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One day cricket is alive and well!

Soutik Biswas | 04:00 UK time, Tuesday, 5 April 2011

India team after winning the World Cup

Fifty-over cricket is alive and well, thank you. I eat my words, having believed before the World Cup that the format was in peril. Sandwiched between the manic thrills of Twenty20 and classical Test cricket, the 50-over game, I had feared, would inevitably perish. Many of my cricketing heroes seemed to share a similar opinion. A year ago, at a MCC lecture, Imran Khan suggested scrapping the 50-over format to free up more time for Tests, keeping space for a World Cup every four years. I'm not sure whether Imran feels the same way now.

Nothing could have been a better advert for the 50-over game than the World Cup which concluded over the weekend. The average run rate touched more than five runs per over for the first time in the 36-year-old championship - the 2011 edition averaged 5.03 runs per over, compared to the previous highest of 4.95 runs per over in the 2007 championship in West Indies. Twenty four centuries were scored, the highest number in any World Cup. Teams batting first won 24 games and lost 23 - a fairly even win-loss ratio. Seventeen totals were above 300 runs. Nearly 70 million people watched the pulsating India - Sri Lanka final on television.

India's rousing win has also helped the rejuvenation of the format. It turned World Cup history on its head, becoming the first host nation to win the championship and chasing down the highest number of runs successfully in a final. India won seven of its nine matches, boasted four of the top 10 run scorers, and shared the top bowling honours. Suitably emboldened by the success of the World Cup, English county cricket administrators are reportedly thinking about returning to the 50-over format, scrapped at the end of the 2009 season in favour of 40-over games.

But the onus falls on the administrators to handle the cricket calendar with care to ensure that the 50-over game stays exciting and relevant. Jonathan Agnew, writing for the BBC, worries that the format has been flogged by administrators and television companies for extracting maximum revenues, leading to excessive and sometimes, meaningless games. "The legacy of this World Cup should be that if treated properly and with respect, the 50-over game is by far the best format for one-day cricket," writes Agnew. Many like Mike Selvey believe that the World Cup needs to be trimmed - the four-week long league stage, they say is inordinately long, and could be easily shortened by having two matches per day.

The ICC has cut the number of competing teams from 14 to 10 for the 2015 tournament to be held in Australia and New Zealand. (Sadly, there is no place for Ireland who beat England in the 2011 World Cup.) "The length of 50 overs will find certain teams out but I think there are 10 teams that can seriously compete in that format," the ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat says. He says the ICC conducted a survey of 676 million people in five "markets" - England, New Zealand, India, South Africa and Bangladesh" - which showed there was "not just an interest but a passion for one day internationals". Just handle it with care.


  • Comment number 1.

    First off, my best wishes to the people of India in the winning of the Cricket game with Sri Lanka...


  • Comment number 2.

    As someone from a nation not particularly interested in Cricket in any form, and with only a modest passing interest myself, I have to say the recent World Cup got a lot of fans here in Scotland, and I personally found it a very interesting format, maybe the limited over format should be the norm?

  • Comment number 3.

    The tournament certainly did the sport proud and it won many followers. I was a little disappointed though to see that the next World Cup will be sending the likes of the Irish packing. How will these teams improve if they are not given opportunities? Is that the idea? By exclusion we have an elite. Ireland surely deserve better.

    An England fan in Colombo

  • Comment number 4.

    Soutik -Nearly 70 million people watched the pulsating India - Sri Lanka final on television. I am not sure how you came up with this 70 million figure or is it 700 million. Cricket mad India’s population itself is 1.2 billion, in that more than 60% of the population are less than 30 years old. So I am not sure whether the 70 million viewers is anywhere near the actual number of viewers.

  • Comment number 5.

    Judging by my visit to India during a test, the likely figure is 70 million TV sets and 700 million viewers. I've always preferred the one day format over 20/20 as there is at least a chance of seeing tactical play in the 1 day game. Also 20/20 is likely to see the same sort of thing that happened with Premier League, where all the money stays with the top few clubs and nothing left for the other divisions.

  • Comment number 6.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this world cup far more than the 2007 tournament in the Windies. I have always felt the 50 over game encapsulates the game's finer qualities more than the 20 over game and with a greater accessibility (and marketability) than Test match cricket. In the 50 over game, the batsman still has the chance to play himself 'in' rather than come out ready to bludgeon wildly, furthermore I would rather see a batsman produce a quality century rather than just the flurry of boundaries which many 20/20 lovers extol. Finally, the bowlers, particularly the spinners have more of a place in this form of the game than in the 20/20 form as this world cup has demonstrated. However I would not read too much into the author's remarks about the unprecedented records set in this world cup because these sub-continent pitches were 'batter-friendly' tracks which negated the more normative pace attacks favoured in ODI cricket and hence the augmented batting cards.

