One dayers fast becoming elephant in room
One of the world's foremost cricketing brains is calling for one-day international cricket to be banned; whilst in the corridors of New Zealand Cricket it's their primary focus for the next two years.
From golden child of the 1980s to problem child of the 2010s, the humble ODI is fast becoming the elephant in the room for cricket administrators.
What happens after the fast-approaching 2015 World Cup, to be hosted in Australia and New Zealand, is the burning question for the International Cricket Council.
For better or worse, the players say they enjoy 50 overs-per-side. It's test cricket on fast forward, with enough time to build an innings or a game-changing bowling spell. It's more palatable than the takeaway hamburger being gorged at speed at the Twenty20 drive through.
Initially designed to spark interest in domestic cricket, T20 has bolted out the gate and across the globe as an international staple; unsatisfying for the purist, punctuated by wildly fluctuating results, but raking in the cash for various cricket boards. Something has to give.
Mike Atherton, former England captain and cricket correspondent for The Times, wrote last month that the only solution amid a congested schedule was to abandon ODIs.
"No other sport must market itself across three different disciplines, and the amount of tinkering of the rules aimed at 50-over cricket suggests strongly that it cannot survive as a spectacle without false accounting," Atherton wrote.
"If 50-over cricket were to disappear, it would accentuate the contrast between 20-over cricket and tests, and help to provide a bulwark for the traditional over the modern."
The latest ODI rule tinkering kicked in at the end of last year. One new ball used at each end; two bouncers an over allowed for bowlers; no bowling power play; the batting power play must be completed before the 40th over; and no more than four fielders allowed outside the 30m circle.
NZC chief executive David White welcomed the rule tweaks at the time, saying the ICC was trying to make the ODI a "one-day test", by bringing the pace bowlers into the game and ensuring it wasn't a batting slugfest.
NZC have a vested interest in the ODI, too, as they prepare to co-host their second World Cup in two years. Director of cricket John Buchanan unashamedly said amid the test carnage in South Africa that the World Cup was NZC's main focus.
And, suddenly, it seems the Black Caps are back in the game in ODI cricket after an awful run of form which saw them plummet to ninth in the world rankings, below Bangladesh. Heading into the South Africa tour they'd won one of their past 11 completed ODIs.
The 2-1 series win in the republic, against the former world No 1 in ODIs, was a welcome relief in New Zealand's traditionally strongest format. Now comes three home ODIs against world No 2 England, three more in England in June, leading into the final edition of the Champions Trophy later that month.
That remains New Zealand's only international tournament win, back in 2000 in Kenya, but is destined for the scrapheap as the ICC look to establish a test championship.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum offered his defence of ODI cricket as the teams reconvene for the three-match series opener in Hamilton tomorrow.
"We've got a World Cup in 2015 which is something that many teams are targeting, us included. It's certainly got its place. I'm not sure what unfolds after 2015, but with the rule changes it seems the game is looking to be moved forward constantly."
England are coming off a 3-2 series defeat in India but sit high in the ODI rankings after an impressive last 12 months which saw them win 14 of their 20 ODIs.
The heavy artillery also gets rolled out, with captain Alistair Cook, batsmen Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, spinner Graeme Swann and paceman James Anderson joining the squad.
Paceman Steven Finn, who spans all three disciplines, hoped ODI cricket was here to stay despite the crammed schedule.
"I like playing ODI cricket; it's where I've played a lot of my cricket over the past 12 months. It's in the future tours schedule for a long time to come and it's something that's always going to be there," Finn said.
"There's a 50-over World Cup in 2015 which we're working towards. I think it's a good game, it's an exciting game and as we saw in India, the series we've just played, you can have some really exciting finishes and exciting games of cricket. Long may it continue, hopefully."
New Zealand welcome back BJ Watling, Kane Williamson and Kyle Mills from their ODI series win in South Africa.
Strangely, Ian Butler is missing although the team was picked before his T20 heroics in Hamilton.
The Dominion Post