BCCI's decision needs to be complimented

THE Board of Control for Cricket in India is to be congratulated on its decision to ban one-day cricket for players under 17 years of age.

BOB SIMPSON

THE Board of Control for Cricket in India is to be congratulated on its decision to ban one-day cricket for players under 17 years of age.

In doing so, the BCCI is leading the world in the restoration of not only spinning skills, but also in batting and swing bowling.

I must admit that I am surprised that the administrators of Indian cricket have made this decision, for it has seemed to me that they were too anxious to milk the cash flow of the ODI's to the detriment of the skills and future of the game.

While the BCCI has specifically targeted the woes of spinners in limited overs cricket, I feel it has also had a negative effect on swing bowling and batting and indeed the overall quality of cricket.

As an Australian I am delighted that we are dominating world cricket, but I am less than happy with the standard of world cricket and the present era may well be the poorest I have seen in my 50 year involvement in first class cricket.

It is of course an easy call to heap all the woes of present day cricket on the limited overs game.

This is obviously not the case as the instant version has still an enormous role to play in our game.

To my eyes the biggest worry about the introduction of limited over matches was not the separate competition aspect for which it was developed, but how it was promoted to replace traditional matches where one team had to bowl the opposition out and then score more runs to win the match. The most important aspect was to learn how to dismiss the opposition and not allow the match to be won by pure containment.

The one-day format was allowed to permeate all aspects below the first class fixtures.

At one stage even our grade or district cricket, the level below first class was played to a limited over format.

The time frame in district cricket was up to 100 overs per session.

Most of our cricket in those days was played over two Saturdays and 100 overs was what the administrators were looking for each Saturday.

Within a very short time captains were concentrating on containment and while they might look for wickets with the new ball they settled quickly into negative style bowling.

Any style which needed to attack to get wickets was considered a liability and spinners, leg spinners in particular and swing bowlers paid the penalty.

Our district cricket became an afternoon of attrition and skills quickly fell away.

Fortunately, after about 10 years, wiser counsel prevailed and the old system was restored.

Unfortunately, by this time, the damage was done and leg spin and swing bowling were forgotten.

When attempts to remedy this were introduced they were stalled badly by the current captains having no idea whatsoever how to handle leg spinners or swing bowlers and it if they were hit for a four or two they were quickly removed from the attack and bowling short of a length medium pacers with little ability to take wickets replaced them.

Unfortunately limited over cricket was also introduced into local park competitions (where all Australian cricketers emerge from) and under age matches.

As a result, this boring negative form of bowling, aided by some incredible new wave coaching (theories, fads and fashions) saw batsmen drift away from the basic fundamentals which had served the masters of the past like Bradman, Hobbs, Hutton, Gavaskar, Sobers and Greg Chappell, so well and were all but forgotten.

Australia was badly affected by this and the early 80s saw a drop in the standard of the Australian team where too many players didn't have the skills or perhaps coaching to bowl line and length or the concentration to play long innings.

Not surprising we slipped to the bottom layer of world cricket.

In the middle 80s we undertook a plan to restore common sense, at least at the international level, in Australian cricket.

Interestingly, we targeted one-day cricket as our best chance of getting a result.

I have always believed that there shouldn't be a great difference between limited over matches and normal cricket and I set out to take the slather and whack out of one-day cricket and also restore greater emphasis on taking wickets.

Australians have always had a penchant for attacking cricket, but unfortunately had forgotten that you also had to be disciplined in following this direction.

We were relying too much on big shots and ignoring what was always the bread and butter of Australian batting, and that was taking quick annoying singles and running between wickets quicker and better than any nation in the world.

We went back to the basics concentrated on dotting the I's and crossing the T's.

It took time, but the players accepted the old-new ideas and realised they were quickly learning.

Our 1987 World Cup victory was the turning point and the confidence we gained from that win gave us the impetus to dominate one-day cricket for the next four years and time to continually improve our Test cricket.

Interestingly we almost became too good and received criticism in the media of being too clinical and boring even though we were scoring our runs at a very good rate and winning the majority of matches by bowling the opposition out and not relying on containment.

My reply to this criticism was simple and I related it to my other great sporting love, golf.

In golf if a player splits the fairway hits his second close to the pin and sinks the put with regularity he is described as brilliant, close to perfection and thrilling.

This is exactly what we were doing and while it may have been more predictable than other teams it was also very skilful and classy.

Personally I am finding Test and one-day cricket too predictable as teams with the exception of Australia are all using the same tactics and most of them with little success and consistency.

I just hope India's initiative has a follow and other nations adopt it to get the best out of the natural talents, individual styles and strengths of the various countries.

If they don't we may as well clone every cricketer and make them play on the same type of synthetic wicket.

That is the way coaching seems to be heading, as most countries seem to be looking for a master plan to clone their players without allowing natural talent and style to emerge.

For after all aren't these differences that set apart the great players from the ordinary?