    All in all, I would like to see the ICC not playing six or seven match ODI series as while this allows the game to be taken to more venues in a given country it creates a tedious feeling among the TV followers who after a long Test series probably prefer a short and sweet 3 match series (one week) compared to another fortnight between the same two teams.

  • Comment number 7.

    Soutik, you seem to have been off-concept--else you would have understood that to Indians cricket is like football (the proper game, not the body-crash one with lots of kevlar armour misnamed this by Canadians and Americans) to Brazilians; there is no way it will die!

  • Comment number 8.

    Cricket is always bin in Countries like India. Coming to ODI legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Shane warne, Muttiah, Wasim Akram, etc got life to cricket, I feel 50 over format and 20/20 are exciting than any other sport. Test matches should be stoped to save Cricket.

  • Comment number 9.

    According to Guardian’s Barney Ronay, 1.4 billion people watched the world cup final.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hello Soutik from Florida: Your column brought back memories of when I played club cricket for several teams in my native Birmingham. Those Saturday afternoons when, always weather permitting, I displayed my mediocre batting and average bowling skills. It reminded me that I once tried, without much success, to explain the game to the members of my civic club in Jupiter, Florida. After 30 minutes of talking about the game, and explaining that some games lasted five days, as in Test matches, I had succeeded only in getting lots of laughs from the audience. Anyway, it was lots of fun. One more memory is of watching cricket played on matting in Colombo, then Ceylon, while I was serving in the Royal Navy in World War II. It's good to know that cricket is indeed alive and well.

  • Comment number 11.

    I am pretty sure you are wrong about the number of people who watched the World Cup Final on television. Are you suggesting in all of India only 70 million watched the match ?

  • Comment number 12.

    I'm shocked only 67.6 millions people watched the final. That's only 6% of the India population. Should be a lot higher that that. I thought it would be around 1 billion people would have watched the final in India.

    This Cricket World Cup in the sub-continent has been excellent. One of the best world cups of all time. The best country India won the world cup. This tournament shows ODI cricket is not dead and still very exciting.

  • Comment number 13.

    This world cup was indeed super successful but then doesn't it leaves the message that India must do well to keep the 50 over format alive? I am little skeptical what would have been the fate of the world cup had India didn't do this well.
    Having said that, there is no doubt that as long as the current Indian players play up to their potential, they will continue to reach new milestones.

  • Comment number 14.

    Irelands exclusion is a sad day for cricket. They've shown themselves to be consistently equal to (and perhaps even superior to) Zimbabwe over the last 4 years. Surely the most sensible (and fair) option was to cut the number of participating teams to 10 but have a qualifying event for 2 of the spaces. That would give more meaningful cricket - for a team like Zimbabwe/Ireland/Netherlands it would be their world cup final - and a less protracted tournament. We're left with the possibility of one of the top 10 ranked teams not even having the opportunity to qualify. Qualification should be based on merit, not based on privilege. Sad and shortsighted.

  • Comment number 15.

    Was this really a "World" Cup? Out of 200-odd countries in the world, we had 14 teams competing, including 4 associate members of the ICC and 10 full members, two or three of which are mostly outsiders. The West Indies, by the way, is not even a country.

    There's nothing to gloat about when a team emerges "World Champions" in this confined world of cricket. It's time for fans to adopt and follow more healthy sports, those that give them ample aerobic exercise, test their teamwork skills and are globally accepted!

  • Comment number 16.

    your blog says 70 million people watched the game on television ,worldwide it is probably clser to 700 million

  • Comment number 17.

    as an Indian naturally I was over the moon with India winning was sad for Sir Lanka also. Howver I am reserving most of MY ANGER with ICC to dropping Ireland from playing next World Cup. Ireland played so well and they need all the mateches on the big circuit and not just for usual suspects. ICC PLEASE DONT DISTROY OPPORTUNITIES FOR IRELAND who really do desereve to play Test matches and World Cup matches. Thanks.

  • Comment number 18.

    Completely agree with #14, that's the way it should have been! Feel sorry for Ireland ((

  • Comment number 19.

    Why did BBC withdraw the article on Anna Hazare'e anti- corruption movement ?

    Mr. Biswas, how about commenting on things that matter ?

    Did Sonia & her kin buy out BBC ?


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