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March 20, 2012

Cricket rules

Innings swap, anyone?

Michael Jeh
MS Dhoni ponders his next move, India v South Africa, 3rd ODI, Ahmedabad, February 27, 2010
"They're 130 after 16 overs. I fancy a hit too"  © AFP
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Is there anyone else out there who spends their day thinking about cricket, coming up with various theories on how to improve one aspect of the game or the other? None of these ideas are ever likely to be accepted by the ICC, but that's never stopped my friends and I from whiling away the hours, debating these concepts and imagining the implications. It's good stuff to argue about on rainy days, cooped up in dressing rooms, waiting for the umpires to call off the match. That's happened a lot in Brisbane lately!

Here's an ODI hypothetical; the genesis of the idea comes from a good friend called Baldy who lives and breathes cricket whilst pretending to be a chartered accountant of dubious distinction.

I edited his idea a little bit but in essence, to make allowance for the toss of the coin being too much of an advantage, Baldy proposes that the team losing the toss can call for an "innings swap/suspension' sometime between overs 15-40. So on a pitch that is very helpful to the bowlers, Team A wins the toss and chooses to insert Team B. If Team B is struggling at say 3 for 50 after 15 overs and thinks there is still some life in the pitch, they can call for an 'innings swap' and have a crack at utilising those conditions themselves. It also means they have to bat last on that pitch, which could mean it has flattened out or it could start to slow down or take spin or keep low. That's the risk they take by choosing to call for the swap.

Similarly, if the pitch is a belter and Team A is smashing you all round the park, Team B calls for the swap and tries to make the most of the batting conditions. The variations are endless but it does provide a strategic edge to the game that becomes very interesting during that so-called "boring middle overs" segment of an ODI. It's yet another way for a captain to constantly think on his feet and halt momentum if he thinks it might swing the game. When Team A is in the middle of a destructive partnership or when Team B is bogged down and losing wickets, call for the swap, change momentum and see if that brings about a twist. It's a bit like making a bowling change, sending a pinch hitter up the order or calling for a Powerplay.

I love the idea - all of a sudden we take nothing for granted. The game may be drifting along but we're constantly watching the body language of the captain of Team B, second guessing what may be going through his mind and waiting for something that may not even happen. Maybe even allow Team A to also call for an innings swap (so long as they do it after Team B has exercised their call first) so that no innings will potentially drift for 50 overs without potential for a change.

Maybe Team A (if they wish to exercise their option for a swap) can only do it at the exact point at which Team B made the original swap. If Team B called for a swap after the 20th over, Team A can also exercise that option at the 20th over or they have to bat through their innings. It just gives the team that loses the toss a chance to exert some influence on the game. It also keeps us spectators on our toes, watching and waiting for the strategic swap call. Even if the captain never makes the call, it's more stuff that the armchair experts can debate till the cows come home. Should he or shouldn't he have called for the swap?

Imagine calling for the swap just after the batting team has taken their Powerplay? That could totally halt momentum for a batsman who was in the groove. He needs to start again a few hours later, on a pitch that may have changed in nature, against a bowling attack that is now refreshed and he needs to find his rhythm all over again. I remember the very few times when I've been hitting the ball sweetly before a lunch or tea break and then returned after the interval to find that I had completely lost my timing. Or when the ball had been swinging all over the place and suddenly stopped swinging after lunch as the weather changed or I just lost that perfect rhythm I was in. I'm probably the only cricketer in history who bowled 5 wides on a hat-trick ball and the excuse I'm sticking with was that it was punctuated by the tea break so when I came on to bowl my hat-trick ball, I had stiffened up completely and lost my radar. We ended up losing by one run too!

The downside of course is going to be around the logistics of TV breaks, scheduled meal breaks for players and the on-ground catering arrangements. Yes, that is a problem. Test cricket copes with it to some extent so it's not insurmountable but some people may not like the lack of flow. I concede that weakness. TV networks may not like the lack of predictability but it is that very factor that might also keep people watching the entire telecast without channel surfing or mowing the lawn during those middle overs.

