I’m no expert, but as a humble cricket fan, here are my 8 suggestions to the International Cricket Council regarding changes I would like to see in international cricket:
1. Overhaul the entire umpiring system: A few hundred million people know whether the batsman is out or not. And the batsman, bowler and umpire don’t know it. That has desperately got to change. The third umpire brought some confusion and referrals didn’t help matters. How many referrals should be there? Three? Logically shouldn’t every decision be referable? So, why not re-engineer the whole concept of the field umpire and TV umpire? In short, the Third Umpire becomes the First Umpire.
Before you totally dismiss this offhand, here’s my proposal on how it should be done:
Imagine a room with 4 big screens and one big screen assigned to each umpire. Each umpire would be assigned just one task and his job would be to pass on that decision instantaneously to the field umpire via earphone or a flashing hand panel.
No Ball Umpire: Would just see whether it is a no ball or not. If so, he would have to immediately beep to the field umpire.
Wide Ball Umpire: Would just see whether it is a wide ball or not. If so, he would have to immediately beep to the field umpire.
LBW Umpire: Would check if the ball has hit the bat or pad or both and calculate the hawk-eye trajectory and beep the umpire immediately if it’s an LBW. (This could take time and maybe could have a referral system initially)
Fielding Umpires: Would check the validity of catches, 4s & 6s and run outs.
Chief Umpire: Would monitor all the umpires and would be from the current Elite Panel.
Field Umpires: Would either take the instructions through earphone instantaneously or there would be a remote panel, which would flash for No balls, Wide balls, LBWs, etc.
Now the field umpires would be made free to concentrate on other things like:
1. Discipline: Most of the discipline has to be decided on the spot. This should be the field umpires chief responsibility as all other decisions have been outsourced.
2. Chucking: Who better than the field umpire knows whether a ball has been chucked or not? The field umpire should be empowered towards that effect. He can best tell if the elbow has been used to impart energy to the ball or not. If a team opposes the decision, then it would be reviewed by an elite panel of umpires, but off the field.
2. Bring forced declarations into Tests: Despite all the innovations in Tests, a draw rules most of the time. If the pitch is too batsman friendly, then the batting meanders on. If the pitch is too lethal, then the game is over in three days and still everyone feels cheated. One way to change this would be to bring a forced declaration in the first innings only. That is, the batting team would have to declare after 160 overs. This will ensure that the second team bats on the second day. And mainly, the “limited” (or nowadays the “T20”) element would come into Tests. Teams would be forced to plan and regulate their innings and the best part would be if the batting team lost just 4-5 wickets after 140 overs. You would have a fine legal T20 blast in the middle of a Test match. Howzzat to liven up things?
3. Regulate ad breaks: How irritating isn’t it when your team’s bowler takes a wicket and they immediately go in for an ad break. The same thing happens when your batsman hits the winning shot. Right now if there are 100 overs, there are 100+ ad breaks. 20 more if wickets fall between overs. All I’m proposing is that the ad breaks be brought down by just 10-15%.
The Ad Break Regulation Rule: Whenever an opposition wicket falls or a home player hits a 4 or a 6, the ad break gets cancelled, especially if it happens to be the last ball of the over. Moreover, ad breaks are cancelled for 3 minutes after the victory moment.
The ad revenue would go down by a fraction but viewing enjoyment would go up by leaps and bounds.
4. Restrict Tests & ODI WCs to 8 nations: Let’s face it: Test cricket belongs to 8 nations only. The others will never catch on. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are the prime examples. And now with the advent of T20s, it seems even more remote. Stick to the Permanent 8 permanently. And in ODIs, stop tinkering with the format. The 2003 World Cup went on for ages and in the 2007 World Cup, India and Pakistan were kicked out after playing just 3 matches each. The best format was the 1992 World Cup where only 8 teams were called and everyone played everybody. That was exciting and that should be the permanent ODI WC format.
5. Promote T20 in 32 nations: T20 is where the future is and where more countries can come in and compete competitively. In the T20 WC, you can have 16 teams. The ICC can stop promoting Tests and ODIs ranked 9-32 and actively propagate T20s. Have T20 series, triangulars, tournaments… T20 is the only form where the whole world can catch on and the ICC should go all out for that.
6. Have a Test World Cup: You’ll need only 9 Test matches to pull this off in a period of 2 months. Only the top 4 teams should be called and the semi finals and finals should be a 3-match series each. The No. 1 & 2 ranked teams would be the host nations for the semis and the No.1 nation for the final. That would ensure a sell-out crowd for the semis and even if the No. 1 team doesn’t reach the finals. The television ratings would still be high and it would be a commercial success.
7. Ban ODI triangulars and have T20 ones instead: One of the biggest failures has been the triangular ODI where usually a third weak team is called and the finals become a foregone conclusion. Why not have triangular T20 tournaments in every tour. In fact, a tour could be standardized. Say first have a T20 triangular followed by a 3-match ODI series followed by a 4-match Test series.
8. Set up an ex-Players Super Committee: Right now great cricketers are spread out in various roles in a disjointed way. Others criticize it from the outside. The best way to counter that would be the consolidation of great ex-payers. The Top 8 Test playing nations should nominate 2 players and set up a Super Committee of 16. While the current ICC management would remain the same, this committee would guide policy and handle tricky and controversial issues.
Parting Shot: I personally would want ODIs to be abolished and First Class games to be lessened.
The future belongs to Tests and T20s.
© Sunil Rajguru