ICC cricket committee's recommendations June 4, 2012

ICC's mixed bag for bowlers

Two bouncers an over is good news for fast bowlers but taking away an outfielder is bad news for spinners

With the 50-over format going through so many changes, it's fair to assume it had holes that needed to be plugged. The biggest of those is the disparity between bat and ball. Matches in which 300-plus totals are scored and chased successfully can work only as an aberration and not as a norm. The moment one-day cricket becomes a competition between the batsmen of two sides, it isn't any different from an extended Twenty20 game.

In order to correct this imbalance, the ICC cricket committee recommended several changes. The ICC's general manager Dave Richardson feels they will "help enhance what is still an exceptionally popular form of the game," but a closer look at the changes makes his statement sound hollow.

The decision to allow two bouncers in an over instead of one empowers the fast bowlers. In the current scenario, once the bouncer is out of the way, the batsman is likely to come down the track or line up for a reverse-sweep for the remainder of the over. So thumbs up to the fast bowlers. But this arrangement comes with a rider: There can be only four fielders, as opposed to five, outside the 30-yard circle for the non-Powerplay overs, which means there can't be more than four fielders outside the inner ring throughout the match.

I wonder how Ravi Shastri, a former spinner and member of the committee, agreed to recommend such a move? While the ICC has addressed fast bowlers' woes, spinners have got a raw deal. A year ago the same committee introduced the rule to use two new balls in an ODI innings, one at each end, which meant that in the 50th over, the ball was only 25-overs old. This has had a radical impact on the way spinners operate. To their credit, they managed to stay relevant by bowling flatter and focusing on line and length rather than on spinning the ball. Turning the ball may be a spinner's main weapon but to expect a new ball to grip and turn on good batting surfaces is ambitious.

Now, reducing the number of fielders outside the circle by one is going to make it tougher for spinners. If the recommendation is passed, a spinner will have to bring the sweeper-cover or deep midwicket or long-leg inside the circle, unless he sacrifices a long-on or long-off.

With shorter boundaries, flat pitches and two new balls, the spinners already have it tough. If they lose an outfielder as well, they won't have a choice but to bowl wicket to wicket with very little variety with regards to spin.

Now, an offspinner's doosra or a legspinner's googly will become opportunities to score, for there won't be protection in the deep. While these are tools for deception, they do get picked and batsmen will go after them if there are more gaps in the outfield. And if the bowler chooses to have protection for these variations, he'll be revealing his ploy.

Conversely, it will also encourage batsmen to try their hand at the switch-hit and reverse-sweep because not having anyone patrolling the square boundary makes it safer to play those shots.

The basic premise, and the reason for 50-over cricket's popularity, was for the ODI to be played like a Test match, with bowlers and captains always trying to take wickets and the only difference being getting the result in a day.

As the format evolved, however, the organisers figured the crowd enjoys fours and sixes more than a battle of attrition. Hence, the rules and playing conditions were tweaked regularly to ensure high-scoring matches, which are not necessarily the most enjoyable contests. While it worked for the longest time, the advent of Twenty20 cricket has shaken the foundations of 50-over cricket. The new rules and recommendations have failed to address these issues successfully.

So how do you ensure balance between bat and ball? We can start by identifying the period during which an ODI becomes stale - the middle overs, when the fifth bowler, usually a part-timer, is operating with the sole aim of not conceding boundaries. The batsmen play along by taking the safe route, milking those overs and waiting for the end overs to accelerate.

How about taking away the part-timer's 10 overs and increasing the maximum number of overs a bowler can bowl to 12? Two bowlers can be given the choice of bowling 13 overs each, which will ensure a better contest because a proper bowler is always in operation. The Powerplay can then go back to being 10 overs in the beginning and a five-over block each for the batting and bowling side. Those five-over blocks did bring a bit of excitement to those mundane middle overs and hence must be used judiciously.

And for the spinners' sake, it will be just to allow five fielders outside the 30-yard circle during non-Powerplay overs. Otherwise make it mandatory to have at least 75-yard boundaries on every ground.

