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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.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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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.