As the tenth International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup kicks off in Dhaka, all that talk about the 50-over format of the game being in the ICU has vanished. Even with the chirpier Twenty20 format of the game proving to be a runaway success, the one-day international (ODI) generates enough passion in a tournament like the World Cup.
And here’s the irony: one-day cricket itself came about as a populariser of cricket at a time when interest in Tests was plummeting. Test cricket today is doing well, and we now have a 20-over format in addition to the ODI. Instead of a Darwinian survival of the ‘quickest’, we have a happy cohabitation of three types of cricket, feeding spectator enthusiasm off each other.
One-day cricket started rolling in England in 1963 in the form of the Gillette Cup. The first ODI was played on the fifth day of a rain-washed-out Test match between England and Australia in Melbourne in 1971. The 40-over match (with eight balls per over) was a crowd-pleaser, filling the time available after the abandoned Test match.
In any case, interest in Test and county cricket in England had been dipping from the 1950s. The very edifice on which county cricket stood was about to collapse, with county cricket coffers almost empty.
The seeds of one-day cricket was sown after the recommendations of a committee appointed by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 1956. This committee suggested remedial measures to arrest the falling interests in the game. The Gillette Cup competition ensued and was an instant success.
The aftermath was even more successful, leading to the introduction of the John Player Special League in 1969 and the Benson & Hedges Cup in 1972. In 1972, the Prudential Trophy (three 55-over games) between Australia and England was organised.
Limited-over cricket opened the floodgates of sporting entertainment. Australian TV tycoon Kerry Packer was the first to realise its vast potential and put a fortune into the venture. Initially, the returns were far from pleasing. But soon, ‘instant cricket’ became a hit.
The first limited-over cricket World Cup competition — the Prudential Cup — was organised with great interest in 1975. But this wasn’t before other cricketing countries had also tested the one-day format with success.
Since then the ICC Cricket World Cup has been held regularly every four years. Although the competition has witnessed changes both in form and format, the basic ingredients of entertainment and excitement still remain at its core.
*Ravi Chaturvedi is a cricket commentator and author of World Cup Cricket: A Compendium.
**The views expressed by the author are personal.