25 x 4 ODIs. If not Sachin, whose idea was it?

By Sanjay Jha

( The 25x 4 format for ODI’s was suggested by me in writing to ICC way back in 2004. This piece is an extract from my book, 11: Triumphs, Trials and Turbulence. The full text of the novel proposal to ICC is published in detail in the book).

Last week-end I got a SMS message from my brother while I was out for a nice relaxed Mediterranean meal; it read ‘Sachin Tendulkar has hijacked your idea of 25×4. “ Check the TV channels!”. I did not know momentarily whether to feel prodigiously flattered or egregiously enraged. There is something magnificently magical about ‘creative copyright’; it is like your own hard-earned effort bearing fruition. You feel good. You feel even better when you realize that you thought of a revolutionary change to an ODI game (not threatened by IPL/T20 then as it was suggested in 2004/05) a full five years before the game’s modern-day Don Bradman did. Or it’s supposed guardian angels dressed as TV experts, ex-cricketer’s with spare time or the teeming multitude of self-appointed ‘experts’. Former Australian coach John Buchanan has also strongly backed this new concept.

When I first conceived the two innings per team ODI game (25×4), one of the principal factors affecting me (besides others given in the detailed proposal) was the ‘toss factor’ brought home during India’s enchanting South African safari six years ago. The spin of the charmed coin became a highly charged, contentious and conspicuous issue during the semi-finals of the World Cup in South Africa 2003 between Kenya and India. Since Kenya had almost trounced us in the group stages, the apprehensions automatically escalated further. With India on the cusp of a resurgent triumph, no one wanted a Kenyan surprise to halt our desi juggernaut.

Ashish Nehra had earlier, of course, corroborated the lurking devils in the air by demolishing England, batting second under floodlights with entrancing figures of 6 for 23 on 20th March 2003 which was at that time the third best performance in the World Cup. As it actually transpired, Kenya did confirm the Durban ‘black magic’ effect beaten by a convincing 91 runs chasing India’s formidable 270, as Sourav Ganguly’s team marched to Johannesburg to meet their arch adversary Australia.

I am grateful that the ICC acknowledged my recommendations on 25×4 as ‘interesting’ and Dave Richardson, General Manager, ICC categorically mentioned to me in a written mail that ‘it will receive due consideration by the ICC Cricket Committee’. This was on July 5, 2004. When I reminded Mr Richardson about its status a few months later, he responded (on October 28th 2004) stating that ‘unfortunately the ICC Cricket Committee only meets once a year. The next meeting is scheduled for May 2005’. I moved on, hopeful and optimistic that 25×4 was an inevitable necessity, that the modified ODI format suggested would provide wholesome entertainment, besides reducing the ‘luck element’ in an ODI game.

I fully understand where Tendulkar is coming from because I was in Colombo in 2002 when India twice played Sri Lanka in the ICC Champions Trophy finals and on both occasions the game had to be truncated mid-way because of remorseless rains. It makes for compelling logic of 25×4 whichever way you look at it. To save on change-over time, the ICC may consider abbreviating it to 20×4 but the core essence of the format is intrinsically flawless.

Thank you, Sachin for backing an idea whose time has come. Even if the idea is not originally yours.

[September 2009]

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