Tag Archives: Future Tours

I don’t want 2-Test series.

The best duels in Test cricket history are ones that have taken hours and hours to describe, volumes of books written on, years of legend built on memories emerging from multiple corners of views of the same event. The talks of the series attract conversations, hair raising stories and excerpts and anecdotes creep in. A bowler’s glare, a batsman’s bat-twirl, a fielder’s expectant move, a battle-within-the-battle, all find a place in what later become “the turning point of the series”. The battle becomes spicier after the turning point. The underdogs are biting into the big dogs, reducing them to carcass by the end of the tour. Legends are made when the unexpected happens.

But, it takes time to build expectations. A team arrives in a new land, takes time to settle – the food, the climate, the atmosphere, the environment, the crowd, the cricket. The story is sketched in the first few days of the tour. There are attempts to alter it in the next few. The climax is anyone’s guess. The constant attempts to out-do the expectations makes the series/tour more memorable.

All that is history.

Today, the teams travel out of their suitcases. Players are involved in Test matches within a week of arrival, play two Tests and fly away. There is no context. There is no rivalry built during the series. There is no story to be written. It is just academic. Such series are more for the media and scoreboards than for the fan of the game, the teams.

A fan might want to watch one Test, just for the sake of watching one. He/she does not want to follow the team around the tour. There is no tour diary to fill. It is just a visit report, not a tour diary.

Why 2 Tests? Why not just forget the Test series and save us the trouble of trying to follow this. “Follow” might not even be the right word. It is just two scorecards that I have to read, that is the series. I don’t have to read between the lines. Saeed Ajmal got 10 wickets? Big deal. He is going to fly out of the country in 5 days and he will start with a clean slate. Virat Kohli scored a century this series? Hmmph, nobody knows if he can repeat that next month in South Africa. Form? What is form in a 2-game series? Harbhajan under-performed? Sure, bad series, he will be fine next tour. How do you know?

The 2nd Test is when the stories and expectations were to be framed, but now, 2nd Test is when you get your report card. It is like deciding the winner of a Test match at Tea on day-2 of the Test. You neither know if a batsman has been good, or bad. For all you know, a “good series” for a player might have meant one fluke 150* and a 70 or just a 6-wicket haul. Zimbabwe beat Pakistan and leveled series 1-1. Which team was better? How do you know? There wasn’t even a 3rd Test. There was no substance to the series – just win this game and get the hell out of here. And Zimbabwe are going to hang on to this win for another few years, for all you know.

Frankly, a series without substance, story, thrill, fan-fare, excitement and length amounts to nothing. You can squeeze in a bunch of those series and dress it like it matters, wrap and bow-tie it as a present to someone, but the truth will lie bare inside it – it still is meaningless. It’s just not cricket.

-Bagrat

Blueprint for Cricket’s Future

Given that everyone (and their dog and their lamp post) is talking about “saving cricket” with their own plans, we at i3j3cricket decided to write an article on the future of all forms of cricket. But before we set forth with the development of a plan, we had to ask the tough question on whether or not cricket needs to be saved.

Yes. It does.

It needs to be saved from the clutches of T20, which, by the way, is a legitimate form of cricket.

So, much to the potential chagrin of several cricket purists, cricket needs to be saved from its own recent successes!

In fact, in our view, the T20 format can be seen as a legitimate vehicle for the introduction of players and spectators alike. This is especially true for new countries and regions where the T20 format can be akin to a table wine to Test cricket’s Grange!

Some of the questions that need to be asked are

  • Can cricket continue to support all three forms or products (sic!)?
  • How can Test Cricket — the form that is considered the purest form of cricket — continue in a world that is increasingly dominated by the “curse of the instant”?
  • Is there a place for the ODI form of Cricket in the landscape?

There are many that feel that the ODI format has seen its last days and must be done away with. After the recent success of the T20 format and the impact of burgeoning tournaments on the cricket calendar, there are several amongst us that feel that there is space only for two forms/products. We are not entirely sure what additional skills (or entertainment value) the ODI format brings to the game that is not covered by the other two formats (Tests and T20). The T20 format is packaged for maximising entertainment value for the masses while Test cricket allows players to exhibit their finer skills in front of a more discerning audience!

