March 25, 2011

No curtain calls for the ODI yet

The Powerplays have kept teams on their toes, the DRS has reduced mistakes, and the World Cup has been a success so far

It's been a pretty good World Cup, you have to admit. Yes, we took a long time to arrive at the eight teams that most thought would make the quarter-finals; yes, we had a lot of one-sided games, but that was factored into our expectations. But favourites have occasionally stumbled and underdogs have had their moments in the sun as well.

Dhaka wept and cheered and wept. The Irish marched, maybe short of weapons but not of spirit, Pallekele gave us a picturesque venue. Indian stadiums are, apparently, looking quite nice, England practised standing on a knife's edge, the Aussies haven't evoked awe, and South Africa have a legspinner. Clearly much has happened. Even the DRS has started winning some people over!

The decision reviews added a great deal to the World Cup. While there has been debate on the accuracy, teams and players have much less to complain about, and it seems a logical extension to the progress that was made when third-country umpires began standing. Not everyone is convinced that the projected trajectory of the ball is accurate, but it needs to be looked at in competition with the accuracy of the naked eye. And since machines have neither emotions nor loyalties, the merits or drawbacks will be uniform.

Has it eliminated howlers? I'm not sure we can be completely convinced of that but it has certainly minimised them, though it would help if someone told us the real reason behind its lesser admissibility when the ball pitches less than 40 centimetres from the pad or hits pad more than 2.5 metres from the stumps. I can understand Hawk-Eye being less reliable, and that the limits set therefore actually enhance its effectiveness, but it makes the game more complicated for the spectator. And it didn't help that the ICC kept making the odd alteration. It must work well, and it increasingly seems to, but in a sport that so depends on the public for its sustenance, it must work easily too.

I do hope, though, that we do away with the replay for the low catch. Nothing has failed as spectacularly as this has over the last 10 years. Or more. It doesn't work, it will always look not out, and you cannot deny a bowler a wicket or a fielder a catch on that count. Sadly it has to remain with the umpire because the other method, asking the fielder and trusting him, is too ridiculously naïve. If players stand when they know they are out, if players appeal when they know a batsman isn't out, they lose the right to be trusted. How can you trust a fielder if he says he caught it clean when a few minutes earlier he was probably appealing for one that went straight off pad?

If it is largely thumbs up for the DRS, it is a resounding yes for the Powerplays. When the batting Powerplay was first introduced it was felt, and with some justification, that it was another nail in the coffin for bowlers, particularly spinners. But these bowlers are wonderfully innovative fellows; maybe years of being suppressed by the laws have taught them to survive, and the batting Powerplay is actually being looked at suspiciously by some teams. It is a wonderful development.

In course of time, I think, it will remain a batting weapon, but it is asking more questions than many thought it would. With the fielders being forced in, the gaps within the circle have reduced, and batsmen have felt the need to go over. It begs the question: if the batting Powerplay can produce wickets, why not bring the fielders in more often to cut the singles and force the batsmen to play riskier shots? We see five fielders in the circle far too infrequently, and maybe that will change now.

It is interesting too, and maybe a touch predictable, that the side batting first tends to lose more wickets in the Powerplay (15 balls per wicket as opposed to 19 balls per wicket by sides batting second). Teams that know what their target is seem to approach it with greater care, whereas those that are setting a target seem to throw caution to the winds.

So the 50-over game seems in pretty good health, and maybe the packaging and promotion that a World Cup provides has helped. Good, organised batsmen are still topping the batting charts, and wicket-taking bowlers are still in fashion. And people are watching. There is much life left in this old dog.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

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  • Murali on March 28, 2011, 15:31 GMT

    Are we on the cusp of one such great moment…? ……A tender moment that will touch, inspire and elevate a billion people! We can only wonder how and why God chooses these moments and HIS instruments to display limitless courage, potential and strength of character in many a triumphant human endeavor. If ever there was an athlete that graduated to earn this moment, to be that cherished instrument, it has to be Sachin Tendulkar in his 23rd year of impassioned and dedicated service to an ever grateful nation. I can just shut my eyes and imagine that smile and tears of joy on Sachin's face as he is held aloft by his weeping, dancing teammates, thus culminating his international career triumphant on the ultimate stage. A role model of humility and character will remind a great nation of its heritage. A gentleman's game repaying its greatest ambassador with this great gift, with a global audience as its witness. Nobody and I mean nobody will begrudge him that moment. - PArt 2

  • Murali on March 28, 2011, 15:27 GMT

    Not often, but once in a very long while, there comes a transcendental moment in sports; a moment that is frozen in time, etched in our collective consciousness, a moment of glory that unites and inspires millions, a moment that cuts across religion, creed and country, a moment that will be recounted across generations, retold to grandchildren. History is replete with athletes that have adorned such a moment. Who can forget the black and white vignettes of Jesse Owens' gliding into everyone's consciousness in the heart of Nazi land?, Nadia Comenici's perfect 10 on the world's greatest stage or Diego's dramatic performance on the planet's greatest spectacle elevating him into a demigod in the world's most popular sport or Michael Jordan, a global sporting hero, delivering on the greatest basketball stage while floored by a gut wrenching flu. The moments few and far apart….. but the memories vivid. - Part 1

