December 5, 2010

Indian domestic cricket

Points system for domestic games needs overhaul

Aakash Chopra
Gaurav Gambhir pushes to the off, Punjab v Mumbai, Ranji Trophy Super League, Group A, Chandigarh, November 6, 2009
The current points system in domestic first-class cricket promotes dull games  © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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What happens when at least the first two crucial days of a four-day game are completely rained off? For one, an outcome becomes predictable, and so the line of attack is fine-tuned to get the maximum number of points.

Delhi and Saurashtra found themselves in a similar situation in Rajkot, with the gameplan becoming pretty straightforward-- win the toss, bat first (for the Rajkot wicket is pretty flat) and then pile on enough runs, while consuming so much time that only a draw is possible with two outcomes. One -- the side batting first takes the first-innings lead, or two -- both teams do not finish their first innings. Saurashtra went in with this strategy after their captain called correctly. They declared at lunch on the last day leaving Delhi to score at an unrealistic six runs an over to overhaul their total. Since getting the lead was a foregone conclusion, Delhi played for a draw and the batsmen enjoyed a good practice in the middle. Both teams got one point each for their efforts.

Clearly, 'safety first' is the top-most priority here, with the emphasis more on stacking up points. Are the teams really playing to win? And more importantly, is a good game being compromised?

A first-innings lead, even of only one run, is worth three points, which obviously isn't the fair assessment of a team's performance. An outright win gets five; add another point for winning by an innings or 10 wickets. There's one point for conceding the lead but holding on to a draw. The first-innings lead is hence of utmost importance; even a win does not reward three more points, unless it's a massive victory.

If a points system promotes a dull game, isn't it flawed? The easiest way of winning a match is to bat for the longest time possible and then hope for the opposition to buckle under the mountain of runs. If time and the number of runs are the only concerns, who will care about the scoring rate? And why would anyone declare in order to set up the match for a thrilling finish?

My suggestion is to take a leaf out of the English system where you get points for taking wickets and scoring runs and not for taking the lead. For example, the batting team should get a point each for every 75 runs scored after 125 runs with a maximum of five points. However, they would get points only till the 125th over which means that they should score 425 runs by then at a healthy rate of 3.40 runs per over. Similarly, the fielding side would get a point each for taking two wickets, with a maximum of five for 10 wickets. So if the team batting first opts to bat for more than 125 overs, only the fielding side will have a chance to gain points after that which would encourage teams to declare.

The same applies in the second innings but with another five points for winning the game. This will ensure that teams set up the match to have realistic chances of a result. But the rider is that the losing team will hold on to its bowling and batting points. In the current scenario, a loss means zero points, which discourages teams from taking risks. With so many points on offer, losing teams will have the chance to make up for those extra five points in the following games.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Vignesh on (January 5, 2011, 6:41 GMT)

First of all congrats Aakash for the century in the Ranji trophy semi-final . Now Aakash has raised a good point here. It is also evident from the quarter-final match between Tamil Nadu and Haryana where Tamil Nadu won due to better run-rate after most part of the match was washed out due to rain which was unfair for Haryana as they were ahead in the match in terms of runs.

Posted by aru das on (December 8, 2010, 8:53 GMT)

While there is merit on what you are saying, making (an apparantly) complicated system does not necessarily (often) work.

The most serious problem with the present system is it encourages teams to be conservative. [If I am not mistaken, Mumbai simply did not even attempt outright win twice earlier this season, even though they almost had nothing to loose --- i didn't understand their strategy]. So how can you address that concern w/o making the system complicated? simple : give less incentive for 1st innings lead. Say 2pts/1pt for 1st-innings leader/loser in case of no-result while keeping 5(+1 for innings win) points for winner in case of a result. It may even make sense to have 1 point for 1st innings leads with no result and 3(+1) points in case of result.

It would be also better to have 5 day matches ... but scheduling would be an issue; so may be with few teams in a tier.

