November 19, 2008

How to speed up over-rates, part 1

The Confectionery Stall has long been a champion of faster over-rates, ever since its very first blog five days ago
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The Confectionery Stall has long been a champion of faster over-rates, ever since its very first blog five days ago. Here is my first suggestion for how to remedy this scourge on the modern game, which should be applied in addition to more obvious and simple cures. These include players and umpires moving a bit faster between balls and overs, batsmen hitting fours instead of sixes - and captains having the confidence to move fine-leg three yards squarer without having to consult the bowler, a representative panel of wicketkeeper and fielders, his horoscope, his wife, the entrails of a recently run-over squirrel from a local road, and Mike Brearley’s The Art Of Captaincy.

The current alleged Test-match minimum of 15 overs per hour seems a reasonable target at which to aim (although if a pre-war Lord’s Test had been played at 15 overs per hour, the matter would have been raised in Parliament, the monarch may well have had to issue a statement to calm national panic that a war was about to start, and MCC members would probably have burnt down the pavilion).

My suggestion is that, in each hour of cricket, for each over that the fielding side falls behind the required rate, they should forfeit a fielder for the next five overs. This would give a genuine in-game incentive to stop dawdling around and give the paying public what they paid for, when they paid for it. So, if a team kicked off a Test by trundling through 12 overs in the first hour, they would be a man short in the field until the lunch break.

Clearly, there are complications – injury breaks, the third-umpire taking six minutes to rule whether a fielder’s shoelace grazed the boundary rope, a batsman nearing a century realising that he has forgotten to stick his sponsor’s stickers on the back of his bat. So time-keeping would need to be independently monitored.

The fourth umpire should be given a special ICC stopwatch and entrusted with this duty, to add to his current onerous burdens, which include:

  • Maintaining a 24-hour armed guard over the box of replacement balls
  • Pizza ordering
  • Warming the toilet seats in the umpires’ dressing room like a 19th century public school fag (for ten minutes before each interval and the close of play)
  • Checking the progress of any eBay auctions in which the two main umpires are bidding (there is a rumour that an ICC Elite Panel umpire once shoved a pair of bails down the throat of a young fourth umpire who had failed to continue bidding for a porcelain David Constant figurine when the price went beyond £4000)
  • Working on developing a new signal for ‘5 runs’ to be used when the ball hits a helmet behind the wicketkeeper, or a single leads to four overthrows, or Monty Panesar has to chase a ball from mid-on to the long-on boundary at the MCG
  • Writing supportive poems to boost the confidence of a tearful on-field umpire who has just mistakenly given four leg byes, then seen on the TV replay screen that the ball actually feathered the bat before deflecting off the thigh-pad to the boundary
  • Autographing copies of Mark Benson’s Missing Leg?, the MCC’s smash-hit new umpiring simulation game for the Playstation. Starting at club level, you must work your way up through the cricketing pyramid – aim to reach county 2nd XI standard within three seasons, the full first-class list in five, and be on the ICC elite panel in 10. But beware – a dubious lbw decision at a crucial stage of your first one-day international could either ruin or make your career, depending on who is batting.

Adding time-keeping to this range of duties would also help raise the fragile self-esteem of fourth umpires, who, as a species, are known to question the need for their own existence. Most have a tendency to curl up in a ball when asked what it is that they actually do, before gently murmuring the latest ICC match regulations to soothe and reassure themselves.

Indeed, there is increasing evidence that fourth umpires are habitually and mercilessly teased by their more senior colleagues, as part of the official ICC initiation to ensure they have the mental fortitude for Test cricket.

Your responses to this suggestion will be gratefully received.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Imran on November 26, 2008, 17:39 GMT

    I smell the birth of a new cricketing cult hero...

  • Daniel on November 26, 2008, 9:13 GMT

    if this was implemented, how long would it be before Ricky Ponting was running in to bowl a slow off break, and then dashing back down to the other end in the hope of making a quick stumping?

    I'd pay to see it.

