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.