KEEPING LORD'S WORLD CLASS
Founded in 1787, Marylebone Cricket Club is the most active and famous cricket club in the world and owner of Lord's Cricket Ground - the Home of Cricket.
© Copyright 2014
Mr President…Ladies & Gentlemen.
Mr President…I know you were a fine spin bowler – I believe you took 970 first class wickets – but I’m surprised you didn’t score more runs… for you have a remarkable sense of timing…
I say that about timing because it is exactly 23 years today since I experienced that amazing feeling of scoring my first-ever 100 for my country – right here at Lord’s, on July 11th, 1983. I remember been inspired by a NZ tennis player, Chris Lewis, who just days before had reached the Men’s singles final at Wimbledon.
Now you have given me another reason to celebrate July 11th - the honour and privilege of delivering the Cowdrey Lecture.
Firstly, I’m honoured because of the company I’m keeping – Richie Benaud, Barry Richards, Sunny Gavaskar, Clive Lloyd and Geoff Boycott… What a batting line-up, folks, and how I possibly follow these legends is quite beyond me.
Nevertheless it is my greatest pleasure to follow these fine men.
Talking of fine men I would like to pay tribute to two fine men who have recently passed away, Fred Trueman and Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie. These two men personified the spirit of cricket; skill, great humour and a big heart. I had the privilege of meeting them both many times and they will be missed.
Also, if I may, I would like to dedicate this wonderful honour of delivering the Cowdrey Lecture to my late father Dave. Dad was once told by Englishman, Les Townsend, who was coaching in NZ, “no lad, you will never make a Test cricketer.”
Many years later when Dad came to England to watch my brother Jeff and I play, he saw Les and told him, “you were right, Les, I never made a Test cricketer, I made two!” Dave, a proud man, would have cherished being here tonight.
Yes, I’m honoured because you have chosen a New Zealander and, in doing so, allowed me to represent a growing number of great cricketing names and families to come from little ol’ NZ – names like Bert Sutcliffe, John Reid, Richard Hadlee and Chris Cairns.
Bert Sutcliffe was my hero. He lived not far away and the stories of his batting feats are legendary. Two massive triple hundreds for Otago, an amazing record in England with the great 1949 NZ side and, most of all, his heroic and astonishing innings at Ellis Park in 1953. When, after being struck on the head by Neil Adcock, he returned, blood-stained bandage around his head, to play a stunning knock to save the follow-on. Those images of Sutcliffe that day personify everything great about playing for NZ.
Sutcliffe, no doubt had been inspired by another fellow Kiwi just a few months prior in the same year, when Edmund Hillary conquered Mt Everest, along with Tensing, to be the first men ever to do so. That was 1953.
Not long after that, in 1956, our first test match win was secured when we beat the West Indies in Auckland. Astonishingly, (and I know you won’t quite believe me) Bert Sutcliffe never played in that Test match or in any winning test team, ever.
Yet it was he, with the precision of a surgeon and the courage of a lion, who had been the one to show the way, often alone, for such a long time.
Those in England who witnessed the 1949 tour would have also cherished another great left-hander in Martin Donnelly. It was this fine man whom I was named after. His 206 at Lord’s in 1949 remains a record for a NZ’er on this hallowed ground.
Those who saw Donnelly say he was as good as Sutcliffe, maybe slightly silkier and smoother in motion. But I had another hero, and this is the main reason why I am so pleased to be with you this evening. His name was Michael Colin Cowdrey.
My upbringing began with those hard-fought backyard battles with my brother, Jeff, and Dad. When it was England into bat, Cowdrey was my man. To bat with style and show late touch and timing were the things I noted the most when reading about this great player.
Soon enough I was dreaming of batting at Lord’s; to bat like Cowdrey, to stroke the ball like Cowdrey. And, I hoped, to play with the same gentlemanly sportsmanship as Cowdrey.
Unbelievably for me, I was awarded a scholarship to Lord’s for 6 months in 1981. Within a month I was down to play for the MCC Young Cricketers v MCC at Lord’s in an annual one-day game. Batting at 4 for MCC, at age 49, was Colin Cowdrey. He scored 39 majestic runs and with the poise and touches still there, it was a wonderful coaching lesson before my eyes.
