All is well for ODI cricket!

Biswajit Jha

It’s like a cancer patient, who was told his days were numbered a couple of months back, winning a hard-fought battle against the deadly disease to come to life again! ODI cricket’s death was pronounced before the World Cup. The naysayers had predicted the demise of ODI cricket with this World Cup.

The little more optimistic pundits wanted to buy some time and wait till the end of the quadrennial tournament before they expressed their views. But most of them were damn sure about the end of the 50-over version of cricket, which once revolutionized and divided the cricket world during its birth-prangs, in the face of huge popularity and excitement of T20 cricket.

With T20 cricket threatening to become the ‘real cricket’ for the generations to come, there were efforts to save the classical and orthodox version of the game i.e. Test cricket. But alas! No one came to save the 50-over version, probably assuming the improbability of the challenge at hands or leaving the future of it to Darwin’s law of survival.

Such was the backdrop against which 2011 World Cup started. But as the tournament progressed, more and more interest generated. Amidst the talk of minnows spoiling the party in the initial stages, Ireland came up with a knock-out punch, humiliating ‘big-brother’ England in the group stage. Even Kenya gave former world leader Australia a scare before going down in the group match.

Contrary to popular belief, ODI cricket provided some real thrillers. India-England and India-South Africa league matches were nothing short of ‘soap operas’ where turns and twists were the chief protagonists.

Then came the India-Pakistan showdown at Mohali, which generated huge inertest among each and every citizen of both the neighboring countries. The interest and intensity that the match generated, will be remembered as one of the top class sporting clashes the world has ever seen.

Everything was there for the spectators… The joys of the upcoming heroes, the tragedy of three times champions, the ouster of one of the tournament’s hot favourites in the quarters, the meek surrender of one of the hosts and it’s repercussions throughout the entire country and the phoenix-like rise from the ashes of two nations which had reached their nadir just before the World Cup.

It was grimly-gay for the cricket-loving populace witnessing the mighty Australians bow out and getting dethroned from their position after almost 12 years. Nobody predicted that Pakistan and New Zealand would reach the semi-finals. Almost everyone was convinced that South Africa would shed their chockers’ tag this time.

It’s this unpredictability factor that continues to attract people towards sporting events. And fortunately there were plenty of such surprises for the sports lovers around the globe in the just-concluded World Cup.

Sport does not always do justice to its disciples. We have had several such examples who were not fortunate enough to achieve ‘everything’ in their careers. Wimbledon title remained elusive for tennis great Ivan Lendl while Pete Sampras could never get his hands on the French Open title even after several attempts.

The only thing that was missing in Sachin’s illustrious career was the World Cup trophy. But the Sports God wanted to confer the Cricketing God the ‘ultimate’ thing. Now, Sachin can boast of everything a cricket career can achieve. This World Cup will also be remembered as the culmination of Sachin Tendulkar’s achievements.

The recently-concluded event turned out to be a widely-viewed episode as it delivered 69 per cent more TV ratings as compared to the 2007 edition in the Caribbean.

If 2007 World Cup was remembered for its lackluster show, poor turnout of spectators, commercial failure, the demise of a frontline coach, and a death-knell for ODI cricket, the 2011 edition gave the ODI format a new lease of life, reaffirming its place as one of the most prestigious and interesting formats of the game.

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