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ODI cricket

March 10, 2014

Stop changing the rules

Karthik Sampath

Do we really need 2 bouncers in an ODI over? © Getty Images

When the cricket administrators get some time away from whatever they do, they set out on their favourite pursuit: tweaking the rules of ODI cricket. Is there any form of any sport that has seen such a slew of changes in years so few?

First up, the Powerplays. The earlier form of having only two fielders outside the inner circle for the first 15 overs had to be necessarily done away with, for it placed the fielding side utterly at the mercy of a rampaging batsman for so long a period. Bringing that period down to 10 overs was a near-perfect change. It is the other part that has been consistently got wrong. From two floating sets of five overs each, both in the control of the bowling side, to relinquishing control of one to the batting side, to doing away with the bowling set altogether and restricting the batting set to within 40 overs, this is one rule that the administrators have certainly been engrossed with. Yet, it remains largely imperfect because not many teams are ready to start accelerating as early as the 36th over. And, because the Powerplay begins not later than the 36th over, there is a greater need now than before to preserve wickets, thereby lessening the risk taken by teams during overs 11-35, resulting in the cricket becoming more monotonous than before during this phase. Ironically, the intent of introducing Powerplays was to make the middle overs more exciting.

The solution? Perhaps, allowing the second Powerplay to be taken at any time upto the 45th over. That may do some good to the flow of the game, as the timing of the Powerplay could then coincide with the upward swing of the batting team's momentum. More introspection should surely yield a solution that betters the existing rule.

The practice of allowing not more than four fielders outside the circle at any point in the game has done some good and a lot of bad. Batsmen now need to be more inventive than before to steal singles in the middle overs. But come the slog overs, they can help themselves to a bounty of runs, with only four of the standard eight boundary positions manned. On any decent batting wicket, particularly in the subcontinent, 300 is now only a par score. Run feasts can excite the fans but can also jade them just as quickly.

Then comes the free-hit. What on earth is this T20 gimmick doing in one-day cricket? A bowler who oversteps is already penalised by the no-ball call that grants an extra run and an extra ball to the batting side, in addition to nullifying most forms of dismissals that he may have effected with that delivery. Does he really need to be punished the next ball too for this transgression? To put it in perspective, the same bowler can bowl a beamer, which is infinitely more dangerous to a batsman and be penalised just a single run.

In an effort to make the game friendlier to the bowlers, the two-bouncers-an-over rule was introduced. Although it has obvious merits, I (and a few international batsmen) dread the day a bowling-heavy side delivers 100 bouncers out of 300 legitimate deliveries in bowling-friendly conditions. Maybe it is just me being cynical, but I believe one bouncer is adequate.

There are no runners allowed for batsmen in one-day cricket now. This is a harsh rule, and is unnecessary in ODI cricket. No batsman would want to use a runner unless he necessarily needs to, simply because a runner increases the chances of a run-out. And, in the past, the fielding captain and the umpires could always turn down a request for a runner, if the grounds for asking one were not justifiable to their eyes.

A lot of cricket grounds have very short boundaries these days for ODIs too. Although this produces more fours and sixes, it perilously blurs the difference between a hit and a mishit, between skill and luck. A bowler can have two moral victories over a batsman over the course of an over but he could still have gone for two sixes and lost the match for his team. In a cricketing ecosystem where quality spinners are becoming scarce, this is a malady that has to be swiftly remedied.

ODI cricket is certainly not dying now. The popularity and interest generated by recent bilateral series' and multi-nation tournaments can be taken as an indicator that it is, in fact, a thriving format. It should pay well to remember that ODI cricket has prospered not necessarily due to the administrator-infused changes but, more likely, despite those changes.

At least, I am thankful there are no SuperSubs now.

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Karthik Sampath works in IT in Chennai. He likes Tests, ODIs and T20s in that order, and grudgingly acknowledges franchise-based games as cricket. He plays tennis-ball cricket at a ground on Saturdays and at an apartment parking lot on Sundays. He tweets here

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Comments have now been closed for this article

Posted by prash on (March 13, 2014, 6:20 GMT)

@NIPPY_89, ya sure... the scores wud have been different....but the batting strategies wud have been juz sayin it cud have been... the scores might have been lesser...n india cud have lost still....

Posted by Nipuna on (March 13, 2014, 2:12 GMT)

@noisemaker, I agree that short boundaries are killing the game but that is not the reason India lost the game. India had the same bondries lengths when they batted. So if the boundries were longer Pakistan would have been chasing a smaller target as many 4s would have been cut off etc and Afridi wouldnt have needed to hit those sixes.

Posted by trinath on (March 12, 2014, 14:07 GMT)

present rules in odi criicket are diffcuilt for the spinners

Posted by Muneeb on (March 12, 2014, 12:05 GMT)

@Karthik Sampath "A bowler can have two moral victories over a batsman over the course of an over but he could still have gone for two sixes and lost the match for his team." I know your context so my answer is whether ground is too short or too large, you need a batsman of that courage which is not in every team.

Posted by prash on (March 12, 2014, 11:00 GMT)

exactly..well said...all these new rules makes it unfair to the bowlers mostly.... with the 1-10 overs powerplay and very short boundaries....the two bouncers rule is the only tweak in the rules for fast a medium bowler myself...i think that 2 bouncers are the only weapon the bowlers have ryt now..that too only fast bowlers...not spinners....short boundaries are killin the game....if you see the pak-ind match in the asia cup...the last six afridi hit was a mishit but as the boundary was small it went for a six or else it wud have been a catch and india wud have won the match and the results wud be different...

Posted by Peter on (March 11, 2014, 19:22 GMT)

I wonder how vigorously ICC worked on big three model but they were unable to fix minor issues like boundary size etc.. Sometimes their rules seem to be discouraging the art of fielding and bowling (specially swing bowling).

Posted by Gopal on (March 11, 2014, 5:58 GMT)

I respect a part of your points.... My point is to make a wide distinction between ODIs nd T20Is... ODIs should inherit a considerable part from tests and have T20 features in minimal proportions..... Firstly, the fielding restriction.. During power plays, allow 4 outside the circle... Non-powerplay overs should allow 6 players.... Increase the field size upto an avg of 90--95 m..... Abolish free hits.... Improvise DRS.... Yet 2 bouncers an over is acceptable....Among the top 8, apart from India & Sl, all other nations have bowlers who could bowl bouncers... Interestingly Pakistani pacers thrive exceedingly well outside the sub-continent than their Asian counterparts..... Using new balls from either side has made the reverse swing improbable.... So is for spin bowling.... Make rules suitable for all teams....

Posted by udendra on (March 11, 2014, 4:39 GMT)

The much needed rule of the hour is boundary size. ICC should bring in an increased minimum size for boundaries.

Posted by g on (March 10, 2014, 16:43 GMT)

having fixed dimensions to boundaries would be great...some of the hard-earned records in big grounds are made fun of by some exploits in a few mini grounds...a six should be a six in any ground in any country.

Posted by Arijit_in_TO on (March 10, 2014, 15:07 GMT)

Keep It Simple Let there be test match rules in an ODI format. I wouldn't have a problem with 2 sets of 25 overs to replicate the test match format of 2 innings per side. I don't mind wickets that are a seamer's paradise or a spinner's heaven. This is supposed to be a contest between bat and ball.

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