The ideas dump: Saving one-day cricket

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert


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    It’s almost inevitable now that once we get past debating who should and shouldn’t be on the selectors’ radar, discussion turns to everything that’s wrong with the longest version of the shortest formats of cricket.

    Scanning the comments under my piece last week on building an ODI innings and the cricket tab more broadly over the weekend, has turned up some genuinely good ideas that could all – both individually and collectively – have an impact on reinvigorating the 50-over format.

    Of course, the argument will be there that exceptional TV ratings mean people quite like one-day cricket exactly as it is, thank you very much.

    The evening session for Sunday’s third ODI had a national average of nearly two million viewers and peaked at almost 2.8 million. The Big Bash League has been enjoying average TV audiences of more than a million viewers each game, yet the ODIs have topped them from the outset.

    And the figures are very good, of that there is no question. But that’s not to say the product itself couldn’t be better.

    So, in no particular order, let the ideas dump commence.

    Unpave the roads
    The former batsman in me loves the idea of batting on the proverbial highway of a pitch, but even I have to concede the wickets for the first three ODIs were a bit much.

    And the scores reflect this. India has batted first in every game, and has posted 309, 308, and then 295 in Melbourne on Sunday – 17-912 to date. In reply, Australia has made 15-915 to win all three matches.

    Eight players across the series have topped 100 runs already, with Rohit Sharma north of 300, and Virat Kohli, Steven Smith and George Bailey all beyond 200 runs for the series. In contrast, no Australian bowler has more than five wickets for the series, and no Indian bowler has more than three.

    We know it’s all about entertainment, and there were even disturbing concessions from bowlers over the weekend that going for a run-a-ball is now acceptable, but come on, surely some kind assistance for the bowlers would make games better?

    The Adelaide Test was the brilliant spectacle it was because of the wicket as much as the match being played under lights. A bit more grass on an ODI pitch would have the same effect, and greatly increase the chances of teams being bowled out. Batsmen already get the benefit of new balls at each end, the ball moving around a bit early on wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

    Less is more: Part 1
    ‘Meaningless ODIs’ is about as common a phrase around the one-day game these days as ‘we’ll have a bat, thanks’ and it’s certainly a widely held view that we would care about ODIs more if they actually counted for something other than broadcast and advertising revenue.

    The World Cup was a fabulous event because it ticked all the boxes: the cricket was great, the crowds were amazing, and the games meant something.

    Even being a World Cup year, I was rather astounded to see that there were 146 ODIs played in 2015. That means another 98 ODIs were played outside the World Cup! And yes, the associate nations are included in that 146, with Afghanistan (17 matches), Ireland (15) and Scotland (10) featuring heavily. Even Hong Kong squeezed a couple in.

    Who played the most? New Zealand, actually, with 32 ODIs in 2015, followed by Zimbabwe (31), Pakistan (27), England (26) and Sri Lanka (25). Australia played a comparatively miserly 19, though nine of those were during the World Cup (and one of them was abandoned without a ball bowled).

    146 ODIs is a lot, but it’s not unusual. Since the start of 2013, 411 ODIs have been played in total. The 2015 figure is only just over one-third of that total and therefore very normal.

    One of the reasons the BBL is so popular is because it’s only on for seven weeks of the year. ODIs feel like they’re dime-a-dozen because they’re on all the time. I love one-day cricket, but not an ODI every three days.

    Less is more: Part 2
    Remember when 40 overs was going to be the future of one-day cricket? It was quickly knocked on the head by those renowned party poopers at the ICC, who muttered something about future World Cups being locked-in at 50 overs and broadcast deals and some such.

    The ECB even consolidated their domestic one-day comp and the old Sunday League into one 40-over competition for the 2010 season. But then they caved and went back to 50 overs in 2014.

    But now that we’re past the World Cup, why not? Why not look at getting rid of those mundane middle overs? Why not have the games start a little later and finish a bit earlier? It would still allow TV to have a second session in prime time, but mum and dad would also get the kids into a bed a bit earlier.

    And one-day cricket hasn’t always been 50 overs, remember.

    Domesticate Twenty20s
    I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again.

    Outside a quadrennial T20 World Cup, just leave the 20-over format to the domestic and franchise leagues. It would make the T20 World Cup all the more special (who won the last three anyway?), and would also add crowd demand to ODIs, being the only way to see the national team in the coloured gear each year.

    You know it makes sense.

    Restrictions, schmestrictions
    Why do we need fielding and bowling restrictions in limited-overs cricket anymore? If we’re worried about unimaginative captains putting nine blokes on the fence, there’s still plenty of room on the field to make a run-a-ball, isn’t there. And batsmen and women are still welcome to take on the boundary.

    Why not encourage smart captaincy? Why not make teams think about bowling plans uninhibited by ‘having’ to have so many fielders inside the circle? Why even have a circle? Why aren’t more bouncers allowed? Why not encourage close in fielders and actually allow the bowler to bang a few in? Why not test batspeople against uncomfortable deliveries, instead of allowing them the freedom of a full swing at five in every six balls bowled?

    If a bowler has 4-20 after his ten overs, why not let him keep going? Why force teams into finding ten overs out of a couple of part-timers? Batsmen can batter the ball for the full quota, so why do we restrict bowlers?

    Why restrict anything?

    Toss the toss
    The toss is in the crosshairs at the moment in Tests, but why not in ODIs, too?

    Think about it. If the idea of allowing the visiting side the choice of whether to bowl or bat first in a Test will force more equally prepared pitches, then of course the same has to apply in the limited-overs game.

    If fact, in light of what we’ve seen over the first three days in this series, getting rid of the toss in one-days might be even more important.

    The moral to all this is that ODIs don’t need massive changes. But a few tweaks here and there could make a big difference. What else is out there?

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (137)

    • January 19th 2016 @ 4:23am
      english twizz said | January 19th 2016 @ 4:23am | ! Report

      When it was 40s in the one day cup in England was good no 4 a over middle to save your wickets

      • January 19th 2016 @ 7:39pm
        Don Freo said | January 19th 2016 @ 7:39pm | ! Report


        • Columnist

          January 19th 2016 @ 7:51pm
          Brett McKay said | January 19th 2016 @ 7:51pm | ! Report

          When it was 40 overs per side in the English domestic comps, it was enjoyable, as there was no piddling along at 4 runs an over during the middle section of the innings, so as to preserve wickets for the final tilt…

    • January 19th 2016 @ 5:03am
      Johnno said | January 19th 2016 @ 5:03am | ! Report

      -World Cup, it seems good bowlers have “High Value” more so than good batters. Plenty of low scores at 2015 WC. Remember the kiwis vs aussies game at eden park, both teams only got 150 odd each and 19 wickets fell. Final, kiwis were skittled for 180 and McCullum got a duck, and aussies were looking very tense there, imagine if that slip was in with Warner it would have got even more tense. Pakistan had aussies under pressure, at 3-60 then that dropped catch. Wahib Riaz bowling was awesome in that Q/F.
      But outside of world cups, bowlers become cannon-foder for some reason.

      -Make world cup 14-16 teams, and just get it over with faster. 16-teams, 3 groups matches played over 10 days, then Q/Finals semi’s grand final, tournament over in in 3-weeks, done.

      -I’d bring in Subs into all forms of cricket, when a series is on. Say at world cup, you can make 1-tactical sub during the tournament, for either injury or tactics, and once subbed, that subbed player can’t come back in game, It would be exciting.
      And also for any ODI series that last 5 matches or more, allow 1 sub. And same applies to 3-test match series. Imagine at Newlands in 3rd test when Steyn got injured in 1st innings, if South Africa could have brought a bowler in to replace Steyn, it would have been better game.
      Yes some will say, then we won’t see heroics like Faf at Adelaide, but bear in mind each team is only allowed 1 “power sub” per series.

      -To wheel in batter dominance, maybe allow bowlers to not have to field, and they just come on fresh, and bowl. So on a hot day, Mcgrath/Warne/Mitch Starc/Curtley Ambrose/Shaun Tait/Brett Lee, don’t have to field ever.
      That will really rock the apple-cart for those spoilt batsman and there new age modern bats, and rope assisted boundaries, and all the other benefits of modern cricket, which sadly has become more a batters game.
      I have no problem in ODI’S with 220 being seen as a good score like the good days, and chasing 250 under lights really tough.
      I don’t enjoy the Aussies vs India series we’ve seen, where 300 runs are being chased down and it’s happening repeatedly in cricket. I want to go back to the past, and have us live in the past where 220-250 was a good score.
      But it seems the modern fans prefer lots of exciting batting and 4’s and 6’s. I like lots of wickets, and gritty batting from Geoff Boycott, to Micheal Bevan, lots of singles. I don’t enjoy watching the kieren Pollard’s of this world, or Dave Warner’s, there’s to many big hitters in cricket.
      In the 80’s or 90’s, getting a 6 in the innings of an ODI was so exciting, and getting 80 was a big score, and a century was truly applauded as it was tough to do. Viv Richards, Kapil Dev, Simon O’Donnell would have a field day with modern bats.

      I’d also bring in an 3-bouncer per rule allowed. Imagine if bowlers would not have to field, and 3-bouncers per over, you could stock the sides with Devon Malcom/Shaun Tait/Brett Lee/Mitchell Johnson, bowling thunderbolts all day, and 3-bouncers per over if they want.

      -And rather than 1-run for no-ball, make a no-ball 4-runs and just bowl the next ball. And in last 5-overs, any no-ball is 6-runs/or wide.

