October 11, 2011

'They're complicating the laws, not simplifying them'

The ICC's revision of the rules to do with Powerplays, new balls in ODIs, runners, and obstruction of the field take effect from today. Former and current players weigh in on the changes

Using Powerplays between overs 16 and 40

Alastair Cook, England one-day captain It's certainly very interesting and it will change the tactics in those last 10 overs. It can be a bit of nightmare when the Powerplay is taken in the 45th over - you can feel a bit helpless. It will certainly change things now that they have to be taken before the 40th over.

Ian Chappell, former Australia captain and current commentator I don't think there's enough foresight with the framing of all the laws. You need to think of the laws occasionally, but we are having major changes all the time, which means you haven't thought through the rules properly at first. If I am a captain, this rule makes me feel, "Why don't you come out and lead the side instead of me, because you are telling me what I need to do all the time - when to take the fielders, where to place my fielders." This Powerplay legislation distracts from allowing the captain to lead the side.

Michael Kasprowicz, former Australia fast bowler and now a Cricket Australia board member The Powerplays have worked really well for bowlers. There seems to be a lot more impact from bowlers, and I think that's good for the game. Enforcing their use between the 16th and 40th overs increases the need to think about it in a tactical sense rather than just leaving the batting Powerplay, in particular, for the final few overs.

Andrew Hudson, former South Africa batsman and currently South Africa's convenor of selectors A lot of teams would just wait until the end of the 45th over to take the Powerplay, because then they would have no choice, but now it will make them commit to a game plan. It will probably create a bit more interest.

Sanjay Manjrekar, former India batsman and current commentator Again, we can see some of the problems 50-over cricket has been having and this is an attempt to infuse some excitement into the middle stages. I'm not overly excited by it. It's another little tweak. It'll just shake captains a bit out of their comfort zone because they had been doing it the standard way [last five and after the mandatory first 10]. Very few captains actually used [Powerplays] to their advantage.

Ian Bishop, former West Indies bowler and current commentator I think teams will eventually find a way to create some sort of equilibrium. I hope this ruling will create some more interest in middle overs. I have no empirical evidence to back this, but generally bowling teams take their Powerplay straight after 10 overs. Forcing them to take it in 16-40 will give the spectators something to watch, if sixes and fours are your kind of thing.

I don't think forcing batting sides to take it before the 40th over is a bad thing, or that it might end up being a double-edged sword. I have no sympathy for batsmen, not because I don't like them, but they generally hold the advantage in limited-overs cricket. A lot of batting sides have lost their way in the Powerplay overs, but the problem was that their approach to the restrictions wasn't clear; I don't think when it is being taken is as much an issue as how it is approached. If you are reckless in the Powerplay, which was often the case in the World Cup, it can be a problem, but I think batsmen are going to get smart enough in time to learn how to handle it.

New balls from either end

Ravi Rampaul, West Indies fast bowler Playing with two new balls keeps the ball a lot newer, so from where I stand it is probably a good thing for the bowlers but not the batters. The two new balls might rule out reverse-swing later in the innings, but you will have a harder ball to bowl with later on in the innings.

Bishop This rule will suit different people in different conditions. In the subcontinent, where you have dry and flat grounds, it is going to favour the batsmen, but in England, Australia and New Zealand it will help the bowling side, since the balls will seam and swing through the course of the innings. The disadvantage that will come into play will be that bowlers will struggle to achieve legitimate reverse-swing in most conditions, and that disappoints me. This rule seems to have come about to do away with the practice of changing the ball midway through the innings due to discoloration, and we might in the process lose out on one or two aspects, like reverse-swing.

Kasprowicz I never thought the compulsory change of ball was a good thing. If the ball is worn and batsmen can't see it, then fair enough. But to go to a ball at each end is a good move, and is one of the few changes we've seen over the years that is going to help the bowlers, fast bowlers in particular. We didn't really see much reverse-swing in recent times anyway, because of the change of ball, so I think we will see more of that, as teams can work on the ball.

"If I am a captain, this rule makes me feel, 'Why don't you come out and lead the side instead of me, because you are telling me what I need to do all the time - when to take the fielders, where to place my fielders'"
Ian Chappell

Chappell Australia tried the new balls from both sides and gave it up 10 years back. So where has it come from again? For god's sake, get the white ball fixed so that it retains its colour and character, instead of tinkering with everything else. This rule is surely going to favour bowlers more in certain conditions. And that affects the balance between bat and ball, which is a bad thing.

Chris Woakes, England fast bowler The new rule looks good. The ball keeps shape a lot longer, and with the ball not changed towards the end, you have a good feel of it through the innings. The ball did start to reverse towards the end, and that, I think, would happen here because of the outfield.

