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Is ODI cricket dead in the water?

Shane Warne recently wrote in his column for the Times: “This is a big call, but cricket evolves and the 50-over game has passed its sell-by date. It’s amazing to think that after the Ashes series, England and Australia play seven one-day games, which take about a month. Sorry, but that’s just greed on the part of administrators.”

Warne asserts that through eliminating one-day matches, international players would be able to play more domestic cricket and have more time with their families. Australia’s leading wicket-taker said that if he had his way, most tours would last roughly five weeks with three Tests plus a warm-up game and five 20-20s in a 10-day period.

Is Warne right?

Economically, the great driver of international cricket at the moment is 20-20 cricket. With the ICC deciding to hold a 20-20 every two years, that should be indication enough as to where the ICC and the national boards that went along with the idea see ODI cricket in relation to 20-20: the middle child.

Often, middle children feel their youngest sibling gets all the attention and their older sibling gets all the patronage. The main fixture of the ODI calendar, the Cricket World Cup (CWC), used to be the bread and wine that the ICC feasted on during the good times and the bad.

Now with the CWC being supplanted as the main income earner, fans drawn by 20-20 and with the IPL being an annual event, it appears that ODI cricket is slowly, but unsurprisingly, being marginalised by its creators. It was the “doldrums” as referred to by certain supporters and intellectuals (though I use that word carefully) in the game that was the spur for 20-20. How things change.

ODI cricket has supplied the game with some of its most iconic and infamous moments. For every Trevor Chappell under-arm incident there is a 438 game to compare it to.

Also, the one-day game’s influence on modern Test cricket is unquestionable: fielding standards have improved dramatically, run rates now hover closer to four per an over (with a nod to the Australians for being the pioneers in this regard), and players are certainly more athletic before the one-day game arrived.

Alas, like many “good” things, with the financial component of one-day cricket no longer being its main draw card, perhaps now is the time for the world cricket Gestapo (as the ICC often is with their misplaced intentions) to consider walking away from the game.

I believe that it will become a reality at some point. The old saying goes “two’s a company but three’s a crowd” and one-day cricket finds itself very much on the outside.

However, there is hope with the Champions Trophy coming to these shores. If the tournament succeeds, the future of ODI cricket will be solidified for the near future. A thoughtful piece in this month’s Business Day Sport Monthly poses the question about the tournament’s importance to the ICC, which judging by the financial benefits the world-governing body receives from the Champions Trophy, is difficult to answer. This year’s tournament could very well be a watershed moment for ODI cricket. Time will reveal what its ultimate fate will be in due course.

Mind you, I don’t think it will happen in the next decade. The ICC will seek, along with the national boards, to squeeze every last drop of currency out of the format until one-day cricket’s body is left dishevelled and in a position for the undertakers to take over. The fact that I assume that will be the ICC’s behaviour is a bit disturbing to say the least, but that will be for another time.