June 20, 2010

Don't change the rules, play better

A two-innings format is not going to make one-day cricket more attractive. What it needs is more imaginative captaincy and less gimmicks

There'll be a 50-overs-a-side World Cup played in the subcontinent in early 2011, complete with Powerplays, restrictions on field placings and the number of overs delivered by a bowler, and with one team batting during the day and another at night. However, what form the World Cup of 2015 in Australia and New Zealand will take is anyone's guess. For a game that's supposed to be gasping for breath, the 50-over version is generating serious debate and much of the speculation is emanating from Australia.

The animated discussion has occurred because of the perception that since the dramatic arrival of Twenty20 cricket, the longer limited-overs version is mundane. The main charge levelled at ODIs is that the middle period of an innings is so predictable that if you nod off, read a book or repair to the bar in that time, the only thing you'll miss is the exercise provided by participating in the Mexican wave.

This criticism does have some merit. However, the reason behind this perceived dullness of ODIs is not so much the increased anticipation provided by a hectic Twenty20 match but a combination of unimaginative captaincy and a reliance on gimmicks to prop up the longer game.

The "formulated" nature of the middle overs of an ODI preceded the inception of Twenty20 cricket. Whenever the fielding captain stops trying with all his might to capture a wicket and relies more on the opposition batsmen committing cricketing suicide, the game stops being an interesting contest. When the batting side is happy to score at five or six an over without taking any risks, and the fielding side is content to concede runs in singles, the game loses its meaning.

There's only one reason to play cricket and that's to win the contest. You won't always achieve that pleasing result but players will have fun trying if the captain strives to make the contest interesting. When a fielding captain's mind is clouded with negativity, the game can become tedious, and if spectators feel that way, then spare a thought for the fielders. At least the fan can go to the bar or, in the worst case, get up and go home; the player has to stay on the field and endure his punishment.

Selectors must be more pro-active. If a captain has misplaced his imagination, then he should be reminded by the chairman that he'd better rediscover it, otherwise he'll find himself either unemployed or back among the rank and file.

If you want the 50-over game to suffer the same fate as dial-up email and ashtrays, then come right out and say so. But turning it into a two-innings limited-overs match is simply more Twenty20 cricket by stealth

The introduction of Powerplays has firmly entrenched the thought in many a captain's mind that between these "adrenaline rush" periods, the idea is mostly about keeping wickets in hand. That's not the way batting should work. A batsman must attack every delivery as his first priority, hoping to score multiple runs. If that's not possible, the next option is to sneak a single, and if the delivery is just too good, then look to survive it and prosper from the next ball. As Dr WG Grace so eloquently put it: "I don't like defensive shots, you only get threes."

The administrators can't legislate to make players better or captains more imaginative; it's immaterial if you play 40 or 50 overs a side, or split the innings in two halves, or play a two-innings limited-overs game. If one team is vastly superior to the other and one captain is desperate to win and the other is hoping he doesn't lose too badly, then two things are assured: the result will quickly be a foregone conclusion and the game will lose any semblance of excitement at about the same time.

If you want the 50-over game to suffer the same fate as dial-up email and ashtrays, then come right out and say so. But turning it into a two-innings limited-overs match is simply more Twenty20 cricket by stealth.

In the meantime, until selectors get more proactive on captaincy, or administrators discover a miracle cure for an uneven spread of talent, it won't much matter what legislative changes occur. Many games will cease to be contests early in the proceedings. As long as only about half the playing nations are truly competitive at international level in any game of substantial length, and this number decreases the moment the pitch has some life, legislation isn't the answer.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • faisal on June 23, 2010, 12:13 GMT

    To give spice to the middle overs of 50 50 over match. restrict bowling/batting powerplays to be used from 20 th to 40th overs.

  • Delan on June 22, 2010, 22:16 GMT

    To kamranwasti: Firstly the best world cup format to judge a team was in 1992 where all teams played each other. But its not so practical today unless the number of teams decrease. Secondly I think pitch conditions, bats, and rules tend to favour batsman more today than any other period in time. Part of the reason is that the ICC is run by the BCCI, who is in turn controlled by various media in India, who want lots of matches with lots of runs that go the full distance. Thirdly, to say Sri Lanka were not wothy winners of the 96 WC because they didn't bowl any teams out is utter rubbish. The team with te most runs wins! There were 2 boycotted matches, and in the semi final India would have been easiily bowled out if the crowd didn't behave disgracefully and start burning seats, and throwing objects on the field!!!

  • Michael on June 22, 2010, 9:54 GMT

    Why are people always saying 'Ban Tests' or 'Ban ODIs' or 'Ban Twenty20'? If you don't like it, then don't watch it - but don't stop others from watching and enjoying it. I don't like Twenty20s, and I don't watch them. But other people like them, so good for them. I enjoy a good ODI, where there is a contest between teams - I'm not a fan of the PowerPlays, but seeing teams fight back from adversity (which doesn't happen in Twenty20s) is gripping. I love Tests too, particularly if it's closely fought. Even if it's a draw, it can be highly engaging as long as both teams (or even just one of them) is trying for the win. Where Tests become boring is when they try to be Twenty20s and have pitches that favour the batsmen too much. Each form of the game has its own style and flavour that appeals to other people.

  • TT on June 22, 2010, 8:51 GMT

    Dont play 50 over game, but instead of 50 over ODI make it to 32 overs ODI one drinks, 12 overs powerplay, each bowler 6 overs max, u can make a difference of 3 hrs a day, in this 32 overs format u will find all type of shots, risks, bowling and commitment, time limit shud be 145 minutes to complete 32 overs, so the play is fast n hopefully all will enjoy, in todays world time matters a lot, i find guys just watching last 10 overs match where the results are measured, well in t20 u dont find it very fast n not all type of players have the chance over there to show up their skills, but in 32 overs format u will hv enough time to keep the game alive from all angles, n it will be more interesting, not boring as in ODI it is between 26th over to 38 th over. International cricket can attract lot of countries in this format.

  • Ashok on June 21, 2010, 23:37 GMT

    The 50 over ODI is easily the best format of Cricket of the current 3 formats. One has to understand the reasoning behind a 5 day test format before passing judgement. The 50 over abridged format avoids drawn games and has sufficient action from both the sides. It gives both bowlers and batsmen equal chances to make the best of the situation. Slight tweaking might be in order but by and large it is a good format to judge a team's ability & skills. Even in this fast paced ,odern life, a true cricket fan can easily spare a day to watch it. Actually most of the league matches at the club level or village cricket is played in a format similar to the ODI with some modifications. It might also be the preferred format for the county Cricket in UK. It is here to stay. The 20/20 version is more like a Yahoo type. It isn't Cricket with orthodox strokes. 5 Day test match version is too slow & mostly ends in No decision.This is the reason why the ODI 50 over version is here to stay.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2010, 17:23 GMT

    Why not play the 50 over game with no restriction on the number of overs a bowler can operate? The only restriction that should be available would be no more than 4 fielders outside the restricted circle. Let the good bowlers attack trying to get wickets without being afraid of edges and mishits flying to the boundaries. Five fielders in the circle would mean that singles are not automatic atleast in one half of the field. This way, you have both the teams attacking throughout without resorting to pushing for singles with no risks. As for the powerplay the way it is constructed now_ It is farcical in the name of cricket. A bowler like Bishen Bedi would stand minimal chance of even getting into Kngs XI Punjab leave alone representing India. He would be asked by his coach to throw darts into the block hole and given a film of Jayasuriya to study and emulate.

  • Kanu on June 21, 2010, 16:26 GMT

    evryone here has 1 common suggestion to make ODIs more intresting that is reduce ODI quantity and me too agree with all of them, not just for ODIs but for tests also, everyone is screaming to reduce quantity of cricket for more than a decade now, since 1990s cricket's both forms r being played in excess, now that we have the 3 hour t20 game, use t20 to globalise cricket in china, europe, US. 10tests 20ODIs and 12-15 t20i shud be max limit for any nation to play in a calendar yr, this means max 85 days of international cricket for any nation(excluding icc events of course that is ICC ODI wc and ICC t20wc), scrap champs trphy, no need for it now since t20wc is goin to be held evry 2 yrs, WAKE UP ICC, FOCUS ON QUALITY NOT QUANTITY, why cant changes be made to current ftp thats been planned upto 2012, do all of us have to endure it till 2012 and suffer more spineless and meaningless matches

  • Adam on June 21, 2010, 13:45 GMT

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the format in itself. A genuine contest between two evenly matched teams both striving to win can be an absorbing spectacle. The stupid gimmics like the moveable powerplay and the supersub only detract from the game.

    What we desperately need is less utterly meaningless fixtures and one sided games. T20 should be considered the "global" game, bringing cricket to new markets, not 50 over cricket.

    Restrict the 50 over world cup to the top 8 teams plus 4 qualifiers, and restrict the number of ODIs to 12 per team per year (4 sets of a best of 3), with the results counting towards seedings towards the world cup in a transparent fashion.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2010, 13:34 GMT

    Test cricket has been played for well over 100 years, and considering that, has had relatively few rules changes. Why one-day cricket must undergo so many rules revisions is beyond me.

    As for fast paced action cricket, I wonder why the Hong Kong Super Sixes version of the game never caught on? Perhaps it was due to the lack of skill involved and the absurdity of only 4 outfielders?

    20/20 cricket is merely an avenue to introduce people to the game, and a way for associate nations to compete on a day by day basis. Test cricket is just that, a TEST, and will remain the epitomy of Team sport for a long time.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2010, 10:45 GMT

    Test should be banned forever. because people don't have time to watch it or go to the ground and watch there. Test match makes cricket bad image believe me or not. if anybody knows about test match they will say it's so boring game. So please ban test cricket and play less ODI's as well. T20 should be play all time. T20 makes very exciting cricket. Play more and more T20 as you can and bring more countries like USA, China, Europe, Russia and etc.

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