ODI cricket feels like the overlooked middle child.

While Test cricket holds the highest regard for figures like Shastri and is considered the pinnacle for players like Khawaja, T20 has emerged as the most cherished format. Unfortunately, the ODI format finds itself in a middle child syndrome, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it eventually transitions into an ICC event-only format in the near future.

In a significant move this year, Cricket South Africa (CSA) canceled an ODI series against Australia to ensure their star players’ participation in the inaugural SA20 league, potentially putting their direct qualification for the ODI World Cup at risk.

Months earlier, the commitment of numerous English cricketers to the Pakistan Super League (PSL) created a predicament for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), resulting in many players being unavailable for the Bangladesh tour.

England’s World Cup-winning opener, Jason Roy, opted out of his incremental contract to join the Major League Cricket (MLC), a first for him. Some of his fellow countrymen are contemplating similar moves.

Quinton de Kock, the highly accomplished South African opener, has made the decision to retire from ODIs post the World Cup. This choice arose due to concerns regarding his availability for the ODI series against India in December, given his commitments in the Big Bash League (BBL).

The unavailability of West Indies stars for international matches due to franchise league commitments has been a persistent issue, and it has played a role, directly or indirectly, in the decline of their cricketing prowess.

These instances serve as clear indicators of how these lucrative T20 leagues are reshaping the international cricket calendar, particularly in the realm of ODIs.

The 50-over format finds itself in a sort of limbo. Test cricket holds an esteemed place among cricketers, while T20 cricket is favored for its brevity and lucrative prospects.

The inaugural T20 domestic league was established by England in 2003, but it was the Indian Premier League (IPL) that revolutionized the landscape when it commenced in 2008. This two-month extravaganza secured an exclusive slot in the ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP). As of 2022, the IPL boasted a staggering brand value of US$11 billion, with its 2023 final becoming the most-watched live-streamed event.

Since the inception and instant success of the IPL, numerous countries have launched their own franchise leagues, following the IPL model. Consequently, it has become increasingly challenging to deter players from participating, sometimes at the expense of international commitments.

Amidst this surge, the number of ODIs has seen a significant decline. This can be attributed, in part, to dwindling spectator interest in a nine-hour long game, especially when T20 cricket is readily available worldwide.

The Asia Cup remains as the sole multinational ODI tournament that continues on a regular basis. Triangular or quadrangular ODI series have fallen out of favor. Since 2008, the IPL’s inaugural year, the annual tally of ODIs (until the end of 2022) has been 132, compared to 161 per year between 2000 and 2007.

Many cricketers and experts opine that ODI cricket has lost its allure and faces a tough battle co-existing with the much faster-paced T20 format.

Even the MCC has proposed limiting the number of ODIs post the 2027 World Cup.

The now-extinct Cricket Max, conceptualized by New Zealand’s Martin Crowe, was an endeavor to inject more excitement into the format. Sachin Tendulkar, a recipient of a Player of the Match award in one such game, believes the format needs a revamp and a fresh perspective.

“The 50-over format is the first thing that needs attention. As I’ve suggested, the format could benefit from two innings of 25 overs per side with a 15-minute break between each innings [resulting in four innings between the two teams]. The potential for innovations is immense,” he stated.

While India and Bangladesh can draw sell-out crowds for ODI series, the same cannot be said for other cricketing nations. Broadcasters also find bilateral ODI series less financially appealing.

Five-match bilateral ODI series have become almost non-existent. Since the 2019 World Cup, there have only been three such series, in stark contrast to the 42 that took place between the 2015 and 2019 editions.

The attention span of audiences is progressively waning, as emphasized by former cricketer turned broadcaster Ravi Shastri, who proposed, “For One-Day cricket to thrive, I believe it should evolve into a 40-over game in the future. The rationale behind this is that when we clinched the World Cup in 1983, it was a 60-over (a side) game. Over time, the attention span of viewers diminished and it became a 50-over game. I think the time has come for it to transition into a 40-over game.


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