      • January 19th 2016 @ 10:02am
        Bakkies said | January 19th 2016 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        ‘-I’d bring in Subs into all forms of cricket, when a series is on. Say at world cup, you can make 1-tactical sub during the tournament, for either injury or tactics, and once subbed, that subbed player can’t come back in game, It would be exciting.’

        That was tried in domestic Cricket over a decade ago and didn’t kick off from there.

        • January 19th 2016 @ 10:25am
          spruce moose said | January 19th 2016 @ 10:25am | ! Report

          That was in international cricket too. It was a flop

          • Roar Rookie

            January 19th 2016 @ 10:43am
            josh said | January 19th 2016 @ 10:43am | ! Report

            Only because of the silly rules about its use.

    • January 19th 2016 @ 6:42am
      Graeme said | January 19th 2016 @ 6:42am | ! Report

      I don’t agree with a few of your suggestions. Reducing the game to 40 overs just makes it more like twenty20. The beauty of ODI’s are that they require batsmen both to build an innings and to slog. 40 over cricket would never be able to compete with twenty20 and would lose some of what makes 50 overs interesting.

      Also allowing bowlers as many overs as they wanted could just mean that teams elect to take 9 sluggers and 2 spinners. Seeing the 5-6 bowlers played, even sometimes weaker ones, makes the contest more interesting.and keeps bowlers and all-rounders employed, a fairly important point. As much as I enjoyed watching Warne and McGrath, I wouldn’t want to watch Warne hold down one end with McGrath holding down the other, with Gillespie getting a couple of rest overs on McGraths end.

      But I agree something needs to be done to give some of the momentum back to the bowlers, especially in Oz.

    • January 19th 2016 @ 6:43am
      AJM said | January 19th 2016 @ 6:43am | ! Report

      I can see your point in trying to make the bowlers more relevant in a batsmen dominated era but I’m not sure there’s actually an appetite for lower scores and more wickets. T20 has created the want for fours and sixes and I don’t think fans are going to want to watch 7/220 being ground out in 50 overs. It was probably fine when we didn’t know any different but nowadays I can’t see it being viewed as entertainment.

      Totally different story for tests though, we certainly need to give the bowlers a better chance in that format.

      Comment from The Roar’s iPhone app.

    • January 19th 2016 @ 7:05am
      onside said | January 19th 2016 @ 7:05am | ! Report

      Every player except the keeper bowl 5 overs.

      • January 19th 2016 @ 8:16am
        Stucco said | January 19th 2016 @ 8:16am | ! Report

        Maybe 5 bowlers can bowl 9 overs each, and everyone else except the keeper has to bowl at least one over. You’d then have the tactics of the captain trying to decide when those 1 overs get snuck in, and the batters have to decide whether they go hell for leather in those overs.

        Having said that, I like a tense chase. I’m in my 40’s so I remember when 220 was a good score. The thing about it was a boundary felt like it was worth more. At the moment a 4 is, like, yawn.

      • January 19th 2016 @ 10:27am
        spruce moose said | January 19th 2016 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        If you make everyone bowl, only fair to make everyone bat.

        • Roar Guru

          January 19th 2016 @ 10:59am
          JGK said | January 19th 2016 @ 10:59am | ! Report

          Yep – let’s just make it a return to under 9s.

          • January 19th 2016 @ 10:01pm
            Lorenzo said | January 19th 2016 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

            Yeah I don’t think we need to change anything! Sure the pitches (especially at The WACA and The Gabba) should be made a bit faster and bouncier but other than that nothing should change. Everybody is starting to say that they need to limit Bat weights and edge sizes but I’ve always heard that it’s not the bat but it’s the Batsman.

        • January 19th 2016 @ 11:28am
          Stucco said | January 19th 2016 @ 11:28am | ! Report

          Exactly. As a bowler myself with limited (cough) batting skills it’s never enjoyable to go out to bat to have people laugh at you. Time for the boot to be on the other foot!

    • Columnist

      January 19th 2016 @ 8:12am
      Geoff Parkes said | January 19th 2016 @ 8:12am | ! Report

      Hi Brett, you’re right to point at the success of the World Cup, which suggests that there isn’t too much wrong with the game itself, but rather with the context in which games are played, i.e. the number of meaningless matches. To some extent it’s a bit like the pro tennis tour, nobody gives a rats who wins from week to week, it means nothing as match upon match blends into each other.

      While most people would like to see things evened up for the bowlers, I’m not sure freeing them up to bowl more bouncers is the way to go. Firstly, fielding captains will simply fall back on this as a run limiting device, which is obviously not the intent of allowing bouncers, but how would you rule on it being abused?

      And secondly, there is that “car crash” element of crowds wanting to see batsmen touched up by short stuff which will only last as long as it takes for someone else to be hit in the head and the Hughes scenario to be revisited. It’s a fine line which is walked between maintaining the integrity of the game, and a bowler’s right to intimidate a batsman, against adapting to what are changing norms in society.