Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp
The Big Bash League will look to "innovate" with punishment for slow over-rates in order to avoid situations like the banning of the Brisbane Heat captain Brendon McCullum, one of the tournament's biggest drawcards, for Tuesday's win over the Melbourne Stars.
At the MCG, Joe Burns stood in for McCullum, who was suspended for one game after his team were six minutes behind the prescribed 90 they had in which to bowl 20 overs in the defeat to the Perth Scorchers last week. It was the Heat's second offence of the season, so McCullum was banned and each player fined $500, reduced from $1000 as no appeal was lodged. McCullum joked that his team had been "penalised for taking wickets".
A sea change appears to be taking place in attitudes towards the problem, however, with an acknowledgement that while the fielding captain plays an important role in keeping the game moving, he or she is not solely responsible for the pace of play, and the batting team is able to slow the game down too. Furthermore, bans are seen as counterproductive in that they rob the competition of its best players.
"Ideally we want to see all the best cricketers on the park at all times," Anthony Everard, the head of the BBL, told ESPNcricinfo. "The challenge is balancing that against the other objective of keeping the game moving. There's a set of rules in place at the start of the season and for the integrity of the competition, it's important we enforce those rules, which we did with Brendon."
The BBL's playing committee will meet at the end of the season and over-rates will be on the agenda. Among the options available to CA is replacing fines and bans with the docking of net run-rate points. The benefits of such a system would be that it harms the whole squad and its chances of making the finals, as well as allowing a sliding scale whereby punishments could be proportionate to the slowness of play.
"This is not the first time that we have considered innovating in this department," Everard said. "We have a playing-conditions meeting every year where a whole lot of things are put on the table for discussion and over-rates and the speed of the game are almost an annual agenda item.
"Given the complexity of a BBL game these days in terms of the additional demands of the broadcaster, the additional demands at the match and the fan experience, there are so many moving parts now, I think the role of the fielding captain in keeping the game moving forward is important, but it's not the only thing."
The playing committee is comprised of a broad cross-section of people involved in the BBL, from a current player, umpire and their union, the ACA, to CA's high performance director Pat Howard and Ben Amarfio, CA's executive general manager of media, communications and marketing. "It's not just a purist cricket perspective, otherwise we would never move the game forward," Everard said. "We try to get a commercial, broadcast perspective and others too."
CA would not have to have a change to the playing conditions rubber-stamped by the ICC, but, Everard said, "as a courtesy we would always consult and give them a heads-up as to what we were doing, but it's unlikely we would find something so radical as to offend anyone.
"We see the BBL as the R&D department, but that's not to say we want to get too funky with the integrity of the game," Everard said. "We have struck a good balance of that in the past but we do feel there is an opportunity to innovate and this is the right forum to do that in."