In this era of new age marketing, where function follows form, certain things are better kept simple. This is true of the ODI format too. The format that introduced coloured clothing into cricket is endangered. The issue may go beyond repair and it could soon be history.
ICC has tried different things to keep the 50-over game alive – super sub, five extra fielding restriction overs, a batting powerplay and free hits. The latest additions being the introduction of a new ball from both ends and having five mandatory fielders inside the inner circle at all times. They also tried a split innings format in a domestic league in Australia.
These are all variants of what we call in marketing parlance – product modification. It is an adjustment made to an existing product, usually made for greater appeal or functionality. A modification may include a change to a product’s shape, adding a feature or improving its performance. Often a product modification is accompanied by a change in packaging.
A matter of concern is that all these changes have been implemented in a short period of time and this shows the level of desperation on the side of the authorities, trying to save a declining format of the game.
But then, are the authorities tackling the correct issue? More than tampering with the rules of ODI cricket, ICC needs to work on planning and scheduling tournaments better. Every four years, there is a World Cup and then they have the Champions Trophy.
Apart from these, multi-team tournaments are a rarity. When one country tours another, they play a few Test matches and then a bilateral five or seven-match ODI series ensues. This kills the interest levels in viewers.
ICC must have more multi-team tournaments. We clearly need more triangulars and quadrangulars as opposed to the bilateral series. Also, these tournaments need to be carefully crafted so that the viewer is not bored at any point. After all, television brings in the most revenue for the organisers.
The knockout is a very intriguing format. The Champions Trophy was first played in a knockout manner in 1998 in Dhaka and later in Nairobi in 2000. Why the format underwent a change two years later in Sri Lanka is anybody’s guess. Thus, more than the rules, it’s the packaging that needs alteration. Television has changed the way the game is marketed. The use of technology can be a great tool to enhance viewership and earn more revenue. The decision review system is a good way forward. Continuous improvement is called for in its present state and with some tweaks, it can really make for interesting viewing. An interesting read — this observation of a frequent traveller turned travel kit designer — he writes and I quote, “When designing travel kits, I worked really hard and spent countless hours to find items that would make the kit as small as possible. But somehow the fact that a full travel tube of toothpaste was included instead of a smaller amount escaped me. A travel size tube is more than enough for at least 10 days of camping.
“The idea for repackaging the toothpaste into a smaller container came from a friend. Repackaging toothpaste is a quick 10 minute project that can save you both space and weight in your kit. The technique will work with toothpaste, sunscreen, soap, hand sanitizer, cooking sauces, or any other liquid or cream that you carry”. The learning from the narration is: “Reinventing ODIs is the need of the hour.”
In conclusion, the authorities need to address the root cause for the declining interest levels and not keep tampering with the rules. Frequent changes are not only difficult for the players to cope with, but is a huge burden on the connoisseur’s mind as well. As soon as one gets used to certain rule changes, the changes begin to rule again. Great care needs to be taken to preserve this wonderful format. If packaged right and marketed well, ODIs are here to stay.
The author, an engineer and a Master in Business Administration, works for a consulting firm in the Middle East.