June 2, 2014

Is cricket ripe for a tactical overhaul?

Like football, can it be reinvented by master tacticians, or is it too individual to be shaped?
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The Dilscoop: a mandatory skill for all top-order batsmen in limited-overs cricket
The Dilscoop: a mandatory skill for all top-order batsmen in limited-overs cricket © Getty Images

What have been the great tactical innovations of modern cricket? How has the game been reimagined and reinvented? The prompt comes from reading Inverting the Pyramid, Jonathan Wilson's excellent history of football tactics. How, I've been wondering, would an author go about describing cricket's parallel development? Here is my tentative list:

Bodyline
Ironically, one of the greatest tactical innovations was short-lived in practice and eternally infamous. Douglas Jardine's leg theory demanded that England's bowlers aim at the bodies of Australian batsmen, with fielders clustered behind square on the leg side. Developed to marginalise one man, Don Bradman, Bodyline is almost unique in cricket's history. Bradman averaged "only" 56, England won the series - at a high cost, in terms of reputation. But the moral furore obscured the tactical ingenuity. As a challenge to readers, can anyone think of a more decisive example of top-down thinking in the history of cricket? Leg theory, of course, was promptly banned - a signal fate, perhaps, for the influence of abstract thinking on the cricket pitch.

Four quick bowlers
Fast bowling inspired another terrifying innovation. We are now used to the idea of picking the four best bowlers, whatever their actions, but it was once revolutionary. In backing his four quick men to dominate any opposition, whatever the surface, Clive Lloyd was breaking with an accepted (albeit wrong) tenet of conventional wisdom: that all bowling attacks must have variety. Not when they are as good as my guys, answered Lloyd. He was right, of course. Lloyd cemented the idea that the structure of a team ought to change to accommodate the talent available.

Aggressive fielding
Just as football has gradually kicked out the "playmaker" who refuses to track back and join the defensive alignment, so cricket has lost patience with great batsmen and bowlers who decline to field. Fielding, once merely a defensive mode, has become a weapon of attack, a way of making batsmen feel hemmed in, surrounded, under pressure.

Hence the expectations facing a typical fielding side have been inverted. It used to be that one brilliant fielder stood out from all the rest - Colin Bland, for example. Now one poor fielder stands out from all the good ones. We notice the donkey, not the gazelle. Outfield catching, for example, is almost unrecognisable; what would once have been termed a "good effort" is now regarded as a lamentable failure of athleticism.

Pinch-hitting and spinners as opening bowlers
Martin Crowe pioneered two great tactical innovations at the 1992 World Cup. First, Mark Greatbatch opened the batting, with a licence to attack from the first ball. Secondly, offspinner Dipak Patel took the new ball. The impact was immediate. Pinch-hitting had become a permanent feature by the time Sri Lanka won the following World Cup. And the advent of T20, which has proved the value of slow bowling against aggressive batting, confirmed that Crowe's fundamental insight was correct: taking pace off the ball often makes it harder for batsmen to add pace to the ball.

Cricket is made up of discrete, isolated duels. At the moment the ball is bowled, the rest of the batting side is essentially irrelevant: only one man counts

Four runs an over
Steve Waugh's commitment to scoring four runs an over in Test cricket was a rare example of a captain going public about his principles. So there was a double aspect to his confidence - first, the conviction that his batsmen were good enough to do it; second, the confidence that he could announce the tactic before the game began.

The slower ball
In the 1990s, Franklyn Stephenson became famous for his celebrated back-of-the-hand slower ball. Now, a slower ball - more accurately, a range of slower balls - is a required skill for any fast bowler who wants to play ODI and T20 cricket. Rarity has become necessity.

The Dilscoop
Two innovations led to a third. First, the helmet allowed batsmen to become far less concerned about the risk of getting hit; second, the need for batsmen to maximise boundary opportunities during fielding restrictions. Solution: the Dilscoop. A shot of breathtaking daring, until recently unimaginable, is now an essential skill for a modern top-order batsman in white-ball cricket.

The doosra
Where the law was changed to stop Bodyline, the law was changed to keep the doosra. The legality of some doosras remains controversial, but it is a central weapon in today's game. If your team can't bowl doosras, at least make sure you can pick them.

Shane Warne rescues legspin
Here things become tricky. By reviving a dying art, Warne certainly revolutionised the sport. But should that be classed as a tactical innovation? In the same way, it is hard to know how to categorise Adam Gilchrist's role in the development of the wicketkeeper-batsman. Both Warne and Gilchrist changed and profoundly enhanced the history of cricket. But they did it just by being themselves. So was their greatness personal rather than theoretical?

There have been other sources of innovation: the DRS has changed batting techniques and breathed further life into spin bowling. Sledging has become commonplace. But we are moving away from specific tactical innovation and towards general cultural change.

So here is my central point. The list above, though doubtless incomplete and open to improvement, is unavoidably concise. I did not find it easy to discern waves of tactical innovation, still less innovations inspired by one individual thinker. This is in stark contrast to football, with its great theoretical revolutions. To name just a few: the Italian catenaccio, the defensive "chain", was mastered by Helenio Herrera; Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff pioneered "total football"; Valeriy Lobanovskyi introduced a systematic approach to defensive "pressing"; Arrigo Sacchi engineered a system of attacking football based around team structure rather than individualist brilliance; Pep Guardiola took the passing game to new, thrilling extremes.