However, we are proceeding with the rest of this article on the assumption that there is a place for ODIs provided:

  • The ICC introduce some radical changes to the ODI format,
  • The ICC carries out a review of the place that ODIs have within a 5-year period.

Moreover, cricket’s audience must grow. Its reach must exceed former colonial outposts. Cricket must embrace audiences in US and Europe. And for this to happen, perhaps T20 is the route for cricket to take as it broadens its horizons, wings and reach to hitherto sceptical audiences.

So, in our view, all three forms can co-exist provided cricket’s reach extends beyond its current boundaries and provided there are some radical changes to the ODI format and provided there is a thorough market-tested review of the ODI format by 2015.

Overall, our feeling is that cricket does need a radical change.

  • Test Matches must be exciting and result oriented. The key points to ensuring this happens are:
    • Pitches that ensure the relevance of both bat and ball in a game (mandated by an ICC-organised QA of pitches before each game). In saying this, we are not suggesting that pitches must have grass or that pitches should not take turn. Our view at i3j3Cricket has consistently been that just as bounce, seam and swing are important facets of the game that “test” a batsman’s skill, dust-bowls that offer prodigious spin and uneven bounce are an equally important “test” of a batsman’s skill.
    • Rule changes that put a premium on easy runs (for example, through the simultaneous use of old and new balls).
    • Stronger incentives for the captains to produce results (for example, points should reflect the margin of victory – number of wickets and/or runs – and location – Home vs Away.
  • ODIs must stop becoming boring in the middle overs.
  • Audiences must be encouraged/enticed/induced to attend Test matches.
  • More programming control and regulation by the ICC is necessary.

From the above, it is clear that our hypothesis is that Test cricket, often considered the pinnacle of achievement in cricket, is suffering too. Test cricket needs change too. While it is not yet in a “moribund” state and while we do not wish to sound like doomsday merchants, a lack of changes to Test cricket rules will see it fade in the wake of the T20 phenomenon. Apart from Australia and England, where we still see healthy audiences at the venue, Test cricket crowds seem to have deserted cricket grounds. India can still attract crowds to Test cricket by taking all of its Test cricket to places like Mysore, Dharmasala, Bhuvaneshwar, Pune, Rohtak, Mangalore, Rajkot, Cochin, Guwahati, Coimbatore, Jodhpur, Agartala, Bhopal, Visakhapatnam, Cuttack, etc. But that still robs visiting teams of playing in iconic venues and cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Mohali, Nagpur, Kanpur, Hyderabad, etc.

The ODI game has become predictable and boring. Teams tend to adopt a mechanistic approach to the game in the middle-overs. The PowerPlay idea has not worked because the bowling PowerPlay is taken immediately after the mandatory PowerPlay, while the batting PowerPlay is shoved to the end-game! The stupor-state of the middle-overs is killing the ODI game which has become staid and formulaic. Once a game reaches those proportions, the only sure outcomes that can afflict players, administrators and spectators is boredom followed by a slow death.

There is no “programming window” for exciting and instant-fun concepts like the IPL and Champions League.

What is desperately required are a series of innovations, improvements and changes to all three forms of the game.

Hence this article.

We have the following suggestions for (choose your pick) improving/changing/enhancing/augmenting each of the three forms of cricket.

Test Cricket:

