Cricket regulations that could do with a tweak

Don't ban captains for slow over-rates

It only serves to devalue the next game, especially if it's a crucial one

Andrew Fidel Fernando

February 17, 2013

Comments: 27 | Text size: A | A

Kumar Sangakkara and Stuart Broad at the toss, Sri Lanka v England, Super Eights, World Twenty20, Pallekele, October 1, 2012
Sri Lanka found a loophole in the rule to avoid having their captain and best T20 batsman miss a must-win match © ICC/Getty
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In Sri Lanka's final Super Eights match in the 2012 World Twenty20, Kumar Sangakkara strode out for the toss in place of Mahela Jayawardene. "Mahela has lost three tosses in a row," was the line Sangakkara tried to peddle, but it was clear that trickery was afoot. When Sri Lanka came out to field, Jayawardene directed the fielders, changed the bowlers and generally called the shots.

Social media quickly figured Jayawardene was dodging a possible second over-rate infringement, which would lead to a suspension, and lit up with debate. Some condemned Sri Lanka's captain for flouting the rules, others praised him for it. After the match, Jayawardene confirmed, with more than a hint of glee at having cheated the system, that the switch had aimed to ensure he did not miss the semi-final.

As the rule stands, if a captain oversees two over-rate offences in the same format within 12 months, he is forced to miss his next match in the same format. In addition, the entire team is docked 10% of their match fee for every over that is deemed to be tardy, and the captain is fined twice that amount.

Sri Lanka's ruse had been conceived by the team manager because in the previous match they were found to be one over short of the minimum over rate. Their match against West Indies was not noticeably duller because of a slightly slower pace of play, nor had there been any inkling an infringement had occurred until the ICC's release came through. Yet if Sri Lanka had transgressed equally indiscernibly under Jayawardene's watch in their next game against England, or indeed in the semi-final against Pakistan, they would have lost their captain and best T20 batsman for a crucial match in a major tournament. The penalty seems too severe for the crime.

More frustratingly, the rule actually seems to defeat the purpose for which it was drawn up. If the rule-makers had hoped to make cricket more watchable by requiring quick play, they cannot punish violations by compromising the quality of the next match, which they do when they ban a key player.

In June last year, Pakistan lost Misbah-ul-Haq for the first Test against Sri Lanka for an over-rates infringement. What followed in Galle was their only Test loss of the year. There is no guarantee that Misbah would have made any difference to the result, but as their coach Dav Whatmore pointed out, Sri Lanka couldn't claim to have beaten Pakistan's best team.

The rule is likely born of broadcasters' demands, but perhaps harsher fines can serve as an acceptable deterrent for captains instead. Whatever the solution, the current rule, which aims to enhance the game, ends up devaluing it.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

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Posted by CricketFan2011WC on (February 18, 2013, 17:29 GMT)

I find many comments made by many here are ridiculous. What is most funny is that when SL intelligently take advantage of loop holes, then it becomes an issue. And that becomes against the spirit of the game. What about sledging then. So when Greig Chappel bowled the underarm to avoid hitting a six was not against the spirit of the game. Additionally, there are new rules like two new balls should be used from either ends facilitating mainly fast bowlers but not the spinners and reverse swing bowlers. Am I the only one thinking that many Aus/Eng cricket authorities pushing to get advantage for their sides? Cricinfo please post.

Posted by cricket-india on (February 18, 2013, 16:28 GMT)

today's players miss enough games anyway due to injuries or fatigue; no point making them sit out even more with these silly rules. no spirit of cricket is served by this. just have higher cash penalties for slow over rates and get it over with. don't criticise mahela/sanga or anyone esle who have found a way around it. ad breaks sleazily packaged as strategic time-outs are not seen as impediments to the game and violations of its spirit but captains taking an extra minute or two to set a field is a gross violation???

Posted by torsha on (February 18, 2013, 14:24 GMT)

Well what SL did was against the spirit but by excluding this rule can certainly help MSD and AB.

Posted by razaqaiser on (February 18, 2013, 13:04 GMT)

dont ban captains dont fine anyone, instead add penalty runs to the opposite team. Devise a formula like duckworth and lewis to add these penalty runs to the opposition. Fr teams batting second in one day, calculations could be made after every 20 overs to force the fielding captain to finish in time.

Posted by Wouterb on (February 18, 2013, 9:15 GMT)

The on field umpires are not taking sufficient control to ensure that teams are not ensuring that over rates are managed effectively - a typical example is that i was at Newlands on both dates at the start of play and breaks play normally starts 2 minutes after it should - also in between there is to much leeway given to fielding sides so hence needs better and more proactive leadership by umps

Posted by Cluedin on (February 18, 2013, 9:13 GMT)

A solution could be to add the number of runs from the highest scoring overs to the batting team's score if they are guilty of wasting time/ slow over rate. In the case of the batting team causing the delay the on field umpires need to take the situation in their hand by giving one warning to the batsman and then retiring the said batsman hurt in the case of another incidence of delaying tactics. This would balance the issue.

