June 7, 2013

A need for governance and systems

Indian cricket needs solid back-room boys to lay down stringent rules, not people seeking cameras
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England is tranquil, there is a freshness in the breeze, nature is still a bit uncertain about whether to present summer in all its glory or to keep the suspense lingering. Accordingly there is the occasional nip to the air, an uncertain tug at the jumper, and joy at the gentle sunshine sweeping the land. And the talk is of cricket: of playing conditions and of pitches, of T20 lengths and ODI field placements; even a side-strain gets a mention. It is nice to talk cricket.

When I boarded the flight there was anger in the air. Cricket reporters were studying the BCCI constitution, back-room manoeuvres were talked about in the kind of detail the switch hit never got, volume was being seen as a like-for-like replacement for reason, Twitter was up in arms, news channels were up in arms, the front pages were up in arms. Cricket was meant to have delicate phrases and a gentle cadence, strong arguments articulated in measured tones. The situation was grim, it called for action, but theatre wasn't going to provide the solution.

Yes, Asia is in strife. The epidemic of fixing has seen minor outbreaks elsewhere in recent times, but its full impact has been felt in that part of the world. Cricket needs men of strength, integrity, and charisma; the strength to address the situation squarely, integrity to rise above it, and charisma to carry loyal cricket lovers along. In Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, the three worst affected, there is a need for governance and systems, and neither of those seems to be the flavour of the month. Systems are ridiculed and looked down upon but when danger looms they save you. The danger before Indian cricket comes as much from unsavoury elements as it does from a disregard for systems. Indian cricket needs solid back-room boys to lay down stringent rules, not people seeking cameras to say, well, nothing. Indian cricket needs office bearers to agree to stringent codes of conduct, not people anxious to leak confidential information from meetings in progress.

Hopefully the cricket lover will see through the personal agendas and raucous sounds and retain the desire to enjoy a contest that is still largely noble. Test cricket started 136 years ago and the sport has survived two world wars. The misdemeanours of a few will not halt it. So let us ask questions but let us enjoy a cover drive to an outswinger; that is why we followed the game in the first place.

From that point of view, the Champions Trophy is a wonderful place to be. The best teams are here, every contest is open, and with two new balls and early summer conditions there will be a little bit of Test cricket on view and a little bit of the frenzy that T20 provides. At a presentation the ICC made to commentators, the first results of the changes in playing conditions were shared. While the sample size is still small, it is pointing towards more wickets, fewer singles, and a slightly higher percentage of boundaries; all of which are easily explained.

So let us ask questions but let us enjoy a cover drive to an outswinger; that is why we followed the game in the first place

With two new balls the fast bowlers stay effective for longer, ask more questions of the top order; with five fielders inside the circle, the singles are more difficult to get and those looking for boundaries to break out have a greater chance of getting out. It might favour teams that rely on new-ball bowlers, but it is producing a tougher contest between bat and ball. It is likely to produce the kind of cricket we saw in the eighties, where keeping wickets in hand was paramount and when 50 in the first 15 overs was perfectly acceptable. But here is a wonderfully modern twist to the tale. With the effect of T20, and only four fielders outside the circle, the number of runs teams can score with wickets in hand is now completely, and joyously, off the scale.

In the second one-day game against England, New Zealand had wickets in hand, and Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum hit 118 in 8.2 overs. And in the warm-up game against Australia, India only managed 122 in the first 30 overs (even that constituted a bit of a revival) but amassed 186 in the last 20. I wonder if that will be the trend here; the start a little like a classical musician playing around delicately with his notes and the end, a splendid burst of energy, the notes now combining with great vigour to produce a stunning climax.

India will have to make friends with the DRS too. It's something they have opposed much but rarely explained why. The ICC is claiming high-resolution cameras will make the predicted path of a ball very accurate; only one unsuccessful referral means the top order cannot use it as a right to be conferred on themselves when faced with a 50-50 decision.

Part-time bowlers cannot get away with an over here or another there, and fielders in the deep will have to cover greater ground and send stronger returns in.

Hopefully the weather will hold, hopefully the summer that bestows on England such beauty will not be stingy, and hopefully for 17 days, the original sounds of cricket will return.