Posted by laxman on (December 8, 2010, 7:16 GMT)

Akash has raised a good debate. Indeed the point system needs overhauling. For that matter even the league format needs a look. Iagree to Alok's view that there should be home and away differentiation, provided there is equality. I suggest, 1. 8 points for WIN at home and 10 points for WIN away. 2. 4 points each for a draw. 3. No points for innings lead. But 2 BONUS points for exceeding opponent's RUN RATE in FIRST INNINGS. This will make the proceedings more absorbing, particularly on the fast tracks. 4. No Bonus points for for magin of win. But deduction of two points for below par display, the par level will then be defined suitably by the adjudicator of the match. If there is 60% or more of the the game is washed out, why then, the teams concerned should suffer for no fault of their's? Average points of each team till the match should be added to the tally.

Posted by Sekhar on (December 7, 2010, 8:26 GMT)

The key source of complacence is the disproportionate reward to taking a first innings lead. Instead of awarding 3-1 points all the time, consider splitting 2-2 if the team that is behind on the first innings can take 4 or more wickets in the other team's second innings in a drawn match. In such a case, even a team following on will have incentive to set up a target and try to grab wickets when the opposition is re-inserted. And when the opposition is 4-down they will continue to fancy cornering all 4 points. Even the opposition will have similar ideas- the only way they can regain lost ground at 2-2 is going for outright win.

Posted by Vinay Pai on (December 6, 2010, 17:51 GMT)

But isn't point system based on runs/ wickets leaves too much on the nature of the pitch being played on? say the difference between Rajkot and Mysore?

Posted by Shailesh Gandhi on (December 6, 2010, 17:04 GMT)

I fully agree with coments. This will creates dynatism in the domestic matches. In recent match between Maharashtra and Kerala due to rain Maharashtra driprived of winning the game and hence loss of points. BCCI should try atleast for one year point system as per english county.This will also give team to come out with brave declaration and will to win or get maximum points. in last division one (England) match which was rain affected and first innings was not completed, Nott. got batting points as well as bowling points against Lancashire, just sufficient to become champion. In this regard take match between Mumbai and Saurashtra this year. Interesting match become dull by not enforcing follown and make the match as batting practice as well as for hitting century for record. This was repeated in the match between Mumbai and Bengal. Hope BCCI will think over this for better cricket in future.

Posted by Split Infinitive on (December 6, 2010, 16:02 GMT)

Aakash:

Once again, very thoughtful. However, a proviso to the proposed points system is that the pitches will also need to be "result-wickets", else games will continue to be boring.

Posted by Alok on (December 6, 2010, 15:30 GMT)

I like your idea Aakash, but I honestly think that the dull cricket is due to a defensive mentality that has gripped Indian cricket for some reason.

I think it has more to do with the dull tracks being prepared by associations to create batathons that equalize a mediocre and a good team (mind you, great teams have always found ways to win on dead pitches as well!).

The tinkering, I submit, should be done on a home-away basis, i.e., more points for an away draw than a home draw and likewise. My suggestion would be:

Home Away Win (innings/10w) 8 10 Win 6 8 Win (innings lead) 4 6 Draw (trailing) 2 4 Loss 0 2 Loss (innings/10w) -2 0

The idea is to make the innings draw for the home team, points neutral almost, whereas a win would really count. For this to work, teams should play home and away equally.

Posted by prasad on (December 6, 2010, 14:19 GMT)

it's high time the present point system is overhauled.the english point system is the best and should be adopted at the earliest.the present point system is not only flawed but encourages dull and predictable result. Bcci should look into this aspect immeadiately.

Posted by Shreesha S Bhat on (December 6, 2010, 14:13 GMT)

Very true. It would be an even better idea to do something more radical like award points just for wins and nothing for draws, so that teams play to win and prepare home pitches which aid results. As it is, when 5-day tests in India are ending up in dull draws, expecting a result in 4 days is too optimistic with the kind of tracks we have.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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