India is all set to become the first country to play 1000 one-day internationals. It will reach this momentous milestone when Rohit Sharma-led team takes on the West Indies at the Narendra Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday. Australia has played 958 and Pakistan 936. India has won 518, lost 431, tied 9 and has been involved in 41 no result matches. It has played at 66 venues in the world (28 in India) and a record number of 72 matches at Sharjah.
The high points of India’s ODI achievements have been winning the World Cups of 1983 and 2011, and the Champion of Champions Trophy in Australia in 1985.
Ahead of the impending milestone, News18.com spoke to the legendary trio of Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan as they share their thoughts about one-day cricket.
Anil Kumble (269 matches, 334 wickets)
Obviously one-day cricket has come a long way from the popularity of the day-night Packer series. Despite the Twenty20 revolution, the ICC World Cups have created a very strong affiliation. The bilateral series keeps it (ODI cricket) going, but there is that added interest in the World Cups. I think that is good. Cricket is the only possible sport where you have three different formats and each one has its challenges, but having said that it has survived for so long, and I am sure it will continue, notwithstanding the advancement of the Twenty20.
On ICC one day Super League
I am finished with the ICC (as Chairman of the Cricket Committee). But during the nine years, I was with the ICC, the main sort of discussion was around playing meaningful cricket or giving a meaning and relevance to every single international match. I think that was the criticality of the discussions, and I am really glad that, now, every game counts. If it’s a five-match ODI series or a three-match series and if a team has won the first three or two matches, the following matches count too. For Test and ODI cricket, it’s really nice that now each match matters despite the results.
On Scope for wristspinners in ODIs
For me, it did take a bit to adjust from Test cricket to ODI cricket. The mindset of a spinner has to change. With me the wicket-taking mindset was always there, whether I was playing Test or white ball. My attitude or basic approach to the game never changed, but I think in terms of understanding the length and different lines, and practicing with the white ball were important aspects. Also, the training one did for ODI cricket. The adjustments were to be done on these aspects. I bowled in different phases of a match and under different rules and field restrictions. I have bowled even in the death overs. So that was a change one had to make, technical changes or anything.
Playing under lights at Calcutta (Kolkata) and the 1993 Hero Cup final drama of the last over
It was for the first time we played under lights in Calcutta. We were all part of the event (taking a decision as to who would bowl the last over against the West Indies). It was Diwali time and the atmosphere the crowd created was terrific. There were firecrackers and one could see the smog fill up the ground. It was good to play in that series, qualify and win that tournament. Sachin (Tendulkar) bowled a brilliant last over. We were all part of it, Kapil (Dev) paaji was there; then we had a punt saying let’s go with Sachin (to bowl the last over). I told this before as well; thank god he (Sachin) focused more as a batter. If he had focused more on his leg spin, I would have been…. Sachin could bowl anything.
Javagal Srinath (229 matches, 315 Wickets)
I would say that when I initially played cricket, one-day cricket had revived India’s fast bowling because you had to have three fast bowlers to play. Test cricket didn’t give much chance for the third seamer in India; forget about the third, even the second sometimes. But I think that (ODI) kept me in the game and that’s why I’m very much indebted to the ODI format
ODI has been the mainstay
I think apart from Test cricket, one-day cricket — if one sees its gradual evolution — has been the mainstay all these years. The World Cups have seen some fantastic games. And then having waited for six hours, and if the game goes down to the wire, I think that’s exactly what people want. I think they need it. It provides that great entertainment, so they want it to stay. I think I would always value ODI World Cup higher than the other. There is every chance for a team in the ODI format to come back. It’s just not about one or two shots, You have a chance to build and take the game to the next level. Take the game the way you want.
Scope for defensive play
When conditions are a little helpful, the two new balls at either end gives a chance for the bowlers to make an impact. I still feel ODI format is more balanced.