Yes, some of these innovations built on existing trends while others grew organically from a whole sporting culture. But there is no escaping the centrality of theory: individual thinkers, usually managers, reshaped how the game should be played.

This tradition does not exist in cricket. A cricketing version of Inverting the Pyramid would be very short - too short, in fact, to be a book at all. Why? Partly because, as I have explored in this column before, cricket does not have a long history of powerful coaches - England's first coach was appointed in 1986. Secondly, the structure of the game is unusual. Football is holistic - any action anywhere on the pitch influences the whole. A shaping mind can recast the whole team by aligning his players differently; hence football's obsession with "systems", really just another word for "tactics".

Cricket, on the other hand, is made up of discrete, isolated duels. At the moment the ball is bowled, the rest of the batting side is essentially irrelevant: only one man counts. It is hard for a tactician, no matter how brilliant, to influence that duel.

Which leads me to my final question: Is cricket ripe for fundamental philosophical revision? Not just tinkering at the edges but for a whole new way of doing things? Or does that concept simply not apply to such an individual sport? I don't know the answer. But I'd love to see someone try to find it.

Ed Smith's latest book is Luck - A Fresh Look at Fortune. @edsmithwriter

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dafffid on June 2, 2014, 11:15 GMT

    Good article, because it highlights that players themselves can innovate and improve the game and spectacle. Too many rule tweaks have rendered many records meaningless - particularly in one day games where fielding restrictions have changed like the weather. Gimmicks like power plays that are hard to follow for a new or casual observer, particularly at the ground, just confuse. Set the rules, leave them, then let innovative captains and teams best exploit them. If you keep changing rules to match the players of any given era, then one of cricket's great appeals - the capacity to compare players by their averages - is lost.

  • on June 2, 2014, 4:27 GMT

    I think a bowler who could vary their action significantly from ball to ball, while maintaining accuracy, would be able the manufacture variability even on a dead flat pitch. Imagine facing a Glen McGrath style up-and-down action and then a Malinga style sling the next. It would make picking the length much more difficult for the batsmen.

  • rajeshl on June 7, 2014, 7:30 GMT

    Interesting train of thoughts and excellent read as always from this author.

    One point in my view, which seems to be missed out is the innovation of Analytics.

    Increasingly, coaches and players have a vast amount of data from which to learn what went right and what could be improved. Bowling, batting and fielding, all have been improved with the advent of video, laptops and software being used real-time to produce relevant statistics and insights.

    Good players and managers continue to use these to improve their game or at least think about areas they would like to improve on.

  • Clan_McLachlan on June 4, 2014, 19:18 GMT

    Ed, I think you're starting too recently in history. Cricket started as a very different game. How about how overarm bowling developed? What about WG Grace's invention of modern batting footwork? And the changes in play as covered pitches became the norm? I think there's a lot more you could explore here by going further back in time.

  • Cricket_theBestGame on June 4, 2014, 4:19 GMT

    @ IndianInnerEdge - spot on mate. this one innovation will truly transform test cricket as we know it. ICC take note !!!

  • Joll on June 3, 2014, 23:09 GMT

    It is a myth Shane Warne revolutionised cricket. How many leg-spin bowlers are playing T20, ODI or test cricket today, as a result of Warne? Virtually none. Warne was simply a great bowler who happened to bowl leg-spin, but he was not revolutionary.

  • on June 3, 2014, 16:14 GMT

    There are skills, there are tactics and there are strategies. Skills are constantly getting changed, tactics are beginning to emerge strongly, but the rules of cricket need some more tweaking to really allow playing with strategies.

  • armchairjohnny on June 3, 2014, 14:23 GMT

    Each era of cricket has different characteristics. One era is not 'better' than the other, the type of cricket player in each era and the conditions of the game are simply different. The nature of the game itself has changed, and thus it appeals to a slightly different kind of crowd now. Whether or not that's a good thing depends a lot on which crowd one belongs to.

  • grizzle on June 3, 2014, 10:28 GMT

    I don't agree that many of these are tactical changes at all: for example, the doosra and dilscoop are new technicalities brought to the game (another case in point is the switch hit). They are no more new tactically than the leg glance introduced by Ranjitsinjhi (?) all those years ago.

  • ygkd on June 3, 2014, 9:55 GMT

    I was a bit surprised, knowing that the erudite Smith is someone who takes history seriously, not to find a disclaimer at the bottom of his article saying "all innovations mentioned may well have been first used by someone else!" Leg-theory wasn't Jardine's alone - he was the first to add a Larwood to it. Four real fast bowlers didn't entirely ruin diversity - the quartet Lloyd had were all different. And so on. Tactics rely on what players, pitches, rules and equipment are available. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will want spin. Australia wants bounce and pace bowlers - although I wonder if their pace bowlers' fielding expectations may be costing them in the longevity of their spells and even careers - once upon a time a paceman didn't fling himself around the outfield but saved up for his next spell - but then once upon a time up-and-coming quicks didn't go to an Academy or sweat on grading for fielding standards, just as up-and-coming spinners didn't sweat over their batting ability.