I was truly inspired, so taken by playing at Lord’s for the first time and being able to watch Colin Cowdrey, that I managed a few runs myself… hitting a six to bring up a century and the win for the Young Cricketers.
I then met the great man in The Tavern, we shared a conversation and a drink, and then I rang home to NZ from the public phone, broke down in tears and blurted out “Dad, I outscored Colin Cowdrey!”
What a feeling for a 17-year-old! From there the names; Lord’s, Cowdrey and MCC have all found a very special place in my heart.
So, Mr President, you will understand how I value being asked to deliver the Cowdrey Lecture, here at Lord’s, on behalf of MCC.
Mr President, it may seem sacrilege to say so on this great cricket ground, but sometimes it IS possible to take ourselves too seriously in what is essentially still a sport, albeit the best past-time of them all.
So last November I decided to take a sabbatical from the game of cricket… for a while no more commentary, coaching, writing… I decided to stop waking up thinking and talking cricket and doing it most of the day… to push the pause button on an energy-sapping 25 years… it was time for a change and a chance to reinvent oneself.
But the game never goes away. There is always something to lure you back in, and it did. In February, I was asked to join the MCC World Cricket committee. I hesitated for the briefest of moments and then jumped at the chance to assist an institution that had, in the past, so greatly assisted me.
I look forward immensely to joining a superb bunch of talented people to ensure that the ICC is encouraged and stimulated to be the best it can be.
High on the agenda for this committee is to look at the use of technology to assist umpiring. This is a particular interest of mine, as my day job is as Executive Producer of Cricket for Sky TV in NZ and I wish to discuss it tonight.
Over the last 10 years I have witnessed and taken part in creating some fascinating discoveries in TV technology. In joining Sky TV and embarking on a career providing live cricket coverage, I flew to the US to pick the brains of one of the first pioneers in cricket production; a man called David Hill.
David, under the direction of the late Kerry Packer, created many of the ideas that made World Series Cricket the phenomena that changed the game in the 1970s. David began by having cameras at both ends, instead of the standard camera at one end. He moved in more cameras, including the stump camera and microphones… then moved on to having a permanent score tick on screen.
He filled the commentary box with former captains of Australia and England who actually knew what it was like to be out there. Hill’s philosophy was to ensure that the viewing was easy to understand and share for both father and son watching together. The viewing was all about family entertainment, education of the game and enjoyment.
In these last 10 years, technology and cricket coverage has moved on at an incredible rate. The camera that now records at 1000 frames per second is astonishing.
Hawkeye, the ball tracking device, is superb, as are ‘Snicko’ and Sky Virtual, all of which are making the watching of cricket a real experience.
The coverage by Channel 4 last summer of the Ashes will go down as the most compelling production of all time. Yes they had an awesome contest to cover, but the skill and expertise that went into that production, lead by Gary Franses and Mark Nicholas, were simply the best ever.
As the equivalent to Gary Franses in NZ, I watched with great interest and more than a little envy as the production unfolded. I envied his budget, mainly, but also the wonderful balance and story-telling they brought to the experience, mainly though great camera work and commentary.
The production raised some interesting issues, in particular whether technology can support and assist umpiring.
Let’s first take the technology called ‘Hawkeye’… a device that tracks the ball from the moment the bowler releases it, right up until the ball is dead. By using 6 cameras positioned around the ground, Hawkeye can graphically show how the ball moved from the bowler’s hand, through the air and off the pitch. To this point, I have only praise for it and, in this aspect alone, Hawkeye could greatly assist umpires.
But next comes what, for me, is a concern …once the ball hits the batsman’s body and the ball becomes dead, Hawkeye then predicts the path of the ball towards the stumps. Effectively, it predicts four feet of movement by the ball and determines whether the ball would have hit the stumps or missed in determining whether the batsman should be out LBW or not.
This particular use of Hawkeye worries me …as I question whether it should be predicting what the path of the ball might be. I stress the word ‘might’, as it is only hypothetical, after all; a scientific guess. I am also uncomfortable with predicting a path that goes against what the umpire had just decided. I just don’t believe it is in the spirit of cricket.
