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    February 08, 2006

    Do away with the restrictions

    Last year when Pakistan toured India, I wrote in a light vein about how important it had become to win the toss because it almost guaranteed that the game was in the bag.

    Shortly after that, the ICC's Cricket Committee recommended some changes to one-day cricket in order to make the middle overs (15th to 40th) even more interesting. These changes were to be trialled for a ten month period from July 2005. The NatWest Challenge between England and Australia saw one-dayers played under the rules for the first time. In contrast, the one-day triangular in Sri Lanka, played around the same time, opted to not use the rules on a ridiculous technicality.

    Australia opted to play around with the rules and ended up confusing everyone when they deployed their substitutions in the second game and that made me wonder about whether teams were actually using the new rules effectively, especially when it came to the Power Plays. Like I mentioned, the problem is that the Super Sub rule works too much in favour of the team winning the toss. Allied to it, the toss then heavily decides the outcome of a game. If a team opts for a batsman as the Super Sub, chances are that if the team won the toss, they'd opt to chase. If a bowler was their Super Sub, they'd opt to bowl second. In both situations, the Super Sub functioned as a "cushion" who would definitely come into the picture in the second innings of the game.

    I did some analysis on StatsGuru and the results were pretty alarming, and indicative of how the new rules had overwhelmingly tilted the balance in favour of the team winning the toss. I only factored in games where the "major" teams (i.e. excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe) won the toss. I know you could argue about West Indies being in that exclusion list as well, but this is my analysis!

    Out of a total of 1839 one-dayers played (since the first one-dayer at Melbourne in 1971) involving the above selected teams winning the toss, 958 were won by the team winning the toss, amounting to a 52% winning rate. If we take the period from July 2005 when the new rules were introduced, 38 out of the 52 onedayers played were won by the team winning the toss, i.e. 73% of the time. Subtract out these games from the all-time list and it means that out of the 1787 one-dayers played before the new rules came into place, 920 were won by the team winning the toss, i.e. 51% of the time.

    I think 52 one-dayers is a pretty good sample space, especially considering that barring the West Indies, every other team has actually played a one-day international under the new experimental rules. So this certainly indicates to me that the new rules really do skew results in favour of the team winning the toss, a one-sided factor which cricket should and can do without. I go back to my suggestion in one of my earlier posts about how the super sub should be named after the toss.

    S Dinakar wrote in today's edition of "The Hindu" about how of late the bowlers had been reduced to bit players in one-day cricket, with totals (and chases) in excess of 320+ becoming very common. Eleven out of the seventeen successful run-chases of 300+ in one-dayers have been since 2000.

    In this context, why not remove the 15 over field restrictions once and for all? They were introduced in the 1980s (?) in order to jazz up one-day cricket, which until then had been test cricket's poor country cousin. One-day cricket was more or less played at a very slow pace and not really taken seriously in a lot of the cricket world. It was the efforts of the likes of Srikkanth, Haynes, Greatbatch etc. which paved the way for the power hitting by Jayasuriya, Tendulkar, Lara etc. in the mid 1990s. Since then, of course, bowlers have cursed their professions.

    Now, one-day cricket is certainly more spectator-friendly, depending of course on whether you enjoyed Vinod Kambli coming down the track to smack Curtley Ambrose's bowling around in the 1996 World Cup. It doesn't need any fielding restrictions. If anything, the game needs to be made more even between bat and ball. So do away with the 10 over restrictions for bowlers as well. Captains should be allowed to employ their bowlers for as long as they want. Batsmen don't retire in one-day internationals once they've got 50, do they?

    Your thoughts?

    Update: Martin Gough uses similar numbers to support Ponting's call to do away with these new rules and just use the older rules for the 2007 World Cup.
    Thus spake Jagadish @ 11:40 AM |
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    3 sledge(s):

    that would be very interesting.Then i suppose teams will pack themselves with batsmen and their best 3 bowlers. It would eleminate most of the bit players. Would love to see how batsmen would cope with murali, bret lee or mc grath for 20 overs.

    By Anonymous Prashanth (08-Feb-2006, 1:45:00 PM)  

    I am not so sure about th second change.
    Cutting out fielding restrictions might be alright, though it would encourgae teams to be defensive. letting bowlers bowl as much as they want, on the other hand, will mean teams will tend to pack even more batsmen into their side, and make more runs (even if against tougher bowling), and the cycle would come full circle, maybe....
    just initial thoughts...

    By Blogger shakester (08-Feb-2006, 2:21:00 PM)  

    prashanth: I doubt it. If you have only 3 bowlers, then how do you give them a break. It is tough for fast bowlers to bowl spells of more than 5-6 overs at a time, especially if it is a sunny/sultry day. I think teams will continue to go in with 4 bowlers, but that stupid part-time bowler will be eliminated forever!

    akr: Teams have to find the right balance between being defensive and getting wickets. If you let opponents get to 120/0 in 25 overs, you're probably in trouble even though you've only conceded 4+ an over.

    By Blogger Jagadish (08-Feb-2006, 3:10:00 PM)  

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