Friday, July 15, 2005

Innovative or just plain meddlesome?

Fearing that Twenty20 cricket, England's dose of viagra for the waning interest in county cricket, would soon render one-day cricket obsolete, the lawmakers of the Real McCoy felt that they were not to be outdone.

Enter the 'Super-sub' and the 'Powerplay', the chosen catalysts of one-day international (ODI) cricket. Much has been written about these 10-month guests of ODI cricket. They have been welcomed and rubbished by scores of cricketers, ex-cricketers and journalists. Suggestions for improvement of the new rules have been put forth, accusations of trivialising the game have been flung. Amid all the banter, Boycott and his hallowed Granny have been unusually silent.

The powerplay: 20 overs, broken up into a block of 10 and two blocks of five overs each where the fielding team is allowed only two fielders outside the 30 yard circle. However, they need not have two compulsory catchers during the five-over powerplays. The 10 over block is at the start of an innings, and the five over blocks can be used at the discretion of the fielding captain at any stage of the innings.

Introduced primarily to break up the 'pedestrian' nature of play between overs 15 and 40 (after the fielding restrictions are taken off and before the slog), where the batsmen tend to switch to 3rd gear and cruise after the initial rocket-propelled start to the innings. This does pose dilemmas to the fielding captain as to when he should implement the powerplays; should he finish all three blocks in one 20 over stretch, or should he implement it in the middle of the innings? No captain in his right mind will allow a powerplay during the slog. That is a no brainer.

To be fair to this new rule, only time will tell of its role in bringing about change in one-day cricket. The three-match Natwest Challenge is too short a time to pass judgement on the powerplay. Also, conditions in England tend to nullify its significance as teams do not get off to a blistering start as often as they do in the subcontinent, save the anomaly of Adam Gilchrist, and captains will be inclined to finish off the powerplays at the start of the innings.
Let Shahid Afridi club Pakistan to 100 in ten overs and then we shall see an unfortunate opposition captain tearing his hair out. Woe betide him if he implements another plowerplay and Afridi continues his rampage and woe betide him if he doesnt and a patient Afridi bides his time waiting for the inevitable powerplay. The Sehwag's, Afridi's and Gilchrist's of the world will soon be gunning for the 200 run barrier.

With bowlers already having such a hard time in one-day cricket, one tends to feel for them and wish that the innovators concerned had included them in their Christmas lists. What if they let McGrath bowl for as long as he wanted? Or increased the bouncer limit to two per over? Or made it possible to get two wickets of the same ball? Allow me to explain: Sehwag skies an attempted pull to Ponting who takes the catch. Ponting then sees Ganguly, who was half way down the pitch praying that the catch would be spilled, out of his ground and breaks the stumps to dismiss the non-striker as well. A cricket pundit would be aghast at borrowing this concept from baseball, but my argument is that when you innovate in favour of the batsmen, even it out with something for the fielding side.

The super-sub: The captains name a team of 12 players, before the toss, of which the 12th name designated as the super-sub. The super-sub may replace any player in the team at any stage of the match and perform duties of the substituted player as permissible. The substituted player takes no further part in the game.

Cricket's variant of football's substitution rule, the super-sub opens up a new dimension to team selection and batting and bowling options. Teams will gleefully plan to field seven batsmen (inclusive of a wicketkeeper) and four bowlers, and substitute a batsmen for a bowler while fielding and vice versa. Look a little closer and you'll realise that they've overlooked a trivial matter, the toss. When enough literature has been devoted to reducing the significance of the toss, the naming of the super-sub has given it augmented importance. Why would you want to give the captain who has won the toss on a batting paradise, the added advantage of nullifying an opposition player, if the opposition's super-sub is a bowler? Vikram Solanki did go down in history books as the first super-sub to score a half-century but not before Simon Jones, originally in the starting eleven, was given a ODI cap for cooling his heels in the dressing room. Consequentially, England were a bowler short as they defended their already meagre total against Australia. One is tempted to question the lawmaklers shortsightedness. Surely they could not have overseen this blatant advantage accruing to the luck of the coin. Why didn't they allow the teams to name a team of 12 before the toss and designate the super-sub after it.

I am all for innovations to galvanise and improve the one-day game. And admitted that the innovations can only be tried and tested. All I am saying is to make balanced innovations. Keep the bowler in mind as well. There's much more joy in watching a close run chase where the target is 250, than when the target is 330. And try and test the innovations at the first class level. It is not fitting for international ties to be reduced to a farce beacuse of an unmonitored new rule.

14 Comments:

At 7:51 am, Blogger Mighty said...

Finally George is in paradise eh?

 
At 9:46 pm, Blogger Mighty said...

Such a hard core post needs a hard core comment:

Well the super sub rule can't be compared to soccer, because in soccer, there isn't a turnwise attach or defense as opposed to batting and fielding in cricket, which makes the rule sort of awkard and not foolproof.

The powerplay idea i think is great. These days cricket has become all about runs. People don't want to watch dot balls dude. So fielding restrictions have been made rather harsh. To make up for the bowlers, I agree, that the bouncer rule's gotta go. It was fun watching the likes of Ambrose bowl a perfume ball...batsmen have everything going for them. Also the over-stepping no-ball rule is too stringent.

Accept it, they're desperate to slow down the death of cricket.

 
At 10:12 pm, Blogger George said...

Mighty, attack and defense cannot be compared with batting and fielding. I dont think Australia would classify fielding as 'defense'.

 
At 10:14 pm, Blogger George said...

And I'm all for innovative changes in cricket. But its no fun if owlers keep getting plundered because of factors that are outside their control and very unfavourable to them.

 
At 8:48 am, Blogger Mighty said...

No dude by attack and defense I meant both teams were not doing the same thing at the same time, unlike in soccer, where they are both trying to score, in cricket, for one half one team is batting (let's say attacking) and the other is fielding (defending, or the other way around if you prefer...) and then the roles are reversed. I think the team batting first is slightly handicapped...

 
At 8:44 am, Blogger Ju said...

hey george, great blog...i had no idea what the hell was going on with these changes...but since i'm not that hardcore about cricket, i'm waiting for your fistfight story!am off travelling in china (shanghai and surrounding areas) end of this month..should be cool...later then..

 
At 8:45 am, Blogger Ju said...

also, i had to set up a bloody blog account so that i could leave a comment for you!! oh i just bought HP6 today..hope its good!

 
At 9:53 pm, Blogger George said...

hehe was well worth it juenli, but you didnt have to set up a blog account, you can leave an anaonhymous message as well. HP6 is supposed to be good. sad but good. have a good time in china. keep visiting

 
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