Harsha Bhogle is a television presenter, writer, and a commentator on IPL and other cricket. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on June 8, 2013, 20:46 GMT

    Mr Svenkat, restricting India's participation to 'Marquee Series' cannot be allowed to happen. The necessary ebb and flow of fortunes of test playing countries, and simple decency, means that India needs to treat all other test playing countries with a level of respect. Yes - have your 4/5 match series against the successful countries (which of course recently has not included India at any time outside their home), but surely 2 match series, when if necessary new talent can be blooded, (if sponsors allow), have their place. Maybe it won't pack the grounds but did India in England in the 50's, does Bangladesh? What of Sri Lanka - they only joined the test playing countries about 30 years ago - does anyone begrudge them their place. Send an A team if necessary but don't just create another meaningless one day tournament to fill in the gap in the TV schedule.

  • SRAM20 on June 8, 2013, 18:13 GMT

    Who said India will stop playing test cricket? The crowds in the stadiums might have dwindled down, but there is still a very huge population of Indian people who watch Indian test cricket on televisions and who follow Indian test cricket on various other platforms. I am quite confident that India will never give up on test cricket completely.We will most likely eliminate playing meaningless test cricket (like against smaller nations), but we will still be playing marquee test series against big test nations (like Australia, England, SA, Pakistan).

  • ODI_BestFormOfCricket on June 8, 2013, 15:16 GMT

    At d start, like many I too complaining about why BCCI doesn't accept DRS? But after watching various challenged decisions and their results I have changed my views about DRS. Consider this scenario: RH bowler to RH batsmen - over the wicket. How could ball tracking technology tell (whether going to hit stump or not) the late swinging full delivery that pitched on OFF STUMP line and going to land ENOUGH INCHES before (to allow swinging) TO BEAT THAT STUMP' which actually played as full toss by batsmen? Hot spot is very worst of the two, failed to spot clear naked edges in EngvsSL series and in famous DRSvsRahuldravid case benefit of doubt goes AGAINST batsman bcz to withstand onfield umpire's call.

  • riverlime on June 8, 2013, 6:50 GMT

    I wonder how India will fare when everyone else knows how to use the DRS system, and they have voluntarily never used it for several years. What will happen the first time it is actually NEEDED by India?

  • Cpt.Meanster on June 7, 2013, 19:13 GMT

    @Nutcutlet: Here you are again. Speaking of women, how many women are there in the ECB ? or in the governance of county cricket for that matter ? And no, I am not talking about one of those girls who recently retired from the England women's team serving in some capacity. Sadly, can't recall her name. So why single out the BCCI when in the rest of the world the same thing is happening - a complete disregard for women in cricket administration in general. I don't see any women in CA, SACB, PCB, SLCB, WICB and the list goes on. So why single out the BCCI ? Not saying they are justified to keep women away though.

  • IndianEagle on June 7, 2013, 15:16 GMT

    You guys always complaining about ipl but the reality is, in the fast phased world would you think young generations coming to watch a game which testing the patience of viewers for full 5 days? Nope.. Why guys you dont understand that 'test format' will never appealing to new nations but t20 can. Instead of crying about ipl and t20, just accept the nature of format and enjoy the cricket. I know some old aged fans are the few still talking about temperament, talent, class blah blah blah. All these are there in good ODI format and far better than in test bcz of 50 over restriction.

  • Biggus on June 7, 2013, 14:53 GMT

    @venkatesh018-(cont) I think you underestimate your countrymen vis-a-vis being able to produce test cricketers in 5-10 years time. I can only see India getting stronger if your incoming young cricketers are anything to judge by. I'm also inclined to wonder aloud if the current upheavals in the IPL won't perhaps cause a great many Indian cricket fans to reappraise their committment to franchise cricket and all that it represents. Time will tell but, and I'm not trying to be rude, I think you're being overly pessimistic.

  • Biggus on June 7, 2013, 14:38 GMT

    @venkatesh018-Mate, I hope India keeps playing tests too. The IPL may have the tamasha that the kids are looking for but the thrills are quickly forgotten. It would be a pity for India if at the stage when they can really be a power in world cricket they decide to go for the superficial glitz and glamour of T20 to the exclusion of the more demanding, and ultimately more rewarding test contests. I think administrators have it all wrong, not only in India but here in Australia as well. Test cricket has always, at least in modern terms, been unfashionable and not something that has huge mass market appeal. Video games have more appeal than Chess, and yet Chess is still very appealing to certain people. I understand why IPL is very popular there, and why Indians are proud to support it, but I'd like to think in the end supporting India, rather than some manufactured team will have more long term appeal and traditional cricket will be able to ride out this storm. One can only hope eh?