What was the strange reason behind the birth of ODI Cricket?

Most of you must remember the date when the first ever ODI was played. Almost all of you must know which two teams took part in it. For those who don’t know yet, ODI cricket was born on 5th January 1971 in Melbourne when Australia and England locked horns in a 40 overs game. At that period, an over consisted of 8 balls making it a 320 balls per inning affair which is 20 balls more than how it is today.

But do you know why was ODI cricket played? Are you aware about the strange reason which led to the birth of this format? Of course, everything has and happens for a reason. Let’s read the reason below in detail.

What was the strange reason behind the birth of ODI Cricket?
One of the greatest ODI matches ever to be played

A Backdrop


Before setting afloat every new idea not just in cricket but in any aspect of life on a global or larger scale, there is a trial to check how effective it can be. It was staggering to see it took 2 boards 8 years to launch the spectacle on a global scale after the trial had taken place in England in 1963 already. And not that both England & Australia had planned to play ODIs even after those 8 years. It was low-key, it was unplanned but it was monumental.

English Cricket team was in Australia for the 1970-71 Ashes. The first two Tests ended in dull draws before both teams landed at Melbourne Airport to play the third Test from 1st January. Little did they know that they’d be welcomed to this city by heavy showers with the temperature falling as low as 10 degrees Celsius. First two days were called off immediately before calling off the entire Test on the 3rd Day.

Now the series had seen 3 draws, something you’d absolutely detest to see as a cricket fan. Brian Chapman in his column for The Guardian wrote ” One more draw on the pattern of the first two, could place the whole of international cricket as we know it in question.” Not only it was a bad viewing experience for people at home but the bigger concern were the spectators who had bought the tickets to watch this Test. Of course, they were going to get their money refunded but with 2 dull Tests followed by a washout, the subject of matter was a bit more than money.

What was the strange reason behind the birth of ODI Cricket?
The first ODI ever to be played was an impromptu game. Here is a rare backdrop of that match.

How it went?

That was the time when both boards decided to play an One Day Test on what would’ve been the 5th Day of the Melbourne Test. Yes, the name was different and might sound absurd now but that’s how they proceeded with the event. Two sides were named as Australia XI and England XI. The game was being played on Tuesday so many thought it wouldn’t generate as much an interest and thus MCG instructed caterers to prepare for a crowd of around 20,000; as it was, 46,006 turned out which meant the move to play limited overs cricket only for fun at that time looked promising to be commercially fruitful in the long run.

Since it was the first of it’s kind, none of players from both sides had any idea about how to approach this new format. Also, the pitch was rendered slow by the rain combined with the long 85 yards boundary, England XI, who currently are the record holders for most runs in an ODI inning – 481 could only manage to set a score which was way below par even in that time. Chasing 191, Australia faced no difficulties as they won the first ever ODI with 42 balls and 6 wickets in hand.

How players and broadcasters reacted to this new change?

“We didn’t realise at the time what was going to happen, but obviously that was the first of any international one-day cricket, and we went and bloody lost.” – John Lever, England

“They called it the first one-day international which rather surprised me years later. I thought, ‘Gee it’s part of history’. That game we thought was a bit of a joke.”  – Ashley Mallett, Australia

” I think everyone sort of saw one-day cricket as being an add-on and a bit of fun to be had on the side occasionally in a situation like that, basically. But I don’t think anyone really had any idea of what might grow out of it.” – Greg Chappell, Australia

” It’s a splendid game, It’s different to a Test match or state game … there’s more involved. There’s more tactical operations, there’s more alertness in the field, better running between the wickets. Generally, it’s a spectacle that I’ve enjoyed in England very much. ” – Alan McGilvray, commentator for ABC Cricket

” One-day Tests may well be here to stay” – The Guardian newspaper

Like with every new thing, there were mixed reactions from the people involved, more from the players who were on the losing side. As a result of that, not too many bilateral matches were played until Kerry Packer showed the world how commercializing this shorter format could not only help it grow massively but can also bring a lot of money to the respective boards. Yes, there were two World Cups played in that decade but it took 24 years for ODI Cricket to grow from it’s first game to match number 1000. Today it is 4225 matches and 12 World Cups long.

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