Look, it's never going to fly so I'm just throwing it out there for a bit of light-hearted fun. Maybe it will trigger some other ideas that will provide us all, wherever we are in the world, with some more ammunition to throw around when we're stuck in a dressing room, bored at work or solving the real world issues at a barbeque or braai with our mates. If you have any ideas or suggestions, chuck 'em at us. The ICC will never read this so we might as well have a bit of fun with it. That's the beauty of the internet - we're all connected through a shared love and everyone's an expert!

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by Maws on (November 7, 2012, 2:07 GMT)

Was reading this, noticed that you'd taken an idea from Baldy - had to stop reading, having played a season @ Valleys (in Baldy's team) I can't believe that anyone would ever take anything he said seriously!!! :D

Posted by Shivaraj on (March 29, 2012, 2:08 GMT)

Guys,..can't stop myself from proposing this outlandish idea. Very simple and quite plausible. Why not have a model where the batting team could decide on the bowlers (regular bowlers only) they would want to face during a bowling team opted power play. I know this doesn't do away with the toss being the deciding factor, but lends that spunk to the game which you guys are trying to get to.

Posted by Ali Khan on (March 25, 2012, 9:44 GMT)

I had sent almost exactly the same idea to the ICC a couple of years ago. Also sent a copy to cricinfo. As a result, Australia tried the two innings format. This did not work out because they were just playing two twenty over innings. My idea was to allow the first team batting, the option to declare anywhere between the 15th and 35th overs. The team batting second would have the same option. The teams would then resume their second"innings" at the same score they had stopped. In the second innings, the teams would have the option of changing one player. So, if the first team had lost too many wickets in their first outing, they could bring in a batsman in their second outing. This opens up a raft of exciting tactical possibilities. I believe this is the way to save the ODI game.

Posted by YAQOOB ISMAIL on (March 25, 2012, 7:42 GMT)

Cricket already saturated with rules and luck being integral part of every sport, it is more so in cricket. Instead of swap, which again is luck oriented as just one good ball from an ordinary bowler can ruin a top class batsman or a six from #11 can ruin a best bowler, rules be adopted to minimize luck and enhance performance. I did suggest and still go for only one toss per series with option to bat or ball on rotation basis. It will give almost equal apportunity to both teams to utilize conditions.

Posted by Anders on (March 25, 2012, 4:14 GMT)

Similar(ish) idea: in a Test series, whoever loses the previous Test can choose whether to bat or bowl in the following Test.

Posted by kumar on (March 25, 2012, 3:55 GMT)

I feel that the team losing the toss should be allowed to change 2 or 3 players after the team winning the toss has announced its decision. But, for a team like India, with no bowling reserves, it will not matter. A better way of innings swap in ODI would be to split the 100 overs into 4 25 over sessions; Team A wins toss and has the option to decide what to do in the first half (50 overs) or in the second half. Team B can decide for the other part. That way, innings swap is not random, but is set at every 25 overs. Finally, test matches can have points system, like its done in county cricket and Indian first class system? That way, even after two or three boring draws, teams that bowl or bat better can be declared winner after the series.

Posted by Devraj Mallik on (March 25, 2012, 3:54 GMT)

Super sub will work exceptionally well in T20..try it out ICC!

Posted by Sarfaraz on (March 24, 2012, 21:32 GMT)

This definitely does not sound like cricket.....maybe baseball or gulli dunda

Posted by ed on (March 24, 2012, 19:05 GMT)

then why do we need a toss?? also, how will d/lewis apply?

Posted by Chetan asher on (March 24, 2012, 14:59 GMT)

The super-sub was a brilliant idea that captains could not use well. 4 /5 years back, when India's batting was at its peak - Imagine the plight of the opposition captain who wins the toss with Super-sub for India = Sachin Tendulkar ! Or Dhoni's plight when he wins the toss against Australia on a green top with Super-sub = Brett Lee ! Damned if you bat, damned if you bowl in both cases... Unfortunately, none of the captains had the guts to try these tricks & cricket lost a fantastic option to neutralize the toss impact.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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