  • Minimum overs per day: 100
  • Day-night Test cricket is adopted.
  • Breaks in Play: There are no lunch/tea/drinks breaks in Test cricket anymore. The teams play for 50 overs before a “dinner break”. A further 50 overs are played after this dinner break. So there are two sessions per day. Like footy games in Australia, “runners” bring in drinks during change of overs or during stoppage of play. Play will see one session before dark and one session at night! In most environments, play for the day should start at 2.30pm and should end at 10.30pm with a break between 6pm-7pm to accommodate news channel requirements! In India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan perhaps the timings are pulled up by an hour with play starting at 1.30pm with a break between 5pm-6pm and with play ending at 9.30pm.
  • 4-day Tests: With 100 overs bowled over 7 hours each day/night, we should not need 5-day Tests. This will have two effects: (a) there are more days for cricket, (b) teams will tend to play more attractive cricket in order to force results – and in some cases, manufacture results. We are already seeing the effect of the ODI and T20 format on Test cricket, in which a daily run rate of 4 rpo is more the norm, while even 10 years back, a run rate of 3 rpo was seen as a good days’ play! So given that teams will play 100 overs per day, 4-day Tests should be a definite possibility.
  • Bowling teams that do not bowl the required overs in each hour of play are penalised by adding “over rate extras” to the batting team’s total. This “over rate extra” is calculated as: ORR = [2* run rate for that 1-hour block * number of overs short].
  • Ball change: Every ball must be changed (mandatory) after 60 overs. At that time though, the bowling captain can continue to use the old ball — but only from one end — for a further 20 overs after which it cannot be used again. In other words, although a ball can be used for 80 overs (maximum), it must be used in tandem with a new ball once it is 60 overs old.
  • Two tiers/groups with Group-A containing Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, England (the current top-5 ranked Test nations) and Group-B containing West Indies, Pakistan, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Teams move up and down every two years.
  • Each team plays each other compulsarily over a 2-year period as part of a revamped Future Tours Program (FTP). In fact, the ICC should become the custodian of the cricket calendar. Apart from a nominated period in the year, say 2 blocks of 6 weeks each, all programming should be dictated by the ICC. Individual member countries are free to organise events only in those 12 free-from-ICC-FTP-weeks.
  • New teams are admitted into a Group-C: Ireland, USA, Holland, Kenya, Canada, Hong Kong, UAE…
  • At the end of each two year block, a Test Championship Tournament is held between
    • TCGroup-A: A1-A2-A3 (3 teams)
    • TCGroup-B: A4-A5-B1-B2 (4 teams)
    • TCGroup-C: B3-B4-B5-C1-C2 (5 teams)
    • This will serve to make each Test match interesting. A team placed at A4 will want desperately to beat another team in a Test series so that it escapes the clutches of TCGroup-A. Similarly, a team placed at B3 will desperately want to beat another team so that it makes B2 and hence, has a crack at making it to TCGroup-B, which will then give it a crack at making it to Group-A through the Test Championship round robin.

  • The Test Championship will determine: (a) The overall Test Champion for that 2-year block, (b) Which teams will move between Groups for the next 2-year block. The top-2 teams from TC-Group-B will move up to Group-A and the top 3 teams from TCGroup-C will move to Group-B.
  • The current ratings system is changed to accommodate home-away advantage and measures such as victory margins, innings defeats, etc.
  • In addition to the pure win-loss points, placings and ties are broken by other means to force result-oriented games.
  • No limits on bouncers-per-over.
  • Rules for wides match the current ODI and T20 format.
  • The entry ticket price for Tests must be less than one half of the price of a T20 game at that venue. This is so that more audiences are involved in Test cricket viewing. This is, no doubt, an artificial measure and a subsidy. But this is a measure and an instrument that is perhaps required in the “instant” world we live in.
  • Referral system in place for adjudicating.
  • Indoor Stadia: Sure, one cannot predict rain, bad light and bad weather in general, but it surely something can be done about maximising value to spectators. In the last year alone, more than 10% of Test cricket playing time has been lost to rain, bad weather or bad light. Some of this “time lost” does affect the result of games as well as value to spectators. Games tend to, as a result, end in tame and boring draws. We can solve this problem by playing cricket indoors. Granted, overcast conditions, sunlight and breeze do have a positive effect on the game sometimes, and not all games need to be played indoors. Then again, we do not have too many cricket stadia around the world where the roof can be closed. But we need to start thinking about playing some games indoors. This would also effectively increase the cricket playing days in a year. Of course, new stadia do not just appear overnight. So, there needs to be a long term plan to build these stadia.