  • Deepak on November 26, 2008, 7:52 GMT

    Thanks Andy, for a very enjoyable article. However, seriously, I do not understand why over rate become such a huge issue. I have watched tests in the past when playing time was 5.5 hours a day. And cricket was played at snail's pace; often less than 200 runs a day. Today's run rates are far greater; by and large there is a result at the end of 5 days and number of spectators is not greatly reduced. While I agree paying public needs to see as much cricket as possible and time wasting tactics must be punished, surely there is no complaint about the quality of test cricket today. To force players to stick to a regimental rate of 15 overs per hour or get penalised is ridiculous. We do not want test matches decided by calculators rather than by bat and ball. I believe there should be an incentive for meeting over rates rather than penalty and that could be by an extra point towards their Rating on the ladder. That will surely help.

  • PK on November 25, 2008, 20:44 GMT

    A bowler should not be allowed to take a run-up before bowling if he takes more time to bowl! OR They can shorten the length of the pitch and field so that the ball reaches the batsman/boundary faster....

  • J on November 25, 2008, 13:58 GMT

    Good article.

    Match should be won or lost based on skill, not by getting overs done in 2 hrs etc.

    Everyone remember how i the past chasing teams came agonisingly close to winning games but couldn't as they had one over short for bowling with a slow over rate.

  • VijayKumarsstar on November 25, 2008, 11:40 GMT

    Over-rate still a worry for Australia... I think Hayden or Australia are not worried about Over rates.. after all they are playing NewZeland in a "Third World Country".

  • Tim Foster on November 23, 2008, 12:29 GMT

    Sadly, for a professional "humorist", you're humor is labored. Maybe you should go back to warming toilet seats.

  • Ganesh on November 21, 2008, 4:37 GMT

    Seriously the most funny article on cricket yet. I nearly fell off my chair laughing.

    Your suggestions are certainly innovative. You also include Steve Bucknor and Rudi 'slow death' Koertzen in the list of time saving mechanisms. One takes an age to make up his mind and then raises the finger and the other raises it so slowly that the bowling team has completed its celebrations of the dismissal by the time the hand comes up completely.

  • Patrick on November 20, 2008, 16:11 GMT

    I vote for adding runs. Why not make the bowling side really pay. If at the end of play for the day, why not penalized the fielding side by the number of balls left at the close of play. If there are 5 overs to be bowled, then automatically the batting side gets 30 runs. Off course the batting side will like to slow down the proceedings, so when they are responsible for the slow over rate, you give the fielding side a head start of 30 runs. And if the umpires are responsible, deduct twice the overs in percentage from their pay for that day, in this case 10%. Will be fun to see how confused non-cricket playing nations will NOW get. HieHieHie.

  • Akshay S Dinesh on November 20, 2008, 14:54 GMT

    Hope you just wrote a comic article. Why would you want to have players running from one side of the ground to the other just to prevent himself from getting ousted? Why would you want the 4th umpire to see the time like Olympic officials?

  • Imran on November 26, 2008, 17:39 GMT

    I smell the birth of a new cricketing cult hero...

  • Daniel on November 26, 2008, 9:13 GMT

    if this was implemented, how long would it be before Ricky Ponting was running in to bowl a slow off break, and then dashing back down to the other end in the hope of making a quick stumping?

    I'd pay to see it.

  • Deepak on November 26, 2008, 7:52 GMT

    Thanks Andy, for a very enjoyable article. However, seriously, I do not understand why over rate become such a huge issue. I have watched tests in the past when playing time was 5.5 hours a day. And cricket was played at snail's pace; often less than 200 runs a day. Today's run rates are far greater; by and large there is a result at the end of 5 days and number of spectators is not greatly reduced. While I agree paying public needs to see as much cricket as possible and time wasting tactics must be punished, surely there is no complaint about the quality of test cricket today. To force players to stick to a regimental rate of 15 overs per hour or get penalised is ridiculous. We do not want test matches decided by calculators rather than by bat and ball. I believe there should be an incentive for meeting over rates rather than penalty and that could be by an extra point towards their Rating on the ladder. That will surely help.

  • PK on November 25, 2008, 20:44 GMT

    A bowler should not be allowed to take a run-up before bowling if he takes more time to bowl! OR They can shorten the length of the pitch and field so that the ball reaches the batsman/boundary faster....

  • J on November 25, 2008, 13:58 GMT

    Good article.

    Match should be won or lost based on skill, not by getting overs done in 2 hrs etc.

    Everyone remember how i the past chasing teams came agonisingly close to winning games but couldn't as they had one over short for bowling with a slow over rate.

  • VijayKumarsstar on November 25, 2008, 11:40 GMT

    Over-rate still a worry for Australia... I think Hayden or Australia are not worried about Over rates.. after all they are playing NewZeland in a "Third World Country".

