New Zealand in Sri Lanka 2012-13

Killing the ODI spinner by decree?

Only four men are now allowed outside the 30-yard circle in ODIs. The ICC intended this to invite more aggression from batsmen and fielding sides, but it may also have stifled attack and creativity in spin bowling

Andrew Fernando in Pallekele

November 5, 2012

Comments: 29 | Text size: A | A

Akila Dananjaya celebrates his first wicket with Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka v New Zealand, World T20 2012, Super Eights, Pallekele, September 27, 2012
Mahela Jayawardene: "A spinner needs the cover, and you're not getting that with the new rules. As a batsman, it's easy for me, but as a captain, I feel for the bowlers." © Getty Images

At the dawn of one-day cricket, the only fielding restriction applied to the format was the rule it had inherited from Tests: only two men on the leg side behind square. Since then ODIs have been through several facelifts. The 1992 rule change that allowed only two men outside a 30-yard perimeter spawned a new breed of opening batsman. Perhaps sensing that none of the more recent changes had helped enhance ODI cricket to any great extent, the ICC has now enforced perhaps its most radical change to the format since 1992. Only four men are now allowed outside the circle at any time.

Superficially, the rules should achieve what they are intended to do. Batsmen need no longer accumulate dourly in the middle overs and are guaranteed more frequent reward for their aggression. Fielding captains are forced to innovate and be more aggressive. In the first match played under the new rules on Sunday, Mahela Jayawardene employed his extra man in the circle as a catcher for much of the New Zealand innings and had a man caught at short midwicket in the 34th over as a result.

On the whole, strokemaking remains well rewarded throughout the innings, and ODIs are accorded the distinction they supposedly require to remain relevant in a three-format universe. But has the collateral been adequately considered?

"I'm not very comfortable with all these changes and I don't think it's the right way to go forward," Jayawardene said. "Unless there is sufficient assistance to the spin bowlers on the wicket, I feel the spinners will get targeted. They will try to bowl on one side of the wicket and become one dimensional, whereas the art of spin is about turning the ball and getting batsmen out. A spinner needs the cover, and you're not getting that with the new rules. As a batsman, it's easy for me, but as a captain, I feel for the bowlers."

The major problem for spinners is that they must now sacrifice one of their deep fielders down the ground in order to have three men patrolling the fence square of the wicket. This makes overpitching particularly hazardous and discourages flight. When batsmen use their feet, even if the spinner beats him in the air, the batsman need only muscle the ball beyond the fielder in the circle. On quicker outfields, a batsman might collect four from a ball that dipped before he anticipated and caught the toe-end of the bat before clearing mid-off or mid-on.

The other option for spinners is to have both men down the ground back on the boundary, and have a sweeper either side of the pitch. But this would greatly reduce the risk of slog-sweeping, as the batsman only needs to avoid a single deep legside fielder. If they were to put two men back on the legside, the off side is susceptible to shots played inside-out, and even slight errors in line will result in boundaries.

The ICC intended this rule to invite more aggression from both the batsmen and the fielding side, but in doing so, it may have stifled attack and creativity in spin bowling. The darters and arm-ballers that now abound in Twenty20 cricket may not find the new rule an insurmountable hurdle, but the servants of flight and guile will suddenly find their already difficult plight direr. Fewer men on the boundary means the variety of deliveries they can confidently attempt is reduced. Flat, fast and accurate becomes the preferred modus operandi.

"The two new balls have already made it difficult for spinners in some conditions, and now this new rule makes it tougher again," Jayawardene said. "Yesterday, the pitch looked much slower than the previous match and both teams would have been tempted to play two spinners, but both opted out, purely because of the new rule. The way things are going, unless you are a brilliant spinner who can bowl well in any conditions, most spinners will find it difficult to find a place in the playing XI. You'll probably just go with the part-time bowlers and see if you can get the job done that way."

By imposing a new ball at each end, the ICC has rid ODIs of one of cricket's most compelling sights. Countless youngsters have been inspired to bowl fast by the reversing delivery that dives late at the stumps like a snake suddenly smelling prey, but that is no longer achievable with balls that do not age more than 25 overs. Now, attacking spinners have been put in peril. Isn't its skill and artistry the reason most fall in love with the game in the first place?

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by applethief on (November 6, 2012, 17:56 GMT)

And it's an absolute joke that no one has been able to develop a white ball that can last 50 overs, I'd be surprised if anyone has even tried. The red can go to 80 and beyond, and it's simply not true that white ball can't go beyond 34 without being discoloured to the point of invisibility

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (November 6, 2012, 16:41 GMT)

Switch hit already put in against the favor of the spinners, but now this is just getting ridiculous

Posted by Dashgar on (November 6, 2012, 13:46 GMT)

While I'm not a big supporter of changing rules I think the game will be fine. It takes courage to be a spin bowler. You may go for runs at times. But fast bowlers are also going to be taken for more runs under the new rules. Spinners and captains will adapt, they will still play a big part in ODI cricket going forward.

