The latest proposals to liven up one-day international cricket by changing the first 15 overs of field limitations to one set of ten and two of five apiece, while allowing one substitution, are the most crackpot since Australia played England in the first of 2,248 one-day games in January 1971.
It is a recipe for captaincy nightmares, interminable delays and a complete bafflement of spectators who will not have a clue about who is doing what and why.
An already artificial game by definition will be further sterilised and for what? Ask the cognoscenti of former Test cricketers responsible why they have ignored the old maxim of ?if it ain?t broke, why fix it?? and no sensible answer is given.
Famous names such as Sunil Gavaskar, Angus Fraser, Tim May and Arjuna Ranatunga prove that if you put apparently sane and sensible grown men who know their subject into a room, they can over-theorise themselves and the game of cricket into a hopeless muddle.
Entrenched positions have already been taken up by pundits Michael Atherton and Simon Hughes against the plans and, perhaps most surprising of all in favour, their fellow Channel 4 commentator Richie Benaud.
In the likely event that the two- match Test series between England and Bangladesh will allow plenty of time for studio discussion, Mark Nicholas?s talent for keeping his David Dimbleby chairman?s hat on will be fully tested.
Fraser explained the rationale behind the thinking of the ICC cricket committee under the chairmanship of Gavaskar who, 30 years ago almost to the day, launched the opening day of the first World Cup with the worst innings played at international level.
India had to reply to England?s 334 for four and Gavaskar decided victory was impossible and so batted throughout the 60 overs for an unbeaten 36 as he selfishly ensured his side?s defeat by 200 runs.
Fraser said that the committee believed the modern format was all too predictable with a dart in the first 15 overs when nine fieldsmen are in the ring; then a milking of overs 15 to 40 to ensure wickets are in hand for an all- out thrash.
Most spectators see only a handful of matches out of the hundred or so which are played each year, but he is one of the dozens of radio and television excricketing experts who can only offer analytical comment a certain number of times before there is nothing to add.
As Atherton shrewdly said yesterday: ?One-day cricket is more formulaic than Test cricket anyway. The average spectator is not subject to the same grind as some of those who are proposing the changes.
?In essence, the egos of some former players have got in the way of those for whom the game is played.?
Another factor put forward as a bull point by Fraser was that the use of substitutes has already been tried in South Africa and Australia. Benaud agrees. ?Australia has already tried a format of 12 men with only 11 batting and it worked well in the ING competition which is usually a sounding board.?
I was broadcasting in South Africa when Dr Ali Bacher pioneered a domestic season when 15-man squads were tried. We microphone-users were fully briefed about who would be the next to dip in and out of the match but soon lost touch. The crowds were totally bemused. The idea was soon scrapped.
Atherton tackled Fraser about the Australian experiment with: ?If substitutes are such a good idea, why have Australia just abandoned the idea??
Fraser did not know before his former England captain played the ace.
?Well, Gus, it certainly was not because the experiment was a success. Cricket is played between the 11 best men from each side. It should remain that way.?
Hughes believes that it is the sheer number of one-day internationals which puts players on auto-pilot. Other than the occasional tight finish, there is little scope for captains and bowlers to express themselves.
The best bowlers cannot bowl whenever a match situation demands it. They cannot have fieldsmen where they want and the artificial format allows few opportunities for unexpected twists and turns.
Hughes says: ?The success of Twenty20 cricket has forced the more established one-day format into a corner.
? Captains used to make sure their main bowlers got their ration, with their other main task the setting of the field.
"Now they will be faced with a whole gamut of possibilities ? when to introduce these five-over field restrictions? Who should bowl in them, which player to substitute and when? It will require a science degree to reconcile it all.?
And he hasn?t even mentioned Duckworth-Lewis.
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