ODI cricket needs level-playing field

India registered a comfortable eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the second semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 © Getty Images

By Sumit Chakraberty

Two identical semi-finals in the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, both won by teams bowling first on damp, overcast mornings in England, prove my contention in the previous post — that it’s an unequal contest in these circumstances, and the administrators should do something to level the playing field. Maybe a start at high noon instead of 10.30 am would have done it.

England and India were the stronger sides, and deserved to go through to the final. But South Africa and Sri Lanka were not so weak that they could be thrashed with more than 10 overs to spare. Fans were denied the pleasure of watching two good match-ups. Top level cricket needs to be managed better than this.

As it is, both Test cricket and One-Day Internationals (ODIs) are on the back foot, as the T20 leagues capture the eyeballs. Critics have lots of negative things to say about T20 cricket, but at least the playing conditions don’t change so much in the course of a three-hour match.

The one-day game is obviously harder to manage because it is more than twice as long. The administrators have livened it up too with the new field restrictions, allowing no more than four fielders outside the inner ring at any time in the innings. This has forced captains and bowlers to apply their minds in the middle overs too, while creating more options for batsmen.

Now the administrators need to figure out how to ensure the contest doesn’t fizzle out with the toss itself. Sri Lanka stood no chance at all in the semi-final against India. The new ball was doing so much that even batsmen of the class of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayewardene could at best only try to survive. But Test cricket style batting will only get a score below 200 and that’s never going to be enough if batting becomes easier later in the day. Once the Indian openers got going, it was clear there could be only one winner.

It was time to switch channels.

(Former Sunday Editor and cricket columnist of DNA, Sumit Chakraberty has been a journalist for over 30 years, with earlier stints at Indian Express, The Times of India, BiTV and UTV. He is now an independent writer and blogs on cricket at http://cricketkeeper.blogspot.in . You can also follow him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sumit.chakraberty and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/cricket_keeper)