Posted by ygkd on (February 18, 2013, 7:10 GMT)

It was said of the West Indies thirty-odd years ago that they slowed things down to about 12 overs per hour when things weren't going their way, thus effectively resting their pace bowlers without requiring a spinner. They were a truly great team but things like that, although beneficial to those doing it, cannot at all be good for the game. I would like to see a tough stance on any such behaviour, whoever does it and whenever it happens. If that means that someone like Jonathon Trott for example, whose batting I freely admit to liking immensely, but who has raised a few eyebrows for taking a while between facing balls, is ultimately timed-out for taking too long, then so be it. Equally, though, if bowlers take too long walking back to their mark etc, the team should be subject to a run penalty. Ninety overs in a day shouldn't take seven hours.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2013, 6:59 GMT)

@SolFish - actually, it had little or nothing to do with curbing the dominance of the Windies quicks. It was to try and increase what had become often funereal over rates, which were a by-product of most teams stacking up on fast men, thereby increasing the number of overs bowled, the amount of cricket played, and (hopefully) make the game more interesting for spectators.

Captains at every level are responsible for the on-field conduct of their team, and that extends to over rates.

Posted by SolFish on (February 18, 2013, 3:21 GMT)

We don't hear of batsmen being penalized for low run rates, wasting time when they stop the bowler in the midst of his run up, time used for referrals to the 3rd umpire, balls knocked out of the ground. Please quit placing the blame on the bowlers or the fielding team, these silly rules only came about because of the WI 4 prong pace attack of the 70's to prevent their domination and the hit them in the pocket if they persisted.

Posted by PM_india on (February 18, 2013, 1:04 GMT)

The writer needs to improve his journalism skills. He has devoted almost his whole article to a couple of incidents and given his opinion in a couple of sentences at the end. A good journalist would have provided more insights into his rationale in the article.

Posted by PM_india on (February 18, 2013, 0:06 GMT)

I think its a case where the laws need to be examined. In a 50 overs game @ 4 minutes per over it comes to 200 minutes and the allowed time is 210 minutes. Add the time for the drinks break, ball change, DRS reviews, etc its clear its going to be difficult to adhere to the 3 1/2 hour time limit. Its probably wiser to make it either 3 3/4 hours or 4 hours per innings so it allows adequate time. If its planned properly, the broadcasters shouldnt have an issue. And then you can also introduce stringent measures to eliminate time wasting. For eg. (a) no people coming on field for batting equipment changes for gloves, helmets except in drinks breaks (b) no fielding time conferences except at drinks breaks and fall of wickets and start of power play.

Posted by ygkd on (February 17, 2013, 20:53 GMT)

Slow over rates are a disgrace. The umpires need to get much tougher on this abomination. A run penalty for bowling sides taking too long is overdue. For the batting side, a batsman may be timed out for a late arrival at the crease. Well, it's time to start timing batsmen out for delaying things at the crease too. That'd sort things out once and for all. As Sanjay Manjrekar pointed out in a recent column, the women in the WC just played had no trouble getting on with the game.

Posted by balajik1968 on (February 17, 2013, 17:17 GMT)

I really don't know. In 1997, in the India Pak match where Anwar scored 194, I remember Saqlain asking for a change of field every ball. Also the Pakistan overrate was very poor. As far as I remember Pakistan took more than 4 hours to bowl 48 odd overs. There needs to be some punishment for that. Fines don't really seem to work. Maybe a ban is needed. Also the team should not be allowed to change the captain, unless he is out of the game. What Sri Lanka did was pretty cynical.

Posted by ARad on (February 17, 2013, 17:03 GMT)

Andrew, you have completely avoided the problems caused by slow over rates such as one team having to bat in failing light or purposeful slowing down to avoid defeat. I like the suggestion made by kalyanbk for ODI games. Allowing the overs past the cut off time to be power play overs has several advantages. a. It would indeed make the team pay the penalty IN THE SAME GAME where the 'crime' was committed. b. It would keep the penalty ON THE FIELD (rather than taking it off the field and making it a monetary penalty which is a joke if you really think about it.) c. It would add an extra element of drama to the game. OTOH, making the batting team choose the bowlers in Tests is not practical. The fact that Raina or Trott can bowl a few overs, for example, does not make them bowlers in most people's opinion so we now need subjective judgment (or complicated rules) to determine who the bowlers will be...

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 16:18 GMT)

Can I make a slightly controversial point - the more the onus is placed on the fielding side, especially with runs penalties, the greater the incentive for the batting side to delay: gloves changes, drinks at all times etc. It takes both. Can you imagine, say, if there were 6 runs an over for a delay, how Jonathon Trott may take his crease every ball. The whole performance can be manipulated (add in the number of runs per hour spread betting risks etc). My view - keep them out there until, say, 30 overs are bowled up to lunch, another 30 to tea etc. Soon would concentrate the mind. Keep non-players off the pitch (except for 'real' injuries): drinks intervals when sensible (not as a 'need to do it now because the TV contract requires it) and 12th men to take drinks round the boundaries. Making umpires decide who is responsible, what 'reasonable' events can cause delay is unnecessary and dangerous. In ODIs and T20s, who cares - add 10 runs per over

Posted by bvnathan on (February 17, 2013, 15:46 GMT)

