ODI cricket: Preserve it as it is!



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I was heart-broken and disappointed…! I knew we were losing it. But when finally Glenn McGrath did the honours for Australia, coaxing Zaheer Khan to get caught by Darren Lehmann, thus dismissing India’s last wicket, I realised that now it was truly the time to reconcile to the fact that it was gone… The dream was shattered! The 2003 World Cup was gone…

It was the second time that we had reached the final of the ICC ODI World Cup… The first time, which was in 1983, we were victorious… We were the champions of ODI cricket, thanks to Kapil Dev and his army!

And in 2003? All the happy memories of Kapil Dev lifting the Trophy faded when I saw Ricky Ponting on my television, holding his coveted prize. A sense of triumph and conquest overflowed in his eyes and there was his childlike smile!

Well, of course, I didn’t cry! I didn’t want my mom to tease me by saying that I was a cry baby. But surely, I resolved in my heart on behalf of the Indian team, that the next World Cup would surely be ours, and no matter what, we would indeed be the ODI champions again!

Well, then came the 2007 World Cup, and guess what, we didn’t even make it to the ‘Super 8’! ‘GREAT’, I snapped, keeping the tone of sarcasm evident in my voice when I saw the disaster happen.

Well, my revisiting the catastrophic memories of our loss has got nothing to do with my giving a lecture on how the Indian team should have worked on its techniques, or how the batting order should have been different, or rather how there should been more spinners in the team, or whether we should have batted first! No… Nothing of that sort!

My recalling of those memories is plainly intended towards the emotions that have always been there, everytime I watched a World Cup match! Be it good… Be it bad! It hardly matters…

Well, it hardly matters NOW! It doesn’t matter if India had won the most crucial of all matches, or lost miserably in 5-6 consecutive ODIs. What matters now is the fact that, probably after the forthcoming World Cup, that is, after the 2011 World Cup, we might not even have a chance to witness yet another ODI WORLD CUP EVER AGAIN!

Why so? As if people don’t know, huh! Why of course! T20 and its implications! The newly-added shortest format has been hovering over Test cricket like a ghost ever since it came into existence. But now, ODI cricket, too, seems to be in grave danger from this new, miniature, ‘short-cut’ species.

And the advent of the ultra-rich, cash loaded Indian Premier League seems to have made the things all the more worse! Well, let me clarify that I too am in love with the high voltage drama, unnerving energy and the unpredictability of T20 matches.

But, of course that doesn’t diminish (even by the slightest margin) my fantasy for ODI cricket, does it? T20 cricket, when introduced, was welcomed with open hearts! I was indeed curious to know how it was to taste an extremely delicious snack, when we were used to just big lunches!

The short form fantasised all, probably barring just a few. It was fun to watch such a range of cricket entertainment in a short span of time! But then, no one ever anticipated that the continuation of the most pristine form of cricket, Test cricket, and now ODI cricket too, would be questioned so furiously.

Every now and then, cricket experts and players keep giving their piece of mind on the oh-so-everlasting debate between the ‘snack’ and the ‘lunch’! But my ‘taste buds’ were triggered when I came across Sachin Tendulkar’s opinion on how we could act as saviors to ODI cricket!

Tendulkar, clearly smitten by the aura of Twenty20 cricket, said that the 50-overs game should be divided into 2 innings per side (each innings with 25 overs) and that it was the only way to bring back ODI cricket from the verge of extinction. The advice seemed more like fitting two T20 matches into one and calling it an ODI. Let us wait for some other advice from someone else, who would fan Sachin’s thoughts, saying that an ODI should be played over a span of two days!

What’s the rush? What’s the need? Is the situation so dangerous that ODIs have to cease to exist? Has it indeed become a prey to those greedy eyes? Why can’t everything and all co-exist with mutual respect and dignity? Why does one have to change or even diminish and run away just because something else is gaining immense popularity?

These were some of the questions that immediately crept in my mind. For me, every format has its own importance.

Test Cricket: The most original form of Cricket! It is a format where a cricketer gets the opportunity to display all his skills and techniques. The class of a player is truly brought out in Test cricket. Played over a span of five days, with four innings of 90 overs each, Test, beyond doubt, ‘tests’ the stamina and grit of a player.

T20 Cricket: It’s young, it’s peppy, it’s short and it’s crisp! T20 cricket, or you may also call it ‘popcorn cricket’, is all about energy, valiant shots, flawless fielding, gritty bowling! The fate of the game is balanced on the blade of a double-edged knife, a small mistake or a miscalculation could steal away the trophy from a team! Each over, each ball, and each run has the capacity to turn your providence

ODI Cricket: ODI is the perfect amalgamation of two most extreme forms of cricket, that is, Test and T20! It is a format that displays both, the class of Test cricket, and the valiant nature of T20.

With some more modifications being brought into the game, ODIs indeed have become a perfect cocktail of the above mentioned formats. The advent of ‘Powerplay’ gives us glimpses of T20 cricket in the first 10-15 overs, where players are reckless and exuberant in hitting massive shots to gather as many runs as possible!

During the middle overs, (20-35), the game takes shape of a Test match where character building becomes the primary role. It is the time when players are careful and classy enough to maintain what they have earned earlier, playing calculated and technically manipulated shots.

The last 10-15 overs are a the period when the floor is open to all. It is a point when unpredictability takes full-swing and the game moves to the direction of the more dominant side.

It is said, ‘too much of everything is just not right!’ May be that is why, it is more important to preserve ODI cricket ‘just the way it is’, neither by breaking it, nor by changing it!

I do not see any reason to wipe out the existence of ODI cricket, unless the deed is entirely money motivated. T20 cricket has indeed been earning a lot of ‘Vitamin M’ for ICC and BCCI, and there are many players, who are opting to retire from Test cricket, so as to focus on the tiny form.

But despite all this, won’t it be good to have an ODI, the maverick form itself, as a saviour from the extremities; or as quoted by a friend of mine, ‘in between your breakfast and lunch routine, won’t it be great to have a good proper BRUNCH from time to time?’