Countdown timer clocks to speed up the pace of play in Test cricket, free hits for no-balls in the longer format and the use of a standard ball in the World Test Championship are some of the radical proposals put forth by the MCC World Cricket Committee to "improve the spectacle" of the format.
According to the MCC, the proposals, discussed last week during meetings held in Bengaluru, will be tested as well as forwarded to the ICC for consideration.
In an exclusive chat with ESPNcricinfo, former England captain Mike Gatting, who chairs the MCC World Cricket Committee, and former Australia legspinner Shane Warne, outlined the idea behind each of these proposals which are as follows.
Timer clocks to prevent time wasting
- A timer, to be shown on the scoreboard, to count down from 45 seconds from the call of "over". This will be increased to 60 seconds for a new batsman on strike and 80 seconds for a change of bowler. If either side is not ready to play when the clock reaches zero, they will receive a warning, with further infringements in that innings resulting in five penalty runs being awarded to the opposition.
- A similar timer to be used at the fall of wickets, potentially with variable times, depending on the distance from the dressing rooms to the pitch, and at drinks breaks. Batsmen and fielders should be in position before the clock reaches zero.
- During DRS reviews, the standard protocol should be cut short as soon as the TV production team is aware that it will be 'not out.' For example, time is often spent trying to discern an inside edge for lbw decisions, only to see that the ball was missing the stumps. As soon as the ball tracking data has been loaded, if it will result in a 'not out' decision, the TV umpire should be informed immediately.
Free hit for no-ball in Tests
The committee felt free hits had been successful "deterrents" in limited-overs cricket to bowling no-balls, and should be tried out in Test cricket, too.
Warne cited an example to illustrate how free hits could prove to be an advantage. "Let's say I bowl a ball, the umpire gives it out and it's a referral. And then it's found out that I actually bowled a no-ball. One, the batsman thought he's out, but not only is he not out, but it's also a free hit. Imagine what happens to the crowd. They go from 'Oh no, my favourite player is out' to 'No, he's not out, it's a no-ball' and 'Wow, it's a free hit.' Imagine the excitement!
"It's in there for T20s and ODIs, why not in Test cricket? It actually helps the no-ball situation too. For instance, England only bowled their first no-ball in ODIs for three years, because of the free hits. I think it can help reduce the number of no-balls in Test cricket as well. I think it's a good change and a recommendation to the ICC, hopefully they pick it up."
Dukes to be the preferred ball in Tests?
Currently, SG, Kookaburra and Dukes are the major ball manufacturers engaged by various boards. With the World Test Championship kicking off with the Ashes as the first contest this summer, the MCC has proposed to standardise the usage of balls in Test cricket, barring day-night Tests where the pink Kookaburra has been used. One of the methods proposed is to have players from around the world vote in. Also, the MCC is going to try out the red Dukes ball in Asia and see the results.
According to Gatting, the choice of which ball to use ought to be based on the opinions given by current players, including Indian captain Virat Kohli, who last year had been critical with the lot of SG balls used during the home Test series against West Indies. India's senior offspinner R Ashwin had also given a thumbs up to the red Dukes ball, which he used while playing in county cricket in the last few years.
"You take on board what people like Virat Kohli and others say about what sort of ball they like," Gatting said. "And one would have to say that the Dukes ball has come up, and people have said that as a standard ball, maybe that's what we should be looking to get and play with.
"Because it seems to have given a better balance for batsmen and bowlers even on flatter wickets. I think we should be listening to the players about this. It's not what I think, it's the players. They're going to play with it. And they've spoken out and they would like to see a standardised ball and it might well be a Dukes ball."
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo