There is a lively debate going on in my Club this autumn, as our League seeks opinions on the best form of cricket to encourage younger players to stay in the game after they leave the Colts set-up. Do we go with limited overs, because every one watches IPL and T20 and wants to play that way? Or can we come up with a formula to make “time” cricket more attractive?
I admit to being biased. I grew up playing time games (or “proper” cricket – there’s the bias!), and to me the dual challenge of scoring runs and taking wickets almost always makes for a more interesting game than the “simple” run chase of a over-limited match.
I enjoy T20. But I still think that the more consistently successful players are using skills from the longer game. And as a coach, I think young players will learn more varied skills by playing a variety of forms of the game.
But can “time” be made as attractive as T20 to the younger players? I think it can.
Too often, time games drag out to boring draws. No-one wants to play in games like that, especially young players stepping up from Colts cricket.
So why can time games become boring? Not because of any intrinsic quality of the time game, nor because of the match rules, but because one captain, or both, did not have sufficient incentive to try to win.
The role of match rules should be to compel captains and players to play “good cricket” (or the closest approximation that they can muster). My definition of “good” includes:
- scoring runs as fast as conditions and the opposition allow;
- taking wickets quickly (ideally, 10 within the allotted time for each innings – a challenge, I appreciate);
- whilst still having the strategic option of playing right through to the end of the game even if the opposition are winning i.e. the draw is still a positive outcome, but only after the win is impossible.
So what type of rules might work? I have a couple of ideas.
Over rates must be kept up. Impose penalty points for any team not bowling at 17 overs/hour. In Club cricket, this should surely be the absolute minimum, even with wickets falling and multiple drinks breaks.
It doesn’t matter if the game is over 120 overs (ECB Premier 120), 50-overs per side, 20/20.
A rigorously imposed over rate forces teams to get on with the game. No more taking 3 hours to bowl 48 overs – you are already losing points. But the greater incentive is that if teams do not bowl their overs, they won’t have time to take wickets, and they won’t get any bonus points (see below).
Then make the points system encourage winning (obviously) but also taking wickets.
- Do away with batting bonus points. They only encourage the batting team to bat to an artificial target.
- Offer bonus points, to be retained irrespective of the match result, for taking wickets. And rather than following the County game, why not give a real incentive – double bowling points, or points at 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 wickets.
- Make a win still important – say 16 points (twice what could be achieved by bowling the opposition out bowling first, but then not chasing down a target).
- Ties – 12 points each – a tie should be better than a draw.
Simple match rules, to compel captains to try to take wickets and win matches.
OK – it must be more complicated than this. But I cannot see that giving up on time cricket, and only playing limited overs, can really be much fun, nor help to develop better players.