'Rules make it hard to play part-time bowler' - Dravid
Former India captain Rahul Dravid and former South Africa captain Graeme Smith said the rule changes in ODI cricket will encourage fielding teams to have a more attacking mindset in the 2015 World Cup, which starts in Australia and New Zealand from February 14. The two were speaking on Contenders, an ESPNcricinfo special programme building up to the tournament.
"The new ODI rules don't impact scores in countries like Australia and New Zealand as they have say in the subcontinent," Dravid said. "With the two new balls, the fast bowlers will get that level of assistance up front. The grounds are bigger too so it won't be that easy to clear the ropes. I think it will be a challenge for the captains. For example, when you have five fielders in the ring, it's very hard to play a part-time bowler. You are almost being forced to play five specialist bowlers. That is a real positive. You are going to be forced to attack and look for wickets rather than see part-timers bowl for a large period of play."
Among the significant changes made to the rules governing ODI cricket since October 2012, five fielders are mandated to be within the 30-yard circle at all times in the course of an innings. Only two fielders are allowed outside the circle for the first 10 overs while three are permitted for the chunk of five Powerplay overs to be taken by the batting team before the 40th over. Smith said bowlers who can "pick up wickets" are now all important.
"If teams get partnerships in these conditions with the five in the ring, the Powerplay at the back-end, that's when they are really going to get the opportunity to score big runs," Smith said. "You are always looking at your attack and saying we can't afford to carry two part-timers, we need an extra wicket-taker here. If you don't pick up wickets through your bowling session, you will be chasing a big total."
Smith said the use of two new balls from either end would require the batsmen to "sum up conditions" quickly in Australia and New Zealand.
"You need to set more of a platform, reverse swing and spin may not be as much of a factor as in the subcontinent so you could probably catch up in the last 20 overs," he said. "The key is not to go 3-4 down for nothing up front in those conditions."
Concerns have been expressed about the impact these rules will have on the role of spinners. Australia, in fact, left out Nathan Lyon - their most successful bowler in the recent Test series against India - from the World Cup squad on the basis that he may not be able to control the flow of runs. Dravid is of the view that if the pitches in the tournament are similar to the ones seen in the Test series, spinners will definitely have a role to play.
"Those are the grounds we are going to be playing the World Cup in," Dravid said. "They have been really slow and the spinners have come into play. You are just going to have to balance it out. There might be places where you go and say, the spinner might not have such a big impact on that particular day. It's a long tournament, it's in their summer, the nature of the wickets might change, you are just going to have to be smart enough and hopefully have the balance to play different conditions and different kinds of attacks."
Smith added: "I think allowing two bouncers adds something to the fast bowlers' armoury. I think to have attacking spinners is crucial because you need your spinner to pick up wickets through the innings and then you can bring your pace guys back and try and let them make an impact also. I don't think like the older days, you will get too many guys bowling really long spells, unless it's an occasion where it's doing a lot. You are going to have a captain that's going to be mixing it up a bit, trying to make an impact."
Dravid said he will be keeping an eye out for how the five-over chunk of batting Powerplay is used by captains over the course of the tournament. "A lot of time they just wait for overs 35-40. We saw in the home series Virat Kohli changed it about a bit and he used it really effectively against Sri Lanka. That's a good opportunity for captains, as to how tactically they can use those five overs, that will be interesting to see."
Agreeing with Dravid, Smith said the Powerplay is a chance for the batting side to disrupt the bowling plans of the opposition. "If you look at Sri Lanka, Lasith Malinga dominates the death overs. It's very difficult for you to score. You maybe want to take the Powerplay at a stage when he has to come back and bowl an extra over or two which then gives you the opportunity to score more runs in the last ten overs. Tactically, you can look at teams and say we need to take the Powerplay here, so we can get their bowlers done."