Substitutes will be introduced into one-day cricket if the International Cricket Council's executive board ratify proposals put forward by their cricket committee.
Many of those involved in the sport believe the limited-overs format is looking increasingly jaded, particularly in the light of the excitement generated by Twenty20 cricket. The ICC hopes that the introduction of full substitutions and changes to the fielding restrictions will revitalise the game.
Under the plan, a replacement would be named before the start of each match and could be brought on at any stage the captain should wish: hence a batsman scoring too slowly could be dragged from the middle or an individual sacrificed to provide another bowling option in the field. Once taken out of the game a player cannot return.
Fielding restrictions, allowing only two men outside a 30-yard inner ring, are also to be increased to 20 overs, half of which will be mandatory at the start of an innings and the other half allotted into two segments of five to be selected at the fielding captain ' s discretion.
Former England bowler Angus Fraser, one of the 12-man ICC cricket committee, said: "Without doubt the boring and predictable part of the game is that period between 16 and 40 overs. We just want to jazz that up a bit, make it more exciting and allow the captains to be more creative."
Former England coach David Lloyd agreed: "Too often when I am commentating on one-day matches we are referring to statistics like 'that's the first boundary for 15 overs'. That is not what one-day cricket is about."
The committee, chaired by former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, also recommended an expert panel be established to review the regulations governing the manufacture of cricket bats. The ICC is concerned that technical advances are tilting the balance between bat and ball in the favour of the batsman.
They also rejected the suggestion that two neutral umpires should stand in all international cricket, but recommended an experiment at the Super Series whereby on-field umpires could consult with the TV umpire on any aspect of any decision. The board next meets on June 24-25 at Lord's.
It is hard to see how the changes will radically affect the game?s popularity. It is doubtful whether many people are attracted to football because of substitutions.
If one-day cricket sometimes appears pedestrian these days it is more often than not due to the poor quality of pitches. Slow, low wickets do little to encourage fast bowling or fast scoring, instead helping niggardly mediumpacers strangle games. The ICC would be well advised to look at that issue first.
They may also reflect that they are the victims of the game?s own success. The increasing tempo ? and popularity in this country ? of Test cricket has also lessened the need for one-day cricket. Tests are now played in such a positive manner that they more often than not produce excellent entertainment, and a positive result.