Leave one-day cricket alone

There is absolutely nothing wrong with innovation in Cricket, without innovation we would not even have one day cricket, nor would we have Twenty20 cricket – in fact we would be without many of the things that make the game what it is today. But there is a difference between innovation and unnecessary change.

The ‘state’ of one-day cricket has been a talking point for a long time, its by no means a new topic. While it’s form has changed subtly over the years the core idea of one-day cricket remains the same. Two teams, one bats first, one bats second, in a match that take a single day to play. Some argue that the flood of T20 cricket has caused one-day cricket to lose it relevance in the cricket landscape. I disagree, they are two entirely different beasts. If anything I’d almost argue that T20 is a good thing for one-day cricket.

Last year Cricket Australia trialed a new one-day format in the domestic comp. 45 overs per side split into two innings per team (25 and 20 overs). While you wouldn’t really call it a ‘failed’ experiment it perhaps wasn’t the rousing success that they were hoping for, and they’ve reverted back to a ‘normal’ 50 over per side contest for this season. There was nothing particularly wrong with the idea or intention, but (in my eyes) the change made it more like back-to-back T20 games, rather than a proper one-day contest.

Today in The Age, Peter Roebuck discusses another possible re-imagining of one-day cricket, and its not one that I’d come across before. Known as “5ives” cricket, its a concept put together by Dick Woods, and it sounds like its taken heavy inspiration from baseball…

According to Wood the issues with the “slow” 50-over format are:

  • One team batting for almost four hours and the other side trying its luck for the next four hours did not create the drama needed to satisfy modern crowds
  • The teams were too far apart. One side had scored 300 before its opponents had put a run on the board.

Honestly, how either of those points make any sense – in the context of modern cricket – is kind of beyond me. The so-called ‘simple’ structure of Wood’s 5ives cricket format goes like this:

Team A bats for five overs whereupon Team B bats for 10 overs, completing the first cycle with a bonus point at stake and throwing down the gauntlet for the next five-over cycle.

Team A then bats for another 10 overs and so on until the 50 overs have been completed and the victor has emerged. Along the way bonus points are given for every five-over burst, forcing captains to decide whether to go for the point or to concentrate on the overall position.

It claims that the Duckworth-Lewis method is not required because “the team in front wins regardless”. Really? And that makes sense? So if Team A has completed its first block of 5 overs and scored 20 runs, then Team B gets to the end of its 10 over block with a score of 60, and then it starts raining Team B would win because they’ve scored more runs despite having batted for twice as long. Yeah, that makes sense… Sure, Duckworth-Lewis is ordinary at best (a topic for another day) but the combo of this method and this format, unless I’m missing something, sounds worse.

The MCC has trialed the 5ives format, and according to Roebuck’s article there is ‘significant’ support for the idea. I don’t really get it though, it seems like change for the sake of change, and over-complicating what is really a relatively simple game. And (most) one-day cricket is definitely boring… like baseball, seriously nothing happens in baseball, the less cricket is like baseball the better…

Wood’s ideas aren’t all ‘bad’, his bonus points ideas could be introduced into the ‘proper’ 50-over game without too much issue. For example, give bonus point to the team who scores the most runs in the first 15 overs and the last 10.

Just off the top of my head I can think of several reasons why the 5ives format would be inferior to what we have now:

  • No time for batsmen to get ‘in’ – imagine having Shane Watson come out in full flight only to have him walk off after just 5 overs, potentially losing his focus, then returning 10 overs later and getting out straight away.
  • Same for bowlers, no doubt some bowlers would like the short 2/3 over bursts, but the short bursts can also prevent momentum from building. The bowling team triggers a collapse, and before they can fully capitalise on it they have swap over and go into bat, taking all the pressure off their opponents.
  • Potentially tricky for all-rounders if they’re switching between batting and bowling mindsets every five overs
  • Generally confusing for spectators. Which sub-innings is it? How many overs are left?

I believe there is nothing wrong with the three forms of cricket we have today, test/first-class, one-day, and twenty20 all have their unique characteristics. There is still plenty of room for innovation in all three forms, without the need for completely changing everything that people have grown to love about the formats.

Imagine if someone suggested that Test matches should be three innings per side with an innings being a maximum of 80 overs… madness.