Opinion: ODIs should be put out to pasture

Blog Opinion

Guest columnist Peter Miller argues that Tests are perfectly safe, but ODIs are in danger of being even more irrelevant than they already are and should probably be retired.

We have seen one of the truly exhilarating run chases this week, in Jaipur. India stormed to victory against Australia chasing down 360 runs in with 39 balls to spare.

As Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Kohli treated the Australian bowling like an all-you-can-eat buffet with a time limit, all you could do was gasp. But despite this occasional glimpse of the remarkable, it is not often that a One Day International sparks to life.

Much has been made over the last few years about the threat Twenty20 cricket is posing to Test matches. They say that in a time-poor age where people want quick fixes we will lose interest in the five-day game.

It seems that it is the wrong format that people are worried for. Since Test cricket began 145 years ago very little has changed. Two teams of 11 players have played two innings over a period of several days.

Compare this with the sick man of cricket: One Day Internationals. The 50-over games tacked on to the end of the recent Ashes is a prime example of how the game is viewed by administrators in England. A second string side played uninspired cricket. It was clear that it was more important to give fringe players a go at international level that to win the series.

Rightly or wrongly, The Ashes is where it is at for English cricket, but even in other countries there is a malaise growing about these games. Ask an Indian fan how excited they are about another ODI against Sri Lanka and you will not get an enthusiastic response.

Since the format began in the English county game with the Gillette Cup in 1963 it has undergone more shake ups than a struggling Government's Cabinet. It started as a 65 overs a side game, and in the intervening period One Day cricket in England has been played in games with innings lasting 60, 55, 50, 45 and 40 overs.

It has not been a gradual reduction in overs, but instead a move up and down on a sliding scale.

For the 2010/11 Australian domestic season there was an experiment with having split innings One Day games where there the teams batted for 20 and then 25 overs. This lasted just one year and the Ryobi Cup was back to 50 overs a side for the 2011/12 series.

It has not just been the length of the game that has been altered. In One Day International tournaments there are constant changes in the playing conditions. There have been compulsory catchers, a 30 yard fielding circle, compulsory Power Plays, batting Power Plays and bowling Power Plays.

The use of full substitutes was introduced in July 2005 for a 10 month trial where teams were allowed to tactically change the side with a player that was allowed to bat and bowl. This change lasted for just nine months before teams began to rebel against it. After Australia and South Africa agreed to play a series where the rule was not applied in March 2006 it was ditched by the ICC.

The use of two new balls was introduced for the 1996 World Cup and dropped again a short time later. This same rule was reintroduced in October 2011 in the hope of liven up the game. The two new ball rule is now under threat.

The Indian cricketing authorities have started campaigning against this change on behalf of the 'Asian block'. Their argument is that the role of spinners has been reduced as a result of this playing condition.

The opening 15 overs have been far more interesting with a new ball from each end as batsmen struggle to get themselves set and look to keep wickets in hand, but why should that get in the way of tinkering with the rules again?

Perhaps the solution to all this tinkering is to be more radical. Maybe a five-over 'Multiball' period where runs count for double, or the option for the batting side to release a tiger into the field at their time of choosing.

Despite all these changes the issue remains that while Twenty20 cricket lacks subtlety and ebb and flow, One Day formats become formulaic regardless of what changes administrators have implemented.

After building a strong base in the opening overs, teams milk the opposition bowling at around four an over in the hope of keeping wickets in hand to have a dash at the death. The constant alterations to try and change this are as futile as attempting to explain the LBW law to Stuart Broad and Imran Tahir.

All the meddling in the playing conditions does is confuse the viewing public while not adding any more excitement to a format that is becoming rapidly outdated. The only thing that 50 over cricket gives you that Twenty20 cricket doesn't is more opportunities for the broadcasters to have advert breaks.

With constant complaints from players and administrators that it is difficult to fit matches into the calendar perhaps an obvious, all be it radical, solution is staring us in the face. One Day cricket has been great for the game, but it could well be time to put it out to pasture.

<b>Peter Miller (@TheCricketGeek)</b>

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