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New ICC Playing Conditions Put Onus on Players To Speed Up, Play Fair

These minor tweaks will come into force from 1 October 2022 and will hopefully add to the zip in the game.

Updated
Cricket
6 min read
New ICC Playing Conditions Put Onus on Players To Speed Up, Play Fair
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It is that time of the year again when the International Cricket Council (ICC) implements changes to the playing conditions that is in force for all international cricket. 

These are minor tweaks that will come into force from 1 October 2022 and will hopefully add to the zip in the game. A big World Cup is coming up in a month’s time, so these changes come at the right time and give enough lead-in time for sides to prepare accordingly. 

The underlying focus of the changes to the playing conditions are two-fold: 

·       Speed up the game 

·       Prevent players from taking undue advantage 

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Time Taken to Finish a Match

One look at the proposed changes and you realise that the focus is on ensuring that the players don’t take forever to complete their quota of overs. Cricket’s biggest worry right now is the time taken to complete a match. 

During the recent Asia Cup, the India versus Pakistan matches took close to four and some hours to complete. Now, while this is great viewing for the spectators at large, it defeats the whole purpose of introducing the T20 format.  

Both sides took their own time to complete their quota of overs and that ate up into the viewing time. 

Imagine this happened despite an existing penalty introduced by the ICC already, which stipulates that the ‘slow’ side will bring in an extra fielder into the 30-yard circle. Pakistan felt the pinch because Hardik Pandya smoked a six in the final over, using this penalty to his advantage. 

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Now, the ICC has introduced the same playing conditions in the ODI format as well, keeping in mind the big World Cup scheduled for October-November 2023 in India. This is all noble but this hardly affects sides anymore. 

The ICC has tried everything possible to speed up the game: fines, bans on captains, and now this fielder rule. The simple solution to this whole issue is to hurt sides when the match is in play on the same day, much like the fielder rule but make it even more stringent. 

All the previous penalties like fines and bans were prospective in nature and hence did not hurt the sides as much. In the past, Sourav Ganguly was banned for a number of games for slow over-rate by his side in 2004-05 against Pakistan.  

Then, we had the spectre of Sri Lanka changing their captain during the 2012 T20 World Cup for one match, just for the purposes of avoiding a ban on their leader Mahela Jayawardena. Kumar Sangakkara was at the toss, but he was captain merely for academic purposes. 

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Fines are never going to hurt sides anymore because the cricketers and the boards are making enough money to pay as penalties for slow over-rates as long as they win contests. 

What the ICC needs to do is go back to the old rule in place during the 1990s when the sides were penalised for their slow over-rate in a way that hurts them the most in terms of the end result of the game. 

One game that keeps coming back into focus is the 1999 World Cup clash between India and Zimbabwe. India did not bowl their quota of 50 overs on time and got to face just 46 overs during the chase because that is what they had bowled during the stipulated time.  

This hurt India so much that they had to speed up their chase and, in the end, lost the game narrowly. This loss hurt India so much that they could not proceed to the semi-final as they dropped crucial points going into the second stage of the World Cup. 

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The ICC needs to go back to this rule because that is the only way you can speed up the game and deter sides from ‘gaming’ the system or shrug their shoulders when they are fined in a big way. Hurt the sides where it matters the most whether in a bilateral or a tournament. 

Now the question will be what happens when the side bowling second is slow with its over-rate. Again, the solution is simple, use the big scoreboard to indicate the over-rate like they do presently.  

If the sides are behind a certain number of overs after considering allowances, then award penalty runs to the chasing side. Use the big scoreboard to make the announcement, this way it will add to the spectacle at all times. 

But this kind of radical change requires intent from the ICC cricket committee whose current chair is the BCCI president Ganguly. If these changes do come into play, then it will help speed up the game, especially the T20 format. 

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Speeding up the Game

The other important rule change is the time the new batter takes to face the ball in Tests and ODIs. This has been brought down to two minutes in Tests and ODIs from three minutes, while in T20Is it stays at 90 seconds.

This again is a sensible change because if a batter can come in quickly in T20Is, he or she can surely be in place in the other formats. This again helps in speeding up the game. 

Usually playing condition changes at the international level is mirrored at the domestic level. Hopefully, these changes can also be implemented at the domestic level.  

We have seen in the Indian Premier League (IPL) teams take forever to bowl their quota of overs and if there is a Super Over, god bless the souls hoping to reach their homes at a reasonable time. Fines have no impact on the IPL franchises, so there needs to be stricter deterrence. 

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On Gamesmanship

Two other rule changes that catch the attention are with regards to gamesmanship. This particularly affects the closing stages of a limited-overs contest.  

We have seen in the case of a tense finish in a limited-overs contest, when a batter strikes a ball high in the air, he is prepared to sacrifice his or her wicket as long as the set batter gets on strike.  

The logic was that if the batters cross before the catch is taken then the set person on the field can take strike. This was usually used unfairly. Thankfully, the ICC has put an end to this.   

Now irrespective of whether the batters crossed prior to the catch being taken, the new batter will be on strike. This evens out the playing field for both sides.
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Again, during limited-overs clashes, the fielders have been known to move around the positions after the bowler gets into delivery stride. This has usually caught the batter unawares and even resulted in dismissals.  

Now the ICC has cracked down on this and decided to penalise sides with five runs for this kind of ‘gaming’ on the field.  In a tense limited-overs chase, in the heat of the moment, some smart fielders and captains were known to use these loopholes to their advantage. Thankfully this will stop now. 

One thing is certain: Ravichandran Ashwin will be the happiest from 1 October 2022 irrespective of whether he gets to play or not. Ashwin’s pet peeve of batters backing up a bit too far has now been formally designated as a run-out instead of being categorised as unfair play.  

Now just stop calling it Mankading as a way to explain the dismissal and every Indian cricket fan will be as happy as Ashwin. 

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But while Ashwin will be happy, Suryakumar Yadav will not be so happy. Now, at least from 1 October 2022 he has to try and play his 360-degree shots from within the confines of the pitch and not go outside.  The umpires can declare it a dead ball if the batter moves outside the pitch.  

So, in a T20 encounter if you are keen to watch the pyrotechnics of a batter like SKY, then you have very limited time, that is if they want to go outside the pitch and strike a loose ball. In any case a ball so wide that it forces the batter to move outside the pitch will be deemed a no-ball. 

Either way, AB de Villiers will be glad that he will watch it from afar and not be worried anymore about these intricate restrictions on his batsmanship. 

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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