A bowler hitting the stumps at the non-striking end in his delivery stride needs to be penalised

Steven Finn (L) and former England captain Andrew Strauss (second from right) argue with Umpire Steve Davis (second from left), after he called a dead ball as the lanky pacer knocked over the non-strikers’ wickets in his delivery stride during the first Test Match at Headingley against South Africa in August 2012 Getty Images

By Rohit Ramachandran Poduval 

Last October, the International Cricket Council (ICC) yet again changed the rules of the game, especially in limited-overs cricket. They did it in the hope that the pace of the middle overs phase of the game, which has been considered a drag, picked up. While amending the rules in lieu of the changing demands of the game is understandable, doing it frequently can make it really confusing, not only for the fans but also for the players.
 
Lot has been made about the new rules. The game is lop-sided in favour of the batsmen. In view of that, allowing two bouncers per over is a welcome change. It can test the batsmen, knowing that there can be one more bouncer which can be bowled at them.
 
The rule to implement two new balls at each end had received a lot of flak, as it kills reverse swing. It has been in place for more than a year now, and from what one has observed, it seems that conventional swing bowlers have really found this rule to their liking. It would be really interesting to see how the scores have been affected in the first 15 overs due to this change.
 
One of the biggest changes has been the reduction of fielders outside the 30-yard circle from the traditional five to four fielders. Five fielders outside the circle have been constant ever since the ODI game has come into inception. It would have taken a lot of thought to modify the rule. This rule has irked captains who have suggested it will be really harsh on the spinners as they won’t have an extra man on the boundary. Their reservations are valid, but I feel one of the advantages with this rule is that the captains are forced to be a bit more attacking. It had almost become a norm that once the powerplay overs were done with, you had captains placing five fielders on the boundary irrespective of the fact that a new batsman had come to the crease. The batsmen were ready to milk the bowlers and get settled, and captains were happy to not concede the boundaries due to which some fans have felt that the middle overs were a drag.
 
The new rule may lead batsmen to be more attacking, which can lead to more wickets. I remember distinctly an ODI in 2006 when Rahul Dravid had used the powerplay to get wickets. Kevin Pietersen was in one of his belligerent moods, yet Dravid opted to take the powerplay. With the field in, Pietersen probably felt the need to go for one shot too many and in the end he lost his wicket. The decision could have totally backfired, but what it does show here is that once the fielders are in, batsmen can feel the urge to over attack and it can lead to wickets.
 
I feel this is a positive change, and it can bring in some more positivity from the captains. The only drawback with this rule, I feel, is the response of the spinners: Will they start bowling flatter or will they toss the ball a lot more to entice the batsmen into a false stroke?
 
There are some changes which the ICC have to look into as well due to recent developments. Steven Finn has a terrible habit of knocking the stumps down in his delivery stride, which has led to umpires declaring that particular delivery as a dead ball. The rule is unfair to the batsman if the ball has been hit for a four or six. A bowler can be given one warning, and a repeat of the offence should be penalised with a no-ball.

With the game heavily in favour of the batsmen, there is a case of allowing one bowler to bowl 12 overs instead of the stipulated 10. In the age of heavy bats, flat decks and shorter boundaries, there definitely should be some rules to encourage the bowlers as well.

(Rohit Ramachandran Poduval is a classical leg-spinner, writer and software engineer)