The game of wood and leather began as more of a leisure affair in the 17th century and has evolved into fierce competition over the next four centuries. A constructive change is always good for anything as it prevents it from being obsolete and increases interest. Likewise, Cricket has gone through many a changes, starting from unlimited days of playing two innings and eight ball overs in white clothes to one-day internationals in colored clothes of 50 overs, each of six balls, to the current fast-food version of three some hrs of T20 cricket. Some changes were crucial and necessary for the game’s survival, some were monetarily driven. These days we stand at a junction where it is, supposedly, felt that 50 over format is extinct & boring and needs to replaced either with T20 or split innings of 25 each.
When ODI Cricket was invented in the 80s, the major driving factor was too many drawn affairs after playing five days of tiresome cricket. The other factor was crowd attendance and availability, with Cricket gaining popularity outside of England and Australia, the other countries found it difficult to pull a decent crowd to the parks on working-days. One-day cricket provided a sweet solution on two counts; a result was 99% certainty, and limiting to one day attracted a lot more fans to attend the games. T20 Cricket was invented in England as an alternate option to domestic championship and really took off after BCCIs invention of the Indian Premier League.
The fifty over format itself has seen a lot of changes over the three decades, like the white ball, introduction of two balls (one from each side), power-plays, field restrictions, and ICC trials of super-subs. Unfortunately all the changes have been in favor of the batsman and has made the game too much batsman friendly. These days they seem to stop a game when a pitch shows a slight uneven bounce and deem it unfit for play noting it to be dangerous to the batsman, however, proceedings don’t stop in an ODI when batters in each innings clobber 400 plus, by denoting the conditions to be cruel to the bowlers. This format has made the bowlers more like machines as they are severely handicapped rendering a monotonous 25 over phase from 16 to 40 overs.
One option is to split the game in to two innings of 25 each, a good one in theory and warrants a try, at least at domestic levels. It will make it exciting if the innings are made to be continuing part and not independent. The batsmen will have to preserve their wickets and play wisely, once set, they will have reconvene and re-build after a 25 over break, thus giving the bowlers a greater chance of entering back in the game. The strategies will have to be changed depending on the outcome of the first innings, keeping the spectators engaged through out 100 overs. Other option is to do away with this format and switch to the currently popular T20 format. Yes, T20 has the excitement, the entertainment, and more importantly it’s over in less than four hours, however it leaves no opportunity for a team to come back in the game. One bad or good over can change the game’s outcome, which is truly unfair to the other eleven men of honor. The fifty over format, on the other hand, provides plenty of opportunities to come back in the game (split or otherwise).
Yes, the ODIs fifty over format is desperately calling for a change, however, it doesn’t have to be in completely changing the format. Look at the recent Australia-England series or the Asia Cup which provided a plenty of fifty over classics that went down to the wire and all of them were of scores under 300. Give some more powers to the bowlers and see what wonders they can do. In my opinion, the game needs more of a balancing act than over-hauling. Live pitches would create more competition than dead flat wickets. High-scoring events can be entertaining; however, an enthralling contest between bat-n-ball is even more riveting for cricket fans. ICC should act quickly and tinker with monotonous ways current fifty over affairs. I am sure the newly elect ICC president would surely have a dilemma as to split or not to split
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav