“End one-day internationals…. From now on, we should be playing Tests and Twenty20 internationals… Twenty20 is the entertainment and fun side of the game and also will bring in the big revenue.”
In his column in the Times on the 17th of August, Shane Warne set out a six-point plan that he believes will improve international cricket (and to a lesser degree, county cricket in England). His second and most contentious point was the scrapping of one-day internationals (ODIs).
Warne himself states this is a ‘big call’, and rightly so. Firstly, (and most astonishingly) it was only about a decade or so ago that many believed that the 50 over game was sending test cricket to the grave. It almost seems unbelievable that a form of the game that has enjoyed so much popularity over the years could be all of a sudden removed from the international landscape.
Secondly, ODIs are a central part of the international cricket schedule: in the 2009 calendar year a total of 82 ODI’s will be played, which averages out at approximately 2 games every 9 days. For Warne this is too much and although he doesn’t state it explicitly, you get the feeling that for him this amounts to a lot of meaningless one-day games being played – games where who wins and who loses seems to disappear from memory just in time for the next series to roll around.
What doesn’t disappear however is the dollars that are brought in by crowd attendances and broadcast rights deals and this is what Warne refers to when he states that the scheduling of seven ODIs that will be played between England and Australia in the coming weeks is ‘greed on the part of administrators’.
Money is undoubtedly a key consideration when schedules are formulated by administrators, but when we are considering the wider future of this form of the game other factors need to come in the equation, such as: crowd attendances; television ratings; the significance of the games; and the desire of the players to play them.
During the last international cricket season in Australia, many wondered about the future of the 50-over game when the first game of the series between Australia and South Africa played at the MCG drew a crowd of 39,731, when five days previously a Twenty20 game between the two sides at the MCG was played in front of 62,000.
While Australian cricket officials were quick to point out that Melbourne fans might have been suffering from a touch of cricket overload given that, prior to the ODI, the city had seen six days of international cricket in the previous three weeks (one test match and the Twenty/20), it is hard to argue against the point that when over 20,000 more people turn up for a Twenty/20 game played between the same two sides on the same ground, it shows that their interest in one is greater than for the other. For Warne such figures signal that, ‘the 50-over game has passed its sell-by date.’
Therefore, one might think that if crowd attendances can no longer satisfy the ‘greedy’ nature of administrators, the justification for playing such a prolific amount of one-day cricket will have to fall back on, to a greater degree, the meaning of these games.
Looking at the upcoming seven ODI between Australia and England, while these games will still draw a fair amount of interest, the truth is that they are a bit of a sideshow. Even if Australia were to win the series 7-0, it would be of little consolation for losing the Ashes.
While Warne focuses on the ODI schedule being an act of greed on the part of administrators, I think what is of greater significance is the potential insight it gives into what players think of playing so many matches. Do most cricketers share Warne’s view that too much one-day cricket is played, or is it simply the view of a man that had the luxury of early retirement from the game after having already won a world-cup?
It has already been stated that the popularity of Twenty20 cricket will need to be monitored closely and adjustments to tours made accordingly if its stocks continue to rise. Perhaps we might see a tour where the balance is shifted and we see seven Twenty20 games played and just a few ODIs.
Even if Warne’s opinion is based on his own dislike of the game rather than any feeling that its elimination will be for the greater good of cricket, his bold plan illustrates that Twenty20, rather than being a threat to test cricket as was first thought, is undoubtedly going to change the relevance of 50-over cricket in the coming years.
What do you think? Would you rather see seven Twenty20 games played between England and Australia and just two ODIs, or are you happy with the current balance between the formats. We’re interested to hear what you think.
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