  • Dafffid on June 2, 2014, 11:15 GMT

    Good article, because it highlights that players themselves can innovate and improve the game and spectacle. Too many rule tweaks have rendered many records meaningless - particularly in one day games where fielding restrictions have changed like the weather. Gimmicks like power plays that are hard to follow for a new or casual observer, particularly at the ground, just confuse. Set the rules, leave them, then let innovative captains and teams best exploit them. If you keep changing rules to match the players of any given era, then one of cricket's great appeals - the capacity to compare players by their averages - is lost.

  • on June 2, 2014, 4:27 GMT

    I think a bowler who could vary their action significantly from ball to ball, while maintaining accuracy, would be able the manufacture variability even on a dead flat pitch. Imagine facing a Glen McGrath style up-and-down action and then a Malinga style sling the next. It would make picking the length much more difficult for the batsmen.

  • rajeshl on June 7, 2014, 7:30 GMT

    Interesting train of thoughts and excellent read as always from this author.

    One point in my view, which seems to be missed out is the innovation of Analytics.

    Increasingly, coaches and players have a vast amount of data from which to learn what went right and what could be improved. Bowling, batting and fielding, all have been improved with the advent of video, laptops and software being used real-time to produce relevant statistics and insights.

    Good players and managers continue to use these to improve their game or at least think about areas they would like to improve on.

  • Clan_McLachlan on June 4, 2014, 19:18 GMT

    Ed, I think you're starting too recently in history. Cricket started as a very different game. How about how overarm bowling developed? What about WG Grace's invention of modern batting footwork? And the changes in play as covered pitches became the norm? I think there's a lot more you could explore here by going further back in time.

  • Cricket_theBestGame on June 4, 2014, 4:19 GMT

    @ IndianInnerEdge - spot on mate. this one innovation will truly transform test cricket as we know it. ICC take note !!!

  • Joll on June 3, 2014, 23:09 GMT

    It is a myth Shane Warne revolutionised cricket. How many leg-spin bowlers are playing T20, ODI or test cricket today, as a result of Warne? Virtually none. Warne was simply a great bowler who happened to bowl leg-spin, but he was not revolutionary.

  • on June 3, 2014, 16:14 GMT

    There are skills, there are tactics and there are strategies. Skills are constantly getting changed, tactics are beginning to emerge strongly, but the rules of cricket need some more tweaking to really allow playing with strategies.

  • armchairjohnny on June 3, 2014, 14:23 GMT

    Each era of cricket has different characteristics. One era is not 'better' than the other, the type of cricket player in each era and the conditions of the game are simply different. The nature of the game itself has changed, and thus it appeals to a slightly different kind of crowd now. Whether or not that's a good thing depends a lot on which crowd one belongs to.

  • grizzle on June 3, 2014, 10:28 GMT

    I don't agree that many of these are tactical changes at all: for example, the doosra and dilscoop are new technicalities brought to the game (another case in point is the switch hit). They are no more new tactically than the leg glance introduced by Ranjitsinjhi (?) all those years ago.

  • ygkd on June 3, 2014, 9:55 GMT

    I was a bit surprised, knowing that the erudite Smith is someone who takes history seriously, not to find a disclaimer at the bottom of his article saying "all innovations mentioned may well have been first used by someone else!" Leg-theory wasn't Jardine's alone - he was the first to add a Larwood to it. Four real fast bowlers didn't entirely ruin diversity - the quartet Lloyd had were all different. And so on. Tactics rely on what players, pitches, rules and equipment are available. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will want spin. Australia wants bounce and pace bowlers - although I wonder if their pace bowlers' fielding expectations may be costing them in the longevity of their spells and even careers - once upon a time a paceman didn't fling himself around the outfield but saved up for his next spell - but then once upon a time up-and-coming quicks didn't go to an Academy or sweat on grading for fielding standards, just as up-and-coming spinners didn't sweat over their batting ability.

  • stormy16 on June 3, 2014, 9:22 GMT

    Most interesting read and I think cricket must think about the "super sub" like soccer and rugby. This brings in all sorts of possibilities. For example you could go in with 4 seam bowlers and sub two for spinners in the second innings. A meaningless push for a drawn test could be livened up by "subbing" in a pinch hitter (say Glen Maxwell for Ed Cowan, sorry cant think of the current Aus opener). This would also allow for injuries picked up during the game not have a major impact on the outcome. Basically it could spice up what could otherwise be a drawn test match and force captains to employ tactics outside the current imagination. For example on a 1st day English wicket you may open with Cook and say Root but on the 4th day chase, you could sub Root with say Butler - yes unlikely but it does offer some crazy options to liven up the game. It will also hold fans interest, especially for test matches that could be ambling to a draw.

  • ThinkingCricket on June 3, 2014, 6:15 GMT

    Ronald Myers:

    You are dead-right about power hitters at 4 to 7. From a theoretical perspective it makes no sense. Assuming you have batsmen capable of batting out at least 20 overs at 5 or 6 an over (a trivial task), it makes a lot more sense to send out hitters to play maximally aggressive and leave technically sound players to rebuild if that goes wrong, rather than send out anchors, with a mixed agenda, and then expect bashers to rebuild when wickets fall.