Sure, there will always be a commentator or two who will offer his personal point of view that a particular umpire might have got it wrong in a particular decision… but to show a hypothetical contradiction visually, as if it was the definitive result, is not necessarily right.
Too many commentators refer to Hawkeye’s prediction is if it is the ‘be all and all’. I believe what they should be saying is that they are showing a predicted path for entertainment value only, that it is just a representation of what might have happened. I personally refuse to use it in NZ.
With predicting the path towards the stumps, some suggest Hawkeye should drive umpiring decisions on LBW appeals. I believe this to be wrong. The great thing with the LBW is that it is in the expert opinion of the umpire that the decision is made. With LBWs, no one ever knows exactly what would have happened and this is a beauty of cricket. No other sport allows this unique situation and I believe it must be retained.
Although it is not written into the laws of the game, to apply the benefit of doubt is so important to cricket. Again, in the spirit of cricket this is what makes the game so enthralling and mysterious.
But Hawkeye does a great job in showing what ‘did’ happen up to the point when the ball becomes dead. It is a truly brilliant device at this point.
I see that Hawkeye is going to be used for line calls in tennis and this makes huge sense. That is different from predicting the path, because they are in fact showing what did happen in graphic form. In other words, was the ball in or out? In other words, the device follows the ball until it is dead: no predictions, no guessing.
This could also work for cricket in determining the ‘line’ call for an LBW. e.g. did the ball pitch outside the line of leg stump? Hawkeye definitely has a role to play here.
Then there is the other technology that shows a virtual graphic computer-generated on to the image of the pitch between both sets of stumps. Around the world this is known as the Mat, Red Zone or Sky Track, they all look different and it can be confusing as a result. It is set in place by virtue of fixed cameras down the pitch. But this particular technology can’t be deemed 100% accurate or available all the time.
Again for example, you only need a gust of wind to throw the camera off a fraction, as often happens in windy Wellington, and the graphic can move off its position. When this happens we sometimes don’t go to air with the technology. So, if it was relied upon by the 3rd umpire to assist making a decision then we’d have a problem as it could be inaccurate or not available.
But I reckon this is where the best use of Hawkeye can be applied. Hawkeye’s full graphic of the batsman, the pitch and the mat can show what happened with regards either the ball pitching outside the leg stump or hitting the batsman outside the line of the off stump.
Unfortunately the overall problem is that TV networks around the world work on different budgets depending on the size of their respective markets. So the quality and quantity of technology changes from country to country and is not consistent around the world. Hawkeye is not used everywhere, including NZ.
The real point is that if the 3rd umpire is to play a greater role in decision making then surely the ICC, who appoint them, should control the technology they are using.
I firmly believe the solution is to find uniformity. That means the ICC must own Hawkeye and provide it to all host broadcasters around the world so the use of it by umpires is consistent everywhere.
By owning and therefore controlling Hawkeye, the ICC would be in a position to decide whether they believe predicting the path of the ball is good for the game. I certainly do not as I would prefer to protect the umpire from unnecessary and unfair scrutiny.
Let’s look at some examples of the technology in question. Firstly the LBW, and whether the ball would have hit the stumps. The first examples show good umpiring yet Hawkeye predicts it could have been different. We can also show the use of the virtual Mat or red zone. Then examples of Sky Track in NZ, where the graphic moves or isn’t seen clearly enough because of the umpire.
VIDEO PRESENTATION (3 MINS)
Note how the commentators’ first reaction in real time is generally that of the umpire too. But then throw in Hawkeye’s predictive path and you sense the commentator and viewer starting to get less certain what is right.
The final image is a classic example of the new sensation in technology, the camera slowed down to 1000 frames per second. Again, the problem of using this as a tool to assist umpiring is that it’s too expensive or not available to some networks around the world.
Maybe once all networks have included this camera in their mix we can then start to use replays to assist umpires in deciding exactly what happened with caught behinds, bat-pad catches or low catches in the field and even include ‘Snicko’ to add to the information. This is clearly the best camera that can properly assist umpires in this regard.
