An Obituary to ODIs

In the wake of England’s recent humbling at the hands of Sri Lanka, looks at the future of the format in England

John Woodward

John Woodward

If you were to ask a staunch cricket fan what the greatest format of the game is, they would reply almost instantaneously with ‘Test Cricket.’ As such, this form of the game thrives as much today as it ever has, in my opinion largely due to the Ashes series.

But to those people who find Test cricket slow, boring and pointless – and there are more than I would like to admit – the only alternative for them is limited overs cricket, which until around twenty years ago would have been One-Day Internationals (ODI) or nothing.

However, the rise of Twenty20 has brought with it a fast-paced, entertaining and, crucially, commercially successful alternative to the 50 over game. Its rise has been so meteoric that it has seriously called into question the need for One-Day games.

Twenty20 provides all the twists and turns you get in an ODI just without the dead twenty-or-so overs when both teams aren’t quite sure if they’re ‘winning’ or not. Consequently, the tactics of those involved are more robust and attacking which is almost by definition more entertaining. Twenty20 leagues are springing up in all the biggest cricketing countries in the world and with them are bringing a whole new fanbase.

So why bother with ODIs at all? On the face of it, they seem like a waste of time and money, especially to the cricketers involved who are called up play in the matches.

It is glaringly obvious that English cricketers care very little for ODIs, and that is starting to translate into the media and the fanbase. In the recent series against Sri Lanka, England were so easily beaten one wondered whether they had accidentally booked an earlier flight and were pushed for time.

The squads for the Cricket World Cup next year are set to be announced this week. I did not know that until about three days ago. Imagine the same situation when it came to the football World Cup, or the Olympics.

The only curiosity surrounding the announcement of the World Cup squad is whether Alastair Cook will remain captain, and most people seem to only be bothered about that because ODI captaincy is seen as a precursor for the Test team. In short, if he loses the ODI captaincy, the Test one is sure to follow soon enough.

Only at the lower levels does the 50 over format still go strong. For example, this year I watched UYCC play a match against York St John. The event was incredibly well attended and showed the appeal of this format to those who are too busy to take five days off to play or watch a sport. Granted, I think it was only a 40 over match, but there’s only so much of a beating we can give YSJ before it becomes just plain mean.

50 over matches may still have a future at the lower levels, but at the very top of the game it is really difficult to see a resurgence in its success, least of all in England where if we are bad at something it is usually consigned to the past and forgotten about.

Kind of like revolutions. England are awful at revolutions.