World Cups wins of 1983 and 2011
There is no doubt about it, the 1983 World Cup was probably the eye-opener for Indian cricket. I think that also probably opened up the retail market in India. They (sponsors) really understood the impact they can make, if they keep advertising the whole day. That’s where I think the 2011 World Cup reinforced that India is the cricketing centre of the world. It reiterated that it is just not about generating money, but it is also about winning games. That’s more important.
On Finishing With 315 wickets
You play for longer periods, obviously the numbers do generate.
Under-19 teams also doing well in the one-day format
I think we all know what Rahul (Dravid) has done. Now it’s in the safe hands of VVS Laxman. That’s what all of us watch keenly. So it’s good to see the India under-19 team doing really well.
Ajit Agarkar (191 matches, 288 wickets)
I played at a time when one-day cricket had rapidly changed. I would have probably played 25 ODIs before I played my first Test. I got the record in Zimbabwe, and then I played the Test. Well, because of one-day cricket, the game started getting faster; the rules have changed constantly. The sheer number of 1000 ODIs just reflects the popularity of the game in India.
India could get big crowds. It did not matter which team was the opposition. It helped me in making the debut for India in one-day cricket. I have grown up in an era when you wanted to play Test cricket and here I was playing a lot of ODI cricket, things were moving quickly. But ODI cricket calmed my nerves initially. It grew exponentially when I began playing for India. Playing a lot of ODIs meant I was getting more international cricket. As much as Test is the pinnacle of the sport, you had to compete in ODIs which was getting tougher because it was evolving all the time.
The big hitters
Different shots were played, and Adam Gilchrist came out to open and smashed us in an ODI in Kochi. And with guys like Sanath Jayasuriya, Romesh Kauwitharana, and Gilchrist, you were looking at scores of 270 and 280, not 230 or 240. Then every batter started hitting the ball harder. Teams which had one or two guys hitting began to have five or six. The bowlers had to get better because the batters were playing the scoop and the lap shot. Batters danced down the track often and reverse swept consistently. So the bowlers have had a bigger challenge to face. The pitches have become flat, there are smaller grounds and fast outfield. I have played with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, when he started, he could smash the ball. He was a power player. One could see power and consistency from Dhoni, Yuvi (Yuvraj Singh), (Matthew) Hayden, Gilchrist. You are talking about great players.
One-day cricket has its own challenges
If you did not have to do it over five days, you had to do it in a shorter time when perhaps you could not settle into the game you had to deliver instantly. In my time, six runs in the last over could have been a tied game; now the match would have been gone. And now with Twenty20 anything can be chased. If you don’t get it (bowling) right, you know what’s coming.
Indian team of 2003
I would think the Indian team of 2003 was well-balanced. It had most bases covered. We had Sachin, Viru (Virender Sehwag), (Sourav) Ganguly, Yuvraj, a group of good seamers, two great spinners in Kumble and Harbhajan (Singh). Rahul (Dravid) keeping wicket gave us another option. If anyone we were missing, it was perhaps someone like an MS Dhoni.
Zaheer Khan (194 matches, 269 wickets)
One-day cricket was the first white ball format, is it not? It was the shorter version of the game, and it has evolved over the years. The most important aspect is we get a result in one day. The beginning of the development of white ball cricket happened with the ODI format. It has evolved from red ball to white ball. But I have hardly played ODI cricket with the red ball. Now we have two new balls in ODI cricket. The rules and regulations have come thick and fast and one had to adapt to these changes.
It’s the bowlers who have evolved over the years along with ODI format. The variations can be seen now. One-day cricket has been responsible for the number of variations seen in the game. ODI cricket has evolved around the rule changes and the batters and bowlers have adapted and as a consequence, the contests between teams have also evolved.
The value of the bowlers has improved because of the fresh challenges posed by the format. The yorker-length is still one of the best deliveries one can bowl; in my case it was the knuckle ball. It helped me achieve a lot. I have joked often that had I discovered the knuckle ball early in my career, I would have got more wickets. It fetches wickets because of speed and the deceptiveness of it. I have also seen bowlers use the bouncers effectively.