Give one-day teams more incentive: Hopes

Leap of faith … James Hopes wants more meaning attached to one-day international series.FORMER Australian one-day all-rounder James Hopes has called on cricket administrators to make all limited-overs series count for World Cup qualification to breathe relevance into the 50-over format and provide greater context for players and fans.

Friday’s series opener between Australia and Sri Lanka at the MCG is expected to draw a crowd of fewer than 30,000 given the series ultimately counts for little, while Channel Nine is fearful of a ratings drop through the Australian selectors’ decision to rest stars Michael Clarke, David Warner and Matthew Wade, and overlook Michael Hussey in his final international summer.

Hopes is a strong supporter of the 50-over format and believes its future is safe given the game’s duration appeals to advertisers, but said followers needed more reason to care. ”There’s nothing riding on it, it’s just a five-match series for nothing,” he said. ”I think we have to follow soccer’s viewpoint and say we’ve got to put some meaning in these series like a qualification process for the World Cup. Maybe then crowds and the media will actually get behind the game a bit more because it does seem there’s a lot of it for no real purpose.”

Hopes said being out of the national one-day side the past two years had given him greater perspective on the format’s wellbeing. He feared administrators were trying to turn the 50-over game into a longer form of Twenty20 through rule changes. He said one recent change, the use of two white balls per innings, meant the art of swinging an old ball – and batting against it – would be lost, which would also potentially make the role of spinners redundant. He said administrators should instead focus on the broader issue.

”There wasn’t a need to change the rules. I think instead if people realise there’s a purpose to these series, a carrot at the end such as top seeding at the World Cup, that if you put some context to it, it might be more beneficial than changing the rules to make it play like a Twenty20 game over a longer period of time,” he said.

The real thing, in the eyes of most cricket lovers, is over and the circus is close to packing up. So begins the hard-sell of the summer, when cricket’s uncertain middle sibling gets its go.

Through cricket fatigue and scheduling and selection puzzles, the 50-over format has seemingly never had it so tough in Australia. The five-game series against Sri Lanka ultimately counts for zilch, as does the following series against the West Indies. But the 84-match ODI veteran says there is nothing wrong with the product.

Hopes cited the likes of Ed Cowan and Usman Khawaja as very good one-day players because they could build an innings and score quickly, despite perception. But a Twenty20 side would probably take only one of their ilk because they lacked explosive ball-striking power. Similarly, he said, 50-over cricket could reward all manner of bowlers whereas the shortest format accommodated just the fast bowler, the fast bowler with a slower ball and the spinner.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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