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Goodbye ODIs. It was good knowing you. - Suresh Menon
by Suresh Menon
Jun 17, 2008
"Goodbye ODIs. Good knowing you."

By Suresh Menon - DreamCricket Columnist

Will one-day cricket fade away gradually like the last bars of an old pop song or will it end abruptly like a drum solo? That its days are numbered is clear. Players, spectators and rule-makers have been cribbing for some time that it has become predictable, that it has exhausted all the possibilities of the format and that in any case there have been too many of them in recent years which were pointless both as contests and as tactical encounters.

The middle overs have been compared to a holding pattern where the fielding side tries to push in as many overs for as few runs as possible while the batting side's sole aim is to keep wickets for the final slog. It is strange that we should be speaking of the final slog, for that is a term associated with the 1970s and the early years of the game. Yet that strategy has made a comeback - as evidenced by the recent meaningless tri-series in Bangladesh. Pakistan beat India in the final using tactics that were thought to be innovative three decades ago - they kept wickets for the slog overs.

No tears were shed in India after the loss to Pakistan. It is as if the effigy-burners have been telling themselves, "After all, this is only one-day cricket; not something important like Twenty20." While restoration of sanity for whatever reason is welcome, seen from the perspective of the popularity of the sport, it is significant. In one-day cricket history, the India-Pakistan rivalry has produced more matches (115) than encounters between any other two teams.

The subcontinent has been the hub of the one-day game. More meaningless matches, more pointless tournaments have been played among teams in this region than any other. When television houses have bid in the billions for the right to telecast matches, they have asked for a guarantee of a minimum number of one-day matches in a year. And the Boards have been happy to oblige.

But with the success of Twenty20 and IPL, and the million-dollar winner-take-all series proposed between England and the West Indies, it doesn't take a Duckworth-Lewis calculator to work out which format of the game is likely to be the more popular. Because Twenty20 is as different from Test cricket as is possible considering the same players and the same equipment are involved, that leaves the one-day international as the odd one out.

With the death sentence already hanging over the ODI, tri-series like the one in Bangladesh are only likely to hasten the end. The one-dayer is closer to Twenty20 than it is to Test cricket, and it will not be long before the question is asked: why bother with it when the drama can be compressed into smaller units of space and time?

Before the final death knell is sounded, there will be the odd exciting match, the odd close finish and the odd sequence that does not fit into a pattern. But soon we will wake up one morning and wonder what the fuss about the 50-over game was all about. Its demise will be good for Test cricket too, for now the two forms of the game will be at either end of the scale, with nothing in common and no compromises between them. Both forms will jealously guard their individuality.

It is entirely possible that the 2011 World Cup in India might be the last one in the 'traditional' format. 2015 is seven years from now; and by then the ODI might have died, mourned by some, but to the greater relief of the many.

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