Have ODI’s Become The Cliff Richard Of The Sporting World?
By Richard Browne
Things that were once dynamic and exciting become staid and ordinary, when newer and more vibrant options become available. The choice is do you stick with the first innovation and try and adapt it to the changing world or forget about it and consign it to the dustbin of history.
Rock stars and actors can make the choice easy, by sticking to the mantle of live fast and die young. James Dean has remained an icon because he died at the height of his fame and popularity and never got old and dull. Take the 1950’s pioneers of rock n roll. Elvis in the States died relatively young and remains the personification of moody teen rebellion.
On the other side of the Atlantic Cliff Richard still performing into his eight decade, has become a symbol of naphness for the masses, still loved by those who grew up on his music, but scorned by the younger audience as a relic, when 55 years ago he was the man boys wanted to be and the singer that girls dreamed of dating. ODI cricket has become the Cliff Richard of the sporting world.
That may actually be overstating the current position of ODI cricket. The people who grew up with it are becoming weary of it, because like all things, over exposure leads to familiarity which more often than not ends up in contempt.
In the 1970’s it was all so exciting – coloured clothes and night games with a white ball. Noise and glamour and the only slightly interested in cricket going along to check out the new hot ticket in town. World Cups gave international cricket its first tangible rating system and Americans no longer had to mull long into the night over their bourbon, about how a sport could last for five days and still not end in a result. It brought cricket into the now and made it attractive to those with whom the game was not ingrained, just like Twenty 20 cricket is doing in the 21st century.
Ever since ODI cricket came along, there have been mutterings about the demise of Test cricket. Test cricket though has the history and the full respect of the current crop of players. It may be struggling in parts of the world, but it’s very hard to see the day of the ‘last’ Test. ODI has neither the history nor the full respect of the internationals who have to flog themselves around the world playing the game.
The Australians in their traditional off season have played two of the most meaningless ODI series imaginable over the last few months. First they came to a miserably wet England under prepared for a horrible display of crabby cricket that saw them lose every match that was completed. The Ashes is special and the two teams should not meet up for annual bun-fight to get a few more coins in already overflowing coffers. That’s cheapening the product and that never works in the long run.
The Rolling Stones tours are still huge events that fill out massive stadiums, but they don’t do it year in year out. Their audiences have to wait and look forward to the next tour, just as English and Australian cricket fans wait and look forward tothe Ashes happening in their country every four years. They are perfectly happy to do this as well. England v Australia should always be a Rolling Stones concert not a Drifters tribute gig at a half empty venue.
Then the Australins arrived in the Arabian summer to play the Pakistani’s in a series that has caught the worlds imagination like dust. Away from the mysterious world of cricket administration there is no sane reason to host the tournament. The weather was absurdly hot, the results had no meaning and with the T20 world cup round the corner did anyone need to practice their mid ODI innings skills? Obviously not. For the record the Aussies won 2-1 and no one died of heat stroke. Match fixing has thankfully not reared its repellent head recently, but with every inconsequential ODI series the risk gets greater of another Mo Amir heartbreak story.
The ‘primacy of Test cricket’ is a current in vogue phrase within the cricketing community. For ODI’s to remain relevant they have to be given primacy too. This means less games, but games within a context of a tour. An ODI series after the Tests have finished is a damp squib. Whet the appetite with a three match ODI series then get into the stuff that creates legends. By making ODI series regulated (all three games and only before Tests) they may suddenly become interesting again.
The World Cup is still the cycle that international cricket teams revolve around and as 2011 proved is still a magnificent event. This alone is enough to persevere with the format. It looks tired and dated because it is. Lacking the subtlety of Test cricket or the instant gratification of T20 it is out on a limb, the superstar salesman that has become jaded by years of flogging the same pitch on the same patch.
All the innovations in the world won’t change this, but if the administrators are to keep their cash cow munching then they have to bite the bullet and be less greedy and make the games an event again.
There will be no more ODI’s this year, a whole three months without the stuff. It will be interesting to see how we all feel about the game after the much needed sabbatical is over.