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Is this World Cup the saving grace of the 50 over format, and the game itself?


ODI_cricket_World_Cup_futureIt’s quarter-final week at the 2015 Cricket World Cup, and while most of the cricketing internet grapples with fancy ways of telling us ‘anything can happen’ results wise in the matches, I’m pondering the future of the ODI and the actual game itself.

Ever since the IPL showed up on the cricketing scene, in its short skirt and low cut top offering hand jobs for everyone, the interest in the more traditionally dressed and prudish 50 over game started to wane the world over.

So much so that many started predicting that the format will fall away in time, with T20 and Test cricket being the only forms of the game to carry on. There could be some truth and reality in such a thought, but personally I’m really against it. I think the 50 over format offers a great deal for both players and fans, and this current World Cup is proving this.

But, much like how ‘well’ Wayne Parnell bowls in the nets, my opinion doesn’t matter. The question comes down to will this World Cup do enough to reignite the necessary interests in this form of the game, and ensure it is very much here to stay?

Well, that comes down to a few factors, factors that are certainly worth discussing/implementing so we all win in the end.

Take away the international status of T20s

What’s bigger, the IPL or T20 World Cup? It’s the IPL obviously, so when a franchise tournament eclipses a ‘World Cup’, scrap it, nobody cares.

With the T20 format in its rightful place of being a franchise thing, international tours are simplified into an ODI series and a Test series. Simple as that, and with the distraction aside, ODI series’ can be marketed accordingly and emphasized as the one international alternative to Test cricket.

Make the World Cup an actual ‘World’ Cup

The ICC talk about making the game global, but they don’t really want to, and so much has been said of this of late with the 2019 World Cup only to be contested by 10 teams. Truth is, the ICC couldn’t give a toss, they neither have the desire nor means to do it with how cricket is currently structured globally. And this in itself needs to change to save not just the ODI format, but also the game itself.

But let’s forget about the politics and painful realities of who ‘owns’ cricket for the time being, how about making the World Cup finally being something that must be qualified for, by everyone except the defending champions and host nations.

How hard can that be? Or rather, how sad is it if this doesn’t become the way things work going forward? Cricket is only second to football when you consider number of players in the world, and 106 countries are ‘members’ of the ICC. I know there are extensive World Cup ‘qualifiers’ amongst lesser nations in the eyes of the ICC, an undertaking that spits out those lucky few who get to join the big boys at the World Cup, but let’s get everyone involved.

Break it up by region and follow football’s example. Players unavailable for such fixtures? Tough titties, the Test playing nations must field the best teams they can. If South Africa need to go and win a game in Nairobi, they take whoever they can in order to do so. They then get to blood new talent, and Kenya gets a big game at home. Everyone wins.

The football model is a great start point for globalizing cricket, but naturally it can’t be followed exactly because cricket teams go on tours. They obviously just can’t play World Cup qualifiers willy nilly, but there is space in the calendar, and tours can be planned accordingly. It really can’t be that hard. The only people who are effected here are the big boys anyway, countries with great player depth. The ‘minnows’ are good to go, so that’s good enough really.

Open up the ODI rankings to all ‘members’

The interest in ODIs is waning as there is just not enough to focus on. There is the World Cup, and then there are games played when countries tour. How do you maintain the interest like that?

Only 12 teams are ranked in ODIs. 12! Get the other nations playing, get them on the map, and the interest in the game will sky rocket. So simple.

I know the ICC have a thing about preventing mismatches, but sadly that argument died when England showed up at this World Cup.

Afghanistan is a beautiful story. The game was banned there by an oppressive regime, but somehow a bunch of amazing individuals banded together and made it to the World Cup. The game, and the ODI format needs more ‘Afghanistans’.

I’m a South African, so my boys are always going to get their game time so I don’t really need to care about this issue. But it has gotten to the stage now where we all have to see big picture. This World Cup is reminding us what a great game 50 over cricket is. If we all work together to making it ‘The’ format for the game, we can solidify the game as a whole and grow the game properly.

Test cricket will always survive thanks to the traditional pillars of the game, and T20 will stay alive through money. But the game of cricket itself needs the ODI to stay alive and prosper. It’s very plain to see, and it’s hardly a tough sell. It’s short enough to enjoy easily, long enough to build ebbs and flows and platforms for various talents to shine.

This Cricket World Cup has been brilliant so far, so let’s keep the momentum going from here, and see just how far the game of cricket can go. Very far is my prediction, but only with the above taken to heart.

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Ben Karpinski is a South African sports blogger/MC/tweeter with a heart so broken by the Proteas, t...

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