One Day International Cricket of 50 overs is struggling to survive like 5 Day Test Cricket, in the wake of the rising profile and popularity of the T20 shorter format of the game of cricket. Some cricketers feel that Test cricket would stay and is still the best form of the game but empty stands speak otherwise.
Similarly, ODI is losing its sheen and attraction as it is also becoming too boring with 100 overs to bowl and bat throughout the day. T20 became an instant success with jam-packed stands and greater enthusiasm, the shorter form of cricket generated particularly after IPL I.
Now, briefly about Test Cricket. I have written a couple of articles why this longer form of the game would not survive for long notwithstanding the views of the cricketers to the contrary. But then, take any form of the sport in the world today. No sport whether it is hockey, football, basketball, table tennis, baseball, American football, ice hockey, tennis, squash or billiards or any other sport.
All these games last just a few hours or at the maximum a day. No game in the world is as long as Test Cricket played for five long days. It beats the irony of the game. It is the longest played game with two innings with bowlers that labour for days while batsmen play at their leisure if they have a desire to stay at the crease. There is no mandatory restriction on a side playing an inning for three or four days. Here is a small story of the game, why it is so.
Haneef Mohammed of Pakistan, first “Little Master” had the dubious distinction of scoring 499 runs in a first class match and also staying at the crease in a Test match played against the then powerful West Indies for 999 minutes spanning four days scoring just 337 runs on the hot Caribbean Island.
Those were the days, when fiery fast bowlers like Halls and Griffith were famous for nerve-wrecking fast bowling and beamers that once cracked the skull of our own Nari Contractor as those days players were not given any protective helmets. There was also an anecdote associated with this innings of Hanif Mohammed. A West Indies supporter watching the game from atop a tree fell down and was hospitalised. When he regained consciousness, the first thing he asked ” Is Hanif out”. This says it all.
Our own Sunil Gavaskar was also famous for staying at the crease for days together scoring as little runs as possible. So much was his habit that he played out all the 60 overs in a Prudential ODI in England scoring just 37 runs.
In his case habits die hard. What kind of game Test cricket is, nobody knows. Why should these players labour for five long days, risking injury and many a time with no results ending in a tame draw? The days of Test cricket are almost over after the advent of the T20 game. Many may not agree but the empty stands say it all. Even domestic cricket played recently with so many stars of ODI and Test cricket playing, failed to attract spectators with empty stands staring at the players.
Even ODI is facing the same situation as the Test is facing. Fleming is the latest cricketer to say ODI is also boring and it should be scrapped. Earlier, it was Auz left-hander batsman Hayden who was the first to suggest banishing ODI. But our own Sachin Tendulkar has just come out with a new formula to revive ODI.
Sachin Tendulkar has suggested at a function recently that there is still scope for ODI notwithstanding the soaring popularity of T20 game. He felt that ODI of 50 overs can be revived easily by splitting the game into 25 overs of two innings, a strange idea that struck to him when he was in Sri Lanka last. He was doubtful whether his suggestion would be acceptable.
In other words, the suggestion was nothing but making a kind of Test cricket of ODI game splitting into two innings of 25 overs each. A new kind of Test cricket in the offing, if accepted. How it would be beneficial either to the game or the spectators, he alone can explain. But to my mind, he is again suggesting something similar to T20. Then why not banish ODI and continue with the most popular T20 games?
Sachin Tendulkar may like to continue his stint in Test Cricket best suited for him. Cricketers like Shewag also are in favour of Test Cricket. But there are several prominent cricketers who feel Test Cricket is nearing extinction. See how Flintoff has retired from Test Cricket to continue with T20. Similarly, Shane Warne and Gilchrist, for that matter even Hayden continues to play a shorter form of cricket, is ample proof of attractiveness is the shorter form of cricket.
Games, in any form are played all over the world not for personal landmark or achievement but for spectators delight. What is the use of a game that is played for 3 or 4 or 5 days with almost empty stands? Take any longer form of the cricket; it has little interest with no spectators worth their name in the stands.
It is beyond one’s understanding how motivating it would be for players playing a game in the midst of empty stands with no one to appreciate or clapping for their shots or a wicket falling. Even an important match between India and Pakistan had not attracted many crowds these days, compared to olden days, when stands used to be jam-packed and full with cricket enthusiasts. It’s a bygone era.
It is in the fitness of things, the ICC and other cricketing authorities should seriously think of slowly weeding out Test Cricket and ODI by playing lesser number of games and more number of T20. Peoples’ interest alone should be taken into account apart from the revenue it is going to generate. If these are the criterion, then it is best suited for T20 cricket.
I join Fleming and Hayden in suggesting scrapping ODI over a period of time. It cannot be scrapped immediately. But over a period of time it can be done by playing lesser number of ODIs and Test cricket and more T20 games. Now the position is reversed. More T20s in a series with one Test and one ODI.
If this formula is adopted, then the Test cricket and ODI would survive side by side with a shorter format of the game or else it would die a natural death with spectators opting for T20 only.
BCCI may seriously ponder and suggest the above formula to ICC in the next meeting. Jai Hind.