    It's pretty obvious why KXIP's rudimentary attack everything strat took them so far (ironic that they lost because they abandoned it in the final, and even 14 RPO in the back half got them only 200 that was easily chased down).

  • IndianInnerEdge on June 3, 2014, 5:22 GMT

    The one place where innovation is greatly required is test cricket - remove the 'Draw' element....i hear the true TC addicts saying 'nothing like the hard fought draw' etc...but hey - lotsa teams nowadays will not switch the 'follow on' button &will declare only when they are 700 in front, this sort of kills the game. I feel, TC should be four innings of 120 overs each side, Side B bats when all 10 wickers of side A have fallen or their 120 bowling overs are up..whichever happens earlier. This will have all the dynamics, skills, strategies, strengths of TC, ODI's& T20. There will be room for aggressive batsmen, the sheet anchor role men, the wicket takers, the containing line bowlers, etc,&if you mix this with day night cricket-am sure you will find fantastic aggressive and skilful cricket, results going down to the proverbial 'wire' an audience that includes youngsters, office goers, families, students -will cater to all age groups& That said, the essence of TC will be maintained.

  • mjcoxx on June 3, 2014, 2:45 GMT

    Weren't Steve Waugh & Simon O'Donnell bowling back of the hand slower balls in ODIs in the mid 1980's?

  • on June 3, 2014, 2:03 GMT

    There is a massive way to go. Here are a few theories that I had back in the day. Most of them were proven by crunching the numbers.

    Five bowlers and six batsmen is the best combination in test cricket on flat pitches. Particularly if you have to win the game. It is simply much more likely that you will want the fifth bowler than need the seventh batsman.

    Most commonly employed field settings are way too conservative in test cricket in almost all situations.

    Most teams are absolutely awful at declaration only declaring when the other team has a <5% chance of winning, when they could win many more games if they gave themselves more time, even assigning half a win to a draw.

    Most teams seem to put their power hitters at 4-7 in T20 cricket. This is the absolute worst possible strategy.

    The team winning the toss should almost always chase in limited overs (but teams have figured this one out).

    Part-time bowlers are almost always absolutely terrible (teams are figuring this out).

  • amitdi on June 3, 2014, 0:27 GMT

    @AsherCA: How can a team have matchwinners like SRT or McGrath. A supersub will be someone like a Rahane or Dan Christian.

    For continuous balls, a bowler would lose shin after 10 or 12 bowls as there is no time to recoup the energy. Also pitch is used from both sides to neutralize the different boundary lengths, have different rough areas, etc which adds flavour.

    I love the idea of preparing bowlers to ball all variations, that would add the fun and give more impetus to bowlers.

  • billbassoz on June 3, 2014, 0:11 GMT

    In the 1950s South Africa started the practice of all the fielders looking after the ball to keep it shiny for as long as possible to aid conventional swing. In the late 60s and 70s India was known to rub the ball in the dirt (it was legal then) to be able to introduce their match winning spinners and nowadays teams do all sorts to a ball (legal or otherwise) to make it conducive to reverse swing. In this case the discovery of reverse swing has led to teams being able to keep their pace attacxk on for longer.

  • hst84 on June 2, 2014, 20:49 GMT

    One of the best innovations that occurred recently was Andre Russell's delivery to Shane Watson in IPL which placed the batsmen in two minds. Russell's deluding run-up that prompted Watson's focus to dither away for a while can be placed as a variation for the bowler himself.

  • on June 2, 2014, 20:49 GMT

    Continued... Another error was Steve Waugh & Simon O'Donnell bowled slower balls in 1987. One noted success was against the English batters who all were dumbfounded by it after Gatting was dismissed with his failed REVERSE SWEEP! Dilshan ramp copied McCullum who copied Western Australia's keepwmer Ryan Campbell.

  • on June 2, 2014, 20:45 GMT

    Tactics will always keep evolving - for better or worse. Covered pitches also revolutionized the game. No matter how far in front of the game you were, 1 night of rain could mean you could lose, so teams played aggressively to win. Just a few corrections. Jardine didnt invent bodyline or fast leg theory as it qas called back. It was used in 1912 in Tri Series and again by Gregory & McDonald in 1922. Jardine selected 4 fast bowlers to tour oz with only this policy in mind. no medium pacer, no swing bowlers just out & out fast man who withstand the rigours of the tour and bowl bodyline. In saying that, bodyline was rarely successful and most time they had to revert back "line & length" to break partnerships. Against the tail, was where it was most effective. Back then the tail order batsmen could hardly bat let alone defend themselves from this aggression. Jono: it is called the Brisbane Line (not Gabba) after the mytical 1942 defensive line & Qld fast bowlers bowling a foot outside off.

  • on June 2, 2014, 20:13 GMT

    Just get rid of test cricket and start focusing on how to get to the olympics.

  • remnant on June 2, 2014, 19:20 GMT

    Super substitute was tried for a short while before the age of T20s, but it seems that innovation was ahead of its time. That is one tactic which can re-revolutionize T20 games, if additional resources can be acquired during play to optimize pitch condition.

