At 3am on Sunday February 12 I was ready to watch an hour or so of Sachin Tendulkar on television, but my plans were thwarted. First of all Australia won the toss and decided to bat. And then, more importantly, MS Dhoni announced at the toss that Sachin would be rested as part of the top-order rotation between him, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag in the Commonwealth Bank Series. Australia also announced that Michael Hussey would not be playing in the match, as instead he was staying in Perth and taking a week off.
Did Tendulkar and Hussey being rested for a high-profile meeting between the world champions and the world-ranked number one team in front of 22,000 fans at the Adelaide Oval confirm the beginning of the end for 50-over cricket?
The decision taken by both captains throws up two issues – the increasing amount of international action being too much for the players to handle, and the legitimacy and legacy of 50-over cricket. But the two go hand in hand. Should we not just scrap 50-over cricket, which would solve the first problem?
The future of both longer forms of the inernational game seems to be coming under greater threat every year. The future of Test cricket has been a hot topic of debate for some while, and England’s Graeme Swann has called for the 50-over format to be scrapped, leaving just Test and Twenty20 cricket. Cricket Australia have also trialled a split-innings one-day format to replace the 50-over game – kind of like a Twenty20 double header.
Either way it seems unlikely that the international game can survive in three formats. Something has to give on the international calendar. Players can no longer sustain high standards in every match due to the sheer volume of time
they are in action.
The previously industry standard three-Test and five-ODI tour rarely appears on the international circuit any more. England’s current tour of Pakistan has comprised three Tests, four ODIs and three T20s but most other countries seem happier to scrap a Test match rather than a limited-overs match to accommodate T20s mainly for financial reasons.
Two-Test ‘series’ are becoming ever more fashionable, particularly in countries such as New Zealand. It remains to be seen whether the BCCI’s sudden enthusiasm for staging Test matches has now died down on the back of two 4-0 drubbings for India.
Perhaps, in 20 years’ time, India will tour Australia for two Tests, three ODIs and five T20s. Ashes series might even be reduced from five matches, which would seem unthinkable if not for the fact that – personally – I would prefer fewer matches involving the best players to the feeling of being short-changed as I was when discovering that Sachin wasn’t playing in that Adelaide match.