A million-plus spectator count across 10 Indian stadium turnstiles, record viewership on digital, billions of video views on social media, the 2023 ODI World Cup has been hitting the ball out of the park. What happens between now and the 2025 Champions Trophy and the 2027 ODI World Cup – how bilateral ODI cricket is received – will tell us more about the churn in the rapidly changing cricket environment.
What this World Cup has done is take care of the immediate future of ODI cricket when it comes to International Cricket Council (ICC) events. “The news of demise of ODI cricket has been grossly exaggerated. We can clearly say that with what we have seen in the last one month,” Anurag Dahiya, ICC’s Chief Commercial Officer told select media on Wednesday.
There were reports in the English media that the Champions Trophy could switch to a T20 format, leaving the World Cup as the only ODI event in a four-year ICC event cycle. “There are always considerations with what we do about the future. But each format has a very strong role to play and I don’t think anything would change in how we evaluate them and how we realign our strategies,” Dahiya said.
It’s a lot easier to make a world event work in India, regardless of the format, especially when the Indian team is doing well. “Being in India, even before it began, we started saying that it is going to be the biggest World Cup with the passionate fan base. Now, we have started saying it’s probably the best, not just the biggest World Cup, with the quality of cricket we have seen. But I don’t doubt they will do well outside. We only have to look back at the 2015 and 2019 events (in Australia-New Zealand and England respectively) and how successful they were.”
FUTURE OF BILATERAL ODIs
The picture isn’t as rosy when it comes to bilateral ODIs, once integral to a cricket calendar. South Africa agreed to forgo World Cup qualification points for a full-strength T20 league at home. England’s packed calendar allowed them to play very few bilateral ODIs in the current World Cup cycle. In India too, there was a modest rise in bilateral valuation (13%) in the latest round of BCCI media rights sale.
“If I were to pick up one challenge we do have to address, bilateral ODI cricket is the one, where we have to focus to keep it vibrant,” Dahiya said. “We shift back five years and we were saying there is no interest in bilateral Tests. Fast forward to now where we have had two successful editions of World Test Championship finals. That’s brought people back to Test cricket. We had Indian fans interested in what was happening between New Zealand and Sri Lanka because that would have an impact on WTC final qualification. So that kind of context is important.”
That context is lacking in ODI cricket as the decision to do away with the ODI Super league shows. With the T20 league calendar steadily growing, member boards in ICC, many running their own T20 leagues, will have to walk a tightrope. “Our board and the members have shown in the past that they are inventive enough to rise to such challenges. So, that’s the bigger discussion: how do we bring long term context to bilateral cricket.”