April 28, 2013

Remove fielding restrictions in ODIs

It will prompt captains and bowlers to actively seek wickets rather than wait for pressure points to build

Tucked away at the bottom of part two of Shane Warne's soi-disant manifesto for Australian cricket, published back in February, was a suggestion beguiling in its simplicity. Moving away from advocating management positions for his former muckers to create a utopian Cricket Australia, Warne briefly turned his attention to a subject he does know something about: keeping the public entertained.

"It is time to de-regulate one-day cricket," he wrote. "No restrictions with the field, none, place the fielders anywhere you want, this will create so many options and the attacking captains and teams will win. The only law should be that no bowler can bowl more than ten overs."

Warne's point was that persistent tinkering with the one-day game - artifice posing as innovation - has left everyone confused. This is surely valid. While Warne is among those rare savants able to call cricket a simple game, in truth it is more complex than solving a Rubik's Cube in the dark. Between explaining the lbw law, pondering the capricious nature of swing (regular or reverse), and remembering the ten different methods of dismissal, need we ask supporters to contemplate the number of fielders on the leg side, or be aware of the latest point the batting Powerplay has to be taken?

Captains, however, should be asked to bend their minds around complexity. In a game without fielding restrictions, there would be fewer crutches to lean upon; no default deep point, or removal of slip. All-out defence would be an option in limited-overs cricket but, in reality, would it ever be contemplated? If there were eight or nine men on the boundary, ones and twos would be plucked at will, allowing batsmen to build confidence and momentum. Sixes - which are little more than a top-edge away these days - ignore all field placements, of course.

Fifty-over cricket, at its best, should be the equivalent of a Test in a day. Rather than settle for a formulaic Dosey Doe of attack and defence based around Powerplays, a captain and his bowlers should have to come up with their own strategies; wickets need not be merely a by-product of designated pressure points but something actively sought, as Warne suggests in his contention that attacking captains would benefit.

With the ability to set appropriate cover in the deep, more attacking catching options could be considered. One imagines that Michael Clarke, for instance, would thrive on the freedom. Spinners, too, would be offered the protection that they need, encouraged to flight the ball and risk being hit rather than becoming "one-dimensional": dartists rather than artists.

With ramp shots, upper cuts and helicopters, all complemented by modern anti-aircraft bats, scoring is a round-the-clock affair. In the interests of balance, and a genuine risk-reward contest between bat and ball, shouldn't the fielding team be able to tailor their plans accordingly?

One-day cricket has been subject to fielding restrictions since the 1992 World Cup (the last great 50-over tournament?) and this absolutist initiative is largely proposed with ODIs in mind. But the Laws of the game, which underpin all cricket, still contain the anachronistic stipulation on leg-side fielders behind square, brought in after Bodyline. In Twenty20, meanwhile, six-hitting is the basic imperative - and the team that hits the most usually wins - so why not increase the incentives to clear the boundaries by letting captains defend them as they wish?

It may be that minor tweaks would still be needed, such as a maximum limit on deep fielders at the death. But, if we were designing the game from scratch, gimmickry such as having two different Powerplay blocks (with different rules) would surely be dismissed on the ground of absurdity. The margins are full of scribbling; it is time for a clean piece of paper. And anyone wanting to argue against must list all current international fielding restrictions without needing to check.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 30, 2013, 10:22 GMT

    First of all you need to know why the limitations are put in place. When you have all fielders placed at boundary, batting team will be happy in just taking 2s.

  • Chris on April 29, 2013, 13:24 GMT

    ODI Cricket is the best! this form has just as much as fans as the other forms. In fact there are far more Cricket fans that love 20 and over Cricket than Test Cricket.

  • Karthik on April 29, 2013, 12:58 GMT

    I think ODI's time is up. It's neither there not here. ODIs should be stopped completely and emphasis given to tests and T20's, It's no secret that except very few exceptionally fit cricketers like Dhoni or AB De Villiers, the best players would keep missing one format or the other which is exactly what spectators do not need. To equate the contest, let fielding restrictions be removed from T20's except five four arrangement(off and leg side depending on left of right handed batsmen) and increase the over limit to 5 to get rid of 'bits & pieces' cricketers. Instead of a single new ball, lets have one new and one 20-over old ball. This would give better purchase to spinners and an opener need to be good against spin as well as pace to do well. Leg-byes should be abolished completely.

  • Andrew on April 29, 2013, 6:45 GMT

    I reckon ODI cricket should be made in such a way that every team plays the same number of games i.e. a league. starting at the end of the next world cup where the top 8 teams from the world cup play in league A and the next in league B. i.e. the world cup would have 16 teams. Each team would play against each team in league A home and away and also against league B away only. Each mini series would consist of 5 games; so 120 games will constitute the league. Any other series will be excluded from this. These games must be completed by the end of the 3rd year after the world cup. The teams in league B will be released for pre-qualifying against the associate members for the next world cup. The top side in league B will also be able to play promotion/relegation games against the 8th position in league A. The world cup will have the reintroduction of a super 6 where the top of each group and the best 2 second place finishers will all play a round robin from scratch. Final between top 2.

  • Dummy4 on April 29, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    I think if this rule is lifted , Captains like Dhoni will kill the game completely, Only time his bowlers get an attacking field is when the powerplays are on , remember the game where India played England in the World Cup 2011.

  • Naseer on April 29, 2013, 5:04 GMT

    I think the simple thing is that no matter how many tweaks do you make to ODIs, its era has gone, we have to admit this, because it is very slow game and one will have to wait for almost 95 overs in order to be thrilled, in case there is close encounter, otherwise, it is very boring cricket, I thin only two forms will prevail in future, Test matches, and T20s and future of ODIs does not seem very bright.

  • adeel on April 29, 2013, 1:49 GMT

    interesting idea. though some fielding restrictions will have to be made. for example a team can't have all players on the boundary like someone else commented earlier. but it does have merit. remove those silly restrictions. and also remove the 10 over limit. imagine warne bowling non stop from one end and batsmen either get on top of him or get out. that would be the real battle.

  • Dummy4 on April 28, 2013, 23:46 GMT

    Great idea! 50 overs is the best format to test the toughness and the skills of the players, and there should not be any field restrictions imposed if the fielding captains desire to do so. This will make the batsmen play more conventional, good cricket, and, will bring a whole new meaning to strategy, as well.

    50 is the next best format to tests, and will give players to get their eye-in, without the expectations to make a big score during field restrictions.

    If there are no field restrictions at all, 50 over cricket would resemble a mini-format of Test cricket.

  • S on April 28, 2013, 22:54 GMT

    "All-out defence would be an option in limited-overs cricket but, in reality, would it ever be contemplated?"

    Yes, it would. 4 required off the last ball. If the laws allow it, why not put all 9 on the boundary? Which happened and was the cause of this rule change in the first place.

    I think suggesting the removal of field restrictions in order to force captains to have more aggressive fields really misses the point.