If we go this far in the future then maybe using this superb camera technology we could also determine whether anyone has ‘thrown’ a particular delivery?
More on that in a minute.
Overall, in my view, umpires still have the best view; they see and hear everything in real time and they see everything as 3-dimensional. The best umpires have an enhanced sense …of sight, sound, and an instinctive feel for the game. The best umpires have the nerve, the concentration, the experience and knowledge and, especially if they have been former players, they have the instinctive ability to make the right call under the severest of pressures.
The umpire is right there, part of the living and breathing of the game and has done so as long as all of us have cherished this great game.
So, Mr President, because we can’t show the complete and accurate story yet and always have it available and consistent around the world, I therefore believe technology should not be used, apart from line calls for run outs etc, to assist umpiring. This may change but the ICC must ensure that the technology is consistent throughout the world.
One area we can help umpiring is to allow them to adjudicate on no balls by watching the back foot, not the front foot. The front foot Law gives the umpire too little time to readjust his focus to the other end. The late Don Bradman and the ever-present Richie Benaud have advocated returning to the back foot rule for a long, long time…I for one am happy to take the advice of those two gentlemen. If we have to stick to the front foot rule then let’s let the 3rd umpire use technology to call any overstepping.
Talking of Laws, and one I briefly eluded to before, I just want to say in passing that I have zero tolerance of ‘chucking’ in cricket. I’m sick to death with the hypocrisy of the last 10 years.
I don’t care about talk of 15 degrees here or 10 degrees there… if with the naked eye a bowler is clearly chucking – even by 1 degree – he should be chucked out. Having it tested in a laboratory and not in match conditions is plain ignorance. To straighten your arm from any bent position is a massive advantage over other bowlers who bowl properly.
Having been pinned in the head by ‘chuckers’ over 15 years, having been dubiously bowled first ball in a test by a certain Sri Lankan bowler, having tried to bowl a decent ball myself with a straight arm, I’ve had more than enough of this aspect of the game. I’m sorry, but this is cricket’s Achilles heel.
If the umpire believes he has seen a throw then he should, as part of the Laws of Cricket, be allowed to no ball it or at least report it. The Law was fine 10 years ago.Now, it simply gives room for the laws to be bent!
Having always believed in the concept of the umpire as sole judge, let me acknowledge also that the umpire is human. So are the players, the administrators, the commentators and the groundsmen. Mistakes will be made. Technology can help in a small way – but surely more important is to be much more demanding of the standard of umpiring. A standard which, lately, has been badly affected by the growing presence of technology and the scrutiny that has followed. I do feel sympathetic to the umpire.
Because of that I do feel there are too few top-class umpires in the mix today. Too few top-quality umpires doing too many matches all around the world. Improving the quality of umpiring is achieved by scheduling them cleverly, not burning them out through over use. That means looking at the number of umpires on the Elite Panel.
For a start there are too few English umpires, who are easily – and naturally too – the best around…I say “naturally” because they come from the best nursery for developing top-class umpires… namely long summers of good cricket in quality conditions, coupled with a long-standing system to encourage former players to go from playing to umpiring. To me, it’s common sense. Find a former player, who has the game already entrenched into his psychology, and let him umpire with the same passion as when he played. That, in general, is what England do, easily more than any other nation.
With regards to the ICC Elite panel, it doesn’t bother me whether there is double the number of English umpires compared with other countries. But we must select the best, no matter where they come from. The fact that Peter Willey isn’t still out there in international cricket is a real shame. It’s mainly because he doesn’t wish to be away from home so often. I don’t blame him. So let’s accommodate him. Even if only for part of the year, let’s keep ensuring the best are there, maintaining the highest standard possible.
At present there are 10 on the elite panel: 3 from Australia, 2 each from Pakistan and Windies, 1 each from NZ, SA & England. There is something not right about this mix, especially having only 1 from England.
The ICC, therefore, must first increase the amount of umpires from 10 to 12 full-time at least, with 2 more part-time. One from each of the major 8 Test playing nations (not including Bangladesh or Zimbabwe) and then 4 from the best of the rest in the world, no matter where they are from. This should mean more English umpires involved on the world stage.