  • remnant on June 2, 2014, 19:18 GMT

    You forgot to mention something as substantial in adding to cricketing heritage as reverse swing. Once considered a dark art, because of its mysterious nature, it is now an accepted and required skill expected of a quality swing bowler.

  • on June 2, 2014, 19:04 GMT

    Making it mandatory that everyone but keeper (or at least 10 from a side) should bowl at least one over in a limited match would be interesting :)

  • on June 2, 2014, 18:00 GMT

    Some changes to ponder for the short formats:

    (1) One of the fundamental changes to cricket, in order to speed up the game and to save time, is to end "overs". A bowler should be able to complete all his deliveries at once, if necessary. In ODI, he's current entitled to 1/5 of the allocated overs. So, in a 50-over match, he's allowed 60 deliveries, barring Wides and No balls.

    If the skipper wants him to bowl 30 of those deliveries, so be it. The umpires will keep tab of the deliveries. This will require drastic changes to the rule book, of course;

    (2) Also, in the short forms, cricket can be played from one only. Come to think about it, it is rather silly to keep changing ends to do the same thing all over again at the other end;

    (3) However, for Test cricket, the preeminent format, keep it traditional, daytime only, and in whites. No major changes should be implemented here!

  • varunsaraf14 on June 2, 2014, 17:42 GMT

    What about training bowlers to bowl both, spin and pace, depending on the match conditions. Think of it as not just a variation.

  • inswing on June 2, 2014, 16:36 GMT

    A fundamental innovation has already happened: T20 cricket. It changes everything about what skills are important, what is expected, what is needed, what happens in a game. Like it or not, it is the only game that fits modern times. Test cricket will survive for many years still, but it will be on the backs of T20 and to some extent ODI cricket. More and more young people will watch and play T20, and will no longer be brought up to be in awe of Test cricket as the only form of "real" cricket. T20 will change the definition of what counts are real cricket. That is the biggest innovation one can imagine.

  • AsherCA on June 2, 2014, 15:49 GMT

    Another innovation that nobody used efficiently - the supersub. Imagine, an India Vs Australia game (Azhar & Steve Waugh days). Glen McGrath is the supersub & India win the toss on a fast bowler's paradise, what would Azhar do - bat first & risk his batsmen being flattened by the remaining Australian bowlers OR field first & allow the Australians to replace one of their batsmen with Glen McGrath ? Sachin Tendulkar is the supersub & Australia win the toss on a batsman's paradise, what would Waugh do - field first to neutralise India's supersub OR bat first to take advantage of the condition ? Damned if you do - damned if you don't.....none of the captains tried this tactic which could have mad winning the toss a curse rather than an advantage.

  • crazyguru on June 2, 2014, 13:56 GMT

    cricket just can't go that way. the term MATCHWINNER is best suited to cricket. By the name of tactics you cannot have 11 allrounders in team. it just wont work. and the same with captaincy. that's why cricket is sort of a mental-physical game.

  • InternationalCricketFollower on June 2, 2014, 13:08 GMT

    StevieS seems like you are a kiwi fan (apologies if I am wrong). I guess it depends on how you interpret 'innovation'. I saw it from a business perspective where innovation is when you translate the idea into something that creates value.

    NZ did come up with it but won only one major tournament which was the champions trophy in 2000 (not sure if they used those methods). Sri Lanka won the 1996 WC out of no where as soon as they applied it and still doing well in the limited overs by carrying on a similar structure.

    I would also say the other teams took note of the structure from the lankans rather than the kiwis (from articles, interviews and commentaries). That's probably the reason why I said lankans instead of kiwis.

    I hope the kiwis win it next year. They seem to be doing quite well!

  • on June 2, 2014, 12:46 GMT

    In football, tactical innovation is usually team-based thinking. Cricket, despite being a team game, is largely about individuals, hence the emphasis on individual skills rather than team tactics.

  • Swerver on June 2, 2014, 12:30 GMT

    Maybe "tactics" in the broad sense are undermined (in Test matches) by the need to cover all the bases because of a variable that no-one can control, namely the toss. If sides were allowed to plan a team based on whether they were batting or fielding first, I think we'd see some changes to the compositions of those sides e.g. you don't have the greatest spinners available, why select one if you know you won't be bowling in the fourth innings? Or wouldn't you want to include a batsman who does cope well with spin if you are batting last? Bowling first on a green pitch; load up on the seamers? Why not allow Test sides 15min after the toss to "announce" their XI from the 14/15 players they have at the ground? They'd (the team lists) probably be decided days beforehand anyway, but that would allow flexibility for a set of conditions/circumstances, and strategies for them by strengths/weaknesses. Also alternate the choice of bat/field after the first toss of a series between captains.

  • StevieS on June 2, 2014, 11:40 GMT

    InternationalCricketFollower I would disagree and say almost everything Sri Lanka has done is a copy of New Zealand, abet they have done it better. McCullum was scooping it 5 years before Dilshan brought it out, opening with spinners NZ 92 world cup, pitch hitters at the top NZ 92 world cup.