In order to find the right balance, one must walk a tightrope.

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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  • Andrew on June 7, 2012, 1:59 GMT

    @shibuvin - in Oz - where bowlers are allowed to bowl more than 10, in actually leads to four QUALITY bowlers & it can limit the amount of overs required for part timers. This leads to more difficult run scoring. I am not a big fan of materially changing the fundamental rules of ODIs, but I do like this rule! @Wefinishthis - crowds were excellent in Oz for the ODIs. ODIs are the best format to hold a W/Cup. The only "problem" with ODIs is, that despite still being the biggest revenue earner for the ICC, there is too many matches played thru out the year. If we do away with ODIs, Test nations may as well be capped at 10, as the bridge between T20s & Tests is too far!

  • Shibu on June 6, 2012, 6:31 GMT

    I don't agree Mr.Chopra's idea of 13 or 12 overs to a bowler, as It's simply becomes a batsmen's game again. Because, If the allowed overs are increased for a bowler, The quantity of the bowlers will be reduced to two or three and an all rounder. Hence the team gets a chance of including a parade of batsmen. I would say the allowance of the overs for a bowler must be reduced to 8 or less. Hence, The team ll be cautious in batting and not explosive like in T20... Think about it, ICC....:)

  • V.L on June 5, 2012, 17:19 GMT

    4 fielders outside the circle can be a bane for fast bowlers as well. Usually when a hook or pull shot goes wrong it ends in the hands of deep mid-wicket, deep sqaure leg or in the region around fineleg. Now you surely cannot have 3 fielders just on the leg side and only one on the off-side . Captain has to choose from extra cover, deep thirdman, long off. If the bowler only chooses one filder on the leg side at deep mid-wicket or deep-square leg, then he might as well announce in the loud speaker that he is gonna bowl a bouncer. It will be interesting to see how this goes, should the new rules come into play.

  • Imran on June 5, 2012, 15:48 GMT

    Test Cricket and ODIs are the real game, T20 has destroyed the finesse of cricket. No more Warnes and Muralis now. The art of spin bowling is ruined due to the nature of the game now, no flight, no guile, just flat and straight. Sixes and fours are fun alright, but at the end of the day whats great is a super finish to a game. No bat vs bat, should be team vs team. How exciting it was in the IPL to watch Dale Steyn setup and remove the most accomplished T20 batsman in Chris Gayle. Took my breath away.

  • Dummy4 on June 5, 2012, 14:00 GMT

    Agree with nusratv, always been for the batsman. Bowlers have had the short end of the stick from day one!

  • Chris on June 5, 2012, 13:03 GMT

    How about just not have ODI's in the first place other than perhaps as a warm-up before a T20/Test series? T20 is everything ODI's should have been, and that is microwave cricket. It would certainly solve the problem of too much cricket being played. Beating the dead horse that is ODI's only devalues both Test and T20 cricket. The no.1 Test team holds the title of the best cricket team in the world, the no.1 T20 team holds the title of the best short form version of cricket, so where does that leave the no.1 ODI team? They can rejoice knowing that they're the no.1 "not really cricket, but not really short form cricket either" team in the world. Simple fact is that people don't care about ODI any more and the attendance worldwide backs that up. No amount of rule tweaking will fix the underlying problem. thenoostar you are 100% correct and that is the reality of the situation whether others want to agree with us or not.

  • udendra on June 5, 2012, 12:42 GMT

    ICC wants to make Spinners extinct! the governors of the game are killing it.

  • Arshad on June 5, 2012, 11:36 GMT

    Only four fielders outside the circle, abosultely rediculous. I say back to square one. For spinners, the limit must be enhanced to 6 fielders outside the circle

  • Ranil on June 5, 2012, 11:35 GMT

    What about tweaking the new rule a little and allow five fielders ONLY for the spinners? Ranil Herath _Kent

  • Dummy4 on June 5, 2012, 11:29 GMT

    are these recommendations made former/ex players! cant believe y they make such idiotic and unwanted changes, its keep on spoiling the game.

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