We can keep the RULES very simple, by adopting certain regulations on the time wasting attempts made by both teams. First, stick to the given time limits for completion of an innings, whether FULL OVERS have been bowled or not. If the team bowling first has not completed their overs, their total to be achieved can be revised by applying the average score scored during the 10 super overs. In case of genuine injury time-outs, the umpires can take the call to extend the game as appropriate

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 14:46 GMT)

there should be a reduction in the target if the team has batted already or the target should be increased at the end of the first innings if the side has to bat

Posted by kalyanbk on (February 17, 2013, 14:43 GMT)

Fines don't work and bans lead to circumventing. But the solution is really simple. In limited overs cricket make the overs bowled past the cut off time as power play overs. The cut off time can be adjusted by the officials in case of injuries or batsmen delaying the game. This will actually make the game more interesting and is fair to both sides (batting first and second).

In test cricket, if there are any overs bowled past the cut-off time in each session, the batting team can choose which bowler should bowl those overs (provided they can roll their arm over).

Posted by Tweety20 on (February 17, 2013, 13:56 GMT)

I completely agree with Mr.Andrew.Punishing the captain is not the solution.No matter what anyone says about what Mahela&Co.did that day,I fully support him and the SL team for what they did.It was a crucial match and they had to use all their amunition to pull out a victory and they did.The SL team did it with the best of intentions and to keep their fans' hopes alive eventhough we lost the finals but the important thing is that they did all they could.That is what I like about our team.

Posted by SillyMidPavilion on (February 17, 2013, 9:56 GMT)

Melbourne Stars got into trouble for this - Warne and White were both on a warning for slow over rates, so Faulkner 'captained' the side, while Warne and White ran the show on the field. It's a dumb rule with a dumber punishment made to appease the broadcasters. If I'm watching my team field, I'd like to see the recognised bowlers, not the part-timers rolling their arms over to keep the over rate up. Better quality cricket all round that way. @Kalhara - you hit the nail on the head.

Posted by tfjones1978 on (February 17, 2013, 9:21 GMT)

The punishment for slow over rates should be extra runs ON the field, based on the number of overs that the bowling side were responsible for coming up short. Additionally the batting side stuffing around should be responsible for giving away runs, just like the bowling side. In ODI/T20I, time short should be calculated by the third umpire and awarded when time expires. So, if Team A scored 250 off 50 overs and Team B scores 230 off 48 runs when time runs out due to fielders stuffing around, then Team B should then be (50% of RR = 2.4 x 2 = 5 runs), so Team B is now 235 off 48, reducing the score by 5 runs needed off 0 balls used. In Test match, it should be at the end of each session. So if Team A scores 100 off 25 overs with fielding side stuffing around, then Team A should be (150% of RR = 6 x 5 = 30 runs), so Team A is now 130 from that session. IE: 30 runs gained with no risk to the batsmen.

Posted by Evilpengwinz on (February 17, 2013, 8:52 GMT)

In English domestic limited overs cricket (not sure if it's just 40 over cricket or T20 as well), there's a rule where if the final over of the innings hasn't started by a certain time, a 6 run penalty is added for every over which hasn't been started in time. The 3rd umpire is able to extend this cutoff time for legitimate delays (injuries, retrieving or replacing the ball after a six, and so on). I feel this would punish slow over rates in ODI and T20 cricket. Slow over rates in tests, however, are much more complicated, although they could start by cutting out some of these drinks breaks all the time.

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 7:53 GMT)

What I would like to see changed, is the outcome of a test series in case it is drawn. Since these days there is loads of talk of preparing pitches that suit the home team, if a test series is drawn the trophy should be handed over to the visiting side. Since it is them who conquered all odds stacked against them and managed to draw the encounter.

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 7:03 GMT)

stupid rule with an even stupider punishment. id rather see some proper tactical play rather than some quickly cobbled together balls from a part time spinner to 'rush through' some overs.

Posted by Kapil_Choudhary on (February 17, 2013, 7:01 GMT)

The problem is that harsher fines too have not worked. Basically, in the era of central contracts and the IPL, match fees is spare change for most top players (and captains of sides are almost always top players). Thus, even a 100% fine doesn't work. The only possible solution is may be an IPL style really hefty fine (I don't know the current situation but IPL once had like a $20000 fine per match) but that essentially means that the players are actually paying from their pockets to play the game which seems unfair. Honestly speaking, i have yet to see a great solution to this problem. I am just happy that they have done away with the rule of docking overs from the second innings of an ODI.

Posted by starburstjunky on (February 17, 2013, 3:35 GMT)

I've been saying for ages the simple solution in Tests is to not allow the second (or third etc) new ball unless they are up with the over rate. Almost every days play uses the extra 30 mins, but watch the teams hustle if they are at risk of not getting access to a new ball. Not sure what incentive to use for ODI's unfortunately...

Posted by   on (February 17, 2013, 3:29 GMT)

Looks like I missed that incident. Irrespective of your opinion on the rule, subverting it like that shows the team is poor light and sets a bad example for the future captains. My respect for Jayawardene and the SL team went down a notch.

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