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5 implementations that could enhance the game of cricket

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
459   //    24 Aug 2018, 21:09 IST

India v Pakistan - 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup
Crowd engagement is a crucial factor in cricket spiralling to higher levels.

Cricket has undergone quite a few changes in its laws, functioning, administration and other areas in the past. Times change, new situations arise, public demand and marketing play a factor and a plethora of such factors propel the need for change. No wonder- “Change is the only constant” applies to all walks of life and cricket is no exception to it.

In recent times, the umpires have been granted more power to counter bad player behaviour, maximum bat width allowed has been limited, DRS has made its way into the shortest format too and an unsuccessful review made by a team gets retained in case the outcome from the review process is an umpire’s call.

Then there was the ball-tampering incident in Newlands, Cape Town which copped a lot of reaction, especially from the Australian public. The ICC after reviewing the proceedings has deemed ball tampering as a far more serious offence.

Public interest and engagement is perhaps the single most critical factor for this wonderful game to thrive and spiral to never seen before levels. On that note, here are few implementations that could potentially be worth trying:


1) Ground dimensions

Australia v England - Fourth Test: Day 1

Ground dimensions is an aspect of the game which needs a deep look into. The boundary ropes have been brought in a great deal to accommodate commercial advertisement hoardings and also in a bid to provide run-fests to the crowds.

The approach and mindset of a batsman is completely different when he has to clear a short boundary- he knows deep down that he can get away with mishits even if he just manages to clear the small-sized ground.

On contrary, if a batsman has to earn a six by clearing at least an 80-85 meters boundary, he has to be a lot more calculative and might not commit to a big hit unless he gets a very good measure of the bowler and the ball bowled.

Spinners flight the ball, impart spin and completely deceive a batsman only to see the ball still being agonizingly deposited over the boundary ropes. Anything in excess would fizzle out the charm of the game.

The cricket boards or the party involved should realize that the crowds long for a bat vs ball contest and not always a bat vs bat affair.

2) Third umpire’s involvement in adjudicating a no-ball

New Zealand v Australia - 2nd Test: Day 5

The on-field umpires have often been found referring to the TV umpires to check the front foot of a bowler after a batsman gets out. But it makes us think, “What about other deliveries that did not result in a wicket”? There is a good possibility of umpires missing out several times on calling no-ball in a game.

Also, they might end up deeming a fair delivery as a no-ball in the case of marginal calls. After all, mistakes do happen but the impact that an extra run or an extra ball has on the final outcome is well documented.

That is where the third umpire should perhaps be given the license to inform the on-field umpires immediately after the call and before the next ball is bowled.

3) Quality of pitches and warm-up games

England Lions v India A - Day Four

An impressive home record and an abysmal away record seems to be the trend for teams considering how bilateral Test series’ have panned out in the last few years. Whilst it comes down first to how skilled and adaptable a batsman or bowler is to different conditions, it is maybe time someone does something about doctoring of pitches by the home team.

It is completely fair to have home advantage, but by how much is a question that has been doing circles without any concrete answers.

Ideally, if the pitch holds up well and offers something to both pacers and spinners, it paves way for an engrossing fight between bat and ball. Pitch conditions should not be too one-dimensional i.e. assisting only a particular facet of the game or only a certain type of bowlers.

Quality of teams that fare against the International teams in the warm-up games needs a bit more scrutiny as touring teams have often faced nowhere close to the actual quality of host national team and the pitch conditions planned for the series venues.

If this is sorted out, it would lead to a more “ready and prepared” visiting team taking on the host nation come the first Test of the series. The host nation can reap rewards of this practice too when it is their turn to visit the opposition’s country for a return series.

4) Opportunities to Associate nations on International tours

MCC v Afghanistan

All major cricketing nations have had to start their journey at some point. Regular taste of the highest level of cricket against high-class opponents enabled the progress thereon. Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons, most associate nations and few other teams today do not get that opportunity on a regular basis.

Afghanistan has a settled cricket base in India. So, when a team tours India, if Afghanistan gets to play at least a handful of matches against the touring party, it would do their confidence and skill development a world of good. Same applies to teams visiting UAE to play Pakistan. Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland can be the beneficiaries when a tour to England is on.

ICC World Cup is arguably the greatest event on the cricketing calendar and many believe that only quality sides should take part in the quadrennial event and hence a need to limit the number of teams. But, with good exposure and a fair share of opportunities to associate nations between two World Cups, it will only be a matter of time that they will get better and eventually stake their claim for the prestigious tag of “World Cup winners”.

Who will ever forget some of their incredible victories over top cricket sides!

5) Designated drink breaks and stricter “Game time”

South Africa Invitation XI v England - Tour Match: Day Two

Yes, there is Yo-Yo test. But, is it really needed as a basis to ascertain the fitness of a player? He is able to take a drink break almost every other over on the pretext of change of gloves (or other cricket gear), or when the third umpire is in the process of reviewing a dismissal, or post fall of a wicket.

The ICC and the umpires have their work cut out and maybe a rule has to be passed that would allow drinks to be carried onto the field only during designated drink breaks or in case of extreme weather conditions or emergency situations.

Slow over rates have been surfacing too often for everybody’s liking. There are penalties for players and the captain in the form of fines and temporary bans. But, take the case of the last couple of overs in a crucial knockout game: 9 out of 10 times the captain in that situation is not in a mood to get on with the game- he almost makes up his mind to accept the penalties that the match referee would impose. He takes an eternity to discuss strategies, set fields and essentially unsettles the pace and rhythm of the game.

Everything has to start all over again and the batsman almost has the time to take a nap. This practice disturbs the dynamics and flow of the game. Crowd too would ideally want things to happen in a progression that the earlier part of the game did.

The MCC or the ICC has to have a holistic look to iron out the over-rate issue that may involve thinking in an angle greater than just penalties or temporary match bans.

Closing this write-up would be the toughest as there is one more: Haven’t all of us been missing reverse swing in full flow in the 50-over format?

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