One-day game requires flexibility, not waterproofing

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The Independent Online

Cricket's administrators have lost all their inhibitions when it comes to playing around with the format of the one-day game: what began as 65-overs a side has now come down happily 20 overs. They now badly need to lose some of their prissiness when it comes to drizzle or light rain as far as the one-day game is concerned.

Cricket's administrators have lost all their inhibitions when it comes to playing around with the format of the one-day game: what began as 65-overs a side has now come down happily 20 overs. They now badly need to lose some of their prissiness when it comes to drizzle or light rain as far as the one-day game is concerned.

Unlike Monday, there was never any heavy rain yesterday at Headingley for England's match against Zimbabwe. There was only about 20 minutes when it was hard enough to stop play if the game had already been in progress. One-day cricket has already thrown tradition to the winds; let's go one stage further and start the game in gentle spitting rain or drizzle.

Of course bowlers do not want to bowl with a wet ball and it makes life tricky for fielders too. But one-day cricket is all about entertainment. It is the crowd's game and if it is dry enough for them to sit in some numbers on the terraces, albeit under umbrellas - they have paid to get in and so they must surely be allowed to take evasive action - why shouldn't they be entertained?

No one is expecting the cricketers to play in serious rain. That would be absurd, but when it is not much more than spitting surely they should be prepared, in the general interests of the game, to get on with it. When we did get a start in what had become a 25-over game, the excitement was tremendous and the quality of some of the cricket was outstanding.

Also, there is no reason why the game should not live more by the seat of its pants as far as the final number of overs are concerned. It should be possible to adjust them at any time and to make sure this is not grotesquely unfair to anyone, good old Duckworth/Lewis is lurking faithfully in the background to adjust the target. More flexibility and less waterproofing is what we want.

The Twenty20 competition has been a huge success in its first year and, from the evidence of this competition and from Headingley when play at last began, international Twenty-five25 or Twenty20 should begin at once. The purists will squirm and say that this will distort the game still further.

Nonsense! The requirements of this compressed form of the game will mean that nudges for singles are inadequate. Two runs a ball is essential and so instead of steering the ball to third man for a single, the batsmen will start to learn to hit the ball with a straight bat back over the bowlers' heads or, indeed, to other positions in front of the wicket. Bowlers will have to think harder too, for they will need greater variety. Cricket must think the unthinkable.

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