We’ve debated the future of ODIs on this blog before. The consenus was that ODIs are a dying breed outside the subcontinent, and that the cricketing world would be better off without them. However, maybe this is because we’re a bunch of old farts. What about the views of someone under 30? Does the next generation of fans think any differently? George Curtis gives us an insight …
Everybody has that one flavour sandwich that makes their skin crawl, just like all cricket followers have that one form of the game that doesn’t quite hit the spot as sweetly as the others. For me, that is One-Day Internationals. Once viewed as the curtain-raising event of a tour, ODI’s now possess as much significance as Piers Morgan on UK politics, and there is room no longer for the tedious formalities of 50-over internationals.
It wasn’t so long ago that ODI’s played an influential role in the makeup of an international tour. It was common place for five 50-over contests to be arranged in precedent to the marquee event of the Test series. It was a chance for bowling attacks to size up their enemy, for batsmen to gain a feel of who they were facing, and for captains to puff out their wings and show everybody who’s in charge. They were captivating, meaningful tussles between two sets of players who would be on show across both legs of the tour. Now, ODI’s have been reduced to nothing but a god-send for players like Kevin Pietersen, James Anderson and Graeme Swann, who are deemed too valuable to expose to the nugatory nonsense that is 50-over cricket, and would much rather be sat in a bar watching a bunch of kids do their job for them. And who would blame them?
These days there’s endlesss chat about the amount of cricket played by the best players. The evolution and success of Twenty20 has not only pencilled in yet more touring to your typical professional’s diary, it’s enforced country’s to plan who they are going to rest and when. For that to happen, it is the 50-over format that has to suffer.
Test matches always have been, and will always remain (in my opinion), the pinnacle of the game. Speculation over the future of 5-day cricket seems premature at the very least given its continued popularity in this country and also in the Southern Hemisphere. It also remains the case that the next generation of cricketers all have a burning desire to represent England not in the coloured clothing, but in the whites above all. The reality is, that not only does Test cricket sit proudly on its pedestal above ODI’s, but that Twenty20 has risen to be more extrinsically lucrative, entertaining and arguably more important than its older, wearier looking cousin.
The majority of players on our TV screens today have been brought up on an endless diet of Twenty20, with tournaments like the Australian Big Bash, Indian Premier League and County League all putting emphasis on the production and development of Twenty20 specialists. Sunil Narine, Jos Buttler, David Warner and Kieron Pollard have all made a name for themselves on the international platform thanks to Twenty20. It is true that they have all represented their countries in ODI’s, and a couple in Tests, to varying degrees of success, but for how much longer will that continue? Will the lure of Twenty20 cricket’s enterprise of financially rewarding tournaments prize these stars away from 50-over series’ completely?
The solution is simple. There would be no need to deny the world from watching the likes of Pietersen, Steyn, McCullum and Gayle if One-Day Internationals no longer existed. Rotation policies would be redundant, sparse crowds no longer a quintessential feature of the shorter forms and nonsensical disputes between players and Cricket Boards over their workload would be a thing of the past. Who would miss that? Test cricket has long been spoken of as being a potential scapegoat for the bright lights and thumping beats of Twenty20, but the answer is surely staring us straight in the face, no?
England’s current travails in India, where they have lost yet another ODI series, is a pungent message for anyone thinking Tests, and not ODI’s, should be sacrificed in the face of more and more Twenty20 matches. James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Jonathan Trott have all been rested from that series with a tour to New Zealand in mind, and therein lays the problem. Prioritising tours is becoming more and more important due to heavy workloads and packed schedules. A series against New Zealand is seen as more winnable from England’s point of view, which begs the question why are we playing India at all, especially if we’re sending fringe players, some of whom have never played in India before? You tell me.
As far as I’m concerned, and I would suggest it’s a feeling echoed throughout many cricket fans, the writing should have been on the wall long before I set about writing this article. Scrap One-Day Internationals, and make way for the stuff we really want to watch.