ODIs:

  • 4 quarters of 25 overs each.
  • 2 Innings per team.
  • Innings are played as in Tests. In other words “follow on” and “innings defeats” are possible!
  • 1st mandatory PowerPlay of 5 overs is the first 5 overs in the inning.
  • The Batting/Bowling PowerPlay cannot follow the Mandatory PowerPlay at the start of an Inning (in other words, over 5-10 cannot be PowerPlay overs).
  • The Batting/Bowling PowerPlay must be a 5-over block and can immediately follow one another.
  • Thus, PowerPlay can only commence in any of the overs from 11 to 21.
  • If the no PowerPlay has been adopted before over 16, then the PowerPlay overs kick-in automatically.
  • The Bowling team has the option of nominating whether it wants a PowerPlay at the start of any over from 11 to 16. If the offer is not taken, the Batting team can use up that option.
  • Each bowler can bowl a maximum of 6 overs per Inning and 11 overs in a match.

T20:

  • Creating a programming-window for IPL and Champions League.
  • The existing format of T20 is actually working quite well. But in the future, just to spice things up, the following things could be considered:
    • Each team has a separate Batting XI and Fielding XI. Of course, the same people can be in both teams.
    • Each bowler can only bowl a maximum of 3 overs.
    • A team can decide to pack its Fielding XI with specialist fielders (including the Wicket keeper) in addition to the bowlers.

The above are suggestions that would, no doubt, have to be debated at length. But the bottom-line is that in our view all three forms of the game must see changes — and soon — as we move forward into a brave new world for cricket. A world with more excitement, a broader reach and more audiences.

— i3j3 Contributors

Breaking News: BCCI spokesman makes sense

In a rare and rather surprising development, the BCCI have just announced that it is in the process of putting together a long term plan for India-A tours. If this report is to be believed, it is a significant achievement by the BCCI for coming out with a statement that not only makes sense but also means so much for Indian cricket if executed well.

It is something we fans have been hankering for a long time and commonsense has finally prevailed.

To put things into perspective, while countries like Sri Lanka have been having regular A tours as well as playing visiting international sides, India have not had a proper A tour since the top-end series down under a year ago. No wonder the cupboard seems bare Mr Vengsarkar!

– Vish

News in brief: 7 May 2007

According to some reports Virender Sehwag is likely to lead India in the first ODI against Bangladesh on May 10 in case regular captain Rahul Dravid sits out of the match with a nose injury. However, Dravid was quick to dismiss such speculation and added that he was looking forward to a thumping win agaist Bangladesh.

Ravi Shastri has urged fans to be patient with Tendulkar, Ganguly and Sehwag while addressing the press in Kolkata. Earlier, the Indians were practising on a grassy pitch ahead of the first One-dayer.

While Tendulkar and Dravid were injured, Sehwag and Ganguly appeared to be all at sea against the pacers on the lively strip. Batting on such a wicket does’nt make much sense since the Indians are most likely to play on a slow, low turner against a team packed with left arm spinners, a view shared by Cricinfo’s Sidharth Monga who also reckons that it will be the most evenly contested series between Bangladesh and a Test-playing nation other than Zimbabwe.

Kapil Dev had a veiled dig at some of the players by asking the Indian team to be collective in standing up to Bangladesh’s challenge rather than relying on the heroics of any one player in the upcoming away series

India’s schedule over the next 17 months is jam packed and are likely to play 20 Tests and around 62 ODIs over the next 17 months.

What’s happening to Tendulkar?

Sachin Tendulkar, the toast of the nation just a few seasons ago finds himself in an unfamiliar role of facing up to the wrath of his fans. He is now ridiculed by his once staunch supporters. The press has added their own spin on it and the cricket pundits yet another. Meanwhile, the coach questioned his attitude and finally, the BCCI have ‘rested’ him for the Bangladesh ODIs. These events would have hurt him badly.

We all know about the fickle nature of the fans and the press. Perhaps no one knows more about it than Tendulkar himself after 17 years of International cricket. I am sure he realises that the fans by their standard, have given him the longest rope of all.

