Is ODI cricket dead, or just this World Cup?

Lack of close games shows up a flawed format with cricket’s emerging world excluded

England's World Cup campaign is all but over and they still have four more matches to go. Reuters
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It is sweet that they are trying. But is a World Cup really where we want to see teams like this? Too many uncompetitive matches make it look bad. Maybe they should stick to playing sides who are their level and come back when they have improved.

But that is enough about England.

The world champions have made a dismal attempt at defending their title in India.

England have four guaranteed matches left in the World Cup despite being useless. They still have a mathematical chance to make the semi-finals, but even they accept it is far-fetched.

“It’s over now, I think,” Matthew Mott, their coach, said on the BBC after their latest embarrassment at the hands of Sri Lanka in Bengaluru.

“I’m not a mathematician, but with our net rate and too many teams who are going to take games off each other, we have to come to terms with that from now we’re playing for a lot of pride.”

Jos Buttler led them to the T20 World Cup title last year, but he is already feeling insecure. “If you're asking if I should still be captain of the team, that's a question for the guys above me,” Buttler said.

Mott also said the next few weeks are going to be tough, playing on without anything to play for.

Why should they still be there? What is wrong with some jeopardy?

If you are this bad, an actual early exit, rather than having to linger around like a bad mood for weeks, is surely best for everyone.

They need to be cut loose. But the tournament won’t let them escape until November 11, when they face a Pakistan side who might by then have been navel gazing for just as long as they have.

The woeful form of two sides with huge supporter bases has been another black mark for a tournament littered with them.

This World Cup is doing its very best to kill off ODI cricket. Most of it has been a chore to watch.

Which matches so far have been remotely memorable? Perhaps only Afghanistan’s win over England and the Netherlands upset against South Africa.

It is not difficult to discern what sets those games apart. They were won by sides with something to prove, sides who are fighting for acceptance rather than those who are there because of entitlement.

There have been zero close finishes from 25 matches so far in the World Cup. Does that mean all ODI cricket is rubbish? Given that it is supposed to be the sport’s showpiece format, it does suggest even emergency remedial work might not save it.

Look beyond it for shoots of optimism. Way beyond it. To the sides who are locked out, the sides who know what it is like to play a game with jeopardy.

The countries who play in the next tier of the international game play for their livelihoods most weeks. It is why they so often produce thrilling games of cricket.

There were three ties in the Cricket World Cup League 2, the 50-over competition which was supposed to be the feeder event for the ODI Super League.

There were scores of tight finishes besides, and moments to live long in the memory. Like Karan KC’s one-man army salvaging a win for Nepal against Papua New Guinea in Sharjah. Hamza Tahir’s last-over catch to sink Oman for Scotland. And Kashif Daud taking UAE to the brink in Muscat.

Even the Qualifier for this competition was dusted with thrills, chiefly Logan van Beek’s extraordinary Super Over to lock out the West Indies.

Did we raise this complaint back in 2019, when the World Cup format was exactly the same? Yes.

That UK-based World Cup showed a fine final can redeem a bland tournament. The final itself proved the point in microcosm. It was tepid for 75 per cent, then had an unbelievable, heart-stopping Super Over to finish, and now it is remembered as perhaps the greatest ODI of all.

Which could of course yet happen this time around. A bit like last time the imminent death of ODI cricket was last being seriously discussed back in 2011.

Back then, India won a home World Cup final in Mumbai in front of an impassioned crowd. It felt like cricket as it should be.

And then all was forgotten about what had gone before.

Updated: October 27, 2023, 7:45 AM