It was in Sri Lanka during the 2002 Champions Trophy that Sachin Tendulkar stumbled upon the idea of having two innings for each team in One-Day Internationals.
Back then, rain on successive days forced India and Sri Lanka to share the trophy even though the teams had played 110 overs (Lanka faced its full quota on both days while India batted for 10 overs on two days).
It was in Sri Lanka again that Tendulkar’s new formula acquired a practical meaning. In the recently-concluded Compaq Cup tri-series, the toss was the hero and the villain, depending on which side it favoured. If Lanka was the beneficiary in the league game, it was Dhoni who called correctly in the final and ensured India walked home with the cup.
There can be nothing more unfair than the spin of a coin deciding the fate of a contest. It is here that the two innings suggestion will provide a level-playing field, as both teams would have the best of conditions as well as the worst of them. The outcome would then hinge on skill and substance, and not on luck and chance.
Tendulkar’s proposal has many other advantages too. With each innings restricted to 25 overs, the batting side would be keen to make every over count.
In the full 50-over format, the batsmen usually prefer consolidation to acceleration during the middle overs, bringing in predictability and boredom. In fact, the ‘middle overs syndrome’ is regarded as the biggest problem plaguing ODIs.
The short sprints (of 25 overs) would also provide the teams and players a chance to recover from poor starts. Even if a side has fallen behind in the first innings, it would have an opportunity to propel forward in the second. The same applies to the batsmen and bowlers too. Captains would also have time to rework their tactics and strategy, and get a chance to rewrite the script.
Breather for bowlers
More energy would flow into the contest as the players, particularly the bowlers, would get a breather at the halfway mark. In tough climatic conditions, like the ones that prevail in the sub-continent, this will give the bowlers a second wind when they run in during their second stint at the crease.
The split innings format would not only ensure non-stop excitement, but also make it anybody’s game the way Twenty20 has done. This would eventually bridge the gap between sides and make the competition hotter and healthier.
Like any other suggestion, Tendulkar’s has its drawbacks too. The major concern is that it wouldn’t allow a batsman to build an innings unlike in a 50-over game, thereby reducing the number of hundreds and high scores.
It would also mean that the bowlers would have less time to settle down, while those who have found their rhythm straightaway wouldn’t have the time (overs) to run through sides as compared to the traditional 50-over format.
Since the assets far outweigh the liabilities, the Little Master’s idea is definitely worth experimenting -- something that the ICC has rightly agreed to. Who knows, this might just be the tonic the ailing ODIs need.