Wednesday Whinge – ODI Cricket is officially on life support but can be saved

A crowd of just under 28,000 people turned up to watch the fifth and final game of the One Day International series between Australia and Pakistan on Australia Day. Given the crowds we are accustomed to seeing at the Adelaide Oval, on a perfect day for cricket, this was a poor attendance figure. So the question that has to be asked is whether we are seeing the slow death of One Day International cricket.

The crowd numbers for every One Day International fixture in the Australian summer would suggest yes. However, a deeper analysis is needed that probably shows that this form of the game has been disrespected by both administrators and players and perhaps that is a good place to start the road back.

Crowd Numbers across the ODI’s vs New Zealand

04/12/2016 – SCG, Sydney 22,502

06/12/2016 – Manuka Oval, Canberra – 9,173

09/12/2016 – MCG, Melbourne – 20,591

Crowd Numbers across the ODI’s vs Pakistan

13/01/2017 – Gabba, Brisbane – 21,734

15/01/2017 – MCG, Melbourne – 31,390

19/01/2017 – WACA, Perth – 15,383

22/01/2017 – SCG, Sydney – 31,979

26/01/2017  Adelaide Oval, Adelaide – 27,929 (Australia Day)

Next year England return to Australian shores, which is bound to increase the attendance figures and the year after that India come over, which again will ensure the game looks in reasonable shape. The major question that needs addressing now, following the promotion of the Big Bash League as the go to event of the Summer, is that in years without crowd drawing countries, how do we keep people coming through the gates?

Ticket prices for the Big Bash are very reasonable. It is a big part of the reason as to why that competition has been so successful. A ticket for a Big Bash League game starts at $20 for adults. While for a One Day International Game, you are looking at $30 minimum for a general admission ticket.

Scheduling is another major issue. I am against propelling the Big Bash League into having its own spot on the calendar except for in a Twenty20 World Cup year, which would then allow national players to push for selection. But the truth is, that perhaps One Day International cricket would benefit from being held prior to the commencement of the Big Bash in late November, early December. That would slot in nicely with the Matador Cup competition which could be held just prior to this window. Then Sheffield Shield can continue before the Test series commences in December and January.

These current matches against New Zealand are a good idea, but three a Summer is plenty and then rotate the host country every year. Australia resting David Warner and Usman Khawaja from the tour of New Zealand so that they are ready for a Test match is farcical and shows the One Day International form absolutely no respect. Turn it into a huge rivalry again and promote it. Playing sport against the Kiwis should be marketed heavily and be attracting the same crowd numbers as an Ashes fixture. Rugby and netball lead the way with this and there is simply no reason why cricket cannot follow their lead.

As discussed previously at From the Grandstand, all One Day International’s have to have more emphasis on World Cup qualification. Sometimes we seem to have series that simply have no meaning at all.

Cricket Australia also have to work out where each form of cricket sits in their eyes. At the moment it seems like that do not know and as a result, you cannot expect the public to know either. They have put a lot of effort into getting the Big Bash League right, but then agree to play a Test series in India the day after an International Twenty20 series finishes at home. Now next season, we will see an increase in Big Bash games by eight, in a year already littered with a five Test Ashes series and a five game One Day series.

If not already, we are very close to over saturating the market with cricket. As it is, cricket is now being played twelve months of the year. Not even the AFL do that. Sometimes too much of a good thing, really is too much of a good thing. The balance is currently very very wrong.

One Day International cricket is not yet dead and as we edge closer to an Ashes series and then a World Cup, interest will begin to peak again. The days of World Series Cricket are long gone now, replaced by the juggernaut that is Twenty20 cricket. Both forms can co-exist, but changes have to be made. Every One Day International match needs to have meaning attached to it and it must be once again turned into the family affair that Twenty20 cricket has become. We need rivalries between countries and people to care about results. Do that and watch the crowds coming flooding back in.

Picture – AAP

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