First off let me say that I enjoy watching cricket in its current forms, that being Test Cricket, ODI and T20.
Between these three formats there is a version of the game that will appeal to most fans. That being said, I believe that cricket would benefit from incorporating a few components from other sports to increase viewership and enjoyment of the game.
Cricket has seen a decline in viewership and support over recent years. Following recent discussions about proposals from commentators, administrators, players and supporters, the ICC is considering changes to the game.
What follows is my two cents worth.
An element I have seen working successfully in Formula One is tyre allocation. Teams are allocated a fixed number of tyre sets for a race weekend. Where and when they use those sets is a key component of team strategy.
In test cricket I propose that each side be allocated four brand new cricket balls at the start of the test. At the start of each two-hour session the bowling team can elect to substitute the current ball for one of the other three balls. These balls are kept by an off-field official and away from the teams to prevent any form of tampering.
This will allow for a more strategic use of the new ball and allow the bowling team access to a new ball a lot earlier than normal or allow a team to save their new balls for a later time.
Some may argue that this will lead to lower batting scores in the first innings as multiple new balls in a shorter space of time can advantage a bowling attack.
The trade-off is that these four cricket balls will be the entire allocation for that side for the full five days. If a bowling side uses most of their new balls in their first innings then they can leave themselves a tough task in the second innings which will swing the advantage back to the batsmen.
The ODI format could be allocated a maximum of two new balls per side per game. The restriction being that the second ball cannot be used before 25 overs have been bowled. T20 would still only use the single ball.
The second element I would like to see considered is that of player substitution. In American Football there is a difference between the offensive and defensive teams. The offensive team contains the quarterback and running backs whereas the defensive teams focuses more on blockers.
In all three formats of cricket I would like to see the team size increase from twelve to fifteen players. At the start of each innings teams will be allowed to substitute up to four players. Typically, this would mean that once a team has completed their fielding/bowling innings, they will be able to substitute their four main bowlers for four dedicated batsmen.
The benefit of this proposal is that you have better matchups between top-quality batsmen and top-quality bowlers. You essentially eliminate the tail of the batting side. This can counteract some of the benefit of multiple new balls and preserve bowlers.
Aside from the few Jacques Kallis’ of this world, bowlers are not batsmen. They add little to the run total and are more of an injury risk. There have been instances of bowlers getting injured while batting which can prevent them from bowling in the next innings which can turn a close match into a dull one-sided affair, in the same way as a key red card in the first few minutes of a rugby international.
Rather let batsmen bat and bowlers bowl. Viewers want to see the best bowlers taking on the best batsmen. Currently when bowlers go into bat it would be like placing a rugby scrumhalf in the front row of a scrum. It is bad for the team and is an unnecessary risk.
A related proposal is that anyone on the field be allowed to bowl. As the rules currently stand if a player leaves the field and is replaced by the 12th man, then the 12th man is not allowed to bowl. This is nonsense and can rob the game of its excitement as already noted.
My third proposal which would apply to all formats is to do away with the ‘Umpire’s Call’ option when a team review is used. This is a technical issue that is difficult to explain to non-cricket viewers.
Currently if an umpire gives a batman ‘Not Out’ or ‘Out’ for a leg before wicket (LBW) appeal; the Hawkeye telemetry will determine if the ball pitched in line of the wickets and the likelihood that it would hit the wickets based on the angle of delivery, height and bounce.
Currently if the telemetry shows green for all these factors then the decision is upheld and if not then it is overruled by the television match official and communicated to the on-field umpire. In cases where one or more of the criteria are red then the decision defaults to ‘Umpire’s Call’.
This has the double downside of both losing an available review by the unsuccessful team and bringing the telemetry system into doubt.
An equivalent system is the one used by tennis. When the umpire or linesman calls a ball out, a player can request a television review. The telemetry will be used to determine if the ball landed within, on or outside the line. There are no inconclusive results. A partial scrape of the line is called ‘In’. The same should apply to cricket. If telemetry shows the ball would partially have hit the wickets then it must be called ‘Out’.
I believe that these changes will help to add an element of strategy to team selection, and during the game; ensure that the best play against the best and that decisions that should be ‘Out’ are given as such.