November 19, 2008

How to speed up over-rates, part 1

Andy Zaltzman

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

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Posted by Imran on (November 26, 2008, 17:39 GMT)

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

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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....

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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".

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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?

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Zaltzman
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.

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