One-day cricket was without a doubt the most popular format among cricket players and spectators from the 1980s through the first decade of the 2000s. One-day cricket was developed with the intent of expanding the game's appeal and fan base. The format quickly gained popularity and grabbed the attention of more unconventional cricket fans, and thus the purpose was fulfilled. However, ODI cricket has been experiencing an existential crisis since the ICC introduced T20 in 2005.Is it time for the ICC to reevaluate the future of the ODI format?

How did the ODI format help cricket gain popularity?

Australia and England played the first-ever ODI match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on January 5, 1971. Initially, it started off as a Test match, but it rained out for the first three days. The two sides then opted to play a one-day match with 40 overs (eight balls each over) for each side. Australia won the inaugural ODI by five wickets, creating history.

Fans witnessed aggression from the batters; fielders were more active in the field to save runs; and there was urgency as the overs were limited. These factors during the match made the spectators more interested in the format. The ICC realized that limited overs is the future of cricket, at least to reach a wider audience.

The International Cricket Council decided to organize a World Cup event every four years. The first edition of the competition was held in 1975 in England. One-day cricket is played in white dress and with a red ball. The ICC organized the first three ODI World Cups with 60-overs per side, which was reduced to 50-overs per side from the 1987 edition.

In the meantime, Kerry Packer, an Australian media tycoon, established a World Series of Cricket competition, in which he introduced coloured uniforms, floodlights, white-ball and dark sight screens, etc. The World Series took place between 1977 and 1979. Inspired by the Kerry Packer vision for one-day cricket, the ICC later realized that making some changes was necessary to give a new look to the format. Therefore, coloured player clothing, white-ball, black sight screens, and floodlights were introduced in the 1992 World Cup.

Tri-nation and four-nation series were played regularly between the ICC's full member teams in the 80s and 90s, which was massively popular back then. The ODI cricket series in the UAE in the late 80s and early 90s was also popular among cricket fans worldwide. The format undoubtedly helped the ICC to attract more nations to become associate members of the organization. In terms of the economic aspect, the ICC had benefited a lot. They were able to take more initiatives for the development of the game in the associated nations.

The aggressiveness of the batters, the variety of the bowlers, the athleticism of the fielders, and the interesting rules for the limited-overs format made people more interested in cricket, which Test cricket couldn't offer. Many popular cricket stars dominated ODI cricket from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. Fans were keen to see the star cricketers play for their countries in the ODI format. Overall, the one-day format laid the foundation to popularize cricket on a global platform.

The ODI World Cup always draws more spectators. One of the most popular sporting events in the world in 2019 was the 50-over Cricket World Cup, which was played in the UK. According to reports, 1.6 billion people watched the 2019 Cricket World Cup, while 4.6 billion people saw videos related to the tournament. More importantly, the UK's economy benefited by 352.6 million pounds overall. Although these numbers are quite impressive, the ODI format is slowly being overshadowed by T20I cricket.

The introduction of T20 and how has it affected the one-day format's existence?

The ICC introduced T20 cricket in 2005 with the goal of creating a new format with a shorter game duration than the previous two formats in order to compete with other international sports. People don't have to watch a match in the stadium for eight hours because the Twenty20 format can be finished in three and a half hours.

The first T20I match was held between Australia and New Zealand on February 17, 2005, which the Aussie side won by 44 runs. Two years later, the ICC organized the first-ever World Twenty20 tournament in 2007. India won the inaugural edition of the competition by beating Pakistan in the final. The championship match between India and Pakistan was the 10th most watched global TV event in the year 2007.

The International Cricket Council realized they had discovered a lucrative format after the first ICC T20 World Cup, which helped to even further popularize cricket. It was agreed to hold the competition every two years by cricket's highest regulatory body. The ICC has hosted seven T20 World Cups since 2007, and every one of them has been a huge success. Besides, the domestic T20 competitions started to kick off in the late years of the first decade of 2000.

According to reports, India have contributed 70% of the ICC's total revenue, implying that they have a larger market than other cricketing nations. With more than 1.2 billion people who are crazy about cricket, the BCCI had no doubt that forming a domestic T20 competition would be a huge success. The success of the ICL, a private cricket league, also encouraged the Indian Cricket Board to introduce a franchise-based T20 cricket league.

The massive interest in the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League in 2008 encouraged other cricket boards to launch domestic Twenty20 competitions in their respective countries. The following years, the cricket world saw the formation of the BBL, BPL, SPL, CPL, and PSL. Besides, many T20 cricket leagues are staged each year nowadays across the world.

The richest cricket league in the world, the IPL, recently made a broadcast deal worth $6.2 billion for the next five years (2023-2027). This is an astronomical number, which suggests that the T20 format is the future of cricket in terms of economic aspects and to globalize the game. The ICC is also keen to promote the T20 format in the new territory rather than the one-day format. In the recent FTP fixtures, the number of ODIs has reduced significantly compared to the past.

From a player's perspective, playing three formats is both physically and mentally draining. The former Pakistan cricketer Wasim Akram, the current South Africa wicket-keeper batter Quinton de Kock, the Australian batter Usman Khawaja and a host of ex and present cricketers, journalists and pundits have talked about the necessity of ODI cricket in the current scenario. They believe playing three formats at a time is very difficult for a player. A 50-over game has become "run-of-the-mill," according to Akram, while Khawaja believes the ODI format is slowly dying but the Test format will thrive.

England's World Cup 2019 winning star, Ben Stokes, recently announced his retirement from one-day international cricket, citing a demanding international schedule as the reason for his decision. Ben Stokes' decision to step aside from the one-day format, indicating his preference for playing Test cricket and support for the Twenty20 format in limited-overs cricket.

Let's take a look at how many Test, ODI, and T20 international matches have been played from 2017 to 2021 and 2012 to 2016 and see the increase in T20I matches in the last five years.

The number of Test, ODI, and T20 international matches from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2016










The number of Test, ODI, and T20 international matches from January 1, 2017 to December 31 2021










The statistics above demonstrate unequivocally that the ICC currently favors Twenty20 cricket over ODIs. Between January 2017 and December 2021, more than 800 T20I matches were played, as opposed to just over 500 ODI matches. However, the most important fact is that whereas just 357 Twenty20 International matches were played between 2012 and 2016, 879 of them were played between 2017 and 2021.

These statistics will continue to increase in the upcoming ICC FTP fixtures given how the T20 format is growing in popularity among general cricket fans. On the other hand, the number of games has remained constant in the Test format.

Way Forward

The ICC will always support Test cricket given that it's the game's traditional format. However, the one-day and Twenty20 formats require cricket's highest regulating body to make a sensible decision. The one-day format was primarily designed to increase the game's popularity. The success of ODI cricket over the past 50 years demonstrates that the mission was achieved. However, the audience test has evolved lately as more people now want entertainment that is more condensed and less time-consuming.

From both a commercial and popular perspective, T20 cricket should be the ICC's preferred brand. The one-day format has begun to lose its appeal since the introduction of T20, and in the future, this trend will continue. Additionally, it's challenging for the players to remain consistent and fit for all formats. The need for ODI cricket has been voiced by the cricketing community, and this may influence the ICC's decision in the years to come. Now time will saywhat will be the future of ODI cricket.

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