  • Tim Foster on November 23, 2008, 12:29 GMT

    Sadly, for a professional "humorist", you're humor is labored. Maybe you should go back to warming toilet seats.

  • Ganesh on November 21, 2008, 4:37 GMT

    Seriously the most funny article on cricket yet. I nearly fell off my chair laughing.

    Your suggestions are certainly innovative. You also include Steve Bucknor and Rudi 'slow death' Koertzen in the list of time saving mechanisms. One takes an age to make up his mind and then raises the finger and the other raises it so slowly that the bowling team has completed its celebrations of the dismissal by the time the hand comes up completely.

  • Patrick on November 20, 2008, 16:11 GMT

    I vote for adding runs. Why not make the bowling side really pay. If at the end of play for the day, why not penalized the fielding side by the number of balls left at the close of play. If there are 5 overs to be bowled, then automatically the batting side gets 30 runs. Off course the batting side will like to slow down the proceedings, so when they are responsible for the slow over rate, you give the fielding side a head start of 30 runs. And if the umpires are responsible, deduct twice the overs in percentage from their pay for that day, in this case 10%. Will be fun to see how confused non-cricket playing nations will NOW get. HieHieHie.

  • Akshay S Dinesh on November 20, 2008, 14:54 GMT

    Hope you just wrote a comic article. Why would you want to have players running from one side of the ground to the other just to prevent himself from getting ousted? Why would you want the 4th umpire to see the time like Olympic officials?

  • Aditya on November 20, 2008, 14:09 GMT

    Absolutely delightful read!

    I'll be waiting for the next one :)

  • Stephen on November 20, 2008, 12:26 GMT

    This is a great idea Andy as failure to reach the required over rate must punish the bowlers. With this in mind, here's my suggestion: All awarded wides and no-balls in a session where the required over-rate is not achieved are counted twice. Simple.

  • Vikas on November 20, 2008, 11:33 GMT

    @ snehalnayan

    if bucknor has to raise his finger 50 times a day the match would be over by a long margin. no one will have any complaints on over rate. ;)

  • Kestrel on November 20, 2008, 8:39 GMT

    Hmmm. Interesting, but wait a minute. How did ICC or whoever arrived at this magical 4 min/over formula? It should ideally be 5 min/over for Test matches and 14 overs/hour for ODIs and score/scores. We can speed up a bit by asking only the batsmen to change ends rather than all and sundry at the end of an over. The ends can be swapped every hour after the Drinks break. Third-umpire rulings should also be timed out. If the 3rd Ump can't decide in 4 replays. The batsman stays! (And the 3rd umpire loses 10% match fee). Whatever happened to the good-old add 5 penalty runs/over to the batting side?

  • Gary Hodges on November 20, 2008, 8:01 GMT

    I don't have an inventive and entertaining response, and would not dare to attempt to a witty repartee for fear of falling well short of the mark.

    My simple solution to the slow over rate is to fine the fielding team a number of runs at the end of each over based on the current run rate. So, if 13 overs are bowled in the first hour and the run rate is 2.5 (yes England batting and Australia bowling, unfortunately), then we simply multiply the number of overs short (2) by the run rate (2.5) and immediately add 5 runs to the total as extras. We could introduce a new type of extra called "fine". This would certainly make captains and team managers take notice if at the end of the day the bowling side is 8 overs short and an additional 24 odd runs have been added to the total. I suspect that this thought has been put forward before, not that i have seen it anywhere. Your thoughts please?

    Cheers Gary

  • Krishna M on November 20, 2008, 8:01 GMT

    Sad and pathetic; second blog that I have read of this said satirist. Correction, *last* blog I will be reading of this said satirist.

  • Nathan on November 20, 2008, 6:59 GMT

    Interesting suggestions Andy. For some reason I expected this blog to be a load of crap but I found it to be quite humourous. The response from Shane Legge is a classic ... I think you've got the issue solved there, Shane. Good work all round!

