ODI’s middle child syndrome

Date: January 13, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

It is often said that the middle child in a family of three finds life a little tougher than his two siblings when it comes to affection levels, with the first born and the last arrival receiving the most attention from their mum and dad.

Cricket’s 50-over game is facing a similar conundrum.

There is a massive gap in the ages of the three cricket siblings with TEST arriving first in 1877.

One-day international, nicknamed ODI, arrived on the scene on 5 January 1971, although it wasn’t a planned birth as the first encounter – between Australia and England at the MCG – was hurriedly hatched to appease the fans after the first three days of  TEST’s scheduled visit to the ground were washed away.

It wasn’t long though before the brash new kid on the block was up and running and by 1975, just after his fourth birthday, it was decided that he should receive a belated christening with a big party staged in England in his honour.

The youngster was part of a very large extended family with people coming from eight countries around the globe to join in the fun.

But it was the arrival of a maverick uncle in the late-1970s who decided that as the child neared his tenth birthday he really deserved to be spoiled.

Uncle Kerry, an ebullient Aussie from Sydney, showered the youngster with bright new clothes, replaced his favourite red ball, which had been passed down through many generations, with a new white shiny one and he also allowed him to stay up late into the night.

Many people were fearful that the first born of the family would soon be forgotten altogether but that was not the case, although his younger sibling certainly attracted plenty of attention, often more than his big brother, for he was seen as being the outgoing one who was prepared to take risks to put a smile on people’s faces.

It was in his mid-teens that ODI really hit the big time when a party was once again held in his honour in England.

As had become the tradition, when all the relatives gathered from around globe for a quadrennial celebration of ODI’s life, they all formed teams and played off for a little silver trophy.

At his christening party in 1975 it was his relatives from the Caribbean who won the trophy and they did so again in 1979.

The West Indian arm of the family, nicknamed the Calypso Kings, were expected to make it a hat-trick, in 1983, at this four-yearly family rivalry in 1983, but boy was everyone in for a shock.

It was ODI’s cousins in India, who had shown very little interest in him up until then, who won the trophy.

And, almost overnight, his sub-continental rellies couldn’t get enough of him with tens of thousands turning out to wish him well whenever he visited an Indian city.

But, as ODI grew up, people started to lose their affection for him although he still remained very well thought of in India but even there he eventually found less and less turning out to see him.

There was a general feeling that as he aged he was becoming a little predictable – gone was the brashness and freshness of his youth.

What was first seen as daring and exciting on his part became in many eyes a little jaded.

In Australia, ODI attracted an amazing total of 456,000 people to watch him as he wandered around the country in the summer of 1999-2000, but by last summer that number had dwindled to just 252,000.

Some people along the way got fed up with the way he started his visits with dash and finished each time with a similar sort of flurry of activity but the middle of his act was seen as a bit ho-hum.

But as ODI began to lose popularity with his friends and admirers he was shocked to find that he was about to have a young brother join the family.

Born in England in 2003, T20, as he was known, spent a bit of time mucking about over there before he decided to spread his wings and do a bit of traveling.

His first international stop was in Auckland in February 2005 and lo and behold did the people love him.

If ODI attracted a younger audience than big brother TEST, the latest addition to the family seemed to appeal to even those who weren’t too keen on the other two.

He was into loud music, loved fireworks and had a penchant for scantily clad cheerleaders and while he may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, thousands were attracted to come out and see him.

T20 had only been seen fleetingly on his round-the-world trip – just 19 times to be precise – before he went to South Africa in September 2007 for a global family gathering.

Following in the footsteps of ODI’s mass family get-togethers all the relatives formed different teams and fought for a trophy – only they would decide to do it every two years.

After two weeks of partying just two of the teams remained standing and they were neighbours – India and Pakistan.

Over the years these two didn’t always get on so both were determined to show the other up but it was the bigger India who got over the line.

And what a popular win it proved to be for when the lads got home they were paraded, with their trophy, all through Mumbai on an open-top bus as tens of thousands came out to see them.

So what of the family nowadays?

Well, TEST the senior son, seems to still have plenty of admirers, although they tend to be a little bit older and more studious – people who like to mull over things rather than make snap decisions.

He is a pretty serious character and you need to spend a bit of time around him to pick up on his various nuances as unlike his younger brothers he can take a while to really understand – sometimes you need to spend five days in his company to figure him out.

T20, being relatively young is still attracting the limelight although over time it will be interesting to follow his progress but at present he has been taken to heart by the younger generations in particular, especially in India where they spend a lot of money him.

But, it is poor old ODI who seems to be really struggling – stuck in the middle trying to get his voice heard around the family table.

He has tried to move with the times and has experimented with a few new ideas but it doesn’t seem to be making mush of a difference as he can’t recapture his old popularity.

People tend now to watch him perform on TV rather than turn up to see him in the flesh – last night he was in Melbourne and just 27,000 turned up to say hello.

In India, in particular, they still watch him on TV a lot no matter where he is and given they pay a lot of money to the entire family to watch him he may remain around for a while yet.

But, two of the family’s closest friends – Adam Gilchrist and Mike Atherton – believe ODI may be a thing of the past in the near future.

One of ODI’s problems is that he seems to rock up without any apparent reason – next month for example, members of his Australian and West Indian family will meet around the country five times with a lot of folk asking what is the point?

Last summer, around Australia, TEST attracted an average of 858,000 people watching him each day for five days; T20 when he performed internationally on our shores had more than 1.4 million watching him while ODI had to make do with 897,000.

ODI’s next four-yearly bash is in Australia and New Zealand in early-2015.

His relatives down under will be hoping he can muster a lot more support by then but the signs at present aren’t all that encouraging.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 12 January 2013

Latest Galleries
  • Cricket
  • Olympic & Commonwealth Games
  • Mental Health
  • African Wildlife
Contact Glenn