October 23, 2013

Eight ways to empower bowlers in ODIs

If we don't want limited-overs cricket to turn into one-sided massacres, we need to change some rules and encourage attacking fields

Ishant may be wayward, but the rules are heavily stacked against him © BCCI

The run feasts of the India-Australia one-day series have provoked much thought among followers of the game. From the serious analyst to the crazy fan, everyone has an opinion. Most want heads to roll. Indian heads, of course.

At least three newspapers headlined the dilemma of Ishant Sharma on the same day - as part of curtain raisers, not match reports. And sure enough, the fast bowler fulfilled their dire predictions of yet another wayward spell in the match that followed. Nobody, however, paid any attention to the mauling some of the Australian bowlers received.

Short boundaries, better and heavier bats, the two-new-balls rule, and crumbling bowler morale have all contributed to the annihilation of attacks on both sides, reducing the bowlers to cartoon characters subjected to ridicule and worse - by media and spectators alike, who bay for their blood.

On any given day, 300 is par for the course, no longer an imposing total. Mishits go for six. A fast bowler can be traumatised in novel ways: by the batsman walking towards him contemptuously even as he gets ready to deliver; by being swept; by being undercut over deep third man. Slow bowlers can be reverse-swept, switch hit, dilscooped, and what not. The free hit for six can make you wish the ground would open up and swallow you; your team is already in desperate straits, and you have committed the crime of bowling a no-ball.

How do we restore the balance so things are not so lopsided against the bowler? Allow one wide per over, one no-ball per over, or best of all, one beamer per over? Legalise chucking (it already is half-way there, isn't it?), even underarm bowling? Permit dismissals through one-bounce catches?

Actually, the problem is no laughing matter. The humiliation of the bowler is so complete today that the SPCA should consider stepping in; better still, let's form an SPCB to offer succour to the poor benighted souls.

But something dramatic has to be done to prevent ODI cricket from degenerating into a massacre of innocents. What are the options open to the lawmakers, provided they are at all interested in reversing the trajectory of the game back from a mockery of its original values?

1. Let's take the two-new-balls rule. Its opponents complain that it hampers spin and reverse swing. So why don't we allow the fielding captain to use an old ball from one end? This way, the batsman would be really challenged, having to face a new ball from one end and an old one from the other. A choice of old balls of different ages and varying gloss, including those with one rough half and one shiny one, to favour reversing, could be provided to the bowlers to pick from at the start of the innings. Or scrap the two-new-balls rule altogether and give the fielding captain the choice of operating with new or used balls.

2. Bring back the substitution idea briefly tried out some years ago, and make it possible for the fielding side to bring in a fresh bowler at a strategic moment.

3. Reward wicket-taking bowlers by offering the option of keeping them on beyond their ten overs, adding one over to his quota for each wicket taken by a bowler. This way, captains won't be forced to take off a strike bowler and lose their hard-earned initiative.

4. Encourage attacking fields. This can be effected by removing all other field restrictions when the fielding captain has three close-in fielders, say, three slips, two slips and a gully, or two slips and forward short leg.This way, a new-ball bowler can have three fielders in close catching positions, bolstered by the protection of fielders on the boundary line. An orthodox Test match field, in short.

5. Exempt the bowler from being called for wides for height if the batsman has started walking towards him.

6. Exclude balls pitched on the stumps from the wide rule, provided they pass leg stump inside a line drawn very close to it.

7. Liberate the fielder on the fence by allowing him to touch the rope with any part of his body while preventing a boundary. All he has to ensure is that the ball is within the boundary at all times.

8. Declare the batsman out if a catch is held beyond the boundary, provided, of course, the fielder is inside the boundary when the ball is bowled. The distance between the boundary rope and the advertisement banner must not exceed a specified limit.

I know some of these suggestions could be seen as outrageous, even hare-brained, but unless we do some serious lateral thinking on empowering the bowler, one-day cricket will soon lose the label of a contest.

V Ramnarayan is an author, translator and teacher. He bowled offspin for Hyderabad and South Zone in the 1970s

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 27, 2013, 17:20 GMT

    Just play with one Duke ball - or an alternative with an even more pronounced seam. And set a minimum boundary size.

