June 5, 2012

Cake for the cricket committee

Bowler-friendly rule changes

Saturday, 2nd June So it’s farewell, then, to the bowling Powerplay. I’ll be honest, I never really got to grips with the concept. I just about had a handle on the fixed Powerplay and the floating batting Powerplay, but the floating bowling powerplay was a floating powerplay too far. And now that it’s going, there’s one less thing to have to sound convincing about should my daughter ever take an interest in the game.

The end of the unloveliest Powerplay was announced by the ICC cricket committee, and whilst I don’t know who’s on that committee, they all deserve an extra slice of fruit cake at their next meeting, or at least an additional plate of chocolate digestives and an increased dry-cleaning allowance. Their recommendations were rich with common sense, including the excellent idea of allowing two bouncers per over.

Since trying to inflict any sort of serious damage on the modern batsman is like trying to wound a medieval knight in full armour with a stale Chelsea bun, the only intimidatory weapon left to the fast bowler is the prospect of making him fall over and look silly, unless you count mouthing off like a 12-year-old who’s just lost a game of Super Mario IPL to his younger sister (yes, I mean you, Mr Anderson). So more bouncers, by all means.

They also settled the bitter feud that had been raging in the world of mathematics, between the VJD method and the Duckworth Lewis method, although I think this could have been done in a more entertaining way, perhaps with a Pi reciting contest, a few rounds of extreme blindfold noughts and crosses, or an obstacle course featuring enormous inflatable replicas of Blaise Pascal’s head and a paddling pool full of foam algebra.

But let’s hope that this now marks the end of tinkering with the 50-over format. One of the things that newcomers almost never say about cricket is that it isn’t complicated enough. As it is, they must wade through the Laws of the Game, the Spirit of the Game, the 355-page DRS manual, a copy of Duckworth Lewis for Dummies, and Graeme Swann’s autobiography before they can settle down in front of the seventh one-day international between Bermuda and Kenya. Let’s not make it any more arduous than it has to be, chaps.

Sunday, 3rd June KP’s resignation, to spend more time with his franchises, has provoked much huffiness and head-shaking, all of it uncalled for. Test fans should be grateful that he’s remained committed to the five-day stuff: the equivalent of Kate Winslet agreeing to appear in a village hall production of The Importance of Being Earnest when she could have been picking up her fee for Titanic 2.

Besides, the real news is not KP but what’s happening at NZC. That rumbling noise you can hear from the southern hemisphere is not Jesse Ryder’s tummy, it’s another widening of the faultline of international cricket. Half a dozen New Zealanders may miss next year’s first Test against England, because they’ll be at the IPL party. Can this be right?

Well that’s professionalism. Why should players also be patriots? I’m not, particularly. Are you? Why play for peanuts in front of a couple of hundred spectators at Grassy Field, Auckland when you can be roared on by 50,000 in Chennai and get paid in diamonds and rubies? If Test cricket is to survive, its supporters are going to have to come up with better answers to those questions, because patriotic indignation and lofty contempt aren’t working.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England