In last summer’s One-Day International cricket season, Mark Nicholas would frequently point out the new innovative batting and bowling Powerplays.
These enforce five overs in which the fieldsmen had to be close to the bat rather than patrolling the boundary.
According to Nicholas, who sometimes seems like a PR spokesman for the Rules Committee, this would add a radical new tactical element into the game.
Mark Taylor, often the voice of sanity during Channel 9 commentaries (though less so during their product plugs), would examine the fact that these power plays could be counter-productive. When a wicket would fall during these periods of tactical innovation, Taylor claimed that sometimes you can over-think the game.
It’s a lesson that could be taken to heart by the Rules Committee and everyone else trying to push 50-over matches.
If the three types of cricket were people at a bar, Test Cricket would no doubt be sipping on a fine scotch while entertaining people of all ages with his raconteur wit and elegant ways. T20 would be downing tequila shots with his entourage, about to go to some happening VIP nightclub in the city.
But one-day cricket… well it’s over 40 but still trying to look 25. It’s scared that it doesn’t have the depth of character that Test cricket does, so it keeps on altering itself to seem fresh and interesting.
But as most young teenagers will tell you, there is nothing good about the middle-aged trying to seem hip.
Other commentators have complained of ‘one-day fatigue’- that one day cricket matches now saturate the space before and after Test series, devaluing their place as a spectacle. There may be no such thing as a dead rubber Test, but one-dayers often do have the feeling of going through the motions before a long trip home.
Yet another complaint was the tedium between overs 15 and 40. For too long batsmen would bash and crash their way until the field went out and then consolidate their territory, waiting for the final push at the 40 over mark. The reaction to this was the new fangled powerplay system which required 10 overs with the field up between overs 10 and 40, usually taken from overs…11-15 ( by the bowlers ) and 36-40 ( by the batsman ). Net result- a whole five overs less tedium!
Perhaps part of the problem is that in the 1970s, one day cricket made its name by being packaged as a product – in its case, World Series Cricket. As such the health of one day cricket has not been measured so much by the quality of cricket, but by the crowds or by the logistical success of events like the World Cup.
Maybe, because of its roots as a product, the health of the actual sport is being lost to ways to entice crowds and keep them abuzz.
So is the fight for one-day cricket a lost cause? By no means. But people who run it have to accept that it cannot compete with the wham-bam style of T20. It can no longer just rely on big sixes, big scores and cheap gimmicks like Powerplays.
What One Day cricket does have is international legitimacy – something that T20 is still striving for. While few care for domestic one-day competitions over T20, international one day competition still holds weight. However the ICC World Cups and Champions Trophies are too far apart and the tri-series are often forgettable.
Perhaps an idea, then, would be for a One-Day International League, with each won series counting towards a league table win. Bonus points would be awarded for clean Sweeps, or for series wins of 4-1 in a five-match series.
At the end of the four years (not in a Cup Year) the two best teams would play off in a final. This system could easily work among the minnow countries as well, and help ascertain qualifiers for the next World Cup.
One-Day International cricket has a good and prosperous future in front of it. But first it needs to act its age.