    But I do like suggestion 3

  • Ashok on October 27, 2013, 15:46 GMT

    @Fleming Ambrose: The real issue here is the spinners have little or no chance to bowl with 2 New Balls. The ball shine remains for a long period making it impossible to introduce the spinners early. Even if they come on, 4 out fielders as opposed to 5, makes it difficult for spinners. So the first change should be bring in ONE red Kookabara ball - lasts 50 overs. As for other rules you have basically gone back to Test format rules + insisting that leg byes are not allowed (?). Why not just stay with the test format rules (Incl. 85 M boundary) with some modifications like: 5 bowlers - each 10 overs, 2 Power plays requiring the 30 M limitations for field placing. For the rest of the overs, no field placing restrictions. That makes it an even battle + introduces some new limitations to help the batsmen + make it distinct from Test rules. This should satisfy both the bowlers & batsmen- Win/Win situation.

  • Dummy4 on October 26, 2013, 20:58 GMT

    I feel that bowlers must be protected. My suggestions would be 1. Abolish the legside wide rule unles it passes the white marker line. Is it the bowlers fault that all batting geniuses cant play balls that are a bit wide on legside. 2. Abolish the freehit for a frontfoot no ball. Thats just ridiculous. 3. Remove leg byes. Sorry sir the runs have to come off your bat. 4. Abolish the one bouncer rule. Sure modern helmetd can take a beating. 5. Increase the size of the boundaries I 6. Decrease the edges of the bats. 7. Bring back supersub.

    These may sound ridiculous but hey the rules favour the batsman and why not give something for the bowlers

  • Kunal on October 26, 2013, 20:11 GMT

    and pitch empowerment,.No excuses that India cannot produce anything but flat wickets.We havemany stadiums.Allow the lesser ones for usage in the Ranji AND THE MAJOR ONES FOR ONLY TEST MATCHES AND MAIN ODISS.BCCi has so much money a pitch dr can definitely be employed.Except they think the public to be stupid.Someday this tactic will backfire

  • Vivek on October 26, 2013, 20:10 GMT

    yup! get rid of fielding restrictions, and maybe the 10-over restriction on bowlers. Of course, I might even suggest getting rid of helmets for batsmen ;) but I don't want a massacre. You know that the tailenders will actually be getting bounced that way.

    I am tempted to agree with @Gloucsfan for scrapping ODIs but the problem is not with ODIs. I recall falling asleep watching the WI bowl 6 bouncer an over in the 80s Tests while there are gems of ODIs (think of Aus vs SA twice in the 1999 world cup among others).

    Other useless suggestions: Do away with covered pitches and watch the ball swerve wickedly. Or, just clone Waqar and Wasim and send them in to bowl...

  • Dummy4 on October 26, 2013, 4:52 GMT

    No need for all of this. Just remove field-restrictions...

  • Dummy4 on October 25, 2013, 20:23 GMT

    Introduce a bowling powerplay called lose a wicket, lose an over(LAWLAO). As it suggests, it provides added incentive for the fielding side to attack and take wickets. A block of ten overs of this powerplay at the end of an innings could deprive the batting side of, say, the last three or five overs of an innings, rewarding sides playing strike bowlers.

  • Dummy4 on October 25, 2013, 17:07 GMT

    It is simple. Go back to the way One day cricket was played in early 1990s, say 1992 World cup. Plus put a limit to bat's weight and dimensions. There is already a limit on length and width of bat, why not put a limit on thickness of the blade as well? Just do that and the bowling will be fun again.

  • Prashant on October 25, 2013, 16:22 GMT

    I don't think we need to do anything besides making sure the pitches aren't pancakes for ODIs to become more balanced again.

  • Madhu on October 25, 2013, 15:34 GMT

    Well I think its time we looked at changing something related to batsmen's privileges. How about restricting couple of things 1 - Just like a bowler a batsman can bat a max of 60 balls 2 - Batsman cannot be standing out of the crease in advance of the delivery stride ( no parking zone :) ) tough one to to monitor but worth a try 3 - Finally abolish the free hit, come on already the guy has to bowl another delivery for cryin out loud .

    this should even things out especially the 60 ball per batsman


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