  • InternationalCricketFollower on June 2, 2014, 10:56 GMT

    The most innovative team in my view is Sri Lanka. No one is as tactical as these guys. For such a small country and limited talent compared to other big countries, the lankans have done alright!

  • rizwan1981 on June 2, 2014, 10:54 GMT

    Ambidextrous players perhaps ? Sri Lanka's Hashan Tillekaratne has the ability to bowl right and left arm and even has kept wickets in international matches

  • flickspin on June 2, 2014, 10:47 GMT

    morne morkal vs michael clarke in the recent test series in south africa where morkel ripped in to clarke for 5 overs, clarke looked uncomfortable and ended up with a broken shoulder.

    the bombardment only lasted 5-6 overs, why stop after 5-6 overs.

    it ended up being a great 100 to clarke

    in the ashes the poms bombarded clarke and got him caught at bat pad to broad, the next innings clarke attacked the short ball scored another great 100.

    both the poms and south africans gave the tactic of ripping in and bowling bounces away after 5-6 overs to clarke

    as a captain i would return to the tactic of ripping in and bowling bounces every hour.to constantly test the batsmen

    no one in test cricket likes a fast bowler ripping in and bowling bounces

    as my previous post states i would attack in the final 3-4 over before lunch, tea and stumps by bringing the field in

    you can also bring the field in and attack for the first 3-4 overs after lunch and tea, and also at the start of the day

  • on June 2, 2014, 10:42 GMT

    Reverse swing.... how can this not be on the list

  • ThinkingCricket on June 2, 2014, 10:20 GMT

    Cricket will have/is having it's tactical revolution in the shorter forms.

    Test Cricket is more about execution, and with the game having been around for so long, people have had time to think about it in depth. The structure of the game is so long, and the restrictions on choice so few, that tactics aren't as necessary. One can bowl one's best bowlers whenever one feels, take as much time as one likes to set in, etc. Of course there are still plenty of tactical decisions to be made, but not as many as in limited overs.

    In ODI/T20s teams are realizing they have to think about how hard to go rather than ambling to a par score that is easily overhauled. Many of the reasons true innovations aren't tried often, is because doing something new and failing is a great career risk for coaches and players often face a heavy price if they get out playing big shots (even if the approach is correct). Inspite of this, the more savvy teams like Aus and KXIP (Bailey/Maxwell) are changing the game.

  • py0alb on June 2, 2014, 10:00 GMT

    The IPL has seen the introduction of the vertical shot: hit it straight up in the air and run 2, knowing full well that no-one in the IPL could catch a cold. What's with the ridiculous obsession with catching skyers with the thumbs pointed downwards? It sets a terrible example to junior players.

    On a more serious note, batting techniques continue to evolve be be able to find boundaries, bowling strategies continue to have to keep up with more and more variety. Pre-planned overs with set sequences of 6 different balls will become more of a thing, with pre-planned fielding changes used as a decoy or double bluff.

    One thing that you don't see much of in cricket is pre-planned set plays in the field. Baseball has the "hidden ball trick", how about a hidden ball trick in cricket?

  • karachikhatmal on June 2, 2014, 9:57 GMT

    I think one error Ed makes is comparing tactical systems from football with those of cricket, rather than just looking at cricket's own tactics. His last four examples are all individual tactics, and that's where the majority of cricket's tactical innovation comes from. The tension between the individual and the team is most apparent in the game of cricket, and it shows in the fact that its rare to create a team with a singular tactical focus.

    Football is a sport where chaos is the norm, and tactical systems and discipline are required to create sense. Cricket has a lot of order in its functions, as every play is reset to begin at the same space - the pitch. Consequently, individual tactics and ability to rise above the limits are often important, and you see that often a team's tactics revolve partly around exploiting an individual player or players well. The point was partly made by Jonathan Wilson himself when he wrote on KP and the value of an individual in cricket v football.

  • golgo_85 on June 2, 2014, 9:04 GMT

    How about implementing the simplest rule that would be to give the third umpires more power? If the third umpires were given the power to overturn howlers all these years as soon as it'd been seen on replays by everyone else on tv as well as the third umpires themselves, we wouldn't have had the DRS conundrums in our hands now.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on June 2, 2014, 8:38 GMT

    Steve Waugh's 4 an over tactic worked in the mid 2000s when the combination of flat wickets and weak, largely inexperienced attacks meant that batsmen across the world had a ball- just check out the scoring rates in that era. With livelier pitches and stronger attacks, 4 an over has become a rarity these days.

  • on June 2, 2014, 8:17 GMT

    Cricket may be more individualistic than football, but I feel there is scope for a tactical revolution albeit with customized tweaks for specific teams/individuals.. This is because even the individual battles are influenced by the team battle.. For e.g. the theory of 2 bowlers bowling in tandem to build pressure (this can lead to the less potent bowler picking up wickets).. There is thus scope for finding bowlers that compliment each other rather than picking up the most individually talented.. Other kinds of team tactics include the method of one batsman rotating strike while another hits out.. and by the time the attacker gets out.. the batsman rotating strike is ready to attack.. Ponting's tactic of not letting Indian batsmen hit boundaries to frustrate them into mistakes in one of the test series is an example of customized team tactics.

