Sydney: One of the side benefits of holding a World Cup every four years is it brings together a lot of cricket knowledge and ideas flow.
England captain Eoin Morgan discusses field settings with off-spinner James Tredwell during the ICC Cricket World Cup warm-up match against Pakistan at the Sydney Cricket Ground on February 11. Pic/Getty Images
Already we’ve had Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards proposing the 50-over game be re-branded World Cup cricket to give ODIs more context. Then when Michael Holding suffered - as did all Caribbean cricket lovers - through another West Indies debacle, he declared Ireland should be awarded Test status immediately.
These are thought provoking ideas and they beg the question; “Why not hold a cricket summit during a World Cup to take full advantage of the cricket knowledge that’s on hand?”
As well as ideas to give ODIs added context, more thought should also be given to improving the game. Cricket is at its best when both sides are trying to win through positive tactics and consequently, I’d like to see less restriction on the fielding captain and more options to utilise his imagination.
A captain is more likely to attack with his best bowlers. If 25 overs were shared by five bowlers then after that it’s up to the captain to decide who gets the remaining deliveries, the skipper has more attacking options. At the moment too much of ODI captaincy is dictated by the administrators’ regulations. Tactics should be based on intuition and knowledge, not necessity.
I’d also do away with the powerplay, which would again leave captains more in charge of the tactics and less dictated to by regulations. Selectors should be encouraged to choose captains with flair and if that’s not forthcoming then they need to find someone who will respond to attacking incentives.
I’d also like to see a refinement in the fielding restrictions, so that the onus is again on captains to be imaginative. If the more aggressive captains win regularly it’s almost certain losing teams will start to copy the pattern.
The 50-over game doesn’t need huge first innings scores regularly which mostly lead to blow out victories with the occasional thrilling finish. An ODI should be a good contest that grips the fan with not only the prospect of a close finish but also some exciting individual battles.
On the subject of Test cricket, there are already too many sub-par sides playing. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are in that category and a continuation down their current self-destructive path will soon see the West Indies plummet to that level. There’s no point increasing the number of Test playing Nations until the officials sit down and take a holistic view of programming.
The present schedule is a schemozzle because it’s wedded to out-dated concepts with a few modernisations tacked on to keep the money flowing.
The problem with promoting Associate Nations to Test status is they rarely produce genuinely fast bowlers. The odd delivery reaches 130+ kph but the bulk are in the 120-130 bracket and that doesn’t bowl out Test sides in a hurry. In addition they rarely have top-class spinners to balance the lack of pace bowling.
Consequently, Associate Nations playing in a five- day game would be prone to a hammering from Test batsmen and then their willow wielders would in turn cop a pounding from the opposition quickies. Uneven contests are not a pretty sight and they could also prove dangerous with an inequality of skill levels.
To hasten the arrival of Associate Nations at Test standard it would require some re-thinking. Cricket has to decide where it’s heading -- what are the priorities; longer form cricket or T20 or the two moving forward hand-in-hand? If it’s a balance they’re looking for then it probably means T20 needs a specific season in each hemisphere. T20, with more context and based on inter-city rivalries rather than international competition, could be a lucrative concept.
If the idea is to expand the Test and ODI game then first-class cricket in individual countries would need to be condensed. Second tier leagues in Europe, parts of Asia and North America could eventually lead to combined teams from these regions being highly competitive in the longer forms of the game.
Cricket needs to modernise it’s thinking and scheduling and this would be best achieved by sitting all the stakeholders -- players, administrators, communications representatives, marketing people -- around a table and kicking around options, including fan suggestions. What better time to achieve this aim than during an all-encompassing event like the World Cup.
However, with the administration’s current attitude to major structural changes, it’s more likely an Associate Nation will win the World Cup before that happens.