It would be an understatement to say that the contemporary format of ODIs is fighting hard for its existence. The constant criticism that it faces, seems to be echoing louder with every passing day. Among all the suggested alternatives to make the format more appealing, only one proposition has found favors among the ICC’s conservative hierarchy and many ex-cricketers.
It was the maestro, Sachin Tendulkar, who suggested that the ODI game should be reinvented by introducing four innings instead of the current trend of every side having once chance to bat. According to him, each innings should be of 25 overs only. This essentially means that each side would be batting and balling in two, separate installments. The proposal has already caught the attention of many ICC bosses and some of them are willing to give it a go-ahead by introducing it in the English county circuit. Some purists say that this format would be a bit too confusing, since most viewers would find it difficult to keep a tally of the scores over four innings in a single day. However, I really don’t think this argument makes much sense. In our times, having access to information on a 24x7 basis is no longer a challenge and hence, any concerns about viewers getting confused are unfounded. In fact, trying to read into the scoreline after each innings might just be an added incentive for people to check upon the match’s progress.
So is there anything wrong with the suggestion? My personal opinion is that it tampers with the current format too extensively. We have already seen what the T20 game is doing to the game. Teams are constantly on the lookout for players who can score a quickfire, 20-30 runs, seldom batting with any elegance. Considering this, ODIs still breed batsmen that have some basic batting technique and the bowlers’ mettle isn't tested on the grounds of being able to contain runs only.
If the 100 overs are split into four installments of 25 overs each, aren't the players being indirectly told to treat a one-dayer like a couple of back-to-back T20 games? I have no doubt that an excess of five overs in this suggested alternative won't be able to stop the madness of T20 seeping into the ODIs and changing its very essence.
Yes, there are advantages such as reducing the impact of weather conditions that often render teams at the mercy of the toss. The recently concluded tri-series in Sri Lanka is ample proof that the ground conditions could pre-decide the fate of the match — every team that batted second in this tournament, lost.
Therefore, splitting the 100 overs between the two teams in an alternating format would distribute the weather-related implications. However, it is still bound to change the ODIs beyond recognition. Aussies who lost the Ashes rather comprehensively have whitewashed the English team, leading the seven-match series, 5 to nil and these variations is worth preserving. Introduction of changes based upon Tendulkar’s perspective would mean making the ODI game considerably similar to the T20 format and hence, slowly eradicating the fundamental nature of one-dayers.
I am not against introducing changes but they should complement the fundamentals of ODIs rather than trying to eliminate them. Perhaps the ICC should try to correct its own mistakes that initiated the downfall of the ODI game, i.e. making the game bend too much in the favor of batsmen by allowing games on dead, lifeless pitches that don’t offer anything to the bowlers. Had this issue been dealt with in time, the aura of ODIs with the game constantly seesawing between the bowlers & batsmen would have sustained viewer interest and the present fiasco would have never emerged.
I guess, self-introspection is a lot tougher and the ICC is no different. The easy solution obviously lies in hosting numerous ‘meetings’ in plush resorts and five star offices to suggest wholesome, unwanted changes and you don’t have to be an ODI enthusiast or discriminator to understand this.
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ODI’s Suggested ‘25x4’ Format has Distinct T20 Flavoring
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