  • Galmos on June 2, 2014, 8:08 GMT

    Former Sri Lankan opener Athula Samarasekera was the pioneer in using the advantage of field restrictions in first fifteen overs in limited overs cricket. Although Mark Greatbatch wasn't a much of a success in the 92 WC, Athula Samarasekera scored a match winning 75 against Zimbabwe to chase down a target of over 301 runs. (first ever successful chase of a total over 300 runs in ODIs). Unfortunately Athula got injured during the WC and as a result he did not participate in the most of the Sri Lankan matches of the tournament. But in the next time around Sri Lanka used this tactic very successfully with both the openers (Sanath & Kalu ) going after the bowlers and eventually ended up with winning the tournament. Since Athula had retired from international cricket prematurely, and migrated to Australia, unfortunately his name is never mentioned in cricket history as the first successful opener to use the field restrictions in limited overs cricket.

  • on June 2, 2014, 7:58 GMT

    Bowlers should maximize the crease in my view. They should try bowling closer to stumps and then by going wide of the crease, there by constantly varying the trajectory of deliveries. They should also constantly switch between bowling over the wicket and around, not allowing the batsman to get settled.

  • anurag23bhide on June 2, 2014, 6:54 GMT

    I see your point about how cricket lacks ideological innovations because its individualistic nature. Cricket coaches have largely focused on improving individual skills, helping individuals overcome their technical deficiencies and excel on an individual level.

    I would like to bring to your notice a couple of what could be termed radical theories developed by a cricket coach along the lines of a football manager. That these failed miserably is beside the point; I simply want to raise these examples to express that it may be possible in the future to see tactical innovations coming from an individual coach or managerial figure even in cricket.

    John Buchanan, when coach of KKR, came up with this idea of looking for ambidextrous players. What purpose that was going to serve is beyond me, and I don't think we ever saw such a player turn out for KKR. Second was the multiple captains theory that he did put into practice, undermined Ganguly's leadership and, inevitably, failed miserably.

  • on June 2, 2014, 6:45 GMT

    The ability to reverse swing the ball has been devastating for batting attacks.

  • on June 2, 2014, 6:26 GMT

    Going back to the Waugh 4 runs an over tactic, it was enhanced by the Buchanan '3 maidens' tactic where the idea was that bowling 3 maidens in a row would usually result in a wicket and it was proved to be so, statistically at least and Warne often notes this as being the only thing Buchanan bought to the team. This is done mostly by bowling in a corridor outside off and is often referred to as the Gabba line. The beauty of it is that it can be done in all conditions, what makes it tough is that you need 4 high quality bowlers all singing from the same hymn sheet.

    England under Flower did this very well in Aus back in 2010 but they don't seem to have been able to put together the bowling team to do it consistently of late.

  • on June 2, 2014, 6:00 GMT

    1. With 4 runs an over, you can add the aggressive test opener (perfected by Sehwag) 2. Doosra is in general part of the trend of the 'wrong' un'. I think the off spinner's variations are a significant tactic 3. Separate teams for ODI and tests. Even in the 80s and early 90s, ODI and test teams were mostly similar. Unthinkable then that someone like Laxman wouldnt have played an ODI WC. Extension of this is separate captains for different formats 4. With teh advent of ODIs, a breed of 'neither this, nor that' cricketers came in, who wouldnt have in tests. Like Ian Harvey, Mark Ealham, Scott Styris etc

    Most of these are tactics of individuals, who have then been accommodated in the team (like Sehwag being an opener), or spinners' variations

  • MinusZero on June 2, 2014, 5:58 GMT

    Why are slower balls and yorkers rarely used in tests? The best tactical bowling i ever saw was when Afridi first came on the scene. In an ODI he was bowling spin and then the next ball he bowled a medium pace yorker and clean bowled the batsman. Never seen it since. It was a great move.

  • leegend on June 2, 2014, 5:54 GMT

    Batsmen scoring slowly retiring in T20s.

    This was talked about this season in the BBL, I can't see this as far off happening

  • on June 2, 2014, 5:24 GMT

    This doesn't quite fit in with tactics but could certainly lead to tactics being available. I'd like to see some changes to the laws in the shorter games to allow for batsmen and bowlers to be rotated in and out. In that sense if a bowler has been hit for 3 sixes in a row a captain call pull him off and allow someone else to bowl the three remaining deliveries, or have all 6 balls bowled by 6 different people if need be. The law could be on balls bowled rather than overs bowled (No balls and wides excluded). Same with a batsman, if someone is getting tied down, replace him with someone else without the batsman being out. Just a straight swap. Once out though you remain out and can't come back in.

  • on June 2, 2014, 5:20 GMT

    abdul qadir revolutionarize leg spin art long before Shane warne and warne himself have admitted it

  • flickspin on June 2, 2014, 3:45 GMT

    some tactics i would use is, in last 3-4 over before lunch,tea & stumps is bring the field in like when a batsmen is on a hat trick or in the 90's, fielders swam around the batsmen

    more often than not most batsmen block out the last couple of overs, why not have for a fast bowler 4 slips,bat pad, leg gully and tell him to rip in

    the same for a spin bowler why not have a slip, leg slip, bat pad, silly point, mid on, mid off and so on.

    some batsmen might try and score, but he will have a long break before he bats again and you might give 10-15 runs away(big deal), and thats what the fielding captain wants.

    i guarantee this tactic would take wickets

  • ilovetests on June 2, 2014, 3:40 GMT

    Greg (and Trevor) Chappell tried a tactical innovation in 1981. It was successful, but not particularly popular!

