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The irrelevance of bilateral ODIs: Too much cricket spoiling the broth?

Modified 10 Feb 2020, 16:17 IST

Virat Kohli walks back after being cleaned up by Tim Southee.
Virat Kohli walks back after being cleaned up by Tim Southee.
As I said, one-day cricket in this calendar year is not as relevant if you look at the T20s and the Tests...

These are the words of India captain Virat Kohli after India conceded the ODI series to New Zealand with one game to go following a 22-run defeat to the hosts on a windy night in Auckland yesterday, as a result going 2-0 down in the three-match series. It was a case of 13th time unlucky for Kohli's well-oiled team which had been unbeaten in 12 bilateral series in any format since March 2019, an impressive achievement by a quality team.

But Kohli's words do rankle in some ways. The come-from-behind 2-1 win over the touring Aussies at home in the same 50-over format was not referred to as irrelevant by anyone involved with the team; what sparked this sudden contemplation of the bigger picture?

Critics will say the statement is ungracious and takes away from a great performance by the Kiwis who were sans top bowlers and talismanic captain Kane Williamson for both ODIs and who had turned the bilateral engagement on its head after a whitewash in the T20s. But Kohli may have landed up on something more significant, albeit unwillingly.

Also see – PSL most runs

Surfeit of cricket

End of the trip for Rohit Sharma.
End of the trip for Rohit Sharma.

Recently, Kohli had spoken about a day in the near future when cricketers will head to the ground straight from the airport because there is hardly any time between successive series; while he wasn't being completely serious, his words again had an element of perspicacity that rings true. Gone are the days when fans waited eagerly for a visiting Australia side or a tour of England. These bilateral engagements have lost their special status because of them taking place all the time, all too often. Only multi-team tournaments maintain that stature because they don't take place all the time and triumphing in them still matters a lot.

Kohli said that ODIs are not relevant this year because the T20 World Cup and the World Test Championship is taking place in this calendar year while ODI has no multi-team tournament in sight. Hence, he is placing special value on multi-nation ICC engagements and considering bilateral series and the surfeit of the same as mere preparation for them.

It thus begs the question, are these series losing their relevance because the powers that be are milking cricket? It also brings to mind pressing issues of fatigue and injury that players are bound to get plagued by however fit they are. Rohit Sharma recently got ruled out of the ODIs because of a strain he picked up during the T20s. One needs to pay more heed to these statements, one needs to rethink the status and structure of bilateral engagements to keep their exalted status alive and to preserve the game.

Published 09 Feb 2020, 12:08 IST
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