The 50-over game still entertains

2009-10-07 00:00

THE ICC Champions Trophy was a real test for the future of the 50-over format — but thankfully it emerged a survivor. Just before the final of the tournament, New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori and Australian captain Ricky Ponting confirmed that this Champions Trophy was the best they’d played in.

With 20/20 cricket threatening one-day international cricket’s popularity among spectators and players alike, this statement was encouraging.

South Africa did a fine job of hosting the tournament, and the Wanderers and Centurion proved yet again what world-class grounds they are. Having just two venues was also a wise move on behalf of the ICC as it eliminated excessive travelling for the teams and contributed to the overall slickness of the two-week tournament.

The new, leaner look of the Champions Trophy was also commendable, with just eight teams in the mix. Trimming the number of teams meant there was pressure on every single game, even in the early round robin stages, as South Africa and India now know only too well.

Having only the eight best teams on show ensured that the skill level was high and that none of the games was irrelevant — which is often the case when minnow teams are making up the numbers.

Ricky Ponting admitted that the health of the 50-over game is in the hands of the players. “The more attractive the players make the game, the more the fans will enjoy it,” he said.

Ponting’s men certainly played an engaging and exciting brand of cricket and confirmed that the 50-over game is certainly not on its last legs. On the contrary, they showed that one-day cricket is alive and well and reminded us just what a competitive format it is. The fact that Ponting himself has chosen to continue playing the 50-over game ahead of the Twenty20 version is a reminder that in his opinion it’s a far better test than the abbreviated hit-and-giggle.

The pitches at Supersport Centurion and the Wanderers were sporting and provided assistance to both the batsmen and the bowlers. With a number of one-day pitches currently favouring the batsmen and Twenty20 cricket weighted heavily in the batsmen’s favour, bowlers have had a torrid time. The Champions Trophy pitches provided bowlers with the opportunity to show their skill and to make their mark in the tournament. The likes of Brett Lee, Shane Bond and Wayne Parnell reminded us what an exciting dimension fast bowling adds to the 50-over format.

It was not surprising to hear complaints about the Wanderers pitch in the first week of the Champions trophy. The bowler-friendly wicket, which provided swing, seam and bounce, was not exactly the batting paradise many one-day batsmen have become accustomed to.

In my opinion, it’s the batsmen-friendly pitches that have squeezed the life and the interest out of the 50-over game. So seeing bowlers back in the limelight and batsmen having to use all their skill and technique to fend off bouncers and survive menacing deliveries was fantastic.

In the final analysis, it was the team that coped best with conditions that survived the knockout stages and won the tournament, and Australia, superbly led by Ponting, did just that.

The ICC deserves to be congratulated on providing a superbly organised showcase for the 50-over game and a well-timed reminder that limited-over cricket still has a future.

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