I am not a cricket buff. At least not anymore. Or so I would think before the start of every major tournament and I did the same till about a month ago before the world cup kicked off. But then, who can resist the temptation of watching hapless bowlers getting mercilessly plundered by flat, bounce less, tepid and dry pitches match after match (Leaving Afridi and Malinga aside)? This compounded with the fact that I have managed to free myself of any high pressure & deadline demanding responsibilities at work, has helped me to keep track of all the batsmen who are having a great time, all the other batsmen who are cursing their luck for not having a great time and all the bowlers who are ready to hang their boots after this world cup.
This world cup has become a “runshed” of sorts. My memory, quite involuntarily takes me back to the 1983 world cup. Probably because that was the first world cup which I followed with a wide understanding of what cricket is all about, while maniacally supporting a team & a few players – like a true cricket buff in spite of the tournament being played in England and in spite of the absoluteness of no TV coverage where I was then. For me, it was a novel idea to begin with, to even follow a cricket game that gets over in a day, for all I knew till then was Test cricket which for some reason brought a certain kind of joy every time I opened the Sports page on “The Hindu” and saw that the team batting had managed to get all out in 2-3 days. With the 1983 world cup format, each team had to bowl 60 overs. Which meant, the batting team had a little more time to settle down before going on an onslaught. There were people like Richards, Kapil Dev, Botham, Patil, etc. who could clear the field with much ease. Still, a team scoring over 220 or 230 runs or at a run rate of 4.0 was considered insane. I may recall only a couple of matches where teams scored over 300 (at a run rate of over 5.0). Given that kind of exposure or initiation to limited overs cricket, I can’t help but acknowledge that things have changed quite a bit.
The past couple of days I have been waking up with a guilty feeling. And that feeling lasts probably a couple of minutes. And it has got to do with the fact I missed watching all the 63 balls that Kevin J O’Brien played – LIVE. When a team is chasing a mammoth 327 runs in 50 overs, it is not often a cricket buff sits at home to watch the chase live – specially on a work day and definitely not when the team chasing is Ireland. So, there I was following the score online and at some point intuitively switched to watching the game live online..That point was when KJO had just crossed his 50. The way Ireland went about chasing a score like that and the way most of these pitches have been designed in general throughout the world cup makes me believe that this format of 50 over game is continuing to make bowlers more and more irrelevant in a very insulting way, especially if it is played in the Indian sub-continent.
Malinga and Afridi may have been the exception so far in my books. As they have done consistently well by bowling mostly unplayable balls and getting wickets when needed. But then there are a few more matches to go and time will tell how good they continue to be for the rest of the tournament.
If this trend continues, may be in a couple of decades, teams will be selected based only on batsmen. That brings me to the main purpose of this blog post.
I hereby propose a new twist to how teams should be selected and played for ODI games (and even for T20 games). Each side picks a Batting team, a Bowling team and a Fielding team.
May be a 7-7-2 mix. Or a 7-6-3 mix. Or even a 6-6-4 mix.
Remember the basic rules of cricket remains the same. 11 players on the field – Get 10 batsmen out to bundle out the opposition – etc.
Now let me try to outline how this format would work very briefly by taking the 7-7-2 mix as an example.
- Batting team can bat only 11 of their batsmen to play for 10 wickets.
- They have to play off all their 7 batsmen (not necessarily as the first 7 batsmen) in addition to playing 4 from the remaining 11.
- They don’t have to decide at the beginning of their innings (but can if they want to) who their batting 11 is going to be but they can’t leave room for any mistakes.
- Bowling/Fielding team has to come into the field with 11 players. This can be any 11 from the mix.
- Bowling captain can choose from any of the 16 players to bowl. But the 7 bowlers in the Bowling team has to bowl at least one over before an 8th bowler can be brought into attack.
- The 2 fielders picked as part of the fielding team has to be in the field all the time unless injured.
Ok. So do you get the general picture?
With that background, here is a chart I put together for what could have been India’s line-up in their first game against Bangladesh in Dhaka and what would have been the score (of course all from my imagination) had they played this way.
May be I am onto something. Time to patent this…