Doing the split

For discussion and debate: Srinivas Bhogle, Harsha’s geeky statistically inclined elder brother, does a riff on what in ODI-reformist circles is now being called the Sachin Plan.

I’m personally all for sensible reform, but am not so sure the Plan will serve the purpose. For instance, Srinivas points out that the boredom of the middle overs phase will be eliminated. I’m not convinced.

What will happen IMHO is that boredom — otherwise known as the accumulation phase — will be split into two halves, because the nature of the contest does not change simply because you divide it down the middle. The overall objective remains as before: You have 50 overs, and 10 wickets, to try and score more runs than the opposition. Whether you get those 50 overs in one job lot or spread over two ‘innings’, that objective does not change.

Hence, neither will the approach. Teams will still look to maximize run-scoring during the first 10 overs. If they are going really good, they’ll call for a batting PP overs 10-15. If not, they’ll look to consolidate once the restrictions are off, using placement and running as the main scoring options [the part we find ‘boring’].

At the 25 over mark, the one thing that will happen is that the other team will come in, and we’ll get 10 overs of preliminary fireworks, before that team moves into consolidation phase. At the end of 25 overs of the second team’s innings, team one comes back with the bat — and does what? Exactly what it would do in the 26th over of a conventional ODI: look to score runs with least possible risk, while conserving wickets for the big push in the final ten overs. [That is to say, overs 15-25 of Team 2, innings one, will be followed by overs 26-40 of Team 1, innings two, and both teams during that phase will in most cases bat conservatively, just like they are doing now].

On the pro side, the split will negate to some extent the role the toss plays in determining the result; it will also to some extent negate the dew factor [only to an extent, because the dew factor typically gets worse as the night lengthens, so the bowling side in the third innings will be somewhat better off than the bowling side in the fourth innings]. Another thing it could do is produce more results in rain-affected games.

Currently, we often have the situation of one team starting out, batting 40-some overs before the rain comes down, and team two either finding an artificially tweaked target in a lesser number of overs, or not getting a bat at all. In the split formula, two 25-over innings would have been completed in the time we now take to complete one innings, so if teams are aware of rain on the horizon, they’ll likely look to go flat out through their first innings, looking to win on the score at that point if the second half of the game is rained out.

Srinivas says the split format could produce interesting tactical and strategic changes. Let’s hear hypotheticals from you.

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22 thoughts on “Doing the split

  1. Two aspects here –

    1) Once this ‘Sachin Plan’ is implemented, there is no going back to the 50-over per innings format. The audience would be used to the splits that 50-over will seem like eternity.

    2) Even if this ‘Sachin Plan’ is implemented, the number of eyeballs for the first innings would be drastically lower than the second. I obviously don’t have a statistical claim for this, but if the core strategy and result is coming along in the second part of the innings, why would people (and hence advertising revenue) watch the first innings at all?

    • You would not want to miss the opening gambit, would you? If your favorite team is batting then you would want to see how they deal with the opening power-play overs, what sort of a pitch they are playing on, what would be a good target and so on. If your fav team is bowling, then you would like to see how effective the strike bowlers are in breaking the opening partnership and making early inroads into the opposition’s batting lineup and contain their scoring rate and of course, whether the fielders are sharp and backing their bowlers in saving runs. In any sport, if the result is the only thing you would be interested in there is no point watching it at all.

  2. Only change I could think that would make 50 over game interesting is to remove the limit on the number overs a bowler can bowl. Or atleast increase the limit to 15 overs. This would allow for more specialist bowlers and batsmen in the team. The use of low quality allrounders in the middle overs is reducing the quality of the game.
    If this happens a team will play 4 bowlers but that would 4 of their best bowlers and 7 very good batsmen.

    Also the fielding captain can use any bowler he wants anytime in the game. He can no longer follow a patern . The captain will need to use his brains to make bowling changes or to make no change at all.

  3. A nice variant to the split would be to switch the order in which teams bat during the “second innings”. So if team A bats first, then the order would be : Team A overs 1-25, Team B overs 1-25, Team B overs 26-50 and Team A overs 26-50. (So effectively team A’s 50 overs would be split into two parts – 25 overs in the beginning, 25 at the end whereas Team B will bat 50 overs continuously)

    Would nullify the effect of the toss a little more. If a team wins the toss and chooses to bat first, they are also faced with the situation of having to bat last – would be interesting to see how many captains might decide that batting second may be a safer option..

  4. The split is now wide open. At least the cricket fraternity seems to think so. But has anybody really done some analysis, surveys to see if ODIs are really boring or is it only boring to some countries/section of people?

    Prem did write that the quantity was the problem, not the quality. I totally agree and this is not the case just with ODIs, it is the case with cricket itself. Case in point. The india-pak series that was being arranged every year in the bonhomie that followed the 2003 series.. I got bored after the second series. There needs to be anticipation built, matches properly spaced out so that we can savor them when they are played.

    If I had to follow cricket year around sooner or later I’m going to feel bored…

  5. Since we are going to have two innings, why don’t we also introduce the “Follow-on” concept to ODI.
    Maybe some matches will end in inning-defeats also.

  6. I quite like the idea of spiltting the 50 overs into two halves. What would be interesting is to then introduce ala American football style, a batting X1 and a bowling X1. This way you at least make sure it’s the best possible resources for both sides. No need to play carefully to conserve wickets. If you have the best 11 batsmen, in theory it shouldn’t matter who comes after the 6’th wicket.

