Friday, 28 August 2009

Limited Vision?

The England and Wales Cricket Board has called for a reduction in the length of the first-class one-day international game.

I don't pretend to know a whole lot of the history of one-day cricket in England, but I do remember for many years there was a 40-over Sunday league, which I used to watch on the BBC. Since all televised cricket seems to have gone to Sky, which I don't have, I haven't the foggiest idea of whether this 40-over championship is still going. As I recall, at one time there was a range of one-day formats played, ranging I think from 40 to 50 to 55 or 60.

The point I'm driving at, though, is that 40-over cricket has a long history in England. What I see here is the English deciding, in their tradition of 'splendid isolation', to pursue their own market and attempt to persuade the rest of the world to follow suit. Good luck with that.

However, I don't disagree with the principle the ECB is embracing here. 50-over cricket, for all its popularity in India, is still too long a form of the game. As with sabermetrics, the ICC could learn a thing or two from the Americans about game lengths. It's a fact that most American sports, which are hugely successful money-making enterprises, have games that last three-to-four hours. 50-over cricket lasts a whole day of six or seven hours. That's still too long. Given the choice of options, the ECB should either get the ICC behind T/20 cricket as the main short form of the game, or rally support behind a number between 20 and 40. Whisper it in Calcutta or Mumbai, but 50-over cricket is en route to becoming a peculiar form of the game, like Test matches, appealing to a particular market.

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