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Cricket laws

April 24, 2014

Let's go decimal

Sridhar Kartic

Kyle Abbott has a close look at umpire Kumar Dharmasena's eyes, South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 2nd day, March 2, 2014
"I get only five balls to bowl? Suits me fine, thank you." © Getty Images

Since the beginning of cricketing time, the over was always either 6 or 8 balls. There is no clear reason why even 300 years after the game was first played by adults, this one aspect has not turned metric.

We celebrate 100s and 50s, we acknowledge five-wicket hauls, and 10 wickets in a match. Even the latest evolution of the game is 20 overs-a-side. Maybe we should now play 5 ball overs.

Think of the advantages. A T20 innings will now be exactly 100 balls. Run-rate calculations will be a breeze. Runs per over will be a piece of cake and most people can do the math in their heads. Strike-rates per ball will be childishly simple to figure out.

Why has this not been adopted before now? Traditionally a base 12 was used to count items. A dozen eggs, a gross of something and so on. This, the duodecimal system, is completely outdated in all aspects of modern life with the only exception being the measurement of time. We still have 24 hours a day and 12 months in a year.

Cricket has seen a lot of changes over the past 100 years and, with the advent of Twenty20 the changes over the last decade have been exponential. The uniforms of players and umpires have gone from starchy whites to polyester blended colors. The ball has gone from cherry red to white. The stumps have changed from plain wood to the brand colors of the game's sponsors, and now have flashing LEDs embedded in them. It is time to ring in changes with the counting as well, and move to the decimal system.

As mentioned before, a T20 will be 100 balls, an ODI will be 50 overs of 5 balls each and each day of Test cricket will be 100 overs of 5 balls instead of 90 overs of 6. Records pre-dating the change can remain as they are - just as stats from the eight-ball-overs era have been assimilated. A bowler - probably the most exerted person on the field - will only bowl five before he can take a breather on the boundary ropes.

Even boundaries need to be changed. But that is another discussion. A pull to the ropes along the ground should be 5 runs and over the ropes, 10. Why they are 4 and 6 is a question to which I could find no satisfactory answer. Except,"It's traditionally done this way."

Traditions are not always a good thing.

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Posted by Philip on (May 6, 2014, 8:06 GMT)

I have no problem with the idea of longer overs, having grown up with the eight-ball over, but decimalisation for the sake of it must be one of the most pointless rule changes I have ever seen recommended anywhere and I've been around long enough to have seen plenty of them! Actually, long ago you would have gotten a five for a "maximum" instead of a six, so the reward for clearing the boundary has already been increased (and doesn't need to now be made a "ten"). It would make more sense to decrease it back to where it was (five), because ropes and modern bats make clearing the boundary so much easier (reward thus equalling modern effort)! Seriously, there is currently way too much emphasis on T20 and April/May is now as mad as a March hare because of it.

Posted by Sreecharan on (May 4, 2014, 10:56 GMT)

A six ball over gives both the bowler and the batsmen the perfect amount of time and opportunity to make his mark. A bowler who starts poorly in an over definitely needs that additional delivery to compensate and just the same goes for a batsmen. From historical evidence Six number of deliveries seems just the right number of balls for both batsmen and bowler to either make a mark or get their technique exposed in a single over. Imagine those three overs of Dale Steyn to Rohit sharma earlier this year in an ODI, would they look same with 5 balls and that duel between Donald and Atherton

For your second suggestion, I would say that it absolutely makes no difference if 4s are counted as 5s and 6s are counted as 10s as long as all fours are counted as 5s and all fives are counted as 6s. You are just introducing a constant multiplier here nothing big deal. As a matter of fact even of 4s are counted as 39s and 6s are counted as 53s it still makes no difference whatsoever at all.

Posted by Eugene on (April 28, 2014, 12:47 GMT)

Your approach is backwards. Instead of forcing overs into the decimal system, change your counting system to base 12. This has numerous advantages over base 10. For starters, 10 is divisible by 2, 3, 4, and 6. For the same number of balls, the game will be 18 of 6-ball overs. Bob's your uncle!

Posted by Khalid on (April 28, 2014, 10:21 GMT)

Hi All,

I am not in the favor of any change. Since long we been watching 6 balls over. Cricket should be in its traditional way. The traditional way is the cricket beauty. We should keep it alive.

Posted by Venkatesh on (April 28, 2014, 9:19 GMT)

Go decimal?? I thought we are already decimal - counting 6 balls to the over does not make it "non-decimal" does it? And why does the viewer need to calculate anything? I though the telecasts already show all sorts of calculations, permutations etc., ball by ball. I am not convinced, this suggested change is any good.

Posted by Dik on (April 28, 2014, 9:02 GMT)

But I don't agree with boundaries. It's fine as it, with 1-7 as possible scores. It's not random. 5 and 10 makes it seem like a video game.

Posted by Dik on (April 28, 2014, 8:59 GMT)

I like this idea and I'd welcome it. Cricket's over count is probably the oddest even number; 6. Six. Random! I can see this change happening in near future. It'd shorten the game without shortening it to something as ridiculous as "T10." It'd definitely make the game more explosive. And games would probably finish under 3 hours.

Posted by Somendra on (April 28, 2014, 8:12 GMT)

Why 6 balls an over ? Simple. When cricket started 150+ years ago, people used to deal in dozens. It was just half a dozen balls for a bowler and half a dozen runs for the batsman if the ball sailed over the line.

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 28, 2014, 5:17 GMT)

I am sure. Don't agree with the article. Talk of chopping off head to cure the headache. But, I read in a cricket history book that originally it was based on 11. Also, it IS already in a decimal base now. May be we should cut all the frills and go for a binary one?

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 27, 2014, 13:08 GMT)

There is nothing wrong with having traditional aspects to a sport. Changing the scoring and overs computation in cricket is a stupid idea. Not everything need to go metric. Baseball is steeped in tradition, so is basketball, tennis, football, soccer. There are aspects of each which have remained unchanged. This is one aspect of cricket that does not need tinkering with, part of the joy of a sport is comparing eras and achievements, you would take that away because your ability to think is limited to 5s and 10s give me a break. We can improve the game technologically to eliminate bad decisions and officiating errors, LEAVE THE SCORING ALONE IT GIVES THE GAME UNIQUENESS.

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