Supersub makes the toss unfair, says Trescothick

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The Independent Online

It would not surprise anybody if Marcus Trescothick, England's stand-in captain, returned home from Pakistan on 22 December with a few extra grey hairs on his head.

Captaining a team in a one-day game was a stressful enough experience even before the International Cricket Council introduced "supersubs" and "powerplays", and the new regulations are yet to win over those who are responsible for the decision-making. So much can happen during the 50 overs a side spends in the field and, unlike in Test matches, there is the added pressure of having to bowl your overs within a certain period of time.

Yet it is not the extra pressure that is causing captains to question the recent innovations; it is the belief that the team who wins the toss are given an unfair advantage. Looking at the results in the 33 matches that have so far been completed, this appears to be true.

England and Australia were the first teams to play under the new regulations and it was initially felt that every team would select a batsman as their supersub and bowl first on winning the toss. This tactic would give the side batting second the advantage of chasing their opponents' score with an extra batsman. Sixty per cent of the 33 matches have been won by teams using this strategy.

Yet there is a factor that is even more important than batting first - winning the toss. Indeed, 70 per cent of games have been won by teams who have called correctly before a ball has been bowled. The figure is higher because winning the toss allows a captain to use his supersub exactly as he wants to, whereas the opposition's plans may be ruined. The trial is still in its infancy - it will be reviewed in April 2006 - but these figures are far too high for the rule to be considered fair.

The introduction of powerplays, periods of play when the fielding side have to position nine players within the 30-yard circle, have proved far more popular. Under the current regulations the fielding side must have nine fielders within the circle for 20 overs of a match. There is a compulsory period of 10 overs at the start of an innings, and the remaining 10 can be split into two five-over segments and used when the fielding captain wants.

"I'd rather not have to worry about these things," admitted Trescothick, on the eve of England's first one-dayer against Pakistan today. "There is a lot going on out there, in terms of getting the bowlers bowling at the right time and the fielders in the right positions.

"These things are part and parcel of the one-day game and powerplays and supersubs give you something else to think about. The powerplays are OK but the supersub is a bit different. It is a bit unfair for the side that loses the toss."

Captains and coaches are coming up with alternative ideas and most seem to agree that teams should be allowed to name their supersubs after the toss. "In its current form I'd say scrap it," said Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain. "The team that loses the toss can quite often be stuck without having that other option, so it's almost 12 against 11. To name your supersub after the toss would work better for everyone."

* The New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming will return for the third and final one-day match against Australia, who have included the uncapped fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, in Christchurch today.

Fleming missed the first two games of the series, both won by Australia, while recovering from surgery to remove a tumour from his face. Johnson replaces the fast bowler Brett Lee, who returned home after the second match on Wednesday to have a breathing problem rectified.