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (November 6, 2012, 13:38 GMT)

Also good comments too by SLgirl and Madubashini. Good to update the game but shouldn't damage its essence. Which is why we like cricket in the first place.

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (November 6, 2012, 13:35 GMT)

Excellent points by Andrew Fernando. Agree with him. Good article.

Posted by   on (November 6, 2012, 12:59 GMT)

I don't agree with the article because at the end of the day only bad bowlers or bowling will be punished. We have seen spinners opening the bowling in 20-20 ODI with great success. A Ajmal, Warn, or Murli will always be difficult to be attacked even if all the fielders are inside the ring, whereas average bowlers like Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush chawla wll donate loads of runs even if they put 8 fielders in the boundary line.

Posted by Vivek.Bhandari on (November 6, 2012, 12:00 GMT)

Why not have a bowling powerplay in the last 10 overs that can have 6 fielders on the boundary? That will ensure a level playing field for all..

Posted by   on (November 6, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

wait and see Ajmal the Magician taking more and more wickets along with other other quality spinners like Narine, Ashwin, Mendis, Swann etc etc............... until ICC reverts back to its previous rule............... :-P

Posted by   on (November 6, 2012, 10:41 GMT)

We will soon see a newer version of "Bowling Power Play" where fielding side gets the chance to set 5 fielders outside the 30 yard circle for few overs. Lets wait till that.

Posted by jiten777 on (November 6, 2012, 10:38 GMT)

@KURUWITA- Why everytim pepole runs after Indian team ,And for your kind information India is the country with best bowaling figures in spin as well as fast it is to make the game intresting ..thats all

Posted by   on (November 6, 2012, 10:36 GMT)

There goes my chance to be India's next find of the century.

Posted by ashish514 on (November 6, 2012, 10:03 GMT)

@KURUWITA- what are you talking about?? India is the most reliant team on spinners. We only have an unfit Zaheer in the name of good fast bowlers while SL have Malinga and Pakistan have a plenty. The new ball at both ends and now this new rule will have maximum negative effect on Indian team. When your bowlers give too many runs and put you under pressure, even the best batting side is susceptible to succumb and falter.

Posted by aewahid on (November 6, 2012, 9:39 GMT)

It remains to be seen what kind of impact these new rules will have and whether or not these rules get revoked (remember the super-subs)? However to compare Test cricket, which is relatively static and unchanged to the ODIs which have new rules every year, as Mr Gould has done is pretty lame. They've already diluted the quality of ODIs by having a stupid free hit rule. We already have T20 cricket for light hearted merriment. Leave ODIs the way they were as of 10 years ago!

Posted by   on (November 6, 2012, 9:16 GMT)

Every time a rule change is made in cricket someone suggests that it will kill spin bowling. But spin bowling is still with us and used in more and more innovative ways: in the last year we have witnessed an off spinner bowling the first over of a test match, for goodness' sake. Scaremongers should find something else to write about: their predictions about spin bowling are always wrong.

Posted by stormy16 on (November 6, 2012, 9:10 GMT)

I think this has come about as a result of endless conversations on the so called 'dead overs' of the 50 over game - overs 20 - 40. The apparent perception was that these overs nothing really happened and the batters simply accumilated runs and the game went no where. Then they introduced the power play which had to be taken in these 'dead' period but apparently that hasnt worked. What I dont understand is the accumilation in those 20 overs required real skill which apparently was never appreciated. It seems even the ICC wants endless strokeplay - which sounds good but batting is much more than that.

Posted by nthuq on (November 6, 2012, 8:42 GMT)

Really, this doesn't just disadvantage the spinners, it also disadvantages those bowlers with genuine pace around 150km/h. As it is, any fault in line they make will see them punished since the batsmen can use the pace of the delivery, this only makes it worse. I don't see what motivation young fast bowlers will have any more.

Posted by yorkslanka on (November 6, 2012, 7:29 GMT)

yet another biased step favouring those teams who rely on fast bowling at the expense of those who rely on spin bowling..why are the icc making odi cricket so complicated?this type of thing will put off new fans who have been brought into the game by T20 as they will think its not worth bothering to learn the rules of who goes where and when...there is no longer a balance between bat and ball = less exciting cricket...:-(

Posted by anuradea on (November 6, 2012, 7:03 GMT)

Why even allow 4 fielders outside the circle. if the game wants to see only the bowlers get hammered and make it so easy for the batsmen to score runs get all 9 fielders inside the circle and ask the WK to stand up also!!!! This had taken out the balance between the bat and the ball and I really feel for the bowlers. ICC should realize cricket is not only batting, bowling and fielding are also part of the game. The fans with go to watch all 3 not just batting. When will this trampling of the bowlers stop. I think all the bowlers should get together and form a bowlers association and fight for their rights and not allow these adminstrators who are former batsmen keep making things harder for them. Bowlers, if you are not carful the next rule will be the amount of swing and spin you can apply to a ball, the no of differnt types you can bowl per over, the lenth of you run up, and the you will have to pre inform the batsman what type of ball you will be bowling. watch out for next edition!

