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Why fifty-over cricket must be saved

Roar Rookie
13th February, 2010
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Roar Rookie
13th February, 2010
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Pakistan's Shahid Afridi makes a run against Australia during the one day international cricket match between Pakistan and Australia in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, April 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Andrew Parsons)

One-day cricket has been with us ever since the sun began setting in the evening and players couldn’t be bothered coming back the next day to finish the game off.

While limited-overs one-day cricket, as we know it, has been evolving ever since the birth of the Gillette Cup in England in 1963, the game seemed to hit a consistent format in 1978, the second year of the private World Series Cricket operation in Australia. A match would last no more than 100 six-ball overs, one innings for each side of 50 overs each, a maximum of 10 overs per bowler, and the lunch and tea intervals replaced by one long intermission at the change of innings.

Cricket had struck upon a clear, metric form for the game that could be played and administrated at almost every level – and still provide an excellent developmental springboard for players to move into longer formats, the two and three-day games, the four-day first-class game, up to the five-day Test. And in more recent times, it has launched teams and players into its twenty over-a-side derivative, better known under the trademarked expression Twenty20.

All these branches of the sport have a valuable place, but the one-day game is the trunk of the cricketing tree – and importantly, the linkage between the roots of the game, the aspiring youngsters, and its brightest flowers, the successful international professional players.

But enough of the horticultural metaphors. People are drawing simplistic conclusions from comparisons of crowd figures at ODIs and Twenty20 games this Australian season. The reasons, I believe, are more complex and require a blog entry unto themselves. However, the cry to axe fifty-over games and replace them all with T20’s is the wrong call. One-day cricket is the social and cultural backbone of the game. Kill it – especially without properly understanding why – and you pull down Test cricket, Shield cricket and the two-day club game as well. There will be no incentive for kids to play anything other than the twenty-over bash if nothing else exists at the elite level.

And then one day in the not-too distant future, someone will wake up and see all our kids playing baseball.