One of the supposedly grand event of Cricket – the ICC One Day World Cup ended today in a whimper. What was built up as an epic clash between the 2 Trans Tasmanian teams – Australia and New Zealand in the finals today turned out to be a boring one sided match with the Aussies ruthlessly grounding the Kiwis depriving them of their maiden World Cup win. And for us Indians, post our rather meek surrender to the Aussies in the Semifinals, today’s final was more of a side show. Not just the match today, but If you look back at the rather drearily long World Cup in the last 40 odd days, right from the league stages to the knockout there were hardly 4-5 matches which were exciting. The Semifinal match between South Africa and NZ must count as one of those matches which brought viewers to the edge of the seat I would reckon. Most of the other encounters were either one sided or falling to a predictable pattern. And more so, all the India matches were drab affairs though as long as the team was winning we had no qualms of the same. But as an avid cricket enthusiast, for a major ICC event as the World Cup, there were very few matches which would be subject to post mortem again and again during water cooler talks in offices and paan shops in the coming days!!
I guess this trend has not just started with this World Cup. Over the years, the One Day format though extremely popular has been slowly entering a coma. But the just concluded World Cup I reckon has sort of hastened the Rigor mortis. It will be interesting to look at the possible causes for the same:
- As a format, is it getting stuck between the Classic Test Match and the glamorous T-20? Test match cricket has its own old world own charm. A battle between the bat and the ball looks more engaging in a Test match. Even today, while a cricketer can earn by being a T-20 specialist, he still have to yearn for recognition until he proves his mettle in Test Cricket. On the other side T-20 with a soccer kind of format demands less time, is fast paced and throws open enough mauka (in this season how can I miss a mauka to use this term?😜) for innovations. In this – is the One Day Game with its tiring predictability losing its charm? You could just watch the last 10 overs of the 1st inning, then may the last 15 overs of the 2nd inning and still would not have missed the gist of the match!
- Is the ICC in its quest to popularize Cricket killing it? Today we have a clear Class divide among the teams. One bunch are the established teams which are strong. Then we have the other bunch which are the “Associate nations” which are the emerging teams. They don’t get to play competitive games often and are a deprived lot. When both the groups are bunched together, most of the league matches turn drab where the established walk over the emerging. While it is true that the weak teams must get exposed and get opportunities to play the stronger teams often, in a World Cup most of these matches are boring affairs. One solution could be to have a pre-qualifying stage league matches among the Associate nations and get the top 2 to be a part of the established teams and go through with the league and knockout phases.
- As in many other games like Tennis for example, Cricket is also going the “Powerplay” way! Ofcourse this has nothing to do with the format. But increasingly in the One Day format – the domination of bat over ball due to sheer power has left everything else redundant. So the team batting first routinely amasses 300+ scores these days and walks away with the match. That also means that the skill of Cricket is pushed aside by the captain’s skill of calling the coin right at the toss. Well, most of the times. (Like in the India Vs Australia Semifinal match in this World Cup, the loss of toss by Dhoni turned to be the 1st nail in the coffin). One can argue that in the Test match format there is still room for a batsman with elegance, a spinner with guile and players with skill but in One Day and the T-20 formats – increasingly it is “Power” which is at “Play”. So the urgent need for may be bowler friendly conditions and an even-steven contest between the bat and ball.
- It’s a no brainer that any game becomes interesting if the course of the game and its outcome are unpredictable. But frankly today in the One Day format the only unpredictability is when there is rain and the two gentlemen Duckworth and Lewis come into play 😄😄. The D/L method is so intriguing that it many times it has turned a docile match on its head and turned it interesting. It’s another matter that my friends from South Africa will have a different view on this 😄.
- To be fair to ICC, they have been introducing a few innovations into the One day format like Batting Powerplays, Bowling Powerplays… to bring in some twists to the game. But just that these are few and far between and have not been able to shift the dial.
So for the ICC, the “Cup” must have ended but when they do an honest assessment of the recently concluded World Cup, they would realise that their “Cup of Woes” has just begun. Which is to find ways and means make the next World Cup really engaging, interesting and exciting and not a 2 month long dull and drab affair with very few “rewind worthy” moments!!! And make (One Day) Cricket live up to its original cliché of “A game of glorious uncertainties!!!”
Postscript: After reading this, if you felt a “No, no, these grapes are sour” sense omnipresent in this piece after India’s #Wont Give It Back became history last Thursday– it is purely coincidental 😜😜