Is this going to be the norm?
I felt so disappointed after India lost to Sri Lanka in the Tri Nation Idea Cup. Not because India lost. But for the fact that I did not feel disappointed after India lost. For me, it was just another ODI, just another India-Sri Lanka match. Tharanga, Dilshan, Sehwag, Kohli, Sanga, Yuvraj blah blah blah.
No, I am not getting Americanized, I have not started losing interest in cricket. I watched the Aus-Pak test (Sydney Test) with utmost interest and also updating my "what you feel like" status on Facebook during the match! I followed the Eng-Sa tests with so much more interest. I want to talk about a few of issues here, all of them related to ODI cricket:
1) Too much ODI cricket and improper planning.
2) Empowering bowlers/ De-powering batsmen.
3) Changing the format of the game to remove the monotony from ODIs.
For starters, the number of ODIs needs to be reduced. Secondly, the ICC needs to schedule the matches better. For the last 3 months, the Indian and Sri Lankan fans have been having India-SriLanka for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Last year, Eng played Aus 5 tests, 7 ODIs and two 20-20's. Of the 7 ODIs, the last 3 were dead-rubbers. The ICC needs to make an attempt create an atmosphere, where every match is taken seriously by the players and every match is looked forward to by the fans. 7 ODIs is way too much in one series. There have been too many 7-ODI series in the last few years. (Ind-NZ 2002-03, India-England 2005-06, Ind-Sri Lanka 2005-06, Ind-Australia 2009-10, Aus-Eng 2009-2010, India-England 2008-09 (interrupted by the unfortunate blasts in Mumbai on 11/26)). And almost all of these have had at least 2 dead-rubber matches if not 3. The ICC also needs to look at the scheduling of matches. Rather than having India and Australia play match after match and series after series (in order to generate more revenue), the ICC has to have a long-term view and involve the likes of New Zealand and Pakistan to play more matches. In the last 5 years, Pakistan and New Zealand have played close to 100 ODIs and 40 tests each, while India and Australia have each played 150+ ODIs and 50+ tests.
The ICC also needs to look at shifting the balance in favor of the bowlers. There have been far too many 300+ scores off late in ODI cricket adding to the monotony of ODIs. I clutch my fingers tight when I hear from people that the 434-438 match between Aus, SA as the "greatest cricket match ever". Why? Because Roger Telemachus bowled that horror over with umpteen no-balls, full tosses and gave away 25+ runs in an over? Mick Lewis had the most expensive figures in the history of ODI cricket? I don't know if it was the pitch or if it was the bowlers. That was not a "Cricket" match, certainly not a contest. Cricket is as much a contest between batsmen and bowlers as much as it is between two teams. How would you compare this match to the semi-final WC 99 between the same two teams. It had everything in it except for a result. Brilliant spell of opening bowling (Pollock), resurrection/ stabilizing the innings (Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan), amazing fielding (by both teams, except for Paul Rieffel's over-the-bar goalkeeping effort!!) solid opening batting (by Gibbs and Kirsten), Wily/guily piece of spin bowling (Warne), Kallis' solid batting, Klusener and Pollock's clean hitting. Panic, tension, drama, ecstasy, tragedy.
Maybe the batsmen have evolved; maybe they have started to outthink/outsmart bowlers. Well, in that case, the ICC needs to empower the bowlers, and not de-power them by introducing extended power plays and free hits. Reducing the size of the bats or Allan Donald's suggestion of legalizing ball-tampering may be going too far and pressing the panic button. The single biggest factor to run-scoring is the pitch. The ICC should have some control on the curators of the pitches around the word. The beauty about cricket, when compared to a lot of other sports, is the variety of conditions that the game is played under and the ability of teams to adapt to the various conditions. We want to see a dust-bowl at Kanpur, where one of the Indian spinners is given the new-ball, a snorter at Durban, a 100,000 crowd at Eden Gardens, a green-top under a heavy/overcast atmosphere in Hamilton, a 50 all-out wicket in the West Indies with the Calypso music in the background, a touch of moisture on the slopy (not sloppy) Lord's wicket, a slow low Galle wicket with the crows sitting on the Galle fort in the background, a ripper at Perth with the flying seagulls when the batsman fends the ball over the slips, reverse-swing by Pakistani bowlers on a dry Multan Wicket. However, the current curators, cricket boards, and maybe the ICC also do not seem to be concerned about the "variable" conditions. All they are concerned about is to produce batting paradises. The modern definition of a "good" pitch seems to be one on which both teams score more then 300. (350 is excellent). The ICC needs to intervene and stop this madness. We don't want to see all pitches stereotyped into a 300+ wicket.
T20 is needed for globalization of the game. Let us have all the cheer girls, beer, flat-tracks here and restrict to only T20. We all realize that to take cricket into Japan, USA, South America etc, T20 is the way to go. Test cricket is needed as it is TEST cricket. It is the ultimate TEST of a cricketer's technique, skill and stamina and it should be kept in its pristine form.
However, the 50-over ODI cricket might need some changes to its format and the ICC should consider the following changes/suggestions to it:
- Divide the 50 overs into two 25-over innings
- The 2nd innings will continue from where the first innings ended.
- This means that the batsmen who got out in the first innings CAN NOT bat again in the second innings.
- 5 overs of batting and bowling powerplay in both innings.
What are the advantages of it?
- Changes the monotonous ODI format. We will get to see new tactics and strategies by the captains and coaches.
- Toss factor gets reduced. Both teams would have to bat/bowl in seamer friendly conditions, both teams will have to bat/bowl under lights, in the dew, in the heat, cold.
- If there is rain after 50 overs, the winner could be declared based on the first innings.
Come on ICC! Wake up!