  • Shane Legge on November 20, 2008, 2:20 GMT

    I'm all in favour of a sniper placed on the pavillion roof. If the over rate drops below the required rate (without good reason of course), then the sniper will have two overs in which to take potshots at the fielding side. He will not be allowed to aim at either bowler or wicketkeeper because they will be sitting ducks. However, all other fielders are fair game. Firstly, no-one likes to be shot, so I reckon this would solve the problem. Secondly, in the event of an infringement, wouldn't it be side-splittingly hilarious to watch 9 fielders duck and weave at random all around the outfield for two whole overs. In these dark times when the very essence of test cricket is at risk, this simple rule change would definitely put bums on seats. And let's face it, the ICC are a pack of self absorbed moronic puppets, so if I can get someone from the BCCI to propose this rule change, I am confident it will be implemented by summers end.

  • mike stirling on November 20, 2008, 1:32 GMT

    Huzzah sir!! why not introduce runners for the fielding team. this would cut down on boundaries, reduce wear and tear on their boots and allow bowlers to remain fresh from not fielding their own bowling. As a village cricketer of noted ability( I once smashed the windscreen of the opposing captains car)we also manage to have certain liquid refreshments at long on, long off and a suspiciously deep deep fine leg. Serious consideration should be given to the loss of a fielder for 5 overs. A sound suggestion that merits discussion at the next I.C.C. meeting

  • Shankar on November 20, 2008, 1:30 GMT

    I agree that way too much is being done about determining 4s etc. The suggested penalty of fielders is excellent - something like soccer or hockey. There should be a clock on the field and teams dont go to lunch or drinks until 30/15 overs are bowled in the session - ALL of these should be incorporated.

  • Lakshya on November 19, 2008, 23:24 GMT

    Oh god, THe best artice and great suggestions. One of the best blogs on cricinfo. Anyone agree?

  • qazah on November 19, 2008, 22:50 GMT

    oh man, too jokes

    along with the seriousness of some very nice ideas, the over-exaggeration really made sense. really good stuff, amazing blog

  • Kalyan on November 19, 2008, 22:22 GMT

    You can penalize slow overrates in ODIs and T20s this way. Any overs bowled after the cut-off time should be made power play overs (after taking into account delays beyond the fielding teams control). This is fair to both teams batting first or second. For tests, if a team is guilty of slow over rate, the opposing captain should be allowed to suspend any player of his choice for the next test. For example if Australia was guilty of slow overrate, the England captain could suspend Michael Hussey (their star player) for the next test.

  • UmeshD on November 19, 2008, 21:07 GMT

    You made my day Andy !!!!!

    Love the idea of a fielder off. Would be worth counting over rates over each session rather than each hour. But don't agree to Mezba's comment indicating there should be some reward for exceeding over rates. We're not asking for over time - just 90 overs a day !!

  • Mahesh on November 19, 2008, 21:05 GMT

    Great stuff Andy! I love the point about the 4th umpire taking 6 minutes to decide if the fielder's shoe lace grazed the boundary rope!! Great.

  • Jamie Dowling on November 19, 2008, 18:34 GMT

    How about remote controlled electrical devices attached to or inserted into players? Perhaps in the jockstrap? A team of match referees sits at a control desk and whenever the fielding team are dawdling or being too slow... ZAP!

    There is much potential for motivation, especially if you think about where you place the electrodes...

  • Mezba on November 19, 2008, 18:03 GMT

    I like the idea of a fielder time out. Would make test cricket genuinely interesting! But what if they EXCEED the over rate? (i.e. Bangladesh with spinners)

  • Ishan on November 19, 2008, 16:53 GMT

    If the team is down 3 overs in an hour,runrate should be awarded. So suppose if team is scoring at 3 an over, then the team would be awarded 9 runs [for loss of 3 overs] and this should happen at end of the day and suppose if a rounded figure comes like 10.4 or 10.333 or anything, then the figure is completed by postives [number of runs] so if runrate is 3.4 and 3 overs are missing 3.4 x 3 = 10.2 = 11 runs!

  • chris on November 19, 2008, 16:36 GMT

    That's not a bad idea, Andy. Take it a step further and you might have something: should the over rate fall below the required 15/hr, suspend 2 of the bowlers who bowled in that slow hour from bowling in the subsequent hour. That way a captain could not just put in a part-timer for one over and suspend him for an hour while the real bowlers continue. He'd have to take out the part-timer and another bowler. Or, how about this? If the over rate is slow, the bowler who bowled the most of the over in that hour could not bowl for the next 2 hours. That way the captain could not just rest his workhorse for an hour then bring him back on. He'd get an hour of rest, but he'd have to stew while his teammates get bashed around without him.

