Has Twenty20 cricket slammed the 50-over game out of sight?
The vultures are circling, the hatchets are out, yes, the doom merchants are proclaiming the days of the 50-over one-day international are over. It is true, as evidenced by the number of people who have said it, that the recent ICC Twenty20 championship was everything the long and drawn out 50-over version wasn’t earlier in the year.
However, does that have to mean that the one-day international as we know it no longer has a place in today’s busy cricketing calendar? The arguments against the 50-over game include the past two rather drab World Cups, the endless nature of one-sided games, the constant tinkering with the laws all suggesting that it has become tired and jaded and there is no enthusiasm for the longer game.
But is this really the case? And why should cricket supporters the world over be denied the opportunity to see a game that develops, ebbs and flows, and takes its time to reach its natural conclusion over the wham bang Twenty20?
Just because a game is petering out to a seemingly foregone conclusion, is that enough of a case to do away with it altogether? Plus, at what stage is it assumed that the game has been won? There have been matches when a team, seemingly down and out, has come back to win against the odds. From West Indies’ defeat of Pakistan in the inaugural World Cup to the World Cup Final of 1983 to the recent Ravi Bopara and Stuart Broad partnership that saw England cross the line against India when all hope seemed lost. Is the cricket fan to be denied these glorious moments of uncertainty?
Then there is the case of a shock result, Zimbabwe in 1983, Kenya in 1996, Bangladesh in 1999, are all examples of truly great games of cricket that will live on in the memory of those who saw them. The two Australia-South Africa games alone (1999 World Cup semi and 2006 400-plus run chase) should be evidence enough in the case for the defence.
Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate 20-20 for what it is, and am not that much of an old grump that I cannot see the benefits of attracting young fans and the money that the game brings to cricket – it has proved a lifesaver to the English domestic scene.
But surely there is a place for the longer game, for the supporter to appreciate the more subtle skills, for a batsman to develop an innings (what exactly is wrong with building an innings and skilfully manoeuvring the bowlers around in the middle overs?) And it’s good to see class bowlers having the opportunity to actually make an impact, rather than be smashed around for a couple of overs before retreating to the outfield.
And another thing, I quite enjoy my leisurely day out in the sunshine, watching seven hours of cricket, admiring the skills of world-class batsmen, bowlers and fielders. It is not my fault that international boards insist upon meaningless one-day series in far flung venues. Nor that the money-mad cricket administrators have made a right royal mess of the last two World Cups.
So what if some games fizzle out? That is the nature of sport, there are winners, there are losers and some games are better than others. Surely that is not reason enough to deprive the sports fan of their cricket fix.