At this juncture, the cricket world is abuzz with the prophecy of the ODI format of the game. The standpoint though is divided. One school of thought is that it won’t last for long. While the others feel that all three forms of cricket are here to stay. Being a perennial lover of the 50 over cricket, it triggered me to contemplate what has happened in the last decade or so that has brought about some sort of aversion to the fans ? There could be multiple reasons.
As the world moves on at a rapid pace in this era of globalization and marketing, there is a slump in core values in every walk of life. The simplicity of the 80s and the 90s is nowhere to be seen. Mindless spectacle at any costs has the highest priority.
And cricket has also failed to survive in this complex time that we live. It is no rocket science that T20 cricket has affected the ODI structure more than Test cricket. Pitches are becoming national highways. The boundaries are hardly 70 metres. Every year, the ICC tweaks the rules of the game further and deeper to make batsman’s life simpler. There are only 3 fielders left outside the inner ring in the batting powerplay to face the wrath of the ever improving power of the bats. We have free hits now as a deterrent for bowling no balls. The curators are under constant pressure to produce belters for the sake of entertainment. 3oo is the new par score and an economy rate of 6 is laudable.
The game is now controlled by the economics and the conjecture of profit and loss. Television broadcasters decide the feasibility of a tour or a series. All these indicators bring home the point that the ‘spectator’ has merely become diabolically drab that all it craves for is the white ball being smacked out of the park.
But do we really want that?
ODI Cricket was at its pinnacle in the late 90s and early 2000s. More often than not contests were even and stadiums packed to the rafters. Remember the spectators dancing and enjoying to the tunes of Sachin Tendulkar’s magic in Sharjah? The very popular and famous Australian tri-series existed. Don’t we miss those riveting chases of Micheal Bevan or a magical bowling spell of Muttiah Muralidharan ! The dangerous Gilchrist – Hayden exploits and the charm of low scoring thrillers. Even West Indies was a fierce side back then.
First innings totals used to be between 230-270. Boundary ropes were far enough to keep the spinners interested. Pitches had that juice which the bowlers could extract. There was an equilibrium among the bat and ball. Many more tri – nation tournaments prevailed which caught the imagination of the fans. There were no powerplays or free hits. Still we had the very successful World Cups (1996,1999 and 2003) in this period. Bilateral series were shorter but crisper.
There is no doubt that change is the law of life. Flexibility in thinking is essential to carry forward the sport. But we must never forget the essence of the game. One day cricket doesn’t have the charisma and the allure that it once proudly possessed. It is time that we go back in time and reinvent this sport that we all love so dearly.