Sportstar Archives: ECB CEO Tim Lamb on England's '99 World Cup, use of DLS system and more

In this interview to Sportstar, Tim Lamb, Chief Executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, talks about England's fourth World Cup, security, the white ball and the Duckworth and Lewis system.

England and Wales Cricket Board's CEO Tim Lamb.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

In this interview to Sportstar, Tim Lamb, Chief Executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), talks about England's fourth World Cup, the Carnival of Cricket, security, the white ball and the Duckworth and Lewis system.

Question: Carnival of Cricket... it's a good theme to work with. Tell us who was behind this idea and is it proving to be so?

Well, the World Cup will now come around to this country once in 20 years. And we were deter- mined that there would be a legacy from this which will stand us in good stead for the future. We were very keen to shake off this image with cricket being very stuffy, middle-class and old-fashioned.

So we proposed colourful themes to attract people to the matches and see the new faces of cricket, wave their flags and get involved with the game. A little bit of colour, a little bit of vibrancy. I think this is very important to make an impact on the cricketing community in England and encourage people to follow the game in the future. Now, it reflects the enormous popularity of the World Cup. As I often say, cricket used to be a simple game. You played from 11 0' Clock to 6.30, had a drink and went home. Now we are in large business. Now, there are a lot of packages. There are a lot of nuances, different angles. The success of this World Cup reflects the popularity of the game in this country, not only in this country, but wherever the game is being played. Like cricket in India is soccer in this country. I mean we have all seen the hysteria over Manchester United winning the three competitions.

The ECB is a new organisation. We are trying to move the game forward. We are trying to get out of the slightly stuffy, staid traditional image we have presented in the past. There has been a resurgence in the interest in cricket across the country. And we are determined to use the World Cup as a vehicle to promote the game more effectively among the people, who may not have necessarily taken to cricket. We hope they become followers of the game and players of the game. I do get fed up when people say there is no interest in cricket. But it is still the country's No. 1 sport in summer. We have three million people playing the game, 11 million people following the game and watching it on television. It may not compare well with countries like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka where it is a national sport.

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Well, this World Cup has shown that cricket at the highest level can still be played in small grounds circled by trees and in a few venues (Canterbury and Amstelveen) with a tree inside the ground?

Yes, here we are at Derby with a tree lined ground. It's a relatively modest and small ground. Well, it should be played like this. But we are in big business now. If we are going to charge large amounts to come in and watch our games, we have got to enable to sit them in facilities with comfort and safety. The nice thing about cricket is its versatility. You can have five-day, four-day, three-day and one-day cricket and also kwik cricket. Cricket is built on its traditions, character, the village green, the afternoon teas... I mean these are part of the tradition. Cricket has different angles and that's one of the greatest attractions of the game.

What is your assessment of the England team?

The key as for our business is concerned, is the England side. Whether we like it or not, the whole game is judged by the performance of the England national team. It's wholly unfair. Because, ECB which was formed in 1997 has taken many splendid initiatives. We have revamped our structure, there are more kids playing the game. we have merged with the Women's Cricket Association. We have reformed our domestic first class structure which has completely changed the face of our County cricket. And yet people will judge us on the success of the national side because the England team is the highest profile of our area of cricket. And that's where the media has taken interest in. A consistently successful England cricket team, like the Australian team in the last 15 years, will really create additional interest. There will be new heroes. And of course commercial partners want to be part of success as well. People want to join the bandwagon of cricket in a commercial way.

Does the ECB have plans to set up an academy on the lines of the Australian Cricket Academy?

Not all Australians will agree that the Australian Cricket Academy has been an unqualified success. There is no doubt that it has played a part, but I know that some Australians are beginning to question whether the academy is necessarily the best way for producing talent. We are lucky in this country, we have 18 first class counties. All of them are centres of excellence. And each county is spending a lot of money for producing the next generation of talent. For the moment we are not in favour of establishing one national academy for excellence. We actually believe that the best way of doing it is on a regional basis. There are new facilities coming up all over the country and new initiatives being launched in order to encourage young talent. For the time being, although the situation might change, we have decided not to go the Australian way.

There have been security problems in some matches of the World Cup. What measures has the ECB taken to control the crowd?

I would disagree should someone say we are not in control. Some of the problems have been exaggerated. The team managers will say that there has been a bit of hype in the newspapers. We are obviously concerned. But the players have to share the responsibility. They have to get off the field quickly and smartly. And we did say that to the players at the start of the competition. I saw what happened at Hove. It was regrettable. Unfortunately, one of the spectators had a go at one of India's young bowlers who was hit for a few runs towards the end. And there was another one, who was obviously making a nuisance of himself. He was very quickly dealt with by the stewards. We have had only four arrests so far in the entire tournament (just before the group league concluded) and about 56 people ejected from the ground. I think it is quite easy to overexaggerate the problems.

Lamb believes some of the problems related to crowd trouble during the ongoing World Cup have been exaggerated. - V.V. Krishnan

 

There is potential for trouble and I think it is largely caused by overexuberance and overenthusiasm rather than malicious intent. I think some comments by Tim May on behalf of the Australian Cricketers Association have been unhelpful. We want to maintain the tradition of allowing spectators to come on to the field of play at the end of the match. So we have got to ensure that their presence on the field is managed in an effective way. I am confident that we can adequately put in measures to deal with the situation. For decades people have been able to come on to the field of play. We cannot suddenly prevent it from happening in a space of a two-week period. The law does not permit us to put barriers up. And in the final analysis, as much is with our way of life, it's government by consent. You have got to rely on people to use common sense and restraint.

The use of white ball and the Duckworth and Lewis system. There has been some criticism here, too.

The Kookaburra ball is not suitable for these conditions. We have tried it before. The white ball is covered with polyurethane coating. You cannot use animal fat on a white ball in the same way it is done with the red ball. So you have to provide the white leather with the polyurethane coating. You don't need rocket science to know that a polyurethane coating, because of the very nature of the product, is likely to make the ball swing more than a ball covered in a traditional material. The wides have not really proved detrimental to the game. I think the problems with the white ball too have been overexaggerated. I don't think, even if there have been more wides than predicted, it has not taken the gloss off the tournament. I think it has added to the interest.

The advantage of the Duckworth and Lewis system is that it does redress balances, back in favour of the team batting first. It's like a jumbo jet. You don't know why it gets off the ground, flies one from London to New Delhi. But it does. It's a good method of transport. But what I find difficult to accept is that many people including those involved in playing in this tournament, including Steve Waugh, say this is not a very good system. They don't pretend to understand how the formula works. Everybody agrees that the averageruns per over formula invariably gave the advantage to the side batting second. The beauty of the present system is that it takes into account the state of the game and the wickets that are down at the time of the interruption. And the target obviously becomes more difficult. Yes, in a way it actually departs from the fundamental principles of the game that says that a team has to score one more run than the team batting first. But then there are plenty of areas that we depart from the law. There are regulations in place like the fielding restriction and the restriction on short bowling. The point is, cricket is played under basic laws and regulations. I am sure it will become an universally accepted system.

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