India is the heartbeat of world cricket and near-packed stadiums for the majority of World Cup games over the course of a 45-day long event was expected at the spiritual home of the game.It was not a surprise that India has delivered the most attendedODI World Cup ever.More than a record 1.25 million people thronged the stadiums but the same buzz and fanfare will most likely be missing when there is a bilateral series happening anywhere in the world including India.
The players and the purists love Test cricket while T20 is the format that enjoys unmatched popularity and is being used as a tool to spread the game globally.
The attention spans are shorter than ever in the digital age and not all have the time and zeal to spend eight hours for an ODI game.
The ICC event in India has shown that the format has plenty of takers if it is a world event but the bilateral ODIs don’t inspire the same confidence going ahead.
PM Modi consoles team India in dressing room after World Cup final loss against Australia
That begs the question: Should ODIs only be played in a World Cup year? If not, then should the format be tweaked on the advice of legends like Wasim Akram and Sachin Tendulkar.
The format is not high on priority for most teams with India featuring only in six ODIs next year and Pakistan don’t have any match scheduled till November 2024 even though they host the Champions Trophy the following year.
During the World Cup, Akram opined that the format should be reduced to a 40 overs a side while Tendulkar wants to break the ODIs to four innings of 25 overs each to break the “monotony”.
“I have a problem with ODI cricket right now. Very rarely do you see nowadays in One-day cricket something interesting happen in those (middle) 30 overs. Just go to 40 overs, you’ll have more action during that period.
“I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I think 40 overs would be more interesting, especially for bilateral series. Nowadays the audience, we do know their (attention) span is lesser than the nineties, because of T20 format and because of social media. We have to adapt,” Akram told Fox Sports.
His menacing bowling partner Waqar Younis also expressed his views on the subject in the middle of the World Cup he was commentating on.
“ODI cricket is too friendly for batters. Suggestion @ICC 2 new balls to start, take away 1 ball after 30 overs, continue with the other. At the end that ball will only be 35 overs old. We’ll see some reverse at the end. Save the art of #ReverseSwing,” he posted on social media.
However, the comments of Cummins after the World Cup triumph on Sunday night were a good advert for the ODI format. Unlike the slam bang T20 format, ODI cricket is played in gears and does challenge the cricketers more.
It is a challenge Cummins and his team enjoyed in a global event but the same can’t be said about a bilateral contest.
“I must say, maybe because we won, I did fall in love with ODI again in this World Cup. I think the scenario where every game really matters, it does mean a bit different to just a bilateral,” he acknowledged.
“I mean, the World Cup’s got such rich history, I’m sure it’s going to be around for a long time. Yeah, there’s so many wonderful games, so many wonderful stories within this last couple of months. So, I think there’s definitely a place.”
The view and constraints of the average fan must also be taken into consideration by the ICC which might be forced to make changes to the ODI format in the near future.
Two Indian fans, who travelled the length and breadth of the country following the team in the World Cup, had a time to remember but they too want immediate changes to how the 50-over game is played.
“In the current scenario, it should be two innings of 20 overs each packed into six hours. Toss and conditions get nullified to a certain extent. Eight hours is way too long and needs to change,” said Gurgaon-based Inderpreet Khurana referring to the World Cup final where the evening dew made batting easier for Australia.
He was in attendance for both the marquee games in Ahmedabad, the India-Pakistan showdown and World Cup final.
Atirav Kapur, who travelled to Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Dharamsala and Lucknow for the India games in the league stage, is a fan of ODI cricket but doesn’t see it surviving in its current version.
“Given that the biggest ever ICC rights deal has been signed recently and a big chunk of that is the 2027 ODI WC, I think ODIs will be ‘forced’ to survive. Though, on the whole, it’s bound to slowly wind up – I don’t think audiences can sustain watching a game for 7+ hours anymore – it’s too long for a single day.
“Bilateral ODI cricket is meaningless at the moment,” he reckoned.