Match rules again – providing positive incentives for positive cricket

It’s that time of year, again.  The League is consulting on possible changes to match regulations for the 2013 season.  And the proposal this year is to play a lot more limited overs below 1st XI.

I can’t fault the logic behind the proposals.  1st XIs already play a lot of limited-over cricket (National, regional and League cup competitons, twenty20, some Sunday league formats), so lower XIs should too.  Many Captains throughout the League, but especially below 1st XI Premier, probably do not really know how to manage a “time” game, let alone how to win one.

But, as I have written before, my preference for the time game stems from a desire to see all of the skills of the game come into play, and limited overs cricket can (sometimes) require limited skills – what space is there for the young spinner to learn to deceive the batsman with flight, for example?

I suspect the battle might be lost, this time.  Match rules can be imposed to restrict overly defensive field placings, but perhaps there are more creative ways of providing positive incentives for positive cricket.

The match regulations being proposed see a return to the early days of limited over cricket – no fielding restrictions (beyond those already in the Laws of the Game), bowlers able to bowl up to 25% of the total overs, and no strict definition of leg side wides. Understandable, in the absence of independent umpires and with many games played on “out” grounds.

But the regulations will unduly reward negative bowling, with no reason for the bowling team to try to take wickets.  The result – a one-dimensional game, with defensive fields from the outset and bowling at leg-stump (which won’t be penalised as heavily as in the 1st XI, if “one-day wides” are not to be called).

For most players, this will mean that their experience of the game is more negative, not less – half of every game will be spent trying to stop the other team from scoring. No scope for attacking bowling and fields.  Batting will also become one-dimensional – lots more stroke play, but no point learning to defend if the only outcome is defeat.

To offer some incentive to a losing team, bonus points will still be available.  And this might be used to encourage more attacking bowling, as well.

I have suggested elsewhere that we should be playing for “double” bowling points.  Maybe if the bowling team in a limited overs game was offered extra points for wickets taken during a “power play”, there would be some reason to try to take wickets i.e. to adopt varied (and interesting) tactics.

But that is an artificial incentive, and could have unforeseen consequences on the rest of the game.

Why can’t we learn to play the time game properly?

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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