Posted by   on (November 6, 2012, 6:02 GMT)

This is bad.Cricket is a battle between bat and ball.not bat with bat.We got T20 for atrack crowds and slogging batsman.But ODIs should be for batsman with ability to both timing and slogging.With 4 fielders outside the circle ODIs is just an extended T20 game.

Posted by   on (November 6, 2012, 5:35 GMT)

This is really killing bowling skills. Fielding restriction demotivate the young spinners where as revering the ball after 40 the (not allowed) kills the young fast bowlers motivation. Why the rules are always favoring batsmen? Cricket means all together batting+bowling+fielding. May be ICC introduce a new rule in coming days saying that a FIELDER should not dive to stop/catch the ball. Funny

Posted by 9ST9 on (November 6, 2012, 5:23 GMT)

@SLGirl - the reason is that brainless cricket fans like to see big hits only. Some of these were the same fans that criticized the last Wt20 pitches saying that there were not too many 'big scores' I guess these fans are supporters of teams who have long batting line ups that thrive on good batting pitches and lackluster bowlers who need huge scores to defend.

Posted by LALITHKURUWITA on (November 6, 2012, 4:08 GMT)

It is all batters favouring teams like INDIA as they do not have good bowling side either in Spin or fast bowling. All countries need to produce hammers. Do not worry about the bowlers. I am afraid ICC spoil TEST cricket soon.

Posted by   on (November 6, 2012, 3:28 GMT)

aaand this is why hard hitters like Thisara Perera should be promoted up the order.

Posted by DCTalker on (November 6, 2012, 1:48 GMT)

Very well written article! I completely agree, as soon as I heard about the ICC's proposed changes re the loss of an outer fielder, I felt sorry for the spinners. And why is it necessary?? Teams like NZ and the West Indies who are poor at accumulating singles but good at hitting boundaries will benefit from the change, while sides with good spinners (which includes the West Indies with Narine!) will find their spinners are not able to have such a big impact on the game.

I don't understand the ICC's thinking on this. They've brought in the T-20 which is about smash and bash for the marginal 'fans', so what is the problem with having batsmen 'accumulate' runs in the middle period of ODI's, for the 'purists'?? The new rule change will probably reduce the overall skill-level of players. I should note though that I have no issue with there being two balls (one from each end in ODIs), particularly given that we mainly use day-nighters these days.

Posted by Karnain on (November 6, 2012, 1:03 GMT)

This emphasizes the value of Rangana Herath's spell 10-0-28-1. He was the most economical bowler from both sides in the 1st ODI. But I do feel for Akila as he is too better bowler to be benched.

Posted by Tweety20 on (November 5, 2012, 22:43 GMT)

A cricket match should have a balance between bat and ball.What will determine the win is how tactically they are used against each other.So according to an experienced cricketer like mahela if its gonna hurt esp spin bowling then by all means it should be discouraged.There isnt a greater moment than watching the likes of the legend Murali hunting batsmen with their lethal spin bowling.These arts of bowling should be enhanced rather than losing their effect.ICC should carefully consider both sides of the coin before making decisions like this.Its good to update the game but without damaging its original essence.

Posted by m0se on (November 5, 2012, 22:40 GMT)

I think the new rule is great. No more 5-6 singles an over between overs 20-40. The new powerplay rule never worked because batting sides lost wickets rather than scoring and powerplays were more anti-climactic than explosive. But, I think the two new balls rule must be removed and maybe ask the ball manufacturer to find ways to keep the ball whiter after 35 overs should be pursued. Taking out reverse swing for the last ten overs has made the game duller.

Posted by   on (November 5, 2012, 22:21 GMT)

Good insight! and an important one but before I get to the 2 ball situation in One Day Internationals, the new rule which can allow upto 4 fielder outside the circle in non-powerplay overs has to be reverted back to 5 because that's clearly in batsman favour and if you add the 15 overs of batting powerplay to it, puts so much toll for the fielding side especially the bowlers so it has to be fair. Now I don't understand why in Cricket One Dayers, you have to use 2 white balls from each end because although true with 1 white ball, can dramatically wear it down as the games goes on but why don't we make it last upto the full quotas of 50 overs? they're not much different to the red Cricket balls used in Test Cricket but look how long they can last for? minimum 80 overs sometimes well over 100 overs when the fielding side still sticks with the old ball so these few things need to be resorted again then we can see great contests in One Day Internationals.

Posted by SLMaster on (November 5, 2012, 20:33 GMT)

why are there so much favoration for bastmen? Don't they like to see masters of spin bowling like Murali and Warne. No wonder Mendis is struggling. Even a quality bowling side like WI in 80's won't be able to dominate under these rules.

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