Adding to that, I believe, like a few who have expressed it already, is by using all 3 umpires to share both on field and 3rd umpire duties during the course of a day you helping the umpires to stay fresh and quality-orientated.
What I can’t quite believe is the domination of Australian umpires in the Elite panel. Just because the Australian players are the best in the world, it doesn’t necessarily follow that their umpires are as good. In my honest opinion, the Aussie umpires have been, given the great facilities and infrastructure they have to support them, the most disappointing over the last 25 years.
More encouraging for Australian umpiring at the moment is someone like Paul Reiffel, a former world-class player of less than 10 years ago. World cricket needs more Paul Reiffels, umpires who have played the game at the highest level.
Yes, umpires are under plenty of scrutiny, but they do have to learn to live with it. After all why should players, coaches, administrators, etc, all be scrutinised and not umpires? In theory, if you are paid well in a professional set up, then learn to improve your game or cop it on the chin. It has to be the same for everyone. But I don’t believe that to be the case here.
The Elite panel umpires don’t get paid well enough. In comparison to players the difference means there is little incentive for a player just retired to head straight into umpiring. A full-time Elite umpire earns under a $100,000 US a year compared with a full-time player who earns 2- 3 times that. Why the ICC is so miserable in this area, given the enormous amount of money generated in cricket world-wide, is beyond me.
Therefore it’s imperative that the umpiring is the best it can be and that is where the investment needs to be made. There is an old phrase, “if you pay peanuts you will only get monkeys”.
Apart from providing the correct incentives, the key to the umpiring question is training and the relentless pursuit of excellence. Everyone makes mistakes but it’s how you respond after making mistakes that matters. The best players and umpires respond quickly; they learn what is required to improve their performance. They seek information; they search inside themselves to ensure they develop into better performers.
Top players continue to train and seek to improve until the day they lay the ball or bat down; umpires should do the same. There are a lot of great cricketers who would also make great umpires – the game should seek them out, involve them, train them, support them, pay them properly and demand of them both integrity and a relentless pursuit of excellence.
It is possible. And how much better that humans are inter-acting with humans on the cricket field, instead of humans being dictated too much by technology.
Mr President, it is, in my view, a great testimony to the game of cricket that it can be a variety of things to a variety of people in a variety of ways. For now, making a blast on the world stage is the new format, ‘Twenty20’ cricket.
This is the format I believe that can grow the game globally. Large untapped markets like China and the USA will enjoy the shorter time frame and the simplicity of Twenty20.
One-day cricket still remains the best format for the associate countries like Canada, Ireland, Scotland, as it does for countries like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Kenya.
Test cricket itself is in very good shape. It entertains us and thrills us more than ever with positive, result-oriented play. Most importantly, it continues to stimulate the supporter.
But let’s be honest, there is still some nonsense at international level. Test cricket is, without question in my mind, being undermined by continuing to allow Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to play Test cricket.
In the case of Bangladesh, it is at least arguable that time has passed them by. If they had come in when Sri Lanka first did, back in the early 1980s when cricket still regarded Tests as the main attraction and focus, and while nations were still adjusting to and understanding One-day cricket, then they would have had time to develop a Test game.
When Sri Lanka toured the world in the 80s they prepared for tests by playing first-class games on tour, like countries before them did. These days there is barely any preparation at all. Therefore Bangladesh is learning how to play first-class cricket at Test level, which is not going to work.
I believe it is possibly too late for them. For example, Bangladesh has never learnt the basic principle in first-class cricket, let alone Tests, of occupying the crease for long periods. They simply have never played enough competitive first-class cricket to prepare for Tests. Their game is now clearly centred on one-day matches and that will never really change.
Please don’t tell me “well NZ took 27 years to win its first Test match” and therefore Bangladesh should be allowed the same kind of patience and support. To compare that era with now is absolute absurdity. NZ only played 44 tests over those 27 years and it were the only format played back then. One and half Tests a year on average meant it took a lot of time to develop anything.
On the other hand Bangladesh has played a staggering 44 tests, for 1 win, over just 6 years. They simply aren’t going to make it. The game is too ruthless in all respects for the top nations to allow Bangladesh to step up. They just won’t ever compete successfully against the top eight.
