I have written already about how we as consumers are over-fed the format. I have mentioned the puzzling air of exclusivity that pervades ODI cricket. And of course, I have shared my opinions on the future direction of the World Cup. The one thing that perhaps I have neglected somewhat is the actual kind of cricket being played; after all, what is the identity of the game which is blighted by transient regulations? Limited overs cricket used to be exciting, money-spinning, a new product for new cricket fans. So what changed?
It is easy to blame everything on the advent of Twenty20. After all, the newest, shortest, brashest format has become everything that One-Day Internationals were intended to be: it is "the exciting format", commands mammoth cash, and introduces cricket to a whole new audience. When that happened, the humble ODI got somewhat forgotten. Suddenly it was seen as a pointless middle-ground, as obsolete as the Betamax or the Liberal Party. When the ICC started playing around with it, introducing cool-sounding PowerPlays and SuperSubs (clearly alliteration was in vogue) to try to re-instate ODIs as the trendy format, forgetting that there was already an audience for ODI cricket: the exact same audience as was watching it before.
The improving hitting-power of international batsmen really renders PowerPlays unnecessary.
The number of overs played, I think, is pretty irrelevant to the type of cricket played. Forty overs, fifty overs, it doesn't really make any difference. I have played both regularly throughout the last two seasons, at a much lower level, and the only real difference was that one started later than the other. However, ODIs are established as fifty-over cricket, so fifty-over contests they should stay.
I also think that fielding restrictions should be stripped back considerably. I think that powerplays are now something of an out-dated concept, an artificial stimulant to provoke greater stroke-play. With Twenty20 being a crucial part of a young batsman's development, I think that they have the shots in their lockers to find their way around the four or five men on the boundary if they really need to. Also, if the only restriction was that four men must be inside the circle at all times, then it would put a real premium on good captaincy. There wouldn't be any real set formula, and it would be up to the captain to make things easy or difficult for the batsmen.
Finally, I think, as I have said before, that multi-nation tournaments hold a key position in the future. The Asia Cup is now the only tournament aside from the World Cup that is regularly contested by the Full Member nations. To be honest, I think this is a great loss. Triangular or quadrangular tournaments can be used to globalise cricket in place of endless bilateral series; even without the Associate involvement, I still miss the old NatWest series. And I, like Mark Nicholas, think that ODIs should be used as an appetiser for Test series, and not as a dessert.