There are a few people, whom we shall call Idiots, who keep querying whether 50 over ODI cricket and Test cricket have outlasted their shelf-life in entertainment. There are also a few “officials”, whom we shall call bigger idiots, who respond by saying “we should give people what they want and T20 is…”. Now then, if this was the way movies were made, then PG-rated, High school musicals and Tyler Perry movies would be all one would get to see.
Sachin suggested combining Test cricket and T20’s to create a 4 innings 50 over game, Jonty opined that batting Powerplays should be used up before 30 overs, Martin Crowe suggested some other ingenious remedy which caught ICC’s eye. Since sane people don’t think about fixing things unless they are broken, let us assume there is something wrong with the 50 over format. (The fact that this fault came about due to no fault of ODI’s but due to the advent of T20 cricket shall be kept aside).
The Problem-> The drudgery of nudging in the middle overs. Quick fix-> Have more than 4 fielders in the inner ring at all times. If this is harsh, then we can think about introducing “fielding pushplays”, when the fielding captain can have as few as 4 in the inner ring. Essentially, the solution proposes a batting powerplay like situation for 40 overs and restrictive field set ups for 2 slots of 5 overs each.
All this nudging was virtually not a part of the game when players like Ganguly were at the crease. If they had to take a single, the ball had to go as far as the fielder in the deep. This way even singles required genuine shots and the audience weren’t bored. Bevan was one exception at that time and he was praised for his nudgy-style. (Little did they know his style would become a bane in the coming years).
Enter a new generation of players who ran quick between the wickets, played no shots in the “traditional V” and guided the ball to third-man every other ball. As if all these skills weren’t enough an invitation to nudge (and make the game boring), the authorities decided to bring in batting powerplays which ironically, blew wind into the sails of this boring trade. Once this option came into the hands of the batting team, they promptly decided to put all their eggs in this Powerplay basket. They convinced themselves that having wickets in hand and launching an onslaught in the batting powerplay was all they needed to post a challenging score/chase down a target. With success following suit, the nudge became a prime asset and the audience in return, were left irritable and hungry for omelettes, er.. fireworks, er.. boundaries in the overs preceding the powerplay.
If you think the middle overs are boring, then it is because it has more to do with the new style of playing than with the old format. Irrespective of all this… the champions trophy did showcase some thoroughly entertaining 50 over innings like that of New Zealand over Sri Lanka and India over Pakistan. In both cases, the extended length of the format gave room for more (meaningful) momentum shifts.
p.s:- Pretend the picture’s that of Dhoni 😛
p.s2:- For the cynics out there, no I ain’t picking on India.