    In all seriousness, one thing that has changed cricket is the growth of batsman-wicketkeeper, who is judged on his batsmanship rather than glovesmanship.

  • ilovetests on June 2, 2014, 3:40 GMT

    Greg (and Trevor) Chappell tried a tactical innovation in 1981. It was successful, but not particularly popular!

    In all seriousness, one thing that has changed cricket is the growth of batsman-wicketkeeper, who is judged on his batsmanship rather than glovesmanship.

  • flickspin on June 2, 2014, 3:45 GMT

    some tactics i would use is, in last 3-4 over before lunch,tea & stumps is bring the field in like when a batsmen is on a hat trick or in the 90's, fielders swam around the batsmen

    more often than not most batsmen block out the last couple of overs, why not have for a fast bowler 4 slips,bat pad, leg gully and tell him to rip in

    the same for a spin bowler why not have a slip, leg slip, bat pad, silly point, mid on, mid off and so on.

    some batsmen might try and score, but he will have a long break before he bats again and you might give 10-15 runs away(big deal), and thats what the fielding captain wants.

    i guarantee this tactic would take wickets

  • on June 2, 2014, 5:20 GMT

    abdul qadir revolutionarize leg spin art long before Shane warne and warne himself have admitted it

  • on June 2, 2014, 5:24 GMT

    This doesn't quite fit in with tactics but could certainly lead to tactics being available. I'd like to see some changes to the laws in the shorter games to allow for batsmen and bowlers to be rotated in and out. In that sense if a bowler has been hit for 3 sixes in a row a captain call pull him off and allow someone else to bowl the three remaining deliveries, or have all 6 balls bowled by 6 different people if need be. The law could be on balls bowled rather than overs bowled (No balls and wides excluded). Same with a batsman, if someone is getting tied down, replace him with someone else without the batsman being out. Just a straight swap. Once out though you remain out and can't come back in.

  • leegend on June 2, 2014, 5:54 GMT

    Batsmen scoring slowly retiring in T20s.

    This was talked about this season in the BBL, I can't see this as far off happening

  • MinusZero on June 2, 2014, 5:58 GMT

    Why are slower balls and yorkers rarely used in tests? The best tactical bowling i ever saw was when Afridi first came on the scene. In an ODI he was bowling spin and then the next ball he bowled a medium pace yorker and clean bowled the batsman. Never seen it since. It was a great move.

  • on June 2, 2014, 6:00 GMT

    1. With 4 runs an over, you can add the aggressive test opener (perfected by Sehwag) 2. Doosra is in general part of the trend of the 'wrong' un'. I think the off spinner's variations are a significant tactic 3. Separate teams for ODI and tests. Even in the 80s and early 90s, ODI and test teams were mostly similar. Unthinkable then that someone like Laxman wouldnt have played an ODI WC. Extension of this is separate captains for different formats 4. With teh advent of ODIs, a breed of 'neither this, nor that' cricketers came in, who wouldnt have in tests. Like Ian Harvey, Mark Ealham, Scott Styris etc

    Most of these are tactics of individuals, who have then been accommodated in the team (like Sehwag being an opener), or spinners' variations

  • on June 2, 2014, 6:26 GMT

    Going back to the Waugh 4 runs an over tactic, it was enhanced by the Buchanan '3 maidens' tactic where the idea was that bowling 3 maidens in a row would usually result in a wicket and it was proved to be so, statistically at least and Warne often notes this as being the only thing Buchanan bought to the team. This is done mostly by bowling in a corridor outside off and is often referred to as the Gabba line. The beauty of it is that it can be done in all conditions, what makes it tough is that you need 4 high quality bowlers all singing from the same hymn sheet.

    England under Flower did this very well in Aus back in 2010 but they don't seem to have been able to put together the bowling team to do it consistently of late.

  • on June 2, 2014, 6:45 GMT

    The ability to reverse swing the ball has been devastating for batting attacks.

  • anurag23bhide on June 2, 2014, 6:54 GMT

    I see your point about how cricket lacks ideological innovations because its individualistic nature. Cricket coaches have largely focused on improving individual skills, helping individuals overcome their technical deficiencies and excel on an individual level.

    I would like to bring to your notice a couple of what could be termed radical theories developed by a cricket coach along the lines of a football manager. That these failed miserably is beside the point; I simply want to raise these examples to express that it may be possible in the future to see tactical innovations coming from an individual coach or managerial figure even in cricket.

    John Buchanan, when coach of KKR, came up with this idea of looking for ambidextrous players. What purpose that was going to serve is beyond me, and I don't think we ever saw such a player turn out for KKR. Second was the multiple captains theory that he did put into practice, undermined Ganguly's leadership and, inevitably, failed miserably.