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Cricket jumps out of the box

ICC's endevour to jazz up cricket by introducing power plays and Super Subs, turned out to be duds, writes Amrit Mathur.

india Updated: Mar 10, 2006 18:04 IST

All of a sudden, cricket is jumping out-of-the-box because of innovations, a process sparked by the ICC when it took a big leap to jazz up one-day cricket. The rejig meant introducing power plays and Super Subs, changes designed to pep up a boring phase when players gently knocked the ball into gaps instead of smashing it out of the ground.

Both changes turned out to be duds, silly no balls, which did not speed up action or advance the game tactically. Instead, they added confusion and gifted an unfair strategic advantage to the team winning the toss. No wonder this triggered a loud chorus from captains and other experts that these rules be junked forthwith, a demand that shows the ICC is divorced from ground reality.

Obviously there is a serious disconnect between theory and practice. Hopefully this fiasco will dim the enthusiasm of reformers, people will now think hard before wanting to abolish leg-byes, doing away with the toss, allowing rotating substitutes, permitting one bowler to bowl beyond his normal allowance of ten overs.

Unlike failed out-of-the-box thinking, Twenty20 cricket is a big hit, it scores ten on ten on the popularity index. Purists may frown or suffer cardiac arrests but the janta loves it. In a social situation where time is scarce, it delivers quick action even though critics crib this is more entertainment than sport, a trailer and not the entire show.

Interestingly, this innovation comes from England, normally so sensitive about traditions, because economics prevailed over sentiment and, regardless of preferences, cash makes sense. But India refuses to touch Twenty20, scared this will become a cancer in the future, a development that could swamp established cricket.

With laptop-clutching coaches manufacturing ingenious solutions to old issues, out-of-the-box thought has profoundly affected on-field strategy. Already, because of this epidemic, the conventional batting order has been rejected, tossed away, junked. In the Indian team, for instance, promising middle-order players, rooted to their positions, are now upwardly mobile. Pathan is not a pinch hitter but opener, Dhoni an option at five, Dravid an all rounder. In this new arrangement, players are no different from paploos in a card game, the hero is also a character artiste, every batsman can fill any slot.

Unfortunately, selectors haven't adjusted to this changed mindset. When Wasim Jaffer was added to the squad we were told a trained opener was required, but a team management that thought out-ofthe-box defeated the move; they had no use for him. Jaffer went to Lahore and, like a good tourist, visited the Bagh-e-Jinnah and the Food Street, but got no cricket. In cricket, change is inevitable, and desirable. What appears out-ofthe-box and weird today becomes normal tomorrow. Ultimately, the box wins. Whatever, or whoever, jumps out, comes back.

First Published: Feb 21, 2006 15:37 IST