High-5ives not the answer
October 19th 2011 09:01
Welcome to the world of 5ives.
This new concept has a sexy name for a good reason Ė it promotes itself as the saviour of the one-day international.
The aim is to make matches more interesting by keeping the teams in close contact throughout.
Team A would begin by batting for five overs. Team B would respond with 10. Team A would then bat for 10 overs, followed by Team B for 10, and so on. Bonus points would be awarded to teams that finished ahead during a cycle.
Cricket Australia is said to be interested in 5ives. The board is right to be interested, because the concept has the potential to make ODIs more interesting. However, 5ives is not the solution to the problem.
As Sport: The Australian Disease has already explained, there is a simple explanation for the declining popularity of the ODI.
The reason for the steady decline in the popularity of ODIs can be simply explained: they generally seem pointless. With an ever-increasing number of meaningless fixtures being played, it is natural that people would lose interest. But the way to win them back is not by emphasising gimmicks; the way to win them back is by emphasising cricket.
...splitting ODIs into two innings is a wonderful, and long overdue, idea. In day-night matches, the team that bats under lights is at a disadvantage, so this simple change would immediately make contests fairer and thus closer and thus more exciting.
Itís easy to see how playing matches in five-over bursts may produce problems. Batters and bowlers may struggle for rhythm. Innings may seem incoherent. Storylines may be difficult to follow.
But itís also easy to see how five-over bursts may prove attractive. Matches may be more dramatic if teams are closer together. Constant changes may keep things fresh. Bonus points may introduce an intriguing new tactical element into the game.
Yet even if everything does go as planned, 5ives still doesnít solve the problem of ODIs Ė that they generally seem pointless.
So often, cricket fans notice ODIs on the schedule and wonder why they are there. And they are right to ask that question, because many 50-over matches owe their existence to greed. They are not played for sporting reasons. They are played for financial reasons. Spectators know this and yawn accordingly.
Another reason fans have turned off ODIs is because they have increasingly emphasised cheap run-making.
Fans donít only want to see close matches; they want to see matches in which there is an even contest between bat and ball. One hundred overs of slogging is mindless, even if it is somewhat redeemed by 10 tense overs at the end. By contrast, matches in which the advantage constantly ebbs and flows, in which first the bat, then the ball, then the bat and then the ball again is on top, produce drama from beginning to end.
Cricket Australia, the other boards and the ICC should be concerned about the flagging health of the ODI and be doing everything possible to revive it.
If the problem is that 50-over matches often seem pointless the solution can only be to return them to the relevant spectacle they once were.
Law changes, however wise, will only be bandaids. What is needed is major surgery Ė administrators need to urgently reduce the number of ODIs that are played.
First and foremost, CA should be campaigning to have the number of ODIs reduced. Fifty per cent of the matches could be cut from the international schedule and nobody would notice. This is nothing more than the commonest of common sense: reduce the supply of a product and demand increases.
The concept of 5ives fails to address this central issue. Thatís why it may be part of the solution, but will never be the entire solution.
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