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Gimmicks reason for ODI cricket’s downfall

india Updated: Jun 20, 2010 01:13 IST
Hindustan Times
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There’ll be a fifty over-a-side World Cup played on the sub-continent in early 2011. It’ll be complete with powerplays and restrictions, on-field placings and the number of overs delivered by a bowler, and one team will bat during the day and another at night.

However, what form the World Cup of 2015 in Australia and New Zealand will take is anyone’s guess. For a game that’s supposed to be gasping for breath, the fifty overs-a-side version is generating serious debate and much of the speculation is emanating from Australia.

The animated discussion has occurred because of the perception that since the dramatic arrival of T20 cricket, the longer limited overs version is mundane. The main charge levelled at ODIs is that the middle period of an innings is so predictable that if you nod off or read a book in that time, the only thing you’ll miss is the exercise provided by participating in the Mexican wave.

This criticism does have some merit. However, the reason behind this occurrence is not so much the increased anticipation provided by a hectic T20 match but a combination of unimaginative captaincy and a reliance on gimmicks to prop up the longer game.

The "formulated" nature of the middle overs of an ODI preceded the inception of T20 cricket. Whenever the fielding captain stops trying with all his might to capture a wicket and relies more on the opposition batsmen committing cricketing suicide, the game stops being an interesting contest. When the batting side is happy to score at five or six an over without taking any risks and the fielding side is content to concede runs in singles, the game loses it’s meaning.

There’s only one reason to play cricket and that’s to win the contest. You won’t always achieve that pleasing result but players will have fun trying if the captain strives to make the contest interesting.

When a fielding captain’s mind is clouded with negativity, the game can become tedious and if spectators feel that way, then spare a thought for the fielders. At least, the fan can go back; the player has to stay on the field and endure his punishment.

Therefore, selectors must be more pro-active. If a captain has misplaced his imagination then he should be reminded by the chairman that he’d better re-discover it or otherwise he’ll find himself either unemployed or back among the rank and file.

The introduction of powerplays has firmly entrenched the thought in many a captain’s mind that between these "adrenaline rush" periods the idea is mostly about keeping wickets in hand. That’s not the way batting should work.

The administrators can’t legislate to make players better or captains more imaginative; it’s immaterial if you play forty or fifty overs-a-side, or split the innings in two halves or play a two innings limited-over game.