World Cup: Give the ODI a chance!

The wait is over. Sadly that is more likely to be how we feel in early April after the World Cup final, rather than on Saturday when the 49-game tournament begins.

‘Poor us’, the hacks have been crying. But who really suffers at the hands of a never-ending World Cup? The poor ODI of course. Wretched, battered, abused ODI.

Make no mistake: the one-day international is on trial here. “Out!” they’ll cry at the end of this tournament. “No more ODIs. We’ve had enough. It’s all the same. It’s boring.”

It isn’t easily resolved. Personally, I want a shorter tournament but I also like the Associates to be a part of it. It’s good to have the potential of the underdog, and to broaden the game’s influence. (We cannot, of course, forget that sponsorship and television are much to blame.)

But the World Cup isn’t the main culprit. It’s the problem that once we arrive at it we are already saturated.

There have been 3,099 one-day internationals since they began in 1971. There were 1,064 ODIs up to the 1996 World Cup. And 2,035 since then. That’s 65% of the overall total in 37% of the ODI’s lifespan. From the start of the 2007 World Cup to the end of this one, there will have been 648 matches.

Every day is Groundhog Day – only not nearly as good.

No, the problem is not so much the World Cup as the trigger-happy scheduling which drives one-day cricket down our throats. The ICC are putting together the famous FTP – Future Tours Programme. Call it the Flimsy Tours Possibility, not much more than a guideline. It’s a burning issue for cricket: who plays who when is decided by not only the authorities but – and to a greater degree – by cricket boards as well.

The boards want more money-making ODIs. They can normally fill grounds for a one-dayer. Thus there is a friction between ticket sales and armchair sales. I must say, my armchair isn’t being very well sold at the moment.

The one-day international has been a colourful variant to our cricketing diet. Long enough to allow for a little bit of rhythm and pattern (don’t knock the middle overs) and short enough to create clock pressure.

Look at India v Australia in 2009-10, Pakistan against South Africa in the UAE last October-November, or South Africa-India in January. Even the Bangladesh-England series last winter had its moments (remember the hundred Eoin Morgan hadn’t realised he’d made at Dhaka?). These contained exciting, close games in a vibrant atmosphere.

Of course there are dull matches – partly because there are simply so many of them and partly because the players become stale playing them.

This is a wretched injustice for an excellent format.

Benj Moorehead is editorial assistant of The Wisden Cricketer

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2 Responses to World Cup: Give the ODI a chance!

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  2. Russ says:

    Personally, I want a shorter tournament but I also like the Associates to be a part of it.

    The implication here is that the number of teams is inevitably linked with tournament length, when that couldn’t be more wrong. It would be a straight-forward thing to host a 24 team world cup in a considerably shorter 39 matches, almost every game a decisive knockout.

    The World Cup is consistently ruined by groups that are too large and involve too many matches; constructed at the behest of television companies. Which has little to do with the presence of the associate nations.