When is an ODI not an ODI?

Posted: 8th of October, 2013

A person without knowledge of the cricket world when asked to define a “one-day international” might say that it would be a match between two countries played on a single day under an approriate set of rules. This apparently reasonable explanation would be incorrect. This illogical position is currently causing uncertainty as we investigate a forthcoming change of emphasis, and is one of many small signs of the inequality in the world of cricket.

As we write there are 106 nations listed as members of the ICC, 10 Full Members, 37 Associates, and 59 Affiliates. Of those 106 members only the Full Members have the permanent right to play ODIs. 6 of the Associates/Affiliates are “granted” the right to play ODIs for a limited period, depending on how they do in the World Cricket League. The other 90 members don’t get to play ODIs, but they can play one-day matches against other countries (although rarely, if ever, a Full Member).

In June, Andrew Nixon made an observation on Twitter regarding “the lack of variety at the top of international cricket. Same teams playing each other over and over”. We responded that “It’s disturbing how many people have no idea more than 10 countries play the game, and that they don’t see that as a problem”. At that point we realised that we were were falling into a variation of that mistake.

At the moment we provide data for Tests, ODIS, T20 Internationals, and IPL matches. This means that for international cricket we’re focussing exclusively on 16 out of the 106 ICC members. The vast majority of our data files feature only Full Members. We hadn’t even been attempting to include any other international matches. We’ve now decided this must change to include matches featuring all countries. This causes a dilemma for us as we have to decide how to refer to these matches on the site and within the data we provide. It may seem like a minor issue, but it’s one that is standing in the way of this expansion.

We were originally tempted to call all one-day matches between countries ODIs and to be done with it, however we feel that there should be a way to indicate that the matches were viewed as distinct from ODIs at the time they were played. In an ideal world there would be no such distinction but our opinion on this shouldn’t cloud our work in creating reliable data, so that option is off the table. We’re gradually coming to the view that we’ll just call each of these matches a “One-day match” and use the short code of ‘ODM’ for the match_type in the data files. It’s a small difference but it seems to fulfill our requirements.

We haven’t yet implemented this addition in any data file. We still have a number of issues to deal with first, mainly on the website, so that we can adequately distinguish between ODIs and ODMs, but also so that we can have useful coverage figures. We also need to give some further thought as to how we will deal with T20 matches that aren’t regarded by the ICC as ‘T20 Internationals’, as well as dealing with multi-day matches such as the Intercontinental Cup. Once we deal with some, if not all, of these issues we’ll look into adding matches involving the rest of the cricket world to the site. The main problem there will be in finding any source of ball-by-ball data, but we’ll worry about that problem when we can.