The ICC World Cup held in the subcontinent earlier this year had reportedly breathed new life into the 'tired' format of 50-over cricket. Even the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), which had scrapped the 50-over version from its domestic calendar and replaced it with a more urgent 40-over format, chose to revert to the 50-over version from 2012 after the success of the World Cup. Skipper MS Dhoni too is a fan of the format as it allows a team to come back into the game, unlike its crueler cousin, Twenty20.
However, Dhoni's idol - Sachin Tendulkar - has issues with it. Tendulkar, the most prolific run-scorer in ODIs (18,111 runs, 48 centuries and 95 50s) and Tests (149,65 runs, 51 centuries, 61 50s) has written a letter to the ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat, seeking a radical switch from two 50-over innings to four digs of 25 overs each.
Tendulkar had on August 13, 2010 suggested exactly that to TOI when he was asked for his reaction to Cricket Australia's (CA) decision to try a split-innings formula in its domestic set-up. Australians play their domestic one-day cricket over 45 overs split into two innings of 20 overs and 25 overs each.
"I am glad it's being tried out in Australia. I feel once the players have tried out this format they will be in a better position to judge if the format works or not," Tendulkar had said.
The format was rated a success by CA. There were more close finishes, more runs, more wickets and larger TV audiences. However, Aussie quick Brett Lee, in an interview to TOI, had criticized the format as he felt it was cruel on fast bowlers who needed to warm up twice.
Incidentally, Australia has gone back to the 50-over format in the domestic set up. Tendulkar was one the first cricketers to suggest - in September 2009 - that One-Dayers needed a bit of a revamp and should be split into two innings in order to compete with T20.
The idea, he had told TOI, had first come to him in 2002 when a Champions Trophy final between India and Sri Lanka could not be completed despite 110 overs of cricket being played over two days.
Apart from reducing the number of overs per innings, Tendulkar has also proposed several more changes in the ODIs. The Indian batting icon had spoken about this new concept in TV interviews in the past but had never communicated his thoughts to the ICC. "I have been capturing my thoughts on what I think would be the way forward to ensure that all three formats in the game co-exist and ensure value creation," he wrote in the letter to Lorgat, London daily The Times reported.
He argued that four alternate innings of 25 overs for each side in an international would be a fair way to balance the advantages gained by the team which won the toss, especially in conditions (pitch, weather, floodlights) which ensure that a match can virtually be decided by the spin of a coin.
Like the volatile 1996 World Cup semifinal between India and Sri Lanka at Kolkata's Eden Gardens - Sri Lanka batted first on a dry and crumbling surface and put up 251. By the time the Indians took guard, it resembled a dust-bowl and had deteriorated into a square turner. The match was awarded to Sri Lanka by referee Clive Lloyd after fans started rioting, forcing to stop the proceedings when India were down and out at 120 for eight.
Tendulkar also cited two games in the recent World Cup when late evening dew helped England achieve a tie in their classic group game against India at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. The batsman's 120 had helped the hosts score 338, but England skipper Andrew Strauss (158) mirrored Tendulkar's knock in terms of quality and significance as Indian bowlers struggled to contain England with a wet ball.
The tables turned three days later as England, despite scoring 328, saw Ireland's Kevin O Brien smash the fastest 100 in World Cup history to affect a stunning upset at the same venue. The culprit according to Sachin again was dew.
Tendulkar's letter has also proposed changes in voluntary Powerplays. In each 25-over block, Tendulkar wants only two Powerplays at the behest of the batting side, but suggested that four bowlers should be allowed up to 12 overs each, rather than the present limit of 10.
When the master speaks, the world generally listens. But with the ICC gung-ho over 50-over cricket after the success of the World Cup, one has to see if Tendulkar's pleas to revamp the one-day game will find a sympathetic and receptive audience.