Is Future of ODI Cricket Under Threat of Getting Extinct? – SportsMediaz

Ben Stokes shook up the cricket world last week, announcing his retirement from one-day cricket.

Arguably the world’s premier cricketer currently, and someone who had just had a fabulous Test summer winning all four matches that he led England in since his appointment as captain, Stokes left experts and critics groping for answers.

But should we really be surprised at his decision?

Some weeks earlier, Ravichandran Ashwin, in a podcast with former England players Michael Vaughan and Phil Tufnell had questioned the relevance of ODIs in the current game, going so far as to say that he would witch off the TV during a match.

Some days after Stokes made his decision, Vaughan and Tufnell interviewed bowling great and former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram who was also categorical in his support for Stokes as he believed the 50-over format had become meaningless. Akram went to the extent to say that even as a commentator he found the one-day game tedious!

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Fact is, ODIs have been under pressure for almost two decades. As far back as 2009, a prescient Sachin Tendulkar had sensed that the one-day game, which supported the financial well-being and fan-growth of cricket for almost half a century, was beginning to lose its importance.

ODIs, argued Tendulkar, had become too predictable. The first 10 overs of the power play and the last 10 overs of big hitting retained flavour, but much else, especially the middle overs when the field restriction was imposed, followed a pattern that was failing to engage neither fans nor players.

This was an interesting intervention because it came from the playing fraternity itself, but significantly from someone whose exploits in this format had been extraordinary, earning him fabulous renown and reward.

Tendulkar’s suggestion then to keep the format was that the 50-overs a side game should be divided into two 25-over innings for both teams. He had some other ingredients added to this about field restrictions, change of balls, etc. to give the game a more competitive flow.

Former England captain and renowned commentator Tony Greig, like Tendulkar, had also proposed the ODI be split into a four-innings match. “The one-day game is stagnating,’’ Greig told me in 2012. “The 2011 World Cup was a success because it was played in India, but I can’t see even this tournament surviving,’’ he said.

In that Greig was wrong The 2015 World Cup in Australia-New Zealand was a massive success too, the next one in 2019 in England – where Stokes made an everlasting impact – even bigger.

However, pressure on this format was building up steadily, but no solution was in sight.

Stokes’s sudden retirement has put administrators in a quandary. Will this trigger a wave of premature retirement of big-ticket players? That remains to be seen but clearly, a crisis is brewing.

The rise of T20 cricket, especially leagues sprouting all over the world is the biggest reason why the appeal of ODIs could decline even more for players. T20s have a greater fan following and are far more lucrative. For players to choose between the two white-ball formats becomes a no-brainer.

Increasingly, workload management too has become important for players and authorities. Stokes, who would be a certain pick for all three formats, said he found the workload unsustainable, necessitating the sacrifice of at least one format. He chose to give up ODIs. Test cricket, Stokes reiterated, was paramount.

Some players like Quinton de Kock, however, chose to give up on Tests and opted for both white-ball formats, so it may be imprudent to write off ODIs just yet.

But going ahead, for big stars like Stokes, Kohli, Rohit, et al, who have spent a fair number of years in the sport and put the five-day format on a pedestal, the options narrow down.

To play Test cricket, manage workload, keep zest for the game alive, prolong career and also not suffer financially if players could be pushed into choosing betweenT20s or ODIs, In this face-off, T20 looks the likely winner.

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