Substitutes to revitalise one-day game's tired format

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The Independent Online

Michael Vaughan will be allowed to field a substitute during England's one-day international series in Pakistan this winter, should a recommendation made to the International Cricket Council be passed in June. This is one of the radical changes that the ICC Cricket Committee - of which I am a member - is hoping the game's governing body will introduce in an attempt to revitalise the shortened form of the game.

Michael Vaughan will be allowed to field a substitute during England's one-day international series in Pakistan this winter, should a recommendation made to the International Cricket Council be passed in June. This is one of the radical changes that the ICC Cricket Committee - of which I am a member - is hoping the game's governing body will introduce in an attempt to revitalise the shortened form of the game.

Crowds still flock to one-day international matches but many observers feel the current format is tired, and there are lengthy periods during these games when the cricket is boring and predictable. These spells tend to be between the 16th over, when fielding restrictions are relaxed, and the 40th, the time when the final onslaught tends to start. It is a period when batsmen prefer the option of collecting runs, by knocking the ball into gaps, to crashing fours and sixes.

And in an effort to create greater interest during this 25-over period both teams will be given the option of replacing one of their players with a substitute, should they feel the need.

The second proposal will see the number of overs in which the fielding restrictions apply rise from 15 to 20. But unlike current playing conditions, where nine fielders have to be positioned within 30 yards of the stumps during the first

15 overs of a game, these overs will be staggered. Spectators enjoy the opening salvoes of a one-day match, when batsmen look to get after the bowlers, and fielding restrictions will remain for the first 10 overs of each game. The remaining 10 overs, however, will be taken in two blocks of five overs at the insistence of the fielding captain.

If the fielding captain wants these restrictions to remain in place for the first 20 overs of the match then he can enforce them. But should two of the opposition batsmen be taking his bowling attack apart he then has the chance to put more fielders on the boundary, and defer the period when he once again has to bring them back inside the 30-yard ring.

Should the fielding side have dismissed these players by the 13th over, and have two new batsmen at the crease, the fielding captain then has the option of telling the umpires that he wishes to use up five of his remaining 10 overs between the 14th and 18th over.

The introduction of a substitute will give the captains greater flexibility. Before the toss both teams have to name a starting 11 along with a substitute, who can be introduced whenever the captains want.

If the fielding side wish to replace a fast bowler who cannot bat with an all-rounder or a batsman, then they can. And if the batting side should find themselves on 30 for 6, and their substitute is a batsman, they can exchange him for one of their lower order players. The only proviso is that the substituted fielder cannot take any further part.

These regulations are intended to give the fielding captain more options than he currently has, but they are also designed to create greater intrigue, and to put his tactics under the spotlight. If these recommendations are sanctioned at next month's ICC chief executives' meeting they will immediately become part of standard one-day international playing conditions.

This summer's NatWest Series and NatWest Challenge, where the playing conditions have already been agreed, will not be affected but Vaughan will have these issues to contend with when England tour Pakistan and India during the winter.

The use of technology to help umpires was also debated during the two-day meeting in Dubai, and it was proposed that further trials take place during October's ICC Super Series matches between Australia and the Rest of the World.

It may not seem like it, but international umpires make the right decision almost 95 per cent of the time. But in an attempt to avoid the odd mistake it has been proposed that, during the three one-day games and a Test match in Australia, the umpires be allowed to refer decisions they are unsure about to the third umpire.

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