Overnight, the Big Bash League (BBL) in Australia has released a set of new match rules for BBL10. The response does not appear to have been one of universal acclaim (putting it mildly).
Our own much anticipated, much derided The Hundred will have its own tweaks to the match regulations, designed to make the game “more exciting” and also “more accessible”.
As someone who can find excitement watching the 3rd day of a County Championship match on a fixed-camera live stream, I am probably not the target audience for either the BBL or The Hundred.
I won’t make the case for “proper cricket”, here — no-one would pay to watch the sort of cricket I enjoy playing, and I do accept the demands for innovation and (added) action in the short form games.
But I do enjoy cricket in all formats, and I am concerned that some of the innovations we are being promised could conspire to keep existing fans away from the (new) game, and give new followers ideas about the game that won’t stand up to prolonged exposure.
So — how to modify the game of cricket to make it faster, more exciting (a better fit for commercial TV schedules), but keep it closer to its origins? What might work?
It’s really not all bad
Before I start — there are elements of the rule tweaks, for both the BBL and The Hundred, that I do think have legs.
I do quite like the countdown element in The Hundred, although it perhaps it isn’t as radical as it been made out to be. After all, bowlers will still deliver “sets” of 5 deliveries (rather than an over of 6) or, occasionally, a complete “End” of 10 deliveries. And many scoreboards have counted down the final 20 (or 16) overs in the last hour of a “time” game, probably since the “last hour” rule was introduced.
But I like the clarity — “how long to go?” “27 balls. 26 balls. 25 balls…”
BTW — that is End™️ — not seen this anywhere else, so I am claiming this as an original name for the set of 10 balls delivered from one end of the pitch (see what I did, there?) before changing to the other end.
Splitting the PowerPlay to give an additional 2-over “Power Surge”, as announced for BBL10, looks interesting, too — it could make for interesting tactical decisions and match-ups — although I’d prefer to see it limited to overs 11-18. Forcing the field to come in for the final couple of overs of an innings seems too much of a handicap.
As to the other new rules, I think they will take as much explaining as the rest of the game, for both a newcomer and a regular watcher.
And I’m not convinced they will really add to the excitement.
What would I change?
I am thinking of modifications that reward existing skills and behaviours, but perhaps incentivise a more adventurous approach to the game — making cricket even more cricket-like, perhaps.
Some will be familiar to anyone who has tried to apply some of the principles of video game design to practice sessions — reward the behaviour we want the players to display, without providing a perverse incentive to “bad cricket” (however we might define that).
I do not believe in the absolute sanctity of “The Laws of Cricket” (sorry, Fraser!) — they are simply a codification of the rules of the game that has developed over 250 years, not anything defined by statute, regulation or precedent — but equally the Laws do define how the game is played, internationally and at all levels. So if anything gets changed in the name of engagement and (spectator) accessibility, it must not encourage behaviours that would not flourish under the 2017 Code, 2nd edition (2019).
What do I want to see?
Or, what constitutes “good cricket”, in my opinion?
I want to see runs scored, probably with spectacular stroke play — big hits and boundaries. Although it would be something to watch a team score at 10 an over by nurdling the ball into gaps and runnings 2s. For 20 overs. Or 10 Ends.
I want to see wickets fall, not only because watching two batters play through the innings would be boring. Stumps flying, great catches, close run outs, even a DRS LBW, all add to the excitement.
I want athletic and committed fielding.
And I want a contest between bat and ball — 190/3 vs. 189/2 is a tight finish, but probably a one dimensional game. So changes need to incentivise batting and fielding teams.
Once per game, either team can call a “super set” set-of-5 deliveries (or a 6-ball over) — all runs (possibly all runs scored in boundaries) are doubled, but wickets carry an additional penalty of -5 runs; dot-balls -1.
Skippers and coaches have to pick their match-ups, and really seek to exploit them.
If both teams nominate the same over, double the bonus — runs x4, wickets at -10 each. Could make for a spectacular and game-changing final over, but it would still be won with cricket skills.
Power play bonus for the fielding team
Maybe a power-play bonus for the fielding side — if the batters fail to hit beyond the fielding circle on 3 balls, -5 to the score.
Make the fielders “on the ring” integral to strategy, not just “out of the game” until the PowerPlay is over. Bowlers have to force ground strokes or beat the bat, batters to pierce the infield at least 4 times in an over, or lose runs.
I’m not a fan of bonus zones (unless you can find a sponsor who will stump up 10k to charity for every ball that lands on the pavilion roof…and pay for the damage). And seeing the ball slogged to cow corner repeatedly gets boring.
So how about a bonus for hitting boundaries in all four quadrants?
Over to you
I do think there is scope to enhance the (already great) game of cricket. These suggestions might fit the bill.
What do you think?
Do leave a comment on the blog, or via twitter.