By Cheranka Mendis
There is no question of 50 over matches leaving the cricketing cards, Chief Executive Officer International Cricket Council (ICC) Haroon Lorgat said yesterday at a Sri Lanka Press Institute Press Club Event.
Despite alleged remarks and rumors that the 50 over game is losing its touch in the newfound Twenty20 world, the form of cricket has unmistakably demonstrated an insatiable appetite with the ongoing World Cup, Lorgat said. He asserted that the question of is there any room for 50 over cricket has been an interestingly bizarre one that has been playing on the lips of every cricket fan. “Over the last year or so, this was a pressing question and many thought a valid one. It was a topic on everyone’s lips and even some great players and dare I say some not so great players were questioning the future of the 50 over game,” Lorgat said.
During the same period international key administrators were either wanting to or tinkering with the format of 50 over cricket bring out concepts of reducing it to 40 over, having split innings or more extreme thoughts. All this he said, brought out a self inflicting crisis in 50 over cricket; “the more we talked, we created doom and despondency in the much loved 50 over cricket.”
Research conducted by the ICC however clearly brought in to focus the public’s admiration and love for the game and the appetite for the game made it obvious that 50 over format was not going to be rejected. The ICC tested five key markets, he expressed- England, New Zealand, India, South Africa and Bangladesh and the outcome was that a total of 676 million people in the markets were not just interested but had a passion for 50 over cricket. “In South Africa, India, New Zealand and Bangladesh it was often the most popular or second most popular form of the fame. Only in England did it trail third behind test and international Twenty20 cricket.” However in England it self over 16 million claimed that the format was an exiting and a viable one, he added.
The research also brought to surface that an ODI league with promotion/ relegation would be very popular across all markets and heighten the interest level of the people. “There is not overwhelming enthusiasm for reducing the number of overs with 50 overs more popular than 45 or 40 and there is mixed views for experimentation of a split inning format,” Lorgat revealed. “There are few businesses in the world that would willingly walk away from such a massive number of people and the research confirmed that not only was 50 over cricket miles away from death row but rather that it had a string and vibrant future, that I believed in.”
There were however signs of apprehension, he agreed. What is needed to is to give the 50 over game context and content. Lorgat commented that there was a feeling that there were too many 50 overs played and that only a few outside ICC World Cup or ICC Champion Trophy had any real meaning or context. What needs to be looked at is the context in which it is being played, quantity of 50 over matches and when it is scheduled. “I do not think that at a global level the format is challenged as it is at domestic level.” If the cards are played right and the context and content is tackled, the popularity of the game will rise and would bolster the unique and enviable position that cricket enjoys among world sports- “that is having three forms at international level- Test, ODI nad T20.”
He noted that the ICC General Manager of Cricket David Richardson along with a group of experienced administers which includes Sri Lanka’s very own Nishantha Ranathunga has set up a working group to put forward future plans for context and content. ICC in October last year approved new principals for strategic restructuring of international cricket which includes creating context for ODI cricket through international league structure. Principles and mechanics of this will be confirmed early next week in Mumbai.
Today he said, he cannot find anyone who supported the scrapping of the 50 over cricket and with Sachin Tendulkar scoring double 100 in ODI against South Africa in February last year, all doubts were erased. TV audience- the biggest as recorded in history was at the February 27 India Vs England match, he divulged, it was the most watched game in an ODI series and with the Pakistan Vs India match coming into play later this week, the record will be renewed. “During the last week ICC from the total of the global viewing market 97.8 per cent went to the match,” Lorgat said.
“Who will it be?” he questioned regarding the finals of the World Cup series- New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan or India? “There is nothing quite like nation vs. nation cricket. There is nothing like when a country’s pride is at stake. If Kumar Sangakkara was to bring home the trophy the response would be one of those moments when breath is taken away.”
A clean World Cup or not?
Having the man himself cornered at a press meeting yesterday the media questioned Lorgat on the truth behind match fixing, terrorism threats black market ticket sales. In response Lorgat assured that the ICC has been “absolutely vigilant” whether there has been any match fixing from before the World Cup and that the players have responded with no accounts of match fixing.
With the security in and around the Premadasa Stadium visibly being tightened and rumors flying on an alleged terrorism threat, he stated that he could not respond to the question but agreed that the security has been tightened and that there are visible security missions in place.
“We do not tolerate black market ticket selling,” he stressed. He added that there have been instances of involving the police to make arrests when such incidents occur.
“We are very much impressed about how Sri Lanka hosted the events,” Lorgat quipped, “Sri Lanka has been extremely good in the way they managed the main events and put up stadiums so fast.”