The supposed words of the immortal Keith Miller after being dismissed for a first ball duck, where he made no serious attempt to play at the ball were, “Thank God that’s over.” Miller has never confirmed nor denied the story. The scene was the Surrey tour match on the 1948 Ashes tour. Australia was in the process of scoring a record 721 runs in a day and Miller had come to the wicket 2-364, pretty much at the halfway mark of the plunder. Miller knew mind numbing cricket when he saw it and he let his sentiments be known.
The Australian public also knows mind-numbing cricket when they see it and they have spoken with their feet and even more tellingly with their TV sets.
When last year Cricket Australia announced that they were abandoning the “tired” tri-series format, most people said, “Good”. What most of us didn’t fully realise was that we hadn’t thought through was what was tired. It was 50 over cricket that is tired, not the format. What CA has provided for the Australian public is even more boring than a tri-series.
I suspect that CA’s main purpose was to eliminate games where the home team was not playing. Who wants to see five straight ODIs against the same two opponents? Even if the tourists were competitive, it would be rare for a series to be 2-2 after four matches, so that means in most cases, at least the final match will be a dead rubber.
Friday, two weeks ago, a the only T20 match against Pakistan, the World Champions, was played at the MCG. Just over 60,000 attended and TV ratings were excellent. Two days later, on Sunday, Australia played the West Indies at the same ground and just 20,000 attended. TV ratings were terrible and channel nine lagged a distant third. Now, it’s not comparing apples with apples – Australia’s opponents were not the same. And Sunday night is a “school night”. However, the numbers speak. Last night – Friday night again at the MCG, the crowd was a miserable 15,000.
Surely it is time to abandon 50 over One Day Cricket. Why do we play it? So the cricket establishments can make some money and so the fans can get some excitement (the two are closely connected). There is no deep tradition in One Day cricket. So why persevere with it when there is a form that achieves the stated objectives far better.
How enthusiastic are the players about 50 over cricket? If you listen to the Australian cricketers at the moment, you’d believe they think it is great. Don’t be fooled. Australian cricketers like any cricket when they are winning. What about the captain himself, the senior stateman? He thinks 50 over cricket has a lot of relevance. What else is he going to say? Why would Ponting advocate dropping ODI for T20 when he has retired from T20?
I’m going to join the masses who are calling for the scrapping of 50 over cricket (and replace it with T20). I’m still a fan of a 50 over World Cup – I still think it has relevance. Remember that the first World Cup was played before One Day cricket was even really played. The intention was to find the best cricket team in the world, in a tournament. I think that still has a place. One Day cricket is far more divergent from Test cricket than is was in 1975 – it is a distinct game. However, it still offers the chance to indentify the best cricketing nation at a given time. Test cricket does not allow that and T20 is not sufficiently long to Test cricketing character.
So lets get on with it and usher in the new era. We then might have more time to play Test cricket and the we won’t have the ridiculous situation where the top ranked teams fight out it out for the top spot in a paltry two Test series.