By Tejaswini Tirta
Change is the only constant, they say. While I am guilty of constantly comparing things that happen in cricket to my other favorite sport – Formula One, I truly believe the variations in any game help keep the excitement alive. Every season of F1 features something new – in terms of technological advances or rules and regulations. If it works, it’s kept for a few seasons. If it doesn’t, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) is quick to modify it the following year. From a fans’ point of view, there’s always something fresh and fun to look forward to, making racing that much more thrilling.
In cricket, too, it was the want of “change” that resulted in the emergence of ODI and T20 formats, the IPL, power plays, et al. At the end of the day, the idea is to get more people to watch and enjoy the sport. One of the other objectives is also to endorse fair play, which is how third umpires, fielding restrictions, UDRS, and the like came into existence. So, where one might be eager to analyze and criticize the ICC Chief Executives’ Committee’s recommendations, even before the executive board considers it, I’d like to go with the belief that change, in any small or big form, is a good thing.
Though, I don’t want to talk about the UDRS and its various forms. It has been discussed at length already and whether or not the “modified” version is effective, is something we’ll have to simply wait and see. The other proposal of captains being fined one match sooner for slow over rate is a good move, and directly connected to the implementation of the UDRS. Every time a player/ team asks for a decision to be reviewed, there will be a delay in the proceedings. I’d rather the players get on with it after this. If a captain then takes additional time strategizing, setting and resetting the field, we might just have four-hour ODIs and five and a half day Tests. That’s no fun.
As for the power-plays, making it mandatory between the 16th and 40th overs is nothing but an improvisation on the existing system and was required, what with the players – Indians in particular – struggling to understand its purpose, leave alone take advantage of it.
These aside, there are two recommendations that I think will make a significant difference to the game and team strategies. Let’s first take the no-runner scenario, which I think is a great way to negate any unfair advantage the batting team may have over its opposition. On one hand, the batsmen now have to be 100% fit when they come out to bat and if they want to make a meaningful contribution to the scoreboard. On the other hand, a batting team cannot get a well-rested, young runner out in the middle to steal a few extra runs; something that had almost become a habit for a few players/ teams. This way, any batsman who is ill, dehydrated or cramped, is left with two options – hit out or get out. Does this mean the batsman who follows is under increased pressure to make up for the sick team mate’s loss? Naturally, but that’s how it should be, right?
The other key revision is the use of new balls at each end. A simple, yet much-needed shift in perspective to what was largely considered a batsman’s game. In the recent times, bowlers have proved that they can win matches – attack to restrict the opposition’s onslaught and defend seemingly low totals. Now, with bowlers at both ends getting new balls right from the start of the match, they have a greater opportunity to control the innings and explore their bowling strengths – spinners, fast bowlers, all included. The captains will have more options to sketch out a winning strategy, as well.
Charles Mann, the football player, said: “Sports should always be fun”. Innovation and improvisation is an ideal way to ensure this.
(Bangalore-based Tejaswini Tirtha spent the first eight years of her career in mainstream media, having worked with leading dailies like Times of India, The New Indian Express and Asian Age, tracking new trends in the film, fashion, theater and gaming industries. A couple of years ago, she was bitten by the corporate bug, but tried to keep the journalist in her alive by grabbing every writing opportunity that came her way. Her other interests include reading, music, watching movies, traveling, F1 racing and of course, cricket)