ICC set to debate coin toss, may do away with it ahead of Test Championship

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
May 17, 2018 02:02 PM IST

The International Cricket Council (ICC) will debate whether or not they should abandon the coin toss altogether for the upcoming Test Championship, instead simply giving visiting captains the option to choose whether they bat or bowl first

The various debates over revamping Test cricket have raged on for a number of years, with the advent of pink-ball day-night Tests seen as one way to keep fans invested in the longer format of the game.

The reason for doing away with the toss would be to reduce the advantage of the home team, according to some officials of the International Cricket Council (ICC).(BCCI)
The reason for doing away with the toss would be to reduce the advantage of the home team, according to some officials of the International Cricket Council (ICC).(BCCI)

Now, the International Cricket Council (ICC) is set to debate and take a call over another traditional aspect of the game: the coin toss.

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Cricket’s governing body is mulling over scrapping the coin toss altogether for matches contested as a part of the Test Championship, which will commence in 2019 with Australia’s Ashes tour to England.

The reason for doing away with the toss would be to reduce the advantage of the home team, with a growing belief among cricket fans and experts that home boards overly manipulate conditions to the point where there is far too much importance placed on the toss.

“There is serious concern about the current level of home team interference in Test pitch preparation, and more than one committee member believes that the toss should be automatically awarded to the visiting team in each match, although there are some others on the committee who do not share that view,” read briefing notes circulated ahead of the ICC committee meet in Mumbai later this month, according to an ESPNCricinfo report.

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Success in English County circuit

The groundwork for such a rule in international cricket was laid in the 2016 English County Championship, although it’s worth noting that the toss wasn’t altogether done away with; it was made optional.

Under the new rules, the visiting captain is given the choice of bowling first. If he accepts, there will be no toss. But if the visiting captain declines the offer, the toss will take place.

The new rule brought in immediate results. According to ESPNCricinfo, the ECB reported that 85% of matches went into a fourth day compared to 74% in 2015 - the highest percentage since 2009.

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Furthermore, 71of the 142 matches in both divisions were drawn – discounting two abandoned matches – meaning there was a definite result in the other 71 matches. In 2015, there were 93 results and only 51 draws.

Not a new idea

The idea of doing away with the coin toss is something many former players including Darren Lehmann, Rickey Ponting, Michael Holding and even Steve Waugh have spoken about in the past.

“My solution to ensure the best possible pitches is, at international level, to do away with the toss, with the visiting side given the option of whether they want to bat or bowl,” former Australian cricket team coach Lehmann said in his 2016 book, ‘Coach’.

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“That way the result is not decided by the toss of the coin, host boards have a greater incentive to produce decent pitches that are fair to both sides and the chances are that after five days the better side - rather than the one that has called correctly and thus been able to take advantage of favourable conditions - is the one what will come out on top,” he added.

Former Australian cricket team captain Steve Waugh had similar things to say on SEN Radio in 2015. “At the end of the day I think there’s probably too much emphasis placed on the toss and the conditions away from home. I don’t mind the authorities looking at some other options.”

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