ODI cricket in embattled fight for relevance outside of the Cricket World Cup
ODI cricket has found itself wedged between the entertainment of T20 cricket and the legacy of Test cricket as it struggles to find its space between the four-year World Cup cycle.
Australia’s incredible six-wicket win over India on Sunday culminated a spectacular month of World Cup cricket. The on-field displays were thrilling and spectators streamed to view the action — even though the enthusiasm by fans started off slowly in stadiums.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) confirmed that the 2023 edition of the tournament saw record attendance figures with a reported 1,250,307 fans passing through the turnstiles in the 10 venues across India — more than any other ICC event ever.
At the halfway mark of the tournament, the ICC also confirmed that the live broadcast saw a 43% increase from the previous edition of the World Cup in England in 2019.
There is evidently an appetite for One-day international (ODI) cricket, yet the format has dwindled significantly — in terms of number of matches played and popularity — outside of the showpiece quadrennial event.
“It’s hard to say. Maybe because we won, but I did fall in love with ODIs again this World Cup,” Australian fast bowler and captain, Pat Cummins said after the final.
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“I think the scenario where every game really matters, it does make it a bit different to just a bilateral [ODI series].”
Interestingly, Cummins only led his side in four ODI matches prior to the start of the tournament, often resting across bilateral series.
“The World Cup has such rich history, I’m sure it’s going to be around for a long time,” he said.
“There are so many wonderful games, so many wonderful stories within this last couple of months. So, I think there’s definitely a place [for it].”
ODI cricket’s waning popularity has largely been caused by the meteoric growth of T20 cricket in recent years, which has allowed the game to expand to various non-traditional cricketing areas around the globe.
Test cricket has its own place and a historical legacy dating back to the first-ever international matches in the 19th century.
ODI cricket, meanwhile, is struggling to find its place wedged between the two extremes of the sport.
“I think T20 cricket has provided growth, not only to audiences but also to cricketing nations around the world,” former Proteas captain Graeme Smith said recently.
“Cricket is No 2 sport from an eyeballs [on the game] perspective in the world. You want to see cricket growing into new regions. T20 cricket offers that opportunity.
“You think about the T20 World Cup happening in the US and the Caribbean next year.
“I still believe Test cricket has a place and will be strong. It’s never going to be a 20-nation format. It’s going to be maybe six or seven nations in the world competing against each other.
“But T20 cricket offers so much growth from an entertainment perspective and for new audiences coming into the game.”
The various franchise T20 leagues have also impacted the space in the international cricketing calendar. The period of March to June is occupied by the Indian Premier League in the Future Tours Programme with no international cricket set to take place then for the next three years.
This speaks to the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI’s) stronghold on the ICC as well as the trajectory of T20 cricket as the future leading format of the game.
Buildup to 2027
South Africa, along with Zimbabwe and Namibia, will host the next edition of the Cricket World Cup in 2027.
Cricket South Africa are forced to turn a blind eye to the diminishing interest in the format during the three years in between the tournaments and hope lies that like the 2023 edition in India, interest peaks again at the World Cup in 2027.
“Outside World Cup events I think [ODI cricket] is going to find a challenging space,” Smith added.
“For us, with the 2027 World Cup around the corner, the buildup to the World Cup is important.
“All formats find their space. Time in the calendar is getting more and more challenging for these things but with the 2027 World Cup in South Africa, we’re hoping that the buildup to the tournament will be strong because we haven’t hosted a [men’s] world event in a long time and that’s something to look forward to.”
In the buildup to the 2023 World Cup, there was a Cricket World Cup Super League — which served as a qualifying log to the main tournament — employed to help give meaning to bilateral ODI series’ but that has now been scrapped.
The lack of commercial viability in ODI cricket as well as a lack of time in the international calendar means that 50-over cricket’s slow death will be extended until its partial resuscitation in 2027 again. DM