The emergence of Twenty20 cricket has done the game of cricket the world of good. It has injected a much-needed burst of life into the sport and has excited the younger generation. It could be said to be having the same effect as 50-over cricket did when it was first introduced in the 1970s.
With a constant flow of wickets and boundaries providing a decent afternoon’s entertainment it is not difficult to see why so many youngsters opt to attend the newest format of the game.
The Indian Premier League – or IPL – is a specialist Twenty20 competition and often the focal point of the sport. The IPL franchises attract huge support and investment in India and as such players can make a small fortune if they get picked to play in it. The league employs loud music and dancers to entertain the crowds in between moments of excitement on the field and TV audiences for the game are at an all time high – both in India and all over the cricketing world.
However, where does this leave the 50-over version of the game?
In my opinion, One-Day Internationals have produced some of the finest cricket ever to be played.
Who can forget the March 2006 ODI when Australia took on South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg? Batting first, Australia set a new highest ever ODI total of 434/4 off 50 overs. In reply South Africa bettered their opponent’s world record posting 438/9 and winning with the second last ball of the match.
It was the fifth match of the series and the images of a capacity 34,000 crowd going crazy with excitement and jubilation will live long in the memory. It was a fantastic advertisement for cricket and included seven players achieving scores over 50.
However, games like this were (and still are) too far and few between. Granted Twenty20 matches cannot produce the same level of excitement as this one-off spectacular but they do manage to regularly produce thrilling spectacles with big climaxes that see huge Indian stadiums packed full of fans throughout the season.
Too much cricket
The demise of 50-over cricket become obvious in 2011, when the cricket World Cup in India came and went with a whimper of media attention.
The problems inherent with the game are as follows. In Test cricket, matches are played in patient manner over five days. Fans attending a particular day plan for a full day of cricket and are content with the more casual manner in which it is played.
Meanwhile Twenty20 cricket caters for a crowd seeking more lung-busting excitement and who can perhaps pop along to a game after work or just for an afternoon.
50-over cricket, meanwhile, has been caught somewhere in between as the match takes all day, but is infinitely more tame than Twenty20 cricket.
"The demise of 50-over cricket become obvious in 2011, when the cricket World Cup in India came and went with a whimper of media attention"
Take the current ODI series being contested between England and South Africa. Both teams are vying for the No. 1 ranking in this version of the game and as such it is fairly keenly contested.
However, to show where the South Africans prioritise their cricket, they have seen fit to rest some of their star players such as Jaques Kallis once the preceding Test matches had come to a conclusion.
South Africa still has a world-class ODI line-up, but it features some much-less familiar players than the Test team. This follows a trend with some other teams who now use this form of the game to breed new players for Test cricket.
Another sub-plot to the current England v South Africa is that of Kevin Petersen. The South African born, but England qualified batsman officially retired from one-day international duty sighting, amongst other reasons that the rigors of international cricket meant that he had to prioritise which formats he played.
There is an implication, however, that he has decided to continue his Test career with England only as the money he can earn playing the rest of his season in the IPL is a bigger attraction than playing for his country.
Similar decisions have been made by other country’s key players such as Dwayne Bravo for the West Indies (who plays for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL) and Herchelle Gibbs of South Africa in 2008.
The Big Bash Twenty20 league in Australia is experiencing similar trends of popularity with some even suggesting that eventually it may be called upon to replace Melbourne’s famous Boxing Day Test.
However unlikely this may be, the mere fact it is being spoken about is testament to the increasing popularity of Twenty20 cricket.
With each new fan it makes, one feels that 50-over cricket has lost another follower. It is a fact that the three modes of cricket cannot co-exist with equal popularity and it would appear the one-day international cricket is taking the back seat.
Andrew Binner is a freelance journalist contributing to Al Jazeera. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewBinner and www.andrewbinner.com.
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