Tractor’s Top Ten Tinkers to a Better Batting/Bowling Balance
This year is the first year since 1998 that I haven’t attended a single day’s play of live cricket. Not just international cricket: literally ANY cricket. Not even a sniff on a beach, which has led me to pay my cricketing attention to the off-field side of the sport a little more than usual. And I have been struck by the developments afoot that seek to redress the balance between bat and ball, between batsman and bowler in the modern game.
First up I listened with care to suggestions to limit more bat dimensions than are currently covered by MCC (read ICC) regulations. Seems fair enough: can’t have those David Warner types trying to sneak a two tonne bat through etc etc. And then I caught up on the TMS podcast with ICC general manager Geoff Allardice who, amongst other things, discussed the upcoming changes to Umpire’s Call in DRS LBW decisions.
If you’ve missed it, the existing rule is that if 50% of the ball is missing the stumps, a not-out decision will remain unchanged, as Umpire’s Call. From this autumn, it will only be 25%. There’s no intention of supporting the integrity of umpires here, but of correcting the bat/ball balance that has been seen to deviate too far in favour of Cook and co in recent years (decades??).
This got me thinking about more tweaks and tinkers we could introduce to the game to help bowlers even further. And if some of them seem silly, just think back to that bizarre sub fielder thing that went on in ODIs for a weird while.
These are my top ten suggestions, all to be applied to the Test format unless otherwise stated:
10. Six and Out. If it’s good enough for back gardens the country over, it’s good enough for the international scene. End of.
9. Appealing points. Three judges, Strictly style, sit in the space otherwise occupied by scantily clad dancers on limited overs days. When a bowler appeals, they can add points that may result in a not-out decision being converted in the bowler’s favour. Shane Warne-style cheat appeals result in a points deduction, so watch out, boisterous bowlers!
8. Thirty-Three Strikes and You’re Out. Not wanting to go as far as the Yanks, but those Aussies in Sri Lanka recently may have seen wickets tumbling even quicker than they did if the batsman playing his side’s thirty third dot ball was immediately dismissed.
7. Six and Dance. Every time a batsman hits a six, the bowler is allowed a pirouette on the wicket. Added excitement factor given that, if the bowler’s side is soon to bat, they may wish to waive their right to twirl on the square. It’s basically affirmative action for cricket.
6. One hand One Bounce. Not all the time: I’m not that cavalier! But if the offending batsman has scored more than 150 or the team has surpassed 500, it seems only fair. Liven up those dull trodden-into-the-dust days for the fielding team and their supporters, too.
5. (Crowd) Catches Win Matches. All bump ball decisions are now made by the crowd. Crowd catches count. Simples.
4. Play and Miss, Play and Pray. These ‘moral victories’ for bowlers when missing the edge by millimetres are underrated. Nobody wants to see a moral victory. We want to see action! Thus, batsmen are limited to one play and miss per over. If the batsman fails twice, the bowler gets a free beamer in return. Fair’s fair and all that. I mean, who cares if we lose the excitement of Donald vs Athers, or Freddie vs Punter in 2005, as long as The Balance is Restored.
3. ManCAN. Let’s drop all this Mankad bad sport tosh. Bowlers should be ENCOURAGED to run out the non-striking batsman. Cricket’s missing its sneaky side and this is the perfect way to remedy it whilst also offering bowlers a fairer bite at the cherry.
2. Out Timed In. We all know batsmen have two minutes to reach the crease or risk being given out; I propose the new Timed In rule, whereby any batsman who spends more than 20 seconds in his pre-delivery routine (Alec Stewart’s bat twiddle, Jonathan Trott’s trench-digging) can be given out so long as the bowler himself remembers to appeal, not himself being caught up in a Morne Morkel style pirouette as part of his own preparation.
1. The Fireball. With no notice required (none of this underarm bowling notification nonsense), the bowler can decide to set off fireworks from the wicket at the point of ball-release. What excitement it would bring to the game! Every ball, the batsman has no idea whether a huge explosion behind him is going to disrupt his ‘concentration’. This rule is extra fun in parts of the world subjected to heightened terror threats.