Sunday, 13 September 2009

Less artificiality, not more

Governing bodies have felt compelled to tinker with limited-overs cricket ever since the early days of the Gillette Cup, when nine fielders were sometimes placed on the boundary during the closing stages of an innings. Fielding restrictions, in one form or another, have been in place ever since.

And this is part of the problem. Rule makers have to get involved with the one-day game in order for it to work. In contrast, Test cricket is relatively unhampered by meddling from above (save for restrictions on short-pitched bowling and the number of fielders behind square on the leg side).

But with every new rule, limited-overs cricket becomes more complicated. Essentially, it becomes less like cricket. The necessary drive to meddle has recently reached its apogee in the form of the absurd 'powerplays' which mean nothing to the majority of fans, and, occasionally, even less to the captains themselves.

A restriction on the number of overs each bowler can bowl is well-established. No one queries the necessity for this, and yet perhaps it is to here that the authorities could look in their efforts to save the 50-over game. Why force one-day teams to pick a first-class line-up?

Let sides use two bowlers throughout an entire 50-over innings if they wish. Most wouldn't take the risk of going into a match with only two or three bowlers, but some would, and the reward for their bravery would be a longer batting order. One freak injury, a sudden case of the yips, and all would be lost.

Barely a day goes past without a former player suggesting new, and increasingly ridiculous, ways of jazzing up the one-day game, but maybe they're looking at the situation back-to-front. The 50-over game needs less artificiality, not more.

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