  • Daison on March 28, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    One thing I cant understand is - why the DRS reviews are limited to 2! If the howlers are to be eleminated, a system should be put in place that NO HOWLERS GO WITHOUT REVIEW. The umpires in the field are 100% on the job during the course of the match and so should be the Third umpire. During the play and between the deliveries all "iffy" incidents shall be reviwed and for that the Third Umpire shall let the on field umpire know through the radios. There can be cries of it slowing down the process but believe me there are not more than 10 such incidents where the play has to stop for reviwes on a average. And if there is something worth stopping the play for clarity of decision its to be stopped. Restricting the reviwes to 2 wrong ones wont help stop howlers. And if the team doesnt review one blunder even after appealing that is another howler for me. The third umpire should come in to play more if DRS is to be any meaningful and that Radio must be used more to coorinate.

  • Madhusudhan on March 28, 2011, 6:58 GMT

    Dear Bhogle, I have a doubt regarding UDRS. After watching the world cup matches so far, i observed that, UDRS is not 100% clean. Umpires taking the decision depending upon the team status. Small teams got more wrong decisions even through UDRS. One more thing is after losing their chances of reviews, the umpires may take advantage above those teams i.e., even if they take wrong decisions, the teams can not claim, which happened when India played against Australia in the quarterfinals, after India unsuccessful of their reviews one of the Australian batsmen got plumb in front of the stumps, umpire turned down the appeal, in the replays we saw he was plumb in front. I don't say that all the umpires do this, but in past also we experienced that Indian batsmen suffered the wrong decisions taken by the umpires. May be while batting we may get the advantage of the UDRS but not while bowling. Plz think about it.

  • Vasudevan on March 27, 2011, 10:03 GMT

    Unless the tourney is formatted into a full league of sorts, it is not possible for top teams to be tested against everybody else; but this may not meet the approval of all. Having said that, the fact is teams like England or West Indies did not deserve to finish in the top 8. England were given a lifeline by West Indies and India, when the matches could have been easily won by their opponents. It is a good thing that finally England's luck ran out against Sri Lanka. West Indies is a hopeless team, and they should be now ranked lowest, even below Kenya. Teams that have been knocked out in QF cannot complain, because they deserved to be knocked out. One cannot assume the places of 'top' teams. That is the rule of the game to win every knockout to become the champion. NZ have come up with some sensational performance when it mattered, so I would say all 4 semifinalists are there due to their performance. From here on, it is anybody's guess who will be the next World Cup Champion

  • Tabish on March 27, 2011, 8:47 GMT

    crocker is rit.... just like innovations like Batting powerplay, One bouncer over shoulder an over , UDRS etc have been implemented.... why not give remove the restriction of just 10 overs a match on a match... or rather put a cap of max 15 overs/bowler/match..... this wud give the bowlers some enthusiasm and a lot of choice to captain especially in cunch overs....

  • Shaikh on March 27, 2011, 4:22 GMT

    EVERY sport "depends on the public for its sustenance" Einstein!!!!!

  • Vinuthan on March 26, 2011, 17:39 GMT

    @chris: Wining World cup does not mean they are best in the world. It is that they are the world cup champions or winners of the world cup. Best in the world cannot be determined by a team winning one tournament. To do that, you need to consider a teams performance for atleast a period of time. May be ranking would help you tell that a team is best....Now let us not comment on the ranking system...may be that needs to be corrected if one feels it does not do justice...but for sure wining a world cup tournament should not be used to Tag as best in world. Messi is class act or one of the bets players in world, but he was super flop in WC. So it does not mean he is worst player

  • Suresh on March 26, 2011, 16:08 GMT

    As I write England are as good as gone. So now the Aussies and the Poms are gone. The journos from there will diss this Worldcup as one of the worst. Not only they have been kicked out, it has been a Worldcup organized in the Subcontinent and it has been an very interesting one. Above all they hate 'I' word.

  • Dheeban on March 26, 2011, 9:26 GMT

    Just a few comments about this World Cup. Didn't know where to post, thought this might be a good place as Harsha is a good journalist.

    Quarterfinals are simply not correct for cricket world cup. This has nothing to do with N Zl - S Af game yesterday. Cricket is not like football. One ODI is too fickle for the nature of this game, and the better team has a much higher chance of being knocked out. I would even like 'best out of 3' for semis and finals. But I can take the one match format for those stages since I am inclined to believe top 4 teams are much closer in performance. But 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7 are dangerous matches. Again, I am not defending S Af, quite the opposite for the way they played. But in future there should be no quarterfinals. As an Indian fan, I was a bit wary of q-finals. Even Sri Lanka's Jayawerdena said q-finals was the match he feared the most during their 1996 cup winning campaign.

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