This World Cup has an end of empire feel about it, from the $18m opening ceremony featuring yesterday's rocker Bryan Adams to what Jonathan Agnew described this morning as 'a month of matches designed to knock out the minnows'.
The 50-over game belongs to the last century. This will be a final World Cup for some of the players who worked out the format and then exhausted its variations over hundreds of matches: Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ricky Ponting have set records that will not beaten, but that will in time reflect an era.
The first match of the competition will be the 3,100th ODI. The format will not reach 4,000, at least in its current style. The new century has brought with it a new game, new players. T20 is accelerated, intensified, condensed, not just in length of games but in the length of its tournaments. Contrast the last 50 over World Cup in West Indies with the T20 tournament there last year, and contrast this World Cup with the IPL that follows.
Repetition has killed 50 over cricket, both in the methods of play, and the commercial imperative to keep staging it. What percentage of those 3,100 matches have been rendered meaningless by one or both?
Perhaps a tournament in India can keep it staggering on, but if it can't, nothing can. There are kids today who are growing up wanting to be Test players, and there are kids wanting to be T20 players. You don't hear many saying 'I'll make my career in 50 over cricket'.
On the pitch, invention might solve the problem of the middle thirty. Maybe a team will decide to forget about the 50 over limit and bat in T20 style until they're out. It would be interesting to see how many they got. Perhaps someone will bowl death overs from the start. There are new techniques out there.
The radical surgery required though is to the calendar. The way to make something desirable is to make it rare. It won't happen of course. Like an old car, 50 over cricket might as well be run into the ground. There are new things ready to replace it. Welcome to the endgame.
Three great innings under 50
3 weeks ago