Graeme Smith: DLS method needs to be reviewed
SA's director of cricket feels the rain rule is at least two decades out of date, especially in T20s
Graeme Smith, South Africa's director of cricket, has advocated for a new method to adjust targets in rain-affected matches and argued that the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method is at least two decades out of date. In a Webinar hosted by the financial advisor network PSG, Smith said increased scoring rates, especially in T20 cricket, meant the current tools for calculating revised scores don't match up with modern strategy.
"I think Duckworth-Lewis has had its time. I think the game has moved past it with the scores, the way people think and what's achievable now. It needs to be reviewed especially in the T20 game," Smith said. "There's too many times you look at it and you go, 'that's not right, its too easy for the team chasing' or it hasn't quite got it right. The modern-day nature of how the game is played now, Duckworth-Lewis is left in the 90s or the early 2000s."
But apart from that, Smith did not push for any other changes to the laws of the game because he believes cricket is difficult enough to understand as it is. "Cricket can get complicated. It's a technical sport and keeping the rules as simple as possible can benefit the sport," he said. "You try and introduce someone new to the game of cricket and its like 'woah'. You've got a lot of technicalities. I was trying to explain to my wife the lbw rule the other day and I was head-butting the wall. It is a complicated sport and if you haven't grown up with it or played it school or been around it, it takes time to understand it. Keeping the rules simple for fans is a good thing."
As intricate as the game is, and notwithstanding the fact that it already exists in three formats, Smith was part of a group that conceptualised a new three-team version that made its first appearance on July 18. The exhibition match featured 24 of South Africa's top cricketers and Smith indicated the intention of the new format is to challenge the 50-over game, which he reckoned can sometimes meander aimlessly.
One of the challenges cricket has faced is the competition between bat and ball and keeping that at the forefront so I think it's great when the ball does move around and it's something that needs to be looked at going forward
"In one-day cricket, there's too many slow patches at the moment and that's one of the reasons we debated this three-team cricket," Smith said. "It's a new version of the game and we wanted to see how we can we take away some of these dead spots in the game, make it exciting, get three sets of fans in a stadium, try to keep it interesting and exciting with lots of talking points."
The ultimate intention for the three-team format is that it is played as part of a development project. Smith does not think it will replace the longest or the shortest versions of the game, even though he feels both face challenges for survival at international level. Smith believes Test cricket may only be played among teams who are at a similar standard and cautioned that T20 cricket is becoming the domain of independent leagues rather than national cricket boards.
"The five-day game, when you have two good teams playing against each other, its enthralling. It's the hardest version of the game. It tests you mentally, physically, your technique, everything is on show. It's where we all want to be judged," he said. "And then T20 has come in, it's brought the commercial aspect to the game and it's also brought its challenges because T20 leagues are popping up all over the world.
"Think about the IPL, the financial gains that both owners and players have got, the TV deals, you cannot imagine how massive that beast is and what it's done for players Players will earn more in that tournament than they will playing for South Africa and that creates its challenges but T20 has brought youngsters into the game and it's kept us afloat as a sport in modern-day society. I hope Test cricket stays strong but I think it may become certain-nation-based in the future."
Test cricket has been the format whose playing conditions have been most affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the traditional method of using spit to shine the ball and facilitate swing no longer allowed. Smith hoped that would not take away from any advantage bowlers can gain in the game. "Watching England, the ball was still swinging but as a batter, I was happy if the ball didn't swing, so not too much of an issue from my own side," he said. "One of the challenges cricket has faced is the competition between bat and ball and keeping that at the forefront so I think it's great when the ball does move around and it's something that needs to be looked at going forward."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent