Sri Lanka vs Bangladesh in the ongoing Champions Trophy
Apparently there have been Champions Trophies before - but amidst the over-abundance of one-day matches, who remembers, except dutiful statisticians who swoon at the sight of numbers?
The only titbit that lingers is the West Indies winning this Trophy last time, and it sticks in the memory only because it is almost ridiculous. After all, the West Indies don't win anything any more. Except, of course, one-dayers against India.
The point, of course, is larger than the Champions Trophy. Quite simply, like an affair that has tired in time, one-day cricket has no fascination for me any more. Once I leapt onto my sofa as the final five overs unfurled, but no longer. Though this could be because the springs of an old sofa and older knees complain as much as the wife.
The entire conversation of cricket has altered. Debate on footwork or whether spinners should toss the ball up has vanished, an old appreciation slowly leaching out of the stadium. Instead, we are now a reactive audience
Being Indian it is not easy to reject one-day cricket, for as a nation we have driven this game to the point where it has become a national fix.
During a period in the late 1980s, it seemed almost like we had a match every week of the year and even that wasn't enough. In all the excitement, like children with a new toy, we forgot that too much of anything dulls the senses after a while.
A World Cup had come home, a new breed of spectators shouted "Pakistan hai-hai" even when Pakistan wasn't playing, Star TV and its replays had us hooked and Tendulkar sent Shane Warne towards the sun and the moon.
Then slowly, gradually, it began to grate. Sahara Cup, Pepsi Cup, Asia Cup, Hero Cup, Zero Cup. Sharjah, Toronto, Bulawayo. Did we play in Guatemala? Who knows, maybe. Did Jadeja hit that quick 43 last week, last month, last year, it was hard to tell or care.
Of course, some things stuck, like Tendulkar's final over in the 1993 Hero Cup against South Africa which was all boyish nerve, and Sourav Ganguly who batted with such elegance he turned pitches into catwalks, and classic finishes that made the hair and the family stand at attention.
But at the end of the year, little else was retained, shots and catches and deliveries one big blur of Indian blue, match results hazy, series scores forgotten, and you had to ask yourself, What is sport if it doesn't leave a memory?
Cricket in India is a major money-spinner
From 155 one-dayers in the 1980s, it grew to 257 in the 1990s, and already 203 in the 2000s with more than three years of the decade to go.
For a while the game completely lacked authenticity, for it was revealed both souls and matches were for sale. Players betrayed teams and nations not only because they were weak men, but also because the game had become dull and fat and over-fed and over-played and without meaning (a bit like how it is now).
It entertains, as sport must do, but it is without heft, or any substance, it is like a book picked up at an AH Wheeler & Co bookstand at Calcutta's Howrah Station and discarded on arrival in Delhi.
The entire conversation of cricket has altered. Debate on footwork or whether spinners should toss the ball up has vanished, an old appreciation slowly leaching out of the stadium. Instead, we are now a reactive audience.
The world's finest batsman once is now Tendulkar one day, Endulkar the next. Sehwag is God with every six and devil when caught on the boundary. Captains are hailed at 20 overs and heckled at 40.
As a writer, I was despairing. Cardus might have made even Prabhakar's action seem poetic, but for us, hacks, one-day cricket was a writer's nightmare. There were few storylines, few characters, few innings worthy of grand description. This wasn't writing, it was accountancy.
It doesn't help that matches are now absent of subtlety. Pitches are seemingly lifted from cemeteries, boundary ropes pulled in so close that edges go for six, 500 runs by one team is a battering away, and the basic equation of cricket has got skewed: bowlers are now like extras on a film set where the only leading men can be batsmen.
Cricket, we presumed, was a contest between bat and ball, not bat and bat. And I haven't even got to the No-Doz-needing middle overs.
Ah, but television loves it, and soon bowlers will wear cameras in helmets, Pepsi will have its logo on the ball and tournaments will be held in Ulan Bator.
Tendulkar's final over in the 1993 Hero Cup stands out
Cricket officials hear the ka-ching of advertisers spending and spectators arriving and begin to resemble cardboard cut-outs unable to say a sensible word amidst the sound of filling coffers.
