The final verdict?

In the midst of the mass heartburn last month about the future of ODIs, the more sober voices in the commentariat

The Mystery of the Missing Audience/Courtesy Cricinfo

The Mystery of the Missing Audience/Courtesy Cricinfo

suggested that perhaps it is necessary to wait until the end of the Champions’ Trophy to render a final verdict on the format.

What happened was, the jury left the box and didn’t bother to show up to render its verdict — check out the three men and a dog watching as Shane Watson launches his assault on the target.

None of the usual reasons apply. This was a world-level tournament, not the kind of senseless, overlong bilateral series that prompted the heartburn in the first place. The format was short and crisp — too short, some felt when India, with a record of one win, one loss and one no-result, was dumped at the preliminary hurdle.

There was considerable skill on display — sporadic display, admittedly — ditto grit. There was a fair share of tight encounters, chiefly the one between Pakistan and Australia with India’s fate at stake. And the final was no slog fest, but a real contest between bat and ball in conditions that helped the bowlers.

In sum, there was every single thing we keep asking for, and criticizing the ODI format for lacking — and yet, there were no spectators.

Time now to worry? To move beyond the knee-jerk reform proposals [reduce the format to 40 overs; split the game into four innings]? To admit, finally, that the problem is only partly with the structure of the one day game, and that any lasting solution will need to begin with the international schedule itself?

While on that, the reason advanced for the absence of spectators is that the final ‘happened’ to take place on a Monday. How did that ‘happen’? Because in drawing up the tournament schedule, the ICC felt the need to allow for the overlong seven-game bilateral series between England and Australia, and schedule time for the two teams to land in South Africa and get in a measure of acclimatization. Net net? Very few people watched that bilateral series — and even fewer watched Australia retain one of two global titles on offer in this form of the game.

I’ve been banging on [Don’t you get tired of saying this, a reader was moved to ask the last time I brought this up] about the ICC’s need to stop dicking around with knee-jerk ‘solutions’, to admit to itself that it has through inept scheduling run the game into the ground, and to start the process of reform with the calendar itself. [While on that, Peter Hanlon in The Age is already lamenting a lackluster Australian summer]. So I’ll stop this exercise in ‘I told you so’ right here — and wait to see what the reform merchants and their mouthpieces come up with in the coming days.

Nothing substantive, possibly — there is always the Champions League to distract ourselves with. And then the ‘Revenge Series’ or ‘Champion of Champions’ series or however the hypemeisters plan to bill a seven game odyssey between India and Australia.

Outside of two brilliant opening bursts, by Lee and Siddle for Australia and Bond and Mills for the Kiwis, I didn’t watch enough of the game to comment. So I’ll leave you with two good pieces by Sambit Bal: on how South Africa’s templated tactics are a large part of the reason for its sub-optimal performance, and how Australia’s sustained success is largely rooted in its ability to find within its ranks men who will rise to any occasion.

4 thoughts on “The final verdict?

  1. The key to making ODI’s relevant (and I think, despite all the back-patting post this, there IS a problem), lies in making each game count. Too many meaningless games exist.

    In virtually all other sports, each event leads to something, like a grand championship. ODI cricket basically is now a “meaningless meandering” with some relevant games thrown in (and then, people do show up).

    Each match or game should lead up to some sort of grand annual play-off, for ODI champions of the year.

    And the sub-continent needs to stop pulling in boundaries, create batfest oriented pitches. And batsmen having regular bats, or at least all batsmen having the same bats would help 🙂

  2. The crowd wasn’t there because it was played in SA and SA wasn’t there. Admiitedly, Australia is a star team but NZ is not. NZ can’t attract big crowds – it is a team of solid workers but no stars with huge billing. IMHO therefore this is not the end of ODI future. Yes I agree who in their sane mind will have the final on a Monday and added to what is explained above it was a lousy crowd that turned (or did not turn) up.

    • So the lesson is, world competitions need the home team to make it to the final stages. Not a template that can lead to a practical solution, no?

      • Template is world competitions need either the home team or Team india to make it to the final stages… Still not a practical solution 😦

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