'CT will resurge ODIs'
The ICC is confident that the Champions Trophy in South Africa will prove that 50-over cricket remains a relevant format in cricket's shifting worldscape of greater financial reward and less time.
The tournament begins in Johannesburg on September 22, amid increasing questions about its significance in the game. The ECB has scrapped its domestic 50-over tournament and the ongoing ODI series between Australia and England has been widely derided in England as a poor afterthought; South Africa, according to the ICC's cricket manager Dave Richardson, may be toying with the idea of a four-innings format domestically, where each team bats twice, an idea that has found favour with Sachin Tendulkar, one of 50-over cricket's greatest batsmen. The ICC itself may look at the idea and some, like Anil Kumble, suggest making it a 40-over game. Others have called for scrapping the format altogether.
But the ICC believes a shorter, sharper Champions Trophy can prove that reports of ODI cricket's death have been exaggerated. "In the context of 50-over cricket this is an important tournament," Haroon Lorgat, chief executive ICC, said in a teleconference.
"It reminds me of a year ago when people were talking about the death of Test cricket, with no crowds being there and so on. Similarly with the ODI, I think we are maybe running ahead of ourselves. Look at England where there is a lot of interest still in the ODI series despite England being so far behind Australia, crowds are still turning up. Similarly in the recent tri-series in Sri Lanka. We will see here, with the Champions Trophy, that there is a place for the ODI format in cricket."
The glut of ODIs, rather than the format itself, is often seen as the real problem. Though there is little the ICC can do about bilateral arrangements for seven-match ODIs and hastily-arranged tri-series, members have been told to keep in mind the problems of excess in the ongoing discussions to shape a new FTP. "These arrangements are made bilaterally by members," Lorgat said. "But in the current FTP discussions we always talk to members of the importance of a balance (between the formats). We're mindful and cognisant of it. The current FTP is a work in progress and we need to be aware of the balance during that."
Lorgat also suggested that there will not be too much tinkering with the format or introduction of innovations until the cricket committee gets together next May. "From an innovations point of view, we're always looking for new, exciting things. The batting Powerplay is a good example but we do not want to do too many things too quickly. Between the Champions Trophy and the 2011 World Cup, we are more in the mindset of retaining the format. Experts are in place on the cricket committee but I think we can leave it till next May."
The confidence within the ICC about the future of ODIs stems in part from the belief that they may finally, after years of trying, have hit on the right formula for the much-decried Champions Trophy. The event is much more streamlined than past editions, with only eight teams, all based at one venue. "We recognised that the tournament needed a bit of refreshing and relevance to ensure that it is a best of the best. We have made it a destination event where teams and everyone can settle in at one location for the whole event beginning to end and there is no routine of practice, play and fly again."
There is also greater prize money at stake and the lesser number of teams means most games will have something at stake. "There is differentiation in this Champions Trophy," Lorgat said, "and we are confident that we will see ODI cricket as a relevant format through this."