In recent times we have been led to believe that Tendulkar has donned a new role for the ‘benefit’ of the team. I cannot imagine a more nonsensical reason. Does he and the think-tank mean to say that for nearly 15 years he has been the premier batsman and match winner, but they no longer want him in that role; but instead require a plodder? This seems to be a classic case of denial both by the team management and more importantly himself.

It is common knowledge that Tendulkar over the last 3 years has been gradually loosing is touch. The problem has been both physical and mental. Physically he is that much older and as a result, that much slower. His reflex degeneration has been rapid compared to others such as Lara and Jayasuriya. But that alone cannot be the reason for his failures. There are technical flaws. Too many times we see him get bowled; and too many times we see mediocre spinners get him out.

Bob Simpson thinks that Tendulkar is not watching the ball out of the bowler’s hand thereby depriving him of a few milli-seconds to get into position. While we are not totally sure what Tendulkar’s flaws are he nevertheless had the time, resources and above all the experience to iron out the kinks. If he has attempted to correct it but failed trying, then it is time to quit the game as suggested by Ian Chappell. But if has’nt tried hard enough, his attitude needs questioning.

The way he got out against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the world cup suggests that the flaws are very much there and unless he takes some immediate steps to address them, I cannot see him play beyond the England tour.

Tendulkar once feared and admired by his opponents is merely acknowledged these days mainly for his past deeds. The truth is no team looses sleep over him.

As a huge admirer of Tendulkar, I hope there is another twist to his tale and he turns things around. I would love to see him bow out on a high note; and more importantly on his own terms.

BCCI’s match scheduling approach

Kudos to the BCCI for initiating some positive measures in spite of the fact that these steps were reactionary (and one or two ‘knee-jerky’ such as the sponsorship issue). However, it is disappointing that they have not talked about the scheduling of international matches except for the fact that the national team will play more domestic matches. In my opinion, it is a key area that needs to be addressed and acted fast.

Scheduling is important for obvious reasons:

  • Give players enough time to recover from injuries, mental pressure or burn out so that they can come back rejuvenated
  • Allow players time to get back to form by letting them play first class cricket and hopefully came back with confidence
  • More importantly, it helps keep the public interest alive by limiting International matches. Unless there is some novelty value, the crowds will stop coming eventually. There is no point killing the proverbial golden goose!
  • Finally in the long term, crowds will come and sponsors will pay only when the team is winning and playing good cricket since scheduling plays an indirect yet significant role in the teams performance

Here are my suggestions:
Do away quota system for Associations
Do away with quota systems for assigning matches to different cities/grounds. BCCI’s flimsy reason is that a portion of the revenues generated through tickets and stadium adverts will go to the local association. This has no doubt adversely affected the standard of pitches, quality of the stadiums, spectator safety and besides; players have to put up with additional travelling and difficult playing conditions. At least for Tests, grounds should be limited to Mohali, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai. Surely, there are other creative ways of allocating funds to these associations.

Limit ODIs
We need to play exactly 6 home tests each year and at least limit home ODIs to 10 or a 3-team series (like the Australian format). The following stats will make interesting reading:

Year : Tests (home/ away) : ODIs (h/a)
2006 : 12 (3/9) : 32 (7/25)
2007* : 9 (3/6) : 48 (25/23)
* I have included possible future games for 2007. Interesting to note that for this year alone ODIs would have increased to 54 if India had qualified for the Super8s and a whooping 56 if they reached the finals!!

In my opinion, BCCI should aim for 12 Tests (6/6) and roughly 30 ODIs (10/20) each year and no more. But the problem is they have already signed sponsorship deals and telecast rights which are likely to have caveats on how many matches India will play over the next 3 or so years.

Lock-in schedules
The schedules for these matches should be locked in at least 12 months before to enable better logistics management and pitch preparation.

Rotation policy with a difference
While the BCCI has more control over limiting home games, they may have to compromise on the away tours. India may end up playing a lot more ODIs and Twenty20s. The BCCI therefore needs to manage this carefully.

My suggestion is to set thresholds for number of playing days by playing role. This should include both domestic and International matches.

