ONE-DAY cricket is going nowhere. But for sceptics and supporters of Twenty20's older sibling the connotations of that are completely different.
Just months short of its 50th birthday, cricket's middle child is suffering a midlife crisis. Younger brother Twenty20 has stolen the glitz and the glamour while the 50-over game suffers an identity crisis.
Cricket Australia say the format remains ''incredibly popular'', but if crowds and ratings are any indication fans are not so much voting with their feet as they are with their remote controls.
The first ODI of the summer, last Sunday, was watched by 1.3 million people around the country but only 30,000 braved the wind and the rain at the MCG. Just two days earlier, a crowd of nearly 70,000 watched an unheralded Australian XI take on an Indian side missing Sachin Tendulkar in a Twenty20 game.
Perth sold out four of their five Big Bash matches but not yesterday's game, which was the last chance locals had to see the national team this summer. Cricket NSW are also finding sales sluggish for Sydney's next match, between Australia and Sri Lanka on Friday at the SCG, for which about 7300 of the 28,000 public tickets have been sold, though there is higher demand for the clash with India the following week. Sydney's last international, a much hyped Twenty20, drew a record 59,659 at the larger ANZ Stadium.
CA, which is co-hosting the 2015 World Cup, remain supremely confident in the drawing power of the 50-over game.
''I've always worked on the premise that when you're making decisions about things, you rely on fact and the facts are in Australia it's a very, very popular form of the game and globally it's still the most popular format of the game and has been for 20 years,'' CA chief James Sutherland told the Herald.
''It's the most watched and most closely supported format of the game globally.''
Sutherland, however, rejected suggestions ODIs in this country had become primarily a TV product despite an agreement with Channel Nine to allow the broadcaster to beam live against the gate in the nation's two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne.
''We never did that before, but we take a view that we want the game to be accessible as possible to all Australians,'' Sutherland said.
''There are people in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane now who aren't able to get to the cricket for whatever reason, then we want them to be able to watch it on TV.''
The introduction of initiatives such as powerplays and the use of two balls have helped differentiate the 50-over form from Twenty20, but CA say that does not reflect negatively on the format.
''One-day cricket, as a game or a sport, is still relatively new. At international level, it's really only been properly played for 30-odd years and with any great volume in the last 20 or so years,'' Sutherland said.
''It's still new and it's evolving. With the advent of Twenty20 cricket there's opportunities for us to more closely look at how the format can continue to be innovative and enhanced.''
Captain Michael Clarke, who has retired from international Twenty20s, and coach Mickey Arthur believe there is room for the one-day game, but a recent poll conducted by the Australian Cricketers' Association suggested there was indifference to the concept among the state and national players.
If players were to retire from one form of the game 44 per cent of the 110 polled said they would give up the 50-over form before first-class (34 per cent) and Twenty20 (22 per cent). And only 4 per cent said 50-over cricket was their favourite form and even fewer (3 per cent) said it was their favourite mode to watch. While 49 per cent surveyed said the current mix of Tests, ODIs and Twenty20s scheduled was ''about right", 34 per cent said there were too many ODIs.
CA believe they have a ''pretty good balance'' between the three forms at international level though Sutherland is open to an extra Twenty20 per summer to avoid having deadlocked two-game series.
Sutherland said one-day cricket is ''different in terms of its popularity today to what it was five or 10 or 15 years ago but that's just evolution'', but stressed the form was just as popular now.
''It's inevitable that there's some sort of cannibalisation across all thee formats …,'' Sutherland said. ''It's the matter of us continuing to get that balance right but the number of people that are taking an interest in these one-day games and television ratings that we're recording gives me a pretty strong indicator that the facts are one-day cricket is here to stay.''