Should ODI cricket be scrapped? Here's how it can resurrect
One of the greatest all-rounders in modern-day cricket, Ben Stokes announced a sudden retirement from ODI cricket this month. The 31-year-old England player felt playing all three formats is "unsustainable". His retirement sparked a debate regarding the redundancy of 50-overs cricket. Pakistani great Wasim Akram, who is the second-highest ODI wicket-taker, has termed the format a "drag". He called for more T20Is in future.
"Even as a commentator, one-day cricket is just a drag now, especially after T20," Akram spoke on the Vaughany and Tuffers Cricket Club podcast, "T20 is kind of easier, four hours the game is over. The leagues all around the world, there is a lot more money. I suppose this is part and parcel of the modern cricket. One-day cricket is kind of dying."
Akram remains the only fast bowler to have taken over 500 wickets in ODI cricket. Nearly two decades after his retirement, he is the leading wicket-taker among pacers in 50-overs cricket. Overall, he is only behind Sri Lanka's Muthiah Muralidaran (534).
Why did Akram achieve such tremendous success in ODIs? The former Pakistani pacer remains the greatest exponent of reverse swing which faded from ODI cricket with the advent of two new balls in the format. Before 2007, the ICC made use of only one ball throughout an entire ODI inning. By bringing back this rule, a balance can be struck between batters and bowlers.
Remember the 2007/08 Commonwealth Bank Series? MS Dhoni-led Team India won a highly competent tri-series, involving Sri Lanka and hosts Australia. How many such series/tournaments have we seen since the conclusion of the 2019 World Cup? Notably, India have played just 30 ODIs in this period. Mere bilateral contests are not enough to sustain 50-overs cricket. It is detrimental to viewership and revenue too.
The ICC ODI Super League is one way to rejuvenate competition. However, its growth is restricted to the 50-over World Cup. Even the format is full of flaws. For instance, South Africa might not make the top eight of the standings after withdrawing from the Australia ODI series. This could hamper SA's chances of directly qualifying for the 2023 World Cup.
While several cricket experts believe the ICC should do away with ODIs, one might think otherwise. An out-of-form batter like Virat Kohli would always prefer playing more ODIs in order to rediscover his touch. As a batter, one can always spend some time on the crease without much hustle in this format. Like T20Is, it's not 'hit out or get out' in ODIs.
Until the early 2000s, 250 was a healthy total to defend in ODIs. However, it is common for teams to score post a 300-plus total. Flat pitches are responsible for making it a batting-friendly format. The viewers are always up for an even contest! Wind back the clock to 1999, when the World Cup semi-final between Australia and South Africa ended in a tie.