While Death of a Gentleman and websites ponder The State Of Cricket In 2016 and prescribes medicines for its undoubted ills, 99.94 ponders more modest changes the game might adopt this year.
Pitches need more pace and more consistent bounce if the best batsmen and best bowlers are to thrive and attractive cricket be promoted. To do this, cricket needs a set of reliable metrics, because if you want to change things, you first must measure them. Golf’s stimpmeter offers a low tech solution to assessing the pace of greens and that gadget might be adapted for cricket. For international matches, software that crunches Hawkeye data to produce an easy to understand measure of pace and bounce is surely not beyond the ken of the game that gave us Duckworth-Lewis.
Life is speeding up, so Test cricket needs to follow suit. As in T20, batsmen should be on their way to the crease the moment a dismissal is confirmed – it’s absurd to see the clock tick round waiting for a batsman to rise from his seat and saunter to the middle. There should be no breaks for protective equipment to be ferried to the middle – if a player needs it, he should wear it at the start of the session and throughout it, with helmets placed behind the keeper as usual. Drinks should be brought on to the field after one hour at the batsman’s discretion only. Fielders should get drinks on the boundary (if they want them) with the keeper picking one up at the fall of a wicket; umpires should carry their own.
Tests should be played over four days. Each day should comprise three sessions of 37 overs to be bowled in two and a half hours maximum, with overs not bowled in one session being made up in the next and any overs not so delivered penalised with eight runs (or the session average scoring rate, whichever is the higher) added to extras. This would give a guaranteed maximum of a seven and a half hour, 111 overs day – which should encourage spinners – with 444 overs in a Test (down slightly on 450, as it now stands, but the full complement is very rarely bowled). The additional workload over a day should be viewed alongside the additional rest / practice time available. (First Class cricket can use the same kind of formula to reduce from four days to three).
Bowlers should be allowed to bowl 12 overs in ODI cricket and 5 overs in T20. In practice, captains would still want six or more options, but if a bowler is holding their own with the batsmen, they could keep them going, the cat and mouse battle entertaining the crowd and levelling the resources of the sides in a game already slanted strongly in favour of the team batting.
For ODIs and T20s, grounds should be zoned for the different needs of spectators. Stewarding should enforce family zones, non-alcohol zones, music and cheerleading zones, non-music zones (ie with no speakers pointing at the crowd, fancy dress zones etc. Cricket (even T20 cricket) is a longish day and spectators should have some say over the company they enjoy.
While everyone loves a catch in the crowd, it is clear that very few spectators have the hand-eye coordination to effect them, nor even to protect themselves from the ball. It is my belief that someone will soon be very seriously injured by a six and that this risk can be easily mitigated. Fans should be encouraged to keep their eyes on the ball while it is in play, with no distractions on the big screens during overs other than the score. Stewards should also sit half-facing the play and half-facing the crowd, so they have some chance of taking evasive action should a flat-batted hit come their way.
What would you do?