Who will Watch a One Day Match?

(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

There are a few readers out there who subscribe to long writings. Writers need those audiences. They spend quite a lot of time to absorb the words that form sentences which turn into a series of paragraphs. With passing generations, the tradition has been retained in spite of numerous distractions.

The numbers of such readers are dwindling and forming into a restricted group of people, like a dead reader’s society – but it exists and continues to stride forward.

With the internet boom, attention span is on a constant decline with each passing day. Finishing a book in one go is a painstaking exercise rather than pure joy.

Let’s talk about cricket and I couldn’t help but notice the parallels when I realised, the Indian cricket team had played Zimbabwe over three one day internationals recently.

In cricket, not so long ago, Test cricket was under danger of losing its importance, however, the baton has now been passed onto the medium version of cricket – and its position has constantly been challenged since the time world embraced the T20 format.

ODI cricket is neither here nor there.

Test cricket has years of tradition and history and now, with day and night test matches, pink balls – all these factors are enough to survive for a long time.

The popularity of cricket in the recent times can be attributed to the success of the newest and the shortest form of the game, T20. With ‘busy’ and lack of ‘time’ becoming the constant excuses for not running the life race well, the formula of T20 cricket fits into the lifestyle of many cricket consumers.

There are just so many things to do, and sadly, ODI cricket just doesn’t fit the schedule of a common man. At a swipe of a smartphone, one can access the scores occasionally, but can you spare 7-8 hours of a day to watch a cricket match, when you know there is a shorter format?

Again, there are people who watch, but how many? And will this model sustain in the next ten years? Barring the 50-over World Cup, is there any general interest in a one-day international? In India even exceptions run into millions and these millions are enough to sustain one day cricket. How about other countries?

These are some hard questions that need to be answered by the governing body. However, the problem is not in glorifying or beautifying the format, it is about the ‘time’. There is no time for people to sit and watch like they used to a decade ago.

Test cricket is different, it takes commitment and love and there are many who are willing to, because the longer format conveys a story, with plots, sub-plots and doesn’t have an abrupt ending. The scenes are well spread out and there is always time to catch up, because the closure is not immediate. One day at a time, the excitement builds up reaching its climax on the fifth day or on the fourth day.

I believe test cricket will survive as long as the concept of buffet and the multi-course dining exists.

T20s are a hit with the younger generation and for people who wish to understand what cricket is all about. It is a carnival, a freak display of cricketing talent and the game is over in 3 hours. The format provides a relief and is often compared to watching a cinema. Cricket has managed to stay relevant in modern times with the birth of T20 format. If Cricket were to be an Olympic sport, T20 is the format. Whether or not, cricket should be an Olympic sport is debatable. Plus, it is a money maker – an essential element these days for the survival of a sport.

What will happen to the ODI format? Will it see an organic death, or will it always remain under the shadow of the two other formats with the tagline, ‘Not a boy, not yet a man.’? The current proposal to restrict the international competitions to 13 teams will fuel its demise as countries outside the top 20 (considering the tier II) system will not waste time and resources in the 50-over format.

The new proposal will ensure, the ODI cricket, like Test cricket will remain an elite event. The difference is, test cricket has backers, if one had to chose between ODI and the longer version, as the shortest form of cricket is here to stay.

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