The advent of T20 has taken cricket by a storm. Cricket, to an extent, has found an answer to the slow format of test cricket and even one-day matches. Nonetheless, however boring or lengthy the format may seem to some today, test cricket was, is and will always be the purest form for the game for traditional fans. Similarly, the one-day international (ODI) format has not lost its relevance either, even though it stretches over eight hours, which is approximately double the time a quick and entertaining T20 match takes.
The question is: where do these traditional formats stand today? The ICC has managed to keep the ODI format interesting with the 50-over World Cup which still attracts crowds to the stadium and viewership on TV. The biannual Champions Trophy has also provided a possible lifeline to the ODI format.
A multi-format scoring system might well be the much-needed injection of enthusiasm needed for the traditional forms of cricket...
The test format, perceived to be for the "purists", was supposed to get a test championship which unfortunately could not materialize. The survival of test matches continue to rest on the historical value of series like the Ashes, or in recent rivalries that are garnering interest, such as that between India and Australia.
So, how do we make cricket interesting across formats again? Can bilateral series regain their charm?
The possible answer comes from a source that rarely gets its just dues: women's cricket. In the 2013 Women's Ashes Series, a new points system was tried out. It marked both teams on the entire tour i.e. on all the games played across formats. The Ashes was initially decided solely on the basis of the test match but the marking system made the ODI and T20 matches all the more important. This system marks teams on the basis of wins in each format and the scores are cumulated to get the final tally to decide the winner of the "series".
This system can have multi-fold advantages for cricket in general.
1. Bilateral tournaments will be looked at as one series comprising all formats. This means each match becomes relevant.
2. The dead rubbers will be more than just pride-salvaging exercises for teams as each point will count in the final tally.
3. Teams will keep their skills up in all formats; a loss in one will not flatten their spirits as they will have the chance to do better in others.
4. The traditional trophies for the series will still be the same so the historical and traditional value will not be affected.
5. Teams will cease to send second string sides which means that the highest quality players from all nations will be on show throughout the year.
6. This system will ensure that the associate nations play competitively even in dead rubbers as every point will go towards adding to their overall performance.
7. Long tours tend to tire out the teams mentally and more so when the initial results haven't been in their favour. This system will help keep the hope and spirit intact and make sure the level of competition is the same in every game played.
8. With excitement levels high throughout the year, the ICC events will be even more looked forward to as they take the current rankings into account for qualification.
A series going downhill feels like forever and teams are not able to pick themselves up for "pride". If they are weaker at test matches, for example, they find it difficult to sustain motivation after an initial mauling or two and in effect hang around waiting for their return flight. With multiple formats in the mix, hope and energy levels will both be higher. There's be a reason to go for the win every time.
The ICC has been blamed of being stagnant in its approach, but such a move would reverse that perception. To sum it up, a multi-format scoring system might well be the much-needed injection of enthusiasm needed for the traditional forms of cricket without affecting the popularity of the refreshingly bright newbie known as T20. For fans like us, all we want is that the "bilaterals" not become "bygones".
Views are personal