    This would then encourage the batsmen in the middle to take more risks, and score more, safe in the knowledge that the rest of the blokes in the shed are also proper batsmen. In a way it would actually show up , how much each team member thinks of his batting colleagues 🙂

    To take it one step further – have only two powerplays in each half. No need for the mandatory 10 over initial powerplay. This then puts the onus on either team to take up the challenge first up, if they think they are upto it.

    Not sure if the ICC would go this radical, but it’s worth a try, even in a bilateral ODI series, to see if it makes the ODI’s interesting !

  7. Hi Prem,

    Consider this scenario. Team A bats for 25 overs scores 125/2. In the current format, Team A is happy to consolidate for the next 15 overs, hence the boredom. Now in the new format, assume Team B scores 150/3 in 25 overs. When Team A now go in to bat, they cannot afford to consolidate as they are already in the -ve and will be forced to up their pace. Hence they now have to go with a new strategy.

    Another scenario, Team B scores 100/2. Now the Team A could decide to go for some risks knowing fully well that they hold an advantage of 25 runs, hence another strategy.

    Hell, I say break it down to 3 mini-innings. You will not need artificial means like Powerplays to introduce strategies. The fact that a ‘target’ has been set and ‘chased’ over a mini-innings will ensure that new strategies will involve.

    • Understand where you are coming from. But more and more innings splits will only result in a game that is already being played in America, Baseball.

      • Yes Andy, I am aware. But the simple fact is that “set-target, chase-target” games have to be played over Multiple innings else they become predictable. That is one of things that makes Test cricket and Baseball so engrossing…

        1innings is too less, 9 to many. The answer lies somewhere between 2-4. But that is my opinion.

        Another advantage is the rain effected games. You now have a ridiculous situations whereas one team bats 50 overs, the other 10 and the game is declared as a No Result even though 60% of the game is comeleted…

        • Saurabh, I am not disagreeing with your views, you have made some valid points. What I was trying to point out was that if cricket comes closer to baseball in spirit (by having multiple innings) what then will be cricket’s USP?

          I really enjoy explaining cricket to my clients in the US. They simply can’t understand how we can play the game over a whole day and they went absolutely crazy when I said we played one form of the game for five days.

          So if cricket is unique why take it closer to baseball would be my thoughts.

          If somebody asked me, I would say ODIs are good as they are, they don’t need a lot of tweaking. Just reduce no. of ODIs and we all can sleep peacfully having saved the ODI format..! 🙂

  8. This is the instant coffee syndrome. Morrow someone will say that over 8 to 16 in t20s is very boring. We will end up with hong kong 6s being the premiere tournament of the cricketing world

  9. I agree with you Prem. I don’t like the splitting-into-2 idea at all. It will only make the game more complicated than what it is today …

    It makes me think: When ODI became popular, folks weren’t trying to reinvent the Test matches – Team A starts the first innings with 50 overs and then Team B plays 50 overs and then Team A comes back for another stint of 50 overs. Why do it to ODI cricket after the recent T20 craze?

    I second Cricinfo/Prem’s assertion – ODI isn’t the problem. Deluge/mindless ODI is the problem. For starters, why do we need a CT sandwiched between 2009 T20 WC & 2010 T20 WC? Why 7-match bilateral ODI series?

  10. A really wicked hypothesis would be that Sachin’s ODI hundred record will live longer?

    I don’t think the game will be more interesting due to the split. In all probability, it would do more harm to the flow of the game than the 7 minute “strategic timeout” did to those IPL matches. But ultimately everyone got used to it. I would not be sad to see ODIs die (to imitate Gayle).

    Just as ODIs threatened to kill tests, its now T20s turn to play the villain.
    My take is this…do whatever you want to the ODI format, but leave test matches the way they are.

    • I might be in the minority (made up of Lalit Modi and me? :)) who actually did like the strategic breaks. Not that I liked the ads or the players simply sitting and twiddling thumbs. What I did observe in the IPL in some of the games that I watched was that the strategic break actually altered the course of the game, which was why it was introduced in the first place. Wasn’t it?

      • But it was an artificial alteration, most of the time. Batsmen lost their flow, their concentration, and got out in the first over after resumption.

        How fair is that? You might as well shine a mirror in their eyes at some point in their innings, or at a given point have cheerleaders perform in front of the sightscreen — that will alter the course of the game, too. 🙂

        My favorite comment about the strategy break is Dan Vettori’s — after the first couple of minutes, he said, damned if you know what to talk about.

        • “But it was an artificial alteration, most of the time. Batsmen lost their flow, their concentration, and got out in the first over after resumption”

          What about going to sleep and coming back the next day to score a century?

          Breaks have always been an integral part of Cricket much, so lets not give Mr. Modi credit for that

  11. Hope the DL method is also tweaked to reflect this change. If they employ the same DL method to a two-innings ODI game, there will more hilarious situations to deal with.

    I think there will be changes to power play as well. I feel that the first 10 overs of either innings will be the mandatory power play. The batting and bowling PPs may be based on team choice. So in effect you will have 30 overs of power play 🙂 plus the slog overs.

    I guess it will reduce the consolidation overs. But I feel it is going to become too much of slam bang cricket and bowlers will become extinct.

    Also, will they restrict a bowler to only 5 overs per innings? 🙂

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