ROW OVER RUNNER BAN

Vehement critic... Sunil Gavaskar (in pic, left) hit out against the ICC ruling that banned the use of a runner. Though Kapil Dev's reaction wasn't as strong, it had the sting at the end of its tail. “Not giving the batsman a runner is a good move if it helps to keep a check on the fakers. But who will judge if the injury is genuine,” he asked.-AP Vehement critic... Sunil Gavaskar (in pic, left) hit out against the ICC ruling that banned the use of a runner. Though Kapil Dev's reaction wasn't as strong, it had the sting at the end of its tail. “Not giving the batsman a runner is a good move if it helps to keep a check on the fakers. But who will judge if the injury is genuine,” he asked.

The International Cricket Council, at its meeting in Hong Kong recently, took some tough decisions that are expected to have a major bearing on the game. By Vijay Lokapally.

Cricket has been undergoing changes right from the time the game started. The playing equipment and clothing have, at various times, been given a new look to sustain the interest in cricket. Technical alterations have also been a part of the continued efforts of the administrators to help the game keep pace with other popular sport.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) took some landmark steps at its annual meeting in Hong Kong recently. Among the several decisions it took, the one that created a furious debate was the ban on runner for a batsman.

The batting legend, Sunil Gavaskar, took the lead in slamming the authorities. “I would also like to suggest that there should be no water for bowlers at the boundary end. They bowl one over and come to the boundary where energy drinks are waiting for them. There should not be a substitute fielder when a regular player goes off the field. If a fielder gets injured or has cramps, he should either go off the field or stay there. That way, it balances out everything and the batting side is not the only one affected,” he said.

While Gavaskar spoke for the batsmen, Bishan Singh Bedi, one of the greatest slow bowlers ever, spoke for the game as a whole. “It is not about water break. You need to have these breaks because of the playing conditions.

“The heat can sap your energy and it is important to protect the players from dehydration. I remember my guru saying no drinks during training because it would take our mind off the job we were doing. I think there is need to have a rethink on this. Give a batsman a runner if he needs one genuinely,” he observed.

Former India captain and one of the great all-rounders of the game, Kapil Dev too agreed with Bedi. “Not giving the batsman a runner is a good move if it helps to keep a check on the fakers. But who will judge if the injury is genuine? Batsmen tend to exploit this aspect of the game. But then there are times when a batsman is genuinely unable to run without assistance. It is here I feel the ICC must look at providing a runner. Maybe, a batsman who needs a runner should be allowed to bat only at No. 11,” he said.

Mohinder Amarnath was critical of the ICC on the runner issue. “I am really amazed that a batsman will not be given a runner. Some players may have faked but you can't deny someone a runner because of this reason. What if someone is injured? You have to be fair. We should best leave it to the umpires,” he said.

There was good news for the bowlers too. In ODIs, two new balls would be used, one from each end. Effectively a ball would be used for 25 overs. “Some respite for the bowlers. They have always been at the receiving end. Not because the batsmen were too good. It was mainly because the conditions and rules were made to suit the batsmen. It would be interesting to see how the bowlers use the ball in the first 10 and the last 10 overs now. They have the advantage,” said former Test all-rounder Madan Lal.

According to Manoj Prabhakar, who was acknowledged to be a crafty mover of the ball, it was a good step. “The bowlers will have some say now. I can see the revival of the swing bowler now which will be good because I am sure the fans have got tired of watching one-sided battles. Let there be an even contest between bat and ball,” he said.

The ICC's stand on Decision Review System was clear. “DRS for Test matches and One-Day Internationals which would set a universal standard, taking into consideration availability and commercial issues, that infra-red cameras and audio-tracking devices should be used. The continued use of ball-tracking technology as a decision-making aid will depend on bilateral agreement between the participating Members.” The Executive Board accepted that there should be no use of DRS in Twenty20 Internationals.

Other decisions included the creation of a Twenty20 International rankings table from October 1, 2011; a revised formats for One-Day internationals; the need for further research on the balls to be used in day/night Test cricket; batsmen can be dismissed (obstructing the field) if they change their course while running to prevent a run-out chance and the running out of a non-striker who is backing up unfairly.

ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat noted, “I am very, very satisfied at the constructive debates we have had. There were some difficult issues to deal with and I think we dealt with them extremely well. There is lot that's been achieved in my view and without doubt the game is extremely well-positioned to take advantage of good growth.”

Sharad Pawar, the ICC President, echoed, “Tough decisions often have to be made and this (meeting) has been no different. However, I am confident that we have made decisions which are in the best interests of cricket. There have been challenges, as always, but the great community of cricket showed that it was ready and capable of facing those challenges.”

A welcome move was the Executive Board approving a 14-team format for the ICC World Cup 2015 to be held in Australia and New Zealand and a 12-team format for the ICC World Twenty20 events in 2012 (Sri Lanka) and 2014 (Bangladesh). The Board had previously decided (in October 2010) that the ICC World Cup would be a 10-team event and that the ICC World Twenty20 would involve 16 teams. In April 2011, the Board had agreed that only Full Members would participate in 2015 and that all Members would be given an opportunity to participate in the 2019 World Cup through a qualification process.

The game is headed for some exciting times with the administrators making some much-needed changes. A fair contest between bat and ball would be a throwback to the days when cricket was not just a batsman's game and there was something for the bowler too.

MAJOR CHANGES * No runners in international cricket.

* New balls from both ends in One-Day Internationals.

* Creation of a Twenty20 International rankings table from October 1, 2011.

* Batting and bowling powerplays to be taken between overs 16 and 40.

* Captains to be suspended after only two over-rate breaches in a year as opposed to the existing three.

* Batsmen can be dismissed obstructing the field if they change their course while running to prevent a run-out chance.

* Bowlers will be allowed to run out a non-striker backing up unfairly.