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What has this World Cup taught us about the ODI format?

Last updated on 22 Nov 2023 | 11:05 AM
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What has this World Cup taught us about the ODI format?

Among other things, the World Cup showed us that ODI is by far the most dynamic format in our sport

The 50-over World Cup remains the pinnacle of the sport

Two T20 World Cups were played between the previous 50-over World Cup in 2019 and this edition of the competition in 2023. Australia won one of them, in 2021, and also pocketed the World Test Championship (WTC) title earlier this year. 

Their reaction on Sunday, after sensationally downing tournament favourites India, made it evident that the ODI World Cup remains the pinnacle of the sport. It is simply the most prestigious title; the biggest prize up for grabs in cricket.

Pat Cummins said the same in the aftermath of the triumph, and though Rohit Sharma didn’t make any similar statements, the devastated look on his face spoke a thousand words. 

Forget, for a moment, about the players and their emotions, just the gargantuan nature of this World Cup — the hype and the sheer spectacle — blew the previous two T20 World Cups out of the water. 

There is only one ‘World Cup’ —  both fans and players will attest to this statement.

The length of the format is not really a problem — ODI cricket is 'alive' by all means

Admittedly, during the start of this World Cup, 50-over cricket felt like a proper drag due to the overdose of T20s we’ve all been through. However, as the tournament progressed, the length of ODI matches were rarely an issue. It’s just that our minds needed a bit of time to get accustomed to the format again.

Certainly, the length of the format (these days, every ODI match is at least 7-8 hours long), did not stop fans from flocking to the stadium, even during weekdays. 

India games were obviously sold out but we witnessed excellent crowds for neutral games as well. England vs Afghanistan in Delhi, Australia vs Pakistan in Bangalore, New Zealand vs South Africa in Pune, South Africa vs England in Mumbai and Pakistan vs South Africa in Chennai all had close to full-capacity crowds.

“We are over the moon with what we have achieved in terms of in-stadia attendance,”  ICC’s chief commercial officer Anurag Dahiya said last week, as quoted by the Indian Express.

“We think this is probably the most well-attended World Cup ever. I am not even picking on the India games which have been sold out. For us, the focus was matches where India is not playing. It’s been truly marvelous.”

It has now actually been confirmed by the ICC that the 2023 World Cup indeed is the most watched World Cup in history. A total of 1,250,307 fans watched this World Cup live, which is nearly a quarter-million more than the previous best figure of 1,016,420 at the 2015 World Cup in Australia & New Zealand. 

The 2023 World Cup has also registered record viewership in terms of digital/television numbers. According to Business Standard, the India-Australia cricket World Cup final match on Sunday created record peak viewership crossing 5.9 crore, which is the highest number of viewers during a live stream ever. 

This would never have happened had people felt burdened by the duration of ODI games. In that sense, it's fair to come to the conclusion that by no means is ODI cricket 'less attractive' to the average consumer compared to T20s.

Going by the success of this World Cup, it'll be a huge shock if this 2023 edition proves to be the last-ever 50-over World Cup. 

ODI ≠ T20, evident by the showings of the T20 specialists

Teams and players who thought T20 excellence would translate into ODI success had a rude awakening in this World Cup.

Liam Livingstone, Haris Rauf, Maheesh Theekshana, Suryakumar Yadav and Sam Curran are all world-class T20 players, but this ODI WC showed that being a great T20 player is no guarantee for success in the 50-over format. Each of the aforementioned players had a forgettable World Cup and proved to be a liability for their respective sides.

The short nature of the T20 format allows players with niche skillsets to thrive, but you’ll be exposed in 50-over cricket if you do not have consistency. 

If you’re a bowler, you’ll have to have the ability to land the ball in the same spot at least five times in an over. If you’re a batter, you’ll need to know how to construct an innings. Simply having the ability to hit sixes and bowl magic balls won’t cut it in 50-over cricket. 

ODI is by far the most dynamic format in the sport 

In the first semi-final in Mumbai, India, at one point, were struggling to defend close to 400 and looked like they might crash out. 

A day later, in Kolkata, chasing 213 looked like an impossible task despite Australia being 106/2 at one stage. 

ODI is by far the most dynamic format in the sport and it’s beautiful. 

There are plenty of reasons for this. Firstly, the long nature of the format gives teams ample time to bounce back, even if they’re on the back foot. In the second semi-final against Australia, for instance, South Africa were 24/4 while batting and had conceded 60 runs off the first 6 overs while defending the target. 

Such a slow start with both bat and ball would have meant curtains for them in T20s, yet the length of the ODI format allowed them to take the contest right down to the wire.

In ODIs, games naturally ebb and flow a lot due to the structure of the format, which keeps testing the character and efficiency of the sides phase after phase. The structure of the format also ensures that no individual or player type is reduced to being obsolete, no matter how extreme the playing surface is.

The beauty of the ODI format also lies in the fact that each game is a collection of ‘mini-matches’. You can witness classic Test cricket and ballistic T20 cricket in the same ODI innings, sometimes in the same batting partnership from different ends (cue the Maxwell-Cummins stand vs Afghanistan).  

After this ODI WC, we can all also probably agree on the fact that a low-scoring ODI thriller is right up there as the best genre of match in cricket. Probably only second to a low-scoring thriller in Tests. 

There is one complaint, though, and it’s that there are far too many one-sided matches. That perhaps has to do more with the nature of the pitches/conditions/player skills than the format itself. 

Teams are more evenly matched than ever — the ICC needs to find a way to help the lower-ranked sides grow

The 2023 World Cup was played between 10 sides, but the competition made a case for why the WC should never be a 10-team affair again. For expansion is a must due to teams being more evenly matched now than ever before.

Prior to the WC, the Netherlands were seen as a ‘weak side’ that would struggle to compete, let alone win matches. Yet come the big stage, the Dutch, led by Scott Edwards, scored as many wins as both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and beat one of the tournament contenders in South Africa. They were, if anything, a tad unlucky to miss out on Champions Trophy qualification.

Afghanistan were seen as a ‘dangerous side that could cause an upset’, but they proved to be full-fledged semi-final contenders. They beat England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and had Australia on the ropes. In all likelihood, they would have made the semis with a bit more experience under their belt.

There will be 14 teams in the 2027 edition (which is great), but this WC has shown that the ICC needs to find a way to give more exposure and opportunities to the lower-ranked sides. Skill-wise, they are right up there with most sides in the world, but what’s holding them back is the lack of opportunity to grow.

The Super League was a great concept, but now that the ICC has done away with it, it needs to find a way to make the likes of the Netherlands, Afghanistan, Scotland and Zimbabwe play more and play regularly. 

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