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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:
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 writerFeeds: Andy Zaltzman
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Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.