Constantly the subcontinent is accused, not unfairly, of only making money, but Australia's annual tri-series where each team plays each other four times has escaped the censure it deserves.
No peep emerged from anyone either over the recent, abominable DLF Cup in Kuala Lumpur. You'd think we'd learnt that playing pointless one-dayers sparks the worst in human behaviour.
Even the Champions Trophy, held every two years, and this time just months out from the World Cup, confirms that cricket's administrators, despite running a sport with so few nations, are slothful.
Scheduling requires no degree but common sense, and getting teams to peak in two-year cycles (World Cup, two years later Champions Trophy, two years later World Cup) is hardly some dazzling idea.
That some teams are presently feigning interest in one-day cricket's second biggest tournament is enough of an epitaph.
Will I watch this Champions Trophy? Yes. Hussey runs like the north wind between wickets, a run chase can still release adrenaline like a river, and Bhajji on his day can tie a batsman desperate to accelerate into beautiful knots.
There are still things to savour. But no longer will I watch every ball, every match. Those days have gone. The sofa springs are safe.
This debate is closed. Following is a selection of comments you sent.
I have to agree, one day cricket with its new rules is boring. We need something that can test these players and that is only possible with Test cricket.
I completely agree with Rohit Brijnath on this one. In fact, I think that having so many matches together is bad for the players also because they are not getting the rest and practice time that they need in order to play their best. This means that the quality of the game has also deteriorated.
Brijnath is right, the game has lost its soul and needs to reinvent itself . Much of the blame lies with ICC & the Indian board , they need to rein their morbid greed to once again make cricket an aesthete's delight. But I guess that is asking for too much
As an ardent fan of cricket for the last 35 years I am happy that Rohit has echoed-and that too quite eloquently-the opinions of many cricket lovers like myself. When India won the World Cup in 1983 many Indians like myself got hooked onto ODI's and for a while even ignored the real version of cricket-tests! The plethora of meaningless ODI tournaments to please the multi-billion sponsors and to milk all that money in has left many cricketers physically weary, mentally fatigued and in some cases morally bankrupt. There should be a ceiling in the number of ODI's a team/player can play in a year. However the way cricket is run now, I cant see that happening.
Dr Alexander, UK
Who will care if England are knocked out of the Champions Trophy and the world Cup as long as they retain the ashes. Its not just that England seem to be crap at one-day cricket, its more that its boring. As Mr Brijnath says, in his excellent and almost lyrical article,"...we forgot that too much of anything dulls the senses..."
Could not agree with you more Rohit. Absolutely my sentiments. I remember a time when I would wake up at 3 in the morning to catch the series against New Zealand on television or stay awake all night to follow the Sahara Cup at Toronto. But alas, no more. The game has suffered such an over exposure and gross commercialisation that at one point I got fed up and bored. It's only so many times one can watch the same teams and the same players playing each other. 10 years ago we argued who won the contest - Tendulkar or McGrath. It's the same till date. The game has not moved on, the same players hog the limelight, the same old tired debates. I have got so bored with it. Added to it all this is the shameless way people are making money out of it - the first and last balls in the over are often missed due to a prolonged commercial. As a result, I have completely give up watching cricket. Good for me, now I can catch up with many other international sports which are actually far m ore captivating.
What should the crickets governing body do: they should promote and arrange more test matches and cut down on the number of meaningless one ODIs being played for commercial purposes.
Absolutely agree with Rohit - one-day cricket is tainted by over-exposure to the point of being utterly dull. The administrators of the game should take note that the same is starting to happen to the Test arena too...
What a splendid article. Journalism at its best. A cri de coeur. How good it would be if everyone concerned with bringing this dire situation about would say,' Yes! He's right. Let's give everyone a rest and rekindle the cricketing appetite Forget the money for a while.
Michael Harris, Wales.
Rohit's pithy comments are right on the ball.
Subbu Raj, India
I don't agree. Cricket is the game which should be played more and more.
