The debate on reform of the ODI continues, with Ian Chappell — a column I like over recent efforts by others because it examines multiple solutions to make the game more exciting.
ODIs are increasingly exercises in painting by numbers; there has been no real innovation since the 1996 World Cup that institutionalized big hitting in the early overs where the formula, till then, was a quiet start [a Krish Srikkanth, and a Mark Greatbatch, notwithstanding].
To break out of formulaic play will take more than a cosmetic change or two. It requires that the administrators, when setting out to reform, address all aspects of the game. Samples from Chappelli:
The boundaries should be as large as possible, which places an emphasis on daring running between wickets and athletic fielding, two features that originally attracted fans to the limited-overs game. Short boundaries tend to emphasise defending the ropes, and make some fielding attributes redundant, whereas larger extremities make containment difficult because of the big gaps between the outfielders.
There should only be one stipulation about field placings: four men should compulsorily be inside the circle in the final five overs. If captains aren’t told where their fieldsmen have to go then they’ve got to think where to put them, and the regulation is only there to stop teams having nine men on the boundary in a tight finish.
The other restriction on the fielding side should simply say that five bowlers have to deliver a minimum of five overs each. Apart from that the captain can utilize his bowlers how he sees fit. The more overs available to the better bowlers, the more likely a captain will attack rather than defend with stop-gap trundlers. Bowl well and you’ll be rewarded with more overs.
A good contest between bat and ball is the crucial factor, closely followed by a tense finish; all else is forgotten if the final moments are riveting. If every run is scrapped for and earned by skillful, aggressive batting and daring running between wickets in defiance of brilliant fielding, no one can complain about the game providing value for money.
Elsewhere, another worry often expressed by administrators threatens to come true, with Andrew Flintoff poised to become the game’s first official mercenary shortly after a group of New Zealand players made moves in that direction by refusing to sign national contracts until the calendar incorporated a window for them to make money in the IPL. Flintoff’s problem:
The ECB awarded an incremental contract to Flintoff as they hope will be key part of England’s limited-over sides when fit and has stated he wants to play until the 2015 World Cup. But England coach Andy Flower had said his players could take part in only three weeks of the 45-day IPL next year if they toured Bangladesh. That means Flintoff, the joint highest-paid player in the IPL along with Kevin Pietersen, could stand to lose about half of his US$1.55m fee by going to Bangladesh.
And the solution his agent has worked out:
“He’ll play for Chennai [Super Kings in the IPL], he might play for an Australian team, a South African team, maybe one in the West Indies,” Chandler told the Observer. “If he hadn’t have been injured he would have probably played in December-January in Australia. And then at the end of January, early February in South Africa. I was already negotiating with them. We were negotiating with South Australia and the Durban team, the Nashua Dolphins. And there’s been an offer from Northern Transvaal [Northerns] as well.”