ODIs face the test of time in T20 era

Frequent changes have eroded format's charm

ODIs face the test of time in T20 era

Have the one-day internationals outlived their utility? With the ultra-abridged Twenty20 version gaining in popularity with every passing season, has the time come to give the 50-over cricket a quiet burial?

As the last edition of the Champions Trophy inches towards its business end, questions are being raised about the future of pyjama cricket. Strictly speaking in the context of India, for those who grew up watching the game in 80s and 90s, ODIs still generate similar passion.

The romance that began with Kapil Dev lifting the 1983 World Cup was cemented when Sunil Gavaskar led the team to victory in Benson and Hedges two years later.

For over two and a half decades, one-dayers, the money-spinners that they were, remained the most popular and pampered version of the game. The invention of T20s, however, slowly ate into its support base and now threatens to completely wipe it off.

Given that 50-over game has the best of both that Tests and T20s can offer, it would be unfortunate to see its demise. Of course one can’t compare it to the constant ebb and flow of Test cricket but it can offer enough twists and turns to make a gripping tale. 
    
“Well, I think I'm a big fan of ODI cricket,” conceded Indian captain MS Dhoni. “The reason being it’s a mix of both formats, the Test cricket and the T20s. You see both the things happening in the sense that if you lose too many wickets early, you get a glimpse of Test cricket where the batsmen, if they struggle, they don't want to give away the wickets early but go for the slog in the last few overs. That's a general pattern,” he reasoned.

Imagine what would have happened without the 50-over game to the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Michael Bevan or even Dhoni to name a few? Three of the finest finishers in ODIs but whose Test skills are questionable, may have been lost to cricket if not for the one-day format. Would Kapil’s name in the annals of the game have been as prominent had he not come up with that epochal 175 against Zimbabwe?

In the last decade or so, 50-over cricket rules have seen many changes, apparently to make it more attractive to public, but there has been steady decrease in its charm. From the disastrous Super-sub addition to the latest regulation that no more than four fielders be outside the 30-yard circle in non-Power Play overs, the changes haven’t always met with desired success.   

Dhoni has made his displeasure clear on more than one occasion at the constant tweaking of ODI playing conditions. “I feel each and every format is special in its own way,” he noted.

“...But in the last few years I feel we are trying to make ODI too much in to a T20 format. We should just leave it the way it is before the recent rule changes came into play. We were already seeing people scoring 300‑odd runs, and the opposition, chasing that amount of runs. Too many changes can actually spoil the recipe at times,” he explained.

West Indians maybe the reigning World T20 champions but it’s a no brainer that their more prized possessions are the first two World Cup titles.

“I think when you look at the style of play that we have as a nation, Twenty20 lends itself to the way we play, the way we like to play,” offered West Indies coach Ottis Gibson. “Having said that, T20 to me is always about entertainment. The 50-over format, and more importantly for me the Test format are where the real skills of cricket need to be applied.

The ICC needs to do whatever it can to preserve the 50-over format. But by taking out the Champions Trophy... I'm not sure that's the best thing,” he pointed out.

Given the economics (which is most important of course) of the format and its appeal — though it has progressively waned in the past few years at least in the metros — in India, the custodians of the game may not want to shun the ODIs in a hurry but how long can they can hold on is the question.

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