Shahid Shah, UK
It's hard to disagree with this story at all. England too are starting to increase the number of one-day matches. In domestic cricket there is a 20-20 tournament, a 40-over tournament (previously an even more ridiculous 45 overs) and a 50-over tournament with attendances plummeting in the longer formats (one wonders why?). England play 5 ODIs against each touring side as a footnote to the Test series. The Champions League has introduced qualifying (not a bad idea) in order to reduce the number of ridiculously one-sided matches. Unfortunately, all four games so far have been totally uncompetitive and just 23 spectators paid - in cricket-mad India! - to watch the West Indies destroy Zimbabwe.
Mark Kidger, Madrid, Spain
Each US baseball team plays 180 games in about 6 months time and they still attract audience every year. I agree that we are loosing passion on cricket with so many games but cricket needs to develop more technically and I believe it will ( at least with the money that is involved in cricket these days).
I agree with the writer. If you think Cricket is getting boring, think about what happens in baseball. Australia plays each team 4 times. Here in US each team plays 7 times. I don't even remember anymore what happened with what team and when. I think cricket is heading that way. Making money seems more important here when it comes to baseball. There is no flavour, no authenticity and most important there is no passion for the game anymore. I think if you don't remember what happened last season, that is the beginning of the end for a fan for any game.
Deepak Koppula, India / USA
Well said, I have to agree with Rohit's opinion. Too many games without purpose. Even in NHL here in US and Canada each team plays about 80 games. I think it is a overkill. But reality is people have nothing else to do in the evenings and weekends. May be if people start avoiding TV, match frequency will reduce. Who is to blame, consumers or producers?
Satish Thiyags, USA
A superb piece of journalism this. I never feel the need to comment on articles, but in this instance I have. Beautifully written in a superb style which would be the norm for the Beeb - but it is the content that is so riveting. As a devout cricket fan I have been dismayed by the current trend towards endless ODIs - all blurring into one meaningless jumble of slogging and slapping. The artistry of cricket has always been, and remains, the test arena - a 6 is a rarity, and there lies the excitement in it, it is difficult to achieve, therefore those that can achieve it are worthy of cheer. Pitches that do something, not featherbeds designed as a batsman's paradise. Genuine contests that pitch batsmen against bowlers with the best man winning - those considerations all seem to fly out the window when the almighty dollar sign comes into view. So what makes this article so special? Well it is that it is from an Indian, so long have we been told that the Indians love ODIs so much, that they are the ones that ram it down our throats and insist that all cricket be slogging affairs with at least one a week. So to hear a contradictory view, just one solitary voice of reason is like music. Maybe the future is just a little brighter than I had feared.
One dayers are boring, and that's an understatement. And I thought the Toronto, Sharjah, Singapore days were over. I actually wish that India plays Pakistan next only in 2010 .
I take umbrage at your sly comments about the West Indies team. My team has been playing Test cricket since 1928 and was only the third such team at the time. We have given the world giants such as Lord Constantine, George Challenor, George Headley, Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Gary Sobers and a host of others who need no mention. Walter Hammond insisted in his autobiography that (in his view) great West Indian batsmen were the only ones worth looking at. Do not patronise us. Our proud cricketing history demands otherwise.
Michael Bachan, West Indies
Give me test cricket, Greek Tragedy, and Viennese concertos over one day cricket and all the ghastly symbols of pop culture. The success of the latter is just a frightening reminder that the modern world is run by a bunch of crass, opportunistic businessmen with about as much soul as the architecture of their industrial complexes.
Prashant, Et In Arcadio Ego
If the author is bored, well, who cares
Unfortunately this is not a problem confined just to India and cricket, I once saw UK Sky Sports news telecast, the program lasted an hour and 50 minutes were dedicated on the loss of England's national soccer team to Denmark. Even in the US, with its three 'major' professional sports leagues, the media focuses intently on pro and college football. We regularly see inane 30 minute discussions on why this quarterback threw this interception and so on ....
