Administrators need to rethink format

The public would have been disappointed with the format as several fixtures in this World Cup feature sides that are poles apart. By all means, it is good to involve more Nations but the format cannot be one that fuels interest only in the latter half of the tournament. By W. V. Raman.

It has been a good week for the spinners, the former leg spinner Anil Kumble has been inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame and Ashwin, Jadeja and Vettori are doing a grand job for their sides in the current World Cup games. In a tournament that has seen batsmen rule the roost, it is heartening to see the spinners hold their own, underlining the fact that they can make an impact despite the odds being not in their favour.

However, the spinners need more encouragement from the administrators if they have to continue making their presence felt. The improvement in bat manufacturing technology has been attributed as the main reason for the perils of the spinners in modern day cricket. But let’s not forget that the size of the grounds matter as far as spinners are concerned. They need venues with bigger boundaries in order to have a decent chance. This was substantiated by their success in Australia where the size of the boundaries is bigger than say in the Sub-continent. Of course, dry pitches in the Sub-continent provide a buffer of sorts.

The other factor the administrators have to bear in mind is that sides with quality spinners have found it easier to put the skids on the batsmen. Moreover, the spinners serve to provide a different dimension and enable the captains to change the tempo. Imagine seeing a side bowling the entire quota of 50 overs employing fast/medium fast bowlers. The batsmen might relish playing the ball when it comes on nicely to the bat but the spectators get short-changed in that they don’t get to see the intrigue that spinners bring to the table.

I am sure that Anil Kumble (Chairman of the ICC cricket committee) will find it a wee bit delicate to advocate rules that provide a leeway to the spinners for obvious reasons. But that does not prevent the others involved in the decision making process to bring about some balance. The overall picture is far more important than short-term measures that are taken with an objective to bring crowds into the venues. Then, of course, the public likes to see a contest between bat and ball and quantum of scores is not the only criterion that appeals to them.

The encouragement of spinners apart, the administrators need to rethink the format of the World Cup as well. The public would have been disappointed with the format as several fixtures in this World Cup feature sides that are poles apart. By all means, it is good to involve more Nations but the format cannot be one that fuels interest only in the latter half of the tournament. Ireland creating a big upset by chasing down 300 plus does make an argument for the minnows to get a fair crack, but such a result does not come forth every second day.

suffice it to say that merely creating conditions and rules that are conducive to sides making big scores is not enough, especially when the Tests and ODI formats are under pressure to sustain public interest. A holistic approach needs to be adopted to create a balance wherein the public gets to see a real contest more often than not. Otherwise, the interest of the public will wane as quickly as the shine wears off a new ball in the Sub-continent. There is a move afoot to make the ODIs more interesting by bringing in a points system etc but if the laws of the game are prone to creating an imbalance, no innovation will make a difference.

Better bat making technology or not, tall scoring games emanated only after “standardization” of pitches, reduction in size of boundaries and further tightening with regard to the fielding restrictions. Therefore it is better to look at the whole concept of ODIs in its entirety rather than in bits and pieces.