Manjrekar I have absolutely no issue with two new balls. The mandatory change after 34 overs exposed what happens with the ball. It just didn't look good that you had to change the ball because you didn't have the quality of balls that could last the distance. A lot of modern-day spinners are able to use the hard seam of the cricket ball to work to their advantage. R Ashwin recently made a statement that he found spinning the ball easier with the hard seam because he was able to grip it better and it was responding well off the pitch. So the old-school [belief] that the ball has to be old for the spinners doesn't necessarily hold true now. Also, I saw Umar Gul get reverse-swing as early as the ninth over in England during the World Twenty20. If you're good enough, reverse-swing can still be part of a 50-over innings despite the two new balls.

In livelier conditions, the effect of the new ball and seamers will put pressure on batsmen for longer, but if you look at world cricket generally, we have placid pitches. It'll work in favour of the batsmen a bit because they'll constantly have the hard ball to smash around. We won't see the stage of 25 to 34 overs where the ball was at its softest.

Hudson It was not ideal to be changing the ball at 34 overs, so it takes out that variable. It could have an impact on reverse-swing, but at least discolouring won't be a problem, particularly for night games. It will also give the bowlers a slight advantage, which is a good thing since it has been a batter's game for so long.

Murali Kartik, former India left-arm spinner Earlier there was a chance for spinners that the old ball wouldn't go off of the bat. Now with two new balls they will remain fresh a longer time. Yes, at the same time spinners can grip the ball better, but I am sure even this rule is only for batsmen.

Obstructing the field

Bishop I think this ruling is absolutely correct. Changing direction and getting between the stumps and the throw has become an acceptable practice. I think that is wrong and is tantamount to cheating. It is the nature of the game that if you run, you are taking a risk. Your challenge is to back that judgement by reaching the other end. If your judgement is poor, you face the consequences. And doing anything to preserve your wicket is cheating. So I think if batsmen change direction to impede the fielding team, they should be penalised.

Chappell This one is plain ridiculous. Batsmen have been allowed to come in between the throw and the stumps right from the time I started playing, which is bloody long ago. Fielders are going to now throw the ball at the batsman needlessly, purely in the hope of getting a wicket. Even if he doesn't get the wicket, it is going to go up to the third umpire and take another decision away from the on-field umpires. The rule needlessly tries to legislate for a one-in-a-million chance. It is even more ludicrous since there is already enough in the law to allow the umpires to legislate that rare case. This is going to create controversies that are totally unnecessary. It is just another example of the stupidity in the law-making. The best example for the ridiculous law-making is the Mankad law. The man who changed that rule needs to be lined up against the wall and shot. The administrators need to rewrite the laws to simplify them as much as possible and not complicate them even more. I'm afraid that's what they are doing right now - complicating things too often.

Kasprowicz I'm not sure how they're actually going to dictate that or determine what the line is [for the batsman running between the wickets]. Trigonometry might come into it as to point A and point B. I can't recall too many instances when it was a major issue, but it must have taken place often enough in an international match for it to be one.

Manjrekar I think it's fair. You have a law that says you can't deliberately obstruct a fielder who's trying to take a catch unless you have a right to be in that area at the time. Some of this escaped all these years, that a batsman, while running, could change his direction deliberately to get in the path of the ball. There was a slight amount of gamesmanship and cheating involved. But it's another thing that the umpire will have to watch out for, another nuance in the game that will have to be monitored now - to determine if the change in direction was deliberate.

No runners

The MCC MCC feels that not to allow a runner for an incapacitated batsman does not comply with the spirit of equity within the Laws. If a bowler is incapacitated, another bowler can take over; if an incapacitated batsman is not permitted a runner, this effectively means the loss of his wicket, which is a disproportionate effect.

Hudson In terms of injuries, there was always a bit of a dilemma with guys who got cramps, especially in the subcontinent. Sometimes the idea of a runner could have been abused and misused. Outlawing runners may be a bit harsh on genuine cases, where there is an injury, and with so much cricket being played, genuine cases may suffer, but overall it will prevent any abuse the system was taking.

Kasprowicz I think the abolition of runners is a tremendous rule change, because for a team, if a bowler gets injured you weren't able to replace a bowler, and in some circumstances that could be damaging to the team's performance. Whereas with a batsman, he always got the luxury of someone else to do the running for him. So I think that's a good one, and unfortunately if you do suffer an injury, somehow you just have to manage it and get through it. It has seemed like it was a bit too easy at times for some batsmen, and as a former fast bowler I certainly applaud it.

Interviews by Nitin Sundar, Daniel Brettig, Firdose Moonda, Siddarth Ravindran, Siddhartha Talya