There has been an uneasy feeling around the game of cricket for a while now as fans, players and pundits wait to see which format falls by the wayside. Indeed, try as everyone might, there doesn’t seem to be sufficient interest in the sport to play three different versions of it. It should be said the overriding fear has been that the longest and perhaps the ultimate format, Test cricket, would pay the price owing to the rise and popularity of the T20 game.
This was, at least, the view that dominated the discussion around the future of the sport, and up until the start of 2022, many were in agreement that Test cricket had a shelf life that was fast approaching. There have, however, been a few significant developments over the last seven months that now indicate that One Day Internationals may be the format that is sacrificed in order to stave off diluting the public’s interest any further. This will naturally be music to the ears of Test cricket fans who will hope that this shift against the playing of ODIs gains further momentum. The future aside, let’s first look back on what has changed since the start of 2022.
Vaughan Raises the Volume
Michael Vaughan was the first to get the balling rolling by suggesting that ODI cricket would only be played once every four years. The former England captain made this statement in February which, for all intents and purposes, means that the World Cup will be the only tournament where 50-over cricket is played. Vaughan’s comments put the cat among the pigeons and it did begin to make people think that perhaps there was a way of saving Test cricket. The conversation was beginning to die before Ravichandran Ashwin decided to speak out against ODI cricket in the summer whilst touring England. The off-spinner raised concerns around the relevance of the 50-over format whilst saying that he had begun turning off the TV when watching ODIs at home due to the game being an “extended form of T20”.
It was a startling revelation from Ashwin who was speaking on the Vaughany and Tuffers Cricket club podcast and ultimately, the 35-year-old made a convincing argument for dismantling ODI cricket given that the format has lost its novelty. Ashwin may have a point, as the top 20 highest team scores in ODI paint a telling picture about how much T20 scoring has influenced the run rate in the 50-over arena. Similarly, a look at the most sixes in ODI cricket illustrates how many more boundaries are hit in the format nowadays.
In this sense and with the help of statistics, we can see what Ashwin is trying to say. Worse though, was still to come when one of ODI’s biggest stars made a shocking revelation shortly after Ashwin’s thoughts.
Stokes Calls It a Day
Indeed, the hammer blow for the format came after Ben Stokes announced his retirement from ODIs, just a week after Ashwin’s comments on the sport.
It was a significant development for many reasons but chiefly because Stokes has always spoken incredibly personally about his love for putting on the England shirt. It seems now, however, that the all-rounder is willing to remove himself from the ODI set-up in a bid to keep on playing Test cricket deep into his career.
Cricket enthusiasts will tell you that it was the other way around for many years as players gave up Test cricket in favor of less timing-consuming formats. Stokes’ announcement, however, could spark a chain reaction around the world as players reevaluate their priorities.
For England, the news will come as a huge disappointment as the Red Bull athlete was instrumental in helping the country win the 2019 World Cup. Tellingly, there has been an instant move in the sports betting markets for the 2023 World Cup with England, as of the 18th of July, now priced at 3/1 to defend the trophy they won three years ago. With that said, there could be more price fluctuations in the Nissan World Cup 2023 outright markets as other big-name players decide that their future lies away from ODI cricket. Put another way, we may have not seen the last of these retirements from the 50-over arena.
It goes without saying but fans should certainly keep an eye on the latest cricket news to see if this trend begins to snowball.
Indeed, this could be the beginning of the end for ODI cricket if enough players see the sense in prioritizing the longest and the shortest formats of the game. Naturally, it will be a sad day to bid goodbye to a format that has provided some of the most iconic moments ever witnessed on a cricket pitch, but if it is at the expense of Test cricket, then it may actually be a blessing in disguise