Zimbabwe is not up to International standard (and I am setting aside the question of whether a country where cricket is so inter-related with its shocking politics should be dignified with international cricket status. I know that your past President Tom Graveney and a majority of MCC members think not.)
Let’s face it – Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are being kept on the international stage for political reasons – what hypocrisy from the ICC that argues that politics should not come into the sport. (Talking of politics, why were so few questions raised about the way the Asian sub-continent has taken a stranglehold on World cricket. The latest example is the appointment to that region for the 2011 World Cup. For Australia, who has the best facilities in the world, to have to wait 23 years between hosting a World Cup is totally farcical.)
But, back to the quality of international cricket. Test cricket needs to retain the quality that makes it so unique. It should be a proper Test between two cricket nations’ resources.
It is One-day and Twenty20 cricket that can carry the flame to encourage global expansion. Let Test cricket be played by just 8 nations only. It is a special game, and to remain so it must be an elite game. It must never become mundane and quality must never be compromised. This will also allow for a more efficient schedule, a schedule that now can only be described as greedy and overkill.
There are far too many meaningless matches, too many contests where it’s clear the burn out is kicking in with players. The rest periods between tours and tournaments are becoming less and less, the injuries more and more. The quality fluctuates up and down and the public sense it more and more. Sachin Tendulkar is a classic example of player burn out.
Quite simply, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are clogging up the works. The ICC need to reduce the amount of Tests, and especially ODIs, per year, by at least 10%. A country playing up to 30 ODIs a year is becoming rather tedious.
Instead, I’ve come up with a concept of tours comprising of the ‘triple treble’: 3 Tests, 3 ODIs and 3 Twenty20 matches. This helps eliminate dead rubbers, especially in ODIs. For example, playing a 7 match one-day series is plain greed. This ‘triple treble’ concept caters for the purist, the fan and the fringe supporters of cricket. Three types of supporter being satisfied and three different types of intensity for the player.
The Twenty20 matches are less taxing, less pressure on the top players and they can introduce a new style of player that you bring into the touring squad. It’s these games that can be treated as the new money-spinner, the new entertainment factor for World cricket.
With the greatest respect I would also like to see the World Cup restructured. The World Cup next year will last over 6 weeks and 50 odd games and half the games will be uninteresting one-sided contests. This means far too many mis-matches between the major nations and too many weak Associate teams. Yet the Soccer World Cup show us every time how to do it. Pool play is highly competitive and the preliminary stages to find the best teams are extensive. Cricket and Rugby World Cups are too often lacking that edge throughout the main event.
Of all the World Cups I played in or watched over 27 years, the best structure by far was the 1992 World Cup. Then, each team played 8 round robin matches, played each other once before the top 4 teams squared off in the semi-finals.
Now, I would go back to that ideal 9-team format, staging a preliminary competition prior to the main event to determine which one team out of all the other nations join the top eight. Encouraging the game globally is not about watching weak teams in amongst the best getting smashed.
For the Western world, Twenty20 is an ideal night time entertainment option, especially as an after work format. It fits into people’s lifestyles. You can watch a massive amount of action, get a result, all in less than 3 hours.
This is what I designed and proposed to the ICC back in 1997 after I visited around 100 schools in NZ and discovered a disturbing trend that between the age of 13-16 a lot of kids were giving up the game of cricket.
Working with Sky TV in NZ we started to design a game that could be played by the best players, but also kids in school and club cricketers on a Sunday afternoon. We designed a 3-hour version of cricket called “Cricket Max”, with the slogan, “it’s short for action!”
The format included 2 innings of 10 overs each (4 overs per bowler during the match), with a zone behind the bowler on the boundary called the Max Zone. The Max Zone offered a double score to the batsman upon hitting the ball straight down the ground into, through or over the zone. The idea of the zone was to 1) encourage the straight and most difficult and pure shot in the game and 2) to keep the game alive to the last over and to keep everyone, players and spectators, involved until the very end.
Of the 145 games played in NZ over 7 years, 42% of those matches weren’t decided until the last over. 42%! The end result was that the spectator or viewer was held watching on the edge of their seat to the last.