Unless a situation arises where the bench cannot replace a player and all other options are considered he should be given a break. Indirectly this will create a pressure on improving both the quality and quantity of the bench (not overnight, but eventually).

This will also allow untested yet talented players a fairer go to represent India. Unless chances are given, we will never know for sure.

I understand that that this is easier said than done. Thresholds will no doubt be different for fast bowlers, spinners, and batsmen. Throw keepers and all rounders into the fray and it becomes even more complex. I agree, that the equation is not straight forward as there can be many variables like a spinner may not bowl more than 10 overs in a test match in England!

Answers will only evolve over time but it has to start somewhere; and a good place to start is looking at the stats for the last 4 or 5 seasons. If the coach, captain, selectors, team physio and statistician work on this together, a draft version can be created within a week.

I am glad that the BCCI has come out in favour of organising more ‘A’ tours. As Mohan Krishnamoorthy has suggested in his post ‘Two teams :: Mixed signals from the selectors…’ , it is important that ‘A’ teams play nearly the same if not more ODIs and tests as the senior team. Hopefully quality players will come through the system.

-Vish

Two teams :: Mixed signals from the selectors…

The Indian selectors have been giving mixed signals. Today we hear reports that the selectors are going to stand up to the BCCI and select “seniors” for the tour of Bangladesh. This has already been highlighted in the earlier News Brief by Mahesh.

Although we had suggested a possible team to Banglaedsh on this blogsite a few days back, in light of the recent communication from the selectors, it is worth a re-look. Particularly in light of the communique from the BCCI on fielding (and maintaining) two India teams regularly, it is worth looking at the composition of two teams: Team India and India-A.

In doing this, I will draw heavily on the fascinating series of articles that Mahesh Krishnan is developing on Future Team Prospects. So far, this series has three articles (I, II and III) and I have no doubt that there will be more.

In the scenario that seniors are being retained in the team, I think it would be a wise move to use the India-A team to include players who are on their way up as well as those that are on the way down (either into oblivion or into regaining form).

With that as a scenario, and with ODIs as the context, if we then look at Team India for the World Cup, I think players like Virender Sehwag, M. S. Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar and Harbhajan Singh would find themselves in India-A along with a few young guns. I’d vote for Virender Sehwag leading India-A!

The two teams could then be:

Team India (in batting order):
Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly / Robin Uthappa
Rahul Dravid (captain)
Manoj Tiwary
Yuvraj Singh
S. Badrinath / Dinesh Mongia / Irfan Pathan
Dinesh Karthik
Romesh Powar
S. Sreesanth / R. P. Singh
Munaf Patel
Zaheer Khan

India-A (in batting order):
Virender Sehwag (captain)
Gautam Gambhir
Suresh Raina / Cheteshwar Pujara
Venugopal Rao / Rohit Sharma
Mohammed Kaif
M. S. Dhoni
Joginder Sharma
Ajit Agarkar / Ranadeb Bose
Harbhajan Singh
Piyush Chawla / Rajesh Pawar
V. R. V. Singh / Ishant Sharma

Team India has 15 players. I have, however, included 16 players in India-A. As long as the two teams are constantly occupied, players could easily move from one team to the other to back-fill, when necessary.

My Team India above has Dinesh Mongia in it. I rate him highly. He may have screwed a few opportunities he was given, but I think he is a clever cricketer. He bowls tightly and could be very useful in the 20-20 World Cup later this year in South Africa. Hence his presence.

A legitimate case may be mounted for Irfan Pathan to slide into India-A. However, I have him in Team India… just.

M. S. Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh have been moved to India-A to serve out their “penance” for their World Cup performances. They may work themselves into form in this team or work themselves out of the frame.

In my view, India is suffering in the spin department. Hence the presence of Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla and Rajesh Pawar in the India-A team. India should look to blood its next generation of spinners via this route. Rajesh Pawar is highly regarded. Both he and Piyush Chawla have age on their side. Murali Kartik does not find a place in my India-A team.

As a matter of priority, BCCI should attempt to keep India-A as busy as Team India — if not busier. That is the only way to build and test bench strength.

— Mohan