Besides the obvious pointers about India not fielding anywhere upto acceptable standards, Sri Lanka badly needing to sort out their batting problems, and New Zealand needing to sort out everything except their bowling, there were but three definitive conclusions to be drawn from this rather short tri-series.
First up is the realization that the ODI format of the game is far from dead. And anyone who thinks that T20 will cause the extinction of the former needs to think again! For quite some time now, any series in Sri Lanka involving the Indian team has seen major sponsorship and advertising revenue streams flowing from India itself. It provides for a great way to entertain a few highly rated business guests and of course provides a good backdrop for furthering any propositions/deals that might come along as well.
Looking at it in the entirety of an ODI game, although the advert rates might be too low, this format of the game continues to be the one that earns the most TV revenues in the longer run. For every end of the over, every drinks break, every cramp attack and every dismissal allows them broadcasters to earn some money and spread over 100-overs, that’s one, too many breaks and a whole lot of money.
The only problem that the ICC needs to consider is the kind of pitches that ODI games all around the world are played upon. An even contest between the bat and the ball is what will draw crowds out to these albeit longer days when players would still want to play the classic game of cricket instead of the slam-bang shot-lived stuff. If the pitches do not stay true and the bowlers get an advantage over the bat – or vice versa – as soon as the lights are switched on, the whole exercise becomes pointless.
This in turn leads to the second conclusion that what Sachin Tendulkar proposed a couple of weeks ago in mere passing was, in fact, a well thought out idea. Consider this series in Lanka itself. At the Premdasa, the side winning the toss goes on to win the match nearly seventy percent of the times. And on the evidence that the ball starts taking prodigious turn as soon as thirty overs of the first innings are completed adds reason to that statistic. By the time, the lights come on and the second innings begin, there are various demons to play around; dew, spin, turn and uneven bounce accentuated by the wearing track, and it becomes evident that this landslide advantage to any one particular side can only harm the game, or if you rather, the ODI format.
Now consider Tendulkar’s idea. If that were in practice, then, after the first twenty-five overs, the fielding side would get to bat and then later on, both sides would take turns batting under lights. Although reduced to a marathon version of T20 cricket, the ‘new ODI form’ will bring in more crowds, the revenue streams will keep flowing in the same healthy manner (might even get grander) and the game will continue to etch on. Maybe just maybe, the ICC really needs to look into this possibility intently in the near future, and the report that they are considering it, is actually welcome.
The one downside to this idea, though, is that scoring tons in ODIs would become a rarity with only the top three batsmen having any regular opportunity to bat for a long duration of time. Isn’t it ironical that such a death knell to a prime indicator of any batsman’s talent and ability, scoring a century, has been sounded by the world record holder of most hundreds in international cricket?
And while the ICC are looking into the pitches and the Tendulkar-formula, they would do very well to pretty much conclude (the third one!) that their approved ranking system for the game they govern is a most ridiculous one. India win a singular match in the tri-series and go atop only to come crashing down to number three because they lost a game the next day. Now one isn’t advocating this line because it seems unfair to the Indian team – for they clearly are not yet ready to be the world number one side (again, did you see them field in the final? Which number one side fields like that?).
The only point one is trying to make is that it would make far more sense that the rankings are revised after any particular day of the week. That could further be diluted down to the end of every international series, ODIs or Test matches in fact. That particular method is used in determining tennis rankings by the ATP/WTA and football rankings by FIFA, who generally tend to release their rankings on Mondays or the day after major tournaments. They don’t go about changing rankings after every round of a particular Grand Slam, or, after the first set of World Cup qualifiers have been completed, respectively.
For in the current scenario, wouldn’t it be funny if Australia began the next Ashes series ranked number one in the world and finishedranked fourth, not only because they lost the series but also because Sri Lanka beat Pakistan in the first Test of a three match series in some other part of the world? What would the English say then; did they beat a world number one side or a number four? Poor souls, they are as it is too confused about their cricket!
(The columnist is a sports writer and Mobile ESPN cricket commentator based in New Delhi, India.)