  • blxxx on November 19, 2008, 16:13 GMT

    goodness! made for an awesome read! that was 5 mins of my day i wont regret having lived. keep 'em coming!!

  • snehalnayan on November 19, 2008, 15:40 GMT

    Andy you forget to count that the delay can increase when Steve Bucknor is the umpire. Considering he takes 30 seconds to raise a finger. If there are 50 appeals in a day gone are a good 25 mins or 7 overs :). And they say the sides are bowling slowly, what a harsh world!!

  • Gerry on November 19, 2008, 14:51 GMT

    Help me! Is this supposed to be funny?

  • Nick on November 19, 2008, 14:28 GMT

    Perhaps the batting team should nominate who should bowl the overs bowled short (and they should be bowled at the end of the day) - and it need not be a player from the opposing team!

  • Balaji on November 19, 2008, 14:18 GMT

    HAHA good stuff! Try and push for this, it may actually work! Probably the best blog so far on cricinfo!

  • Krishna on November 19, 2008, 12:58 GMT

    Good job Andy. You could also throw in a suggestion or two for the white-coated turtles on the field. Delay due to them would mean one of them would be sent off the field. Or they would have to take fielding practice from Yuvaraj or Pietersen after bad light sets in or both. In fact you could speed them up by offering batsman 6 runs if he can make the umpire jump.

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  • Krishna on November 19, 2008, 12:58 GMT

    Good job Andy. You could also throw in a suggestion or two for the white-coated turtles on the field. Delay due to them would mean one of them would be sent off the field. Or they would have to take fielding practice from Yuvaraj or Pietersen after bad light sets in or both. In fact you could speed them up by offering batsman 6 runs if he can make the umpire jump.

  • Balaji on November 19, 2008, 14:18 GMT

    HAHA good stuff! Try and push for this, it may actually work! Probably the best blog so far on cricinfo!

  • Nick on November 19, 2008, 14:28 GMT

    Perhaps the batting team should nominate who should bowl the overs bowled short (and they should be bowled at the end of the day) - and it need not be a player from the opposing team!

  • Gerry on November 19, 2008, 14:51 GMT

    Help me! Is this supposed to be funny?

  • snehalnayan on November 19, 2008, 15:40 GMT

    Andy you forget to count that the delay can increase when Steve Bucknor is the umpire. Considering he takes 30 seconds to raise a finger. If there are 50 appeals in a day gone are a good 25 mins or 7 overs :). And they say the sides are bowling slowly, what a harsh world!!

  • blxxx on November 19, 2008, 16:13 GMT

    goodness! made for an awesome read! that was 5 mins of my day i wont regret having lived. keep 'em coming!!

  • chris on November 19, 2008, 16:36 GMT

    That's not a bad idea, Andy. Take it a step further and you might have something: should the over rate fall below the required 15/hr, suspend 2 of the bowlers who bowled in that slow hour from bowling in the subsequent hour. That way a captain could not just put in a part-timer for one over and suspend him for an hour while the real bowlers continue. He'd have to take out the part-timer and another bowler. Or, how about this? If the over rate is slow, the bowler who bowled the most of the over in that hour could not bowl for the next 2 hours. That way the captain could not just rest his workhorse for an hour then bring him back on. He'd get an hour of rest, but he'd have to stew while his teammates get bashed around without him.

  • Ishan on November 19, 2008, 16:53 GMT

    If the team is down 3 overs in an hour,runrate should be awarded. So suppose if team is scoring at 3 an over, then the team would be awarded 9 runs [for loss of 3 overs] and this should happen at end of the day and suppose if a rounded figure comes like 10.4 or 10.333 or anything, then the figure is completed by postives [number of runs] so if runrate is 3.4 and 3 overs are missing 3.4 x 3 = 10.2 = 11 runs!

  • Mezba on November 19, 2008, 18:03 GMT

    I like the idea of a fielder time out. Would make test cricket genuinely interesting! But what if they EXCEED the over rate? (i.e. Bangladesh with spinners)

  • Jamie Dowling on November 19, 2008, 18:34 GMT

    How about remote controlled electrical devices attached to or inserted into players? Perhaps in the jockstrap? A team of match referees sits at a control desk and whenever the fielding team are dawdling or being too slow... ZAP!

    There is much potential for motivation, especially if you think about where you place the electrodes...