Space in the calendar is at a premium and when it comes to the crunch, it will be the middle child that gets squeezed out, writes Dileep Premachandran. Email us your thoughts
Discuss: Will one-day cricket die out within the next 10 years?
For my generation of cricket fans in Asia, it was the 50-over game that provided the introduction to the game's many charms.
Despite what many purists might think, you are unlikely to find children entranced by the subtle rhythms of Test cricket. The one-day version, with its coloured clothes and near-guarantee of a result inside eight hours, offered the curious kid much more.
For Indians, the love affair began with the World Cup in 1983, and was cemented during the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985. In Pakistan, the obsession with the white-ball game reached its pinnacle in 1992, when Imran Khan's team won the World Cup.
Four years later, a generation of Sri Lankans saluted their heroes after Arjuna Ranatunga's side overcame Australia in a World Cup final. As for Bangladesh, there may not yet be titles to boast of, but those that follow the game there are well aware that there would probably have been no place at the top table without the upset win over Pakistan at the 1999 World Cup.
Time was when international cricket had an easy equilibrium. Test cricket catered for the old-timers and traditionalists, while the one-day game raked in the sponsors and the money.
For more than two decades, the two coexisted, and even thrived. In the early years of the millennium, the pace of Test cricket went up a notch or three, as techniques employed and perfected in the 50-over arena began to be used with increasing success in whites.
Then, Twenty20 came along. Initially, most within the game regarded it with curiosity, like the hyperactive new kid on the block. It was common to hear players and administrators alike dismiss it with platitudes, most involving words like "fun" and "entertainment".
Then came the first World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007. India, who had played one Twenty20 international until then, did not even bother sending a full-strength side. But led by MS Dhoni and with the likes of Yuvraj Singh coming to the fore, they won.
Six months later, the first India Premier League season began. The game has not been the same since.
Nearly a year before that first World Twenty20, Greg Chappell, in the midst of a tumultuous stint as India coach, had told this correspondent about why the game's most abbreviated form made him wary.
"I think it's one of the greatest dangers to the health of cricket," he said. "One of the reasons cricket attracts more money than most sports is because even the shortest version of our game [50-over cricket] is on TV for seven or eight hours.
"The income that can be earned from that is commensurately higher than the two or three-hour stint that most other sports get. For us to try and replicate what they're doing by shortening our game, if it's successful, would seriously eat into the health of 50-over cricket, which is the moneymaking machine of the game.
"Twenty20 is an ideal game for domestic cricket. It's a version that can be used as a beachhead into non-traditional cricket countries, but should be used sparingly at international level.
"The shorter the game becomes, the more hitting is involved. I don't think it has a place at international level. It won't help the development of young players."
The IPL was the first of many Twenty20 leagues. Recently, Australia's Twenty20 competition underwent a major revamp. Professional leagues have mushroomed in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe as well. West Indies is about to embrace its own, and it is only a matter of time before the English tournament undergoes a radical overhaul.
In 2007, when Australia won the 50-over World Cup, 191 ODIs were played. By 2011, when India took the title on home soil, the number had declined to 146. In 2007, even with the World Twenty20 in South Africa, only 38 T20s were played. By 2012, that number had swelled to 82, just eight fewer than the number of ODIs.
With Twenty20 leagues the new flavour of the season, the days of the old tri-nation one-day series appear to be coming to a close.
Space in the calendar is at a premium and when it comes to the crunch, it will be the middle child that gets squeezed out.
For many who grew up under the 50-over spell, that would be a great pity.
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