Friday, May 27, 2005

Modernizing One-day Cricket

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has recently become concerned by the apathy with which one-day cricket is greeted by spectators nowadays, and constituted a committee to come up with proposed changes to enliven the game. As is usually the case with committees full of famous ex-cricketers rather than smart thinkers, it missed the boat with a strange list of proposed changes that, as far as I could tell, failed to address the core problems with one-day cricket.

As I see it, cricket is faced with three big problems:

  • Lack of Drama: As I discussed in an earlier post, the first inning of a cricket match is simply devoid of drama and immensely boring to the average spectator.
  • Influence of the Toss: The coin toss that determines who bats first has taken on a progressively larger role in determining the outcome of the game. With the ubiquity of day-night games and the poor state of pitches, the team batting first often has a mammoth advantage that makes for uneven contests.
  • Dominance of Batting: While spectators often prefer to watch high-scoring games, the balance of power in the game has been tilted so much in favor of the batsmen -- thanks to featherbed pitches -- that the game is reduced to a batting contest (where the contestants never face each other head on) instead of being a contest between bat and ball.

And what does this Rules & Regulations committee do to address these problems? Precious little, as far as I can see. It proposes to allow substitutes which seems like a lousy idea that (a) does nothing to attack the above problems; (b) breaks the traditional spirit of cricket which demands that the same eleven do both the batting and the fielding; and (c) exacerbates the influence of the toss, since a team would like to overload the eleven with a batsman (in the hope of winning the toss and batting first), and then substitute in a bowler during the next inning.

The other big idea was to increase the length of fielding restrictions, which tilts the game even more in favor of the batsmen. However, the notion of letting the fielding team control when it uses the restrictions is good, as it gives some succour to fielding sides when they have to combat pinch-hitting.

What I would have done would be to break up each inning into two blocks of 25 overs, creating a total of 4 quarters (half-innings) in the match. The team winning the toss decides whether it wants to bat in the first or second quarter, and the team losing the toss chooses between the third and fourth quarter. A new ball is used for each quarter. There are many advantages to such a system:

  • The influence of the toss is minimized since teams get a more even dose of all playing conditions. In particular, they both have to field during the day and bat at night.
  • The influence of the pitch is also reduced for the same reason.
  • There is greater drama as we get to easily compare the progress of the teams from the second quarter on.


Anonymous Ashwin Bharambe said...

Very interesting idea. This sort of makes it into a hybrid of a test-match and a one-day match.

6/26/2005 6:32 PM  
Blogger Harsha V. Madhyastha said...

Actually, I think a similar thing was experimented with in Aussie county cricket. Basically, they had 2-day matches with one team batting for 60 overs and the other batting for 30 overs on the first day; vice-versa on the next day. I don't know if it still exists at some level of their cricket hierarchy ...

7/11/2005 7:03 PM  
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