Vikram Garg, Austin, Texas, USA
I don't see the problem. Mr Brijnath need not watch every game. Major League Baseball has 162 games every year for each of 30 teams. Some players like pitchers are rested accordingly. Why can't cricket be the same? If people are willing to pay to watch, why not increase the number of games. And if this reduces the craze for cricket in India, what could be better than that!!
Ashish K, USA
Provocative article by Rohit Brijnath - let's hope it can stir up a real debate and hopefully concrete action from ICC.
How I echo your comments Rohit! I too am baffled and confused by the amount of tournaments around nowadays to the extent that it's difficult to know which ones are the most important. And one of the problems is that the crowds attending Test matches now behave in the manner that they do at one-dayers. Quite a few years ago I was watching the West Indies against England at Old Trafford. It was the morning session and the match was evenly poised and fascinating viewing. But the crowd, fuelled by much alcohol even at 11.30 in the morning, suddenly decided that a Mexican wave was needed. The cricket in the middle became something of a sideshow as well over half of the packed crowd joined in with the wave. I seemed to be the only person in our section who refused to stand and wave my hands in the air and pretend that I was enjoying myself. I was but only by watching several of the modern day masters out in the middle - it could well have been the great Viv Richards batting. Call me old fashioned, call me Victor Meldrew, but that was certainly my last time watching a test match at Old Trafford.
Oh, the tragedy of being a columnist! You must churn out some thing week after week. I thought a weekly game of cricket would have delighted Rohit for giving him the wherewithal to write about it! One dayers are played by professional cricketers. Much like a salesman who must sell each day and sell like a man possessed at the month ends, cricketers must play as often as they can. At least a frequent game of cricket brings something new with each game. Much unlike what they show on all the 24 hour news channels - the same boring Presidents and the Prime Ministers saying the same inane things, hour after hour.
Sudhir Bisht, Nigeria
India should spend money in improving its domestic competition. They have the money. Get the state teams to acquire the services of the best foreign players, just like the English counties. Not just the out of work Australians, English etc, but also Kenyans, Zimbabweans, Namibians, Ugandans, South Americans etc. Lets play more of this cricket. Only then can we get rid of three team competitions, with the two top teams going to a final!
Cricket has to develop and expand. The expansion is basically zero in the past twenty years. The same countries play this game. The more they play each other the more tedious it becomes. And lets face it - politics and poor infrastructure of the lesser countries are not going to promote and develop the players in these countries. No amount of money that the ICC generates is going to make any difference as far I can tell. The better players in countries like Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Zimbabwe, Kenya are going to stick long enough to play their respective counties. They want the money now ( and who came blame them ) so they move to England, South Africa, Australia etc. So what's the future, I don't know, I can only see more of the same.
Salil Mody, USA
Rohit if you don't like watching too much cricket, especially ODI games, then you should switch off your TV, your computer and go to sleep. Who is stopping you from doing what you want to do? Why bother creating this debate? Are you suffering from ADD?
Javed A Khan, Canada
It's true that cricket nowadays is the game of statisticians and even the players' career also become fairly short-lived due to the intensity of matches. At least the arrival of neutral venues such as Toronto, Sharjah and Singapore help this 'strange game' to get an introduction itself in some of its alien territories and growing no. of matches and tournaments in other way help our lethargic players kept focused and stay competent. The money it generates will also instigate our great Indian middle class parents to motivate the youngsters to become professional cricketers. Hail the patriotic spirit of Indian fans. Long live one-day matches.
Ranjith Nambiar, India
I can't help thinking that the columnist ought to rest his keyboard along with his sofa springs. That should give us readers a break from his overblown prose and exaggerated laments. If you don't like one-day games stop watching them and stop writing about them - revenues will decline and the number of games played will reduce - it's a demand driven mechanism, after all. I think it is fanatical cricket journalism that deludes the public into believing that unimportant trivial games are a matter of national prestige.
Nurav Shah, Austin, USA
Mr Brijnath's comments has perfectly put together in a nut shell the sorry affairs of too much of one day cricket. Now-a-days it has become so boring to watch one day cricket due to the sheer numbers of matches being played year round, and you feel like picking and choosing the match you want to watch depending on your mood and mind. Gone are those golden years like the 80s' and 90s' when each one day match was watched with so much passion and dedication due the limited number of one day matches being played, without the worry about one getting burnt out(just like the players of today are) glued in front of the tube.