During those 7 years Max provided positive research that 3-hour cricket was very popular and a game for the future. It proved that those watching were transfixed to the action to the end. The Max Zone was a debatable issue and was about to be tried without it. However, a players’ strike in 2003 cancelled the Max comp for that summer and by the next summer Twenty20 had taken over from Cricket Max. At that point NZ Cricket followed the new global trend.
Whatever the name or brand, 3-hour cricket is an absolute necessity as a choice for supporting the game. It offers another time frame that people can fit into their lives.
My one and only concern with Twenty20 cricket, as it is with one-day cricket, is the 1 innings only format. I firmly believe that one of the game’s great strengths is playing 2 innings each, no matter what the time frame.
Test matches and first-class cricket has stood the test of time for well over 100 years playing 2 innings each.
This long standing rule offers you a second chance, that if you start badly there is always the 2nd innings to stay in the game or the opportunity to come back, as Sri Lanka did recently here at Lord’s. Two innings per team provides the overall challenge of beating a team using all your physical and mental resources. This is only fully and truly expressed with 2 innings each.
The major problem with one-day cricket is the predicability of it. In general there are too many one-sided results, too much predicability during the middle of the innings. One-day and Twenty20 cricket needs to seriously consider 2 innings per team. That’s 2 x 25 overs for ODIs and 2 x 10 overs for Twenty20.
It’s important with this issue that we don’t get too caught up in the history and statistical side of this argument. Stats in one-day cricket just simply aren’t very important in my opinion.
When pure entertainment becomes the priority, then allowing the batsmen 2 chances in a given day make massive sense to satisfy those wanting a real bang for their buck. Why not assist the goal of keeping the result unpredictable for as long as possible?
The new experimental rules for one-day cricket, adopted recently by the ICC, have failed to inject new life into the format. The reason is they don’t address the issue of one-sided, predictable matches. The new rules just papered over the cracks and thankfully they have been dumped, or are about to be.
But if the ICC adopted 2 innings for both One day cricket and Twenty20 cricket, to be consistent with Tests and first class matches, then you would have a more compete set of options, yet still retain the unpredictable nature of cricket. And all this is based around the ‘time’ people have to play and watch.
Time, Mr President, is the very essence of our existence.
Cricket has the unique ability, over all other sports, of adjusting to time. Whether it is 3 hours or 30 hours, our great game can continue to entertain and satisfy the public.
And talking of time, mine is nearly up.
Let me end on paying tribute to firstly Colin Cowdrey who instigated this worthy campaign and then also to those, like Ted Dexter, Mark Nicholas, and Roger Knight, who have placed MCC in the forefront of a campaign to enhance it.
I’m so looking forward to working on the MCC World cricket committee led by the thoughtful and spirited Tony Lewis. It was Tony who taught me my first important lesson about the spirit of cricket.
Back in 1990 when on tour with NZ to England, I momentarily lost the true spirit of the game. I had been struggling for a big score during the test series and in the final test at Edgbaston had been given out cheaply, LBW to another Lewis, England all-rounder, Chris Lewis.
Whilst playing the ball I convinced myself that there was no way I could be given out LBW or caught and therefore proceeded to not look at the umpire Barrie Meyer, upon appeal. It became clear to me by the crowds reaction that I had been given out, yet I still refused to look at Meyer at all.
Sadly, for the spirit of the game, he had to give me out again. I finally acknowledged I had to go and slowly wandered off. Today, I would have been suspended for such unacceptable behaviour.
The next day, a rest day, Tony Lewis wrote in a Sunday column, that it was inexcusable that I should act as I did. Needless to say I was devastated to be justifiably criticised by a legend of the game. Through Tony’s words I fully realised my mistake and immediately wrote to both Tony and Barrie Meyer and apologised. I had broken the spirit of the game. It was a big lesson and one I never repeated again.
Time has gone full circle and now I have the chance to work alongside Tony and his fine men to ensure cricket is fathered well.
The spirit of cricket is, of course, about the behaviour of players on the field – acceptance of decisions, respect for one another, integrity. But it is also about an enthusiasm for the game; not just aggression but also to share a sense of fun. And fun is what life is all about.