It’s a New Year in cricket, so that can mean only one thing: new rules for one-day internationals.
The ODI is a curious beast – it lacks the depth of Test cricket, and it does not possess the dynamism and pace of T20.
In a calendar that is bursting at the seams, it’s the format that has the least powerful compelling reasons to continue. The argument that it makes a stack of advertising rupees in India is not, despite certain influential voices to the contrary, a particularly good one.
So what’s the answer? Give the format a little tweak. Not a Shane Warne-esque rip, not a even a Graeme Swann-ish spin, but a Paul-Harris-(can-you-really-call-him-a-spinner?)-esque tweak.
The key changes this time around are as follows:
- The bowling powerplay is gone
- Four fielders maximum outside the circle in non-powerplay overs
- Bowlers can bowl two short-pitched deliveries in an over, rather than one
Now, the bouncers aren’t such a bad idea in theory, even if it won’t be tested much in India. It should keep batsmen on their toes against the pacers.
But here’s the real issue. The powerplays don’t work at all, so fiddling with them is as worthwhile an exercise as complaining that the BCCI don’t adopt Hawk-Eye.
The bowling powerplay got the chop because time and again the fielding side took them as soon as the first powerplay was over. It scarcely mattered what the state of the game was – that’s what they did. So after a while the rules were changed so you couldn’t take them after 10 overs – it had to be after 15. Guess when captains started taking them then.
So the bowling powerplay gone. And what we’re left with instead is the totally dynamic and flexible batting powerplay, which must be taken absolutely no later than overs 36-40.
You’ll win no prizes for guessing when everyone takes those. Actually, forget that – you win a free bowling powerplay. Take it whenever you want.
Perhaps the powerplay should work – if captains were inclined to use it as an attempt to capitalise on momentum. But they don’t, and after several years of trying, surely the best course of action is to abandon the whole enterprise.
Or perhaps Cowers has this all wrong, and what we actually need is much, much more legislation. After all, ODIs already largely work to a template. Why not just use the laws of the game to make sure said template is adhered to?
To save an expensive conference at a five-star monolith in the United Arab Emirates with the great and the good of cricket, Cowers has written a proposal. Just have the ICC rubber-stamp it and give him a non-executive director’s position whenever they get round to it:
Overs 1-5 – Bowl seam. ‘Brave captaincy’ choice of a spinner may be permitted on subcontinental pitches.
Overs 6-10 – Swap a seamer for a seamer. If the batsmen have started well an appeal can be made to the umpires to allow a ‘change of ends’ for one misfiring seamer.
Overs 11-15 – Get spinners on. Set field back. Concede four runs in singles.
Over 16-20 – ‘Shock’ batsmen out of their rhythm by reintroducing a seamer.
Overs 20-25 – Spinners to be reintroduced. Boundaries are forbidden. All scoring shots must involve some interpretation of the concept of ‘milking’.
Overs 26-30 – Bowling captain to bowl part-time spinner and/or medium-pacer.
Overs 30-35 – Batsmen must meet in the middle between every ball to debate whether to consolidate or accelerate.
Overs 36-40 – The batting powerplay (if we must)
Overs 41-50 – Hitting essential – forward defensive strokes can be given out by the umpire.
Furthermore, if any of the revised ODI laws are not adhered to, captains can be punished by having match fees docked, serving bans, or in the most extreme cases, being forced to take their powerplays at a different time than usual.
Too far-fetched? We live in times where England have just won a ‘live’ ODI against India in India for the first time in 11 years – a time when a new-fangled device called an iPod was making waves, the Iraq War was just a twinkle in the American President’s eye, and LOLcats were still years away. Things move on.
And before you dismiss it out of hand, remember the rule-makers came up with and implemented the Supersub rule. Doesn’t sound so mad after all, does it?