Mac Devan, Georgia,USA
One day cricket has moved away from being a sport to a show, where players are performers. As long as people are showing up to watch the show and organizations making money, why would anyone stop.
Don't like it don't watch it, man. Let others enjoy the game who really like it. Do your research on something else.
Ahmed Moiz, USA
I agree with Rohit. However, I think the biggest reason for the fading interest in cricket is that there are so few teams that play this sport. A total of 10 if you include Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. So the fans keep seeing the same faces same teams play each other over and over again in short spans of time.
Murtaza Jamal, USA
If you're fed up of one-day cricket Rohit, perhaps you'd like to do a job swap with me?! I work in an office, 9 am till about 7pm with lots of hassle in between. I'd love to have lots of one day cricket to watch instead!
Andrew300, Hong Kong
The matches are not boring, it is the media overdose before and after the matches that is killing the sport. Most Indian news channels do not have any substance to air, so they stick to same old stories in cricket and in films to fill in the void, which is killing the sport.
Rajesh G. Kulkarni, Pune-India
I went off one day matches years ago, it just got plain boring. Too many games nowadays and the quality is not there anymore. The modern cricketer plays too many games in a year which stretches them physically and mentally and that affects the on-field performance. Have you noticed that there is not a 'season' these days? Maybe the rules could be freshened up and the number of games per year reduced. Tournaments in Malaysia and similar places could form part of a second or third tier of one day games where first grade players do not appear but it is more of a proving ground of junior players on the way up. I remember at the SCG you had to clear the boundary to get a six, not a rope. 250-300 runs in a game was a fantastic effort, now it is a doodle. More runs equates with more excitement and to an extent that is true. Rohit was right when he wrote that you only had to snick a ball to get a six. The public are not fools and the sight of Viv Richards putting one over the fence at the MCG is a far finer sight than a half-hearted drive over mid on for a six.
Neil Penny, Singapore via Sydney
I am an Aussie in the West Indies and all my mates back home think I am crazy because I am not going to any of the world cup matches. All I can say is why - if I want as Brij puts it so well a "reactive" sport then I watch football if I want to enjoy a good day with mates I go to Test cricket -in my mind the only cricket
Sean Holroyd, Grenada
I absolutely agree with Brijnath. I am confident that all the players think the same but have no say in overcooked Dismay father who is 90 used to enjoy watching ODIs on the box, but even he is fed up of seeing so much cricket. That says a lot!!!
Ben , UK
Excellent article, honest journalism from a true cricket lover. Rohit is right of course, a meaningless "Champions Trophy" just months before a World Cup is complete overkill.
Stephen Jack, Canada
How can you lament one day cricket when some of the test cricket played nowadays, the last Ashes series aside, is at best tedious. This is especially relevant in the sub continent when spinners bowl all day and run rates are slow. And one day cricket has catapulted many players test careers. Mike Hussey, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Andrew Strauss and Chris Gayle are just a few. In my opinion there is nothing better in cricket than watching Jayasuriya inside the first 15 overs, or batsmen planting Murali out of the ground, or Brett Lee's 100 mph yorkers.
James Lincoln, England
Totally agree with this article. Tests are the real game, and that would still be my view in the unlikely event of England winning the World Cup. ODIs are formulaic, and have no ''scarcity value''. The best ODI series I saw was Pakistan - India in 04 - because, at that time, it was rare (but that contest has been overdone since)
One-day cricket is a burger or hot dog compared with Test cricket's rich banquet. It must be a generational thing I suppose. I go to one-day matches as well, because I go with friends who only want to see one-day cricket - but I rarely remember them for long.
David Taylor, England
Champions Trophy? Just an extended net. Bring on the Ashes. Whatever the result.
Andrew Ponsford, Wales
Finally, an Indian admits that his country is ruining cricket. An excellent article, very well written.