ICC To Help Endangered Species

A long time ago, in a cricketing galaxy far away, there was a generation of great bowlers. They were fast. They were fearsome. Batsmen were so nervous at the prospect of facing them that they’d throw up in the dressing room.

These days it’s a different story. The bullies have become the bullied. Flatter, slower pitches, kookaburra balls with a seam flatter than the Taunton wicket, cruel fielding restrictions (a curse known as ‘powerplays’) and innovative batting have all rendered bowlers – a shy and retiring species whose athletic appearance belies their inherent timidity – anxious, trembling wrecks.

What’s worse, batsmen are now armed and dangerous. Even mediocre county pros wield brutal clubs of intimidating proportions. The poor bowlers are running for the hills …. and so the ICC steps in.

News reached us yesterday that the ICC have made several changes to ODI regulations. It’s not because they’re against high scoring games, but because they’re worried that the precious balance between bat and ball has been upset.

Who cares if the crowds flock to T20? Who cares that kids are hypnotised by a succession of white balls disappearing over their heads and into the stands? The integrity of cricket’s age old tussle between bat and ball must be restored.

How typical that this should happen just as England’s batsmen were developing a taste for carnage, eh.

The reforms confirmed yesterday include the abolition of the nefarious batting powerplay, the cancellation of compulsory close catchers in the first ten overs of innings and, perhaps most importantly of all, fielding sides will now be allowed five fielders outside the circle at the death.

In explaining the latter, the ICC chief executive Dave Richardson argued that

towards the end of an innings in particular if you have just four fielders out, there is always two places you just cannot defend. But by allowing five fielders there is only one place. So if you have two places which are undefendable, you have to change the field and then the batsman knows exactly where you are going to bowl.

After reading these quotes on cricinfo a couple of times, and meditating on them for a while, I can actually see what Richardson’s getting at.

I am largely in favour of ALL the amends the ICC has made. While cricket needs to be entertaining, the balance between bat and ball IS extremely important.

When I was growing up, kids wanted to be Malcolm Marshall just as much as they wanted to be Viv Richards. And they loved Ian Botham as much for his bowling as his batting.

These days, I sense most kids simply want to be Chris Gayle or AB DeVilliers. They want to replicate their heroes – the guys who smack the ball for six with aplomb. Who wants to be a bowler?

As Mike Atherton said on Sky last week, there’s a danger that a diet of high scoring games could lead to a paucity of quality bowlers in ten or twenty years time. There’ll be no shortage of muscular batsmen queuing up to lace the ball over the ropes with three pound bats with pickups lighter than balsa wood, but where will the bowling superstars come from? It’s a slippery slope.

T20 cricket has brought the game to a new audience, and big hitting certainly has it’s place. But cricket needs to have more self-confidence in its broader offering. Why should it merely pander to the bish, bash, bosh brigade? Big hitting is not the only entertaining aspect of cricket.

Low scoring games are often the most riveting. Battles of survival can enthral just as much as run chases. And, above all, is there a more mesmerising sight than a fast bowler steaming in off a long run, hitting the crease hard, and hitting the keeper’s gloves even harder with a thud that echoes around the ground?

When I was a junior member at Worcestershire in the late 1980s, the sight of Graham Dilley steaming in from the New Road End was just as entertaining as watching Graeme Hick dispatch bowlers into the car park.

I was just a normal kid. I refuse to believe that the youth of today are entirely different. Cricket certainly faces many challenges, but it would be wrong to put all its eggs in the shot-a-minute basket. Sure it will generate a new fan base who love the game for its razzmatazz, but how long before the novelty of repetitive big hitting wears off?

Meanwhile, a generation of fans who love cricket for its nuances and inherent beauty will feel alienated and ultimately walk away. That’s why I support everything the ICC has announced this week to protect our poor, endangered bowlers.

The contest between bat and ball is just as important as the contest between two high scoring juggernauts.

James Morgan



  • It seems strange that 1 series has brought all this on though….1 series, possibly the greatest 50 over series ever.
    It captured the minds of the watching public, watching the ball dissapear to all corners of the ground, high octane entertainment.
    And now what happens?, the ICC decide that’s bad for cricket, bad for the paying public who want to see bowlers??!!??
    Now having grown up seeing the West Indies flatten teams with sheer pace, and at times little skill, I don’t feel cheated at watching so called great bowlers getting smashed, battered , bullied and made to look average by modern batsmen.
    In fact it’s a joy, for too long ball has dominated and the first time the balance has changed we get the cricketing fools saying “whoa there , you arnt meant to enjoy watching 50 over games, you are meant to suffer watching 3 runs an over and like it !!”.
    Well , if the ICC wants to do away with the 50 over version of the game then carry on, it has no concept of encouraging youngsters, it just meddles and messes and over complicates a very simple game….
    See ball, hit ball over the ropes, that’s how I grew up playing, that’s how the youngsters today want to play…….

      • I think the WC really drove it home, but this is an issue that’s been brewing for at least the last 2 years if not longer. The WC just made it obvious just how one-sided things had become.

  • Huge mistake. Crowds don’t turn up to watch bowlers; they turn up to watch batsmen hitting sixes. Prepare for declining attendance, and a panicked u-turn by the ICC in about a years’ time.

    • I’m interested in why people make this assumption? Crowds always turned up to watch Warne, Murali, Hadlee etc. I bet a lot of Aussies turn up to watch Starc’s pace.

      Football is more popular than ever but the number of goals hasn’t dramatically increased. I think people turn up to watch a contest more than anything.

      What will happen if kids no longer want to be bowlers? What will the game look like in 20 years unless the ICC act. Cricket is more than a big hitting contest, surely?

      • Just watch a white-ball game and compare the roar of the crowd for a six versus the roar for a wicket. I rest my case.

        • I’ve watched plenty of T20, and the big wickets of the opposition players always get the loudest cheers.

      • You’ve played cricket though James, you must have played in T20s. Bowling is just as much fun as it is in longer format games, its just that the definition of success is slightly different. It might be to get a big wicket that changes the game, or it might be to beat the bat a few times, successfully bowl to a plan, don’t give away a boundary, and get the opposition behind the run-rate. Its all relative.

        People turn up to watch competition, excellence, ambition, and good aggressive cricket. Whether it is bat attacking ball or ball attacking bat is secondary, as long as one side is showing some attacking intent.

        T20s and test matches are both equally excellent at creating the incentives for one or both sides to attack. ODIs, not so much.

  • Dennis, that is twice you have repeated that “joke” – once on Twitter, and once on here.

    It was funny on neither occasion.

  • I was just a normal kid. I refuse to believe that the youth of today are entirely different.

    They’re not – but whereas you and I were surrounded by cricket all summer, today’s generation are not. Often they will only be exposed to a few hours of cricket a summer. So it has to grab them instantly.

      • No. I probably sat and watched it in vague boredom for a few summers before I was hooked.That’s not going to happen today.

    • But t20 can grab people’s interest, but then let them understand the differences between the different formats by keeping formats separate.

      My wife, who’s not really a cricket fan, was utterly gripped in the 2005 ashes as England inched towards a total of 120-odd at Trent Bridge, and listened to the last hour or so at Edgbaston on the radio as Australia got closer and closer to winning that game.

      The best drama in sport is the drama that unfolds naturally, not contrived by tweaking laws.

      • I’ve got less issue with T20 remaining the preserve of the big hitters. My article is really about the 50 over game.

  • I agree with the change in the fielding restrictions at the end but liked the requirement of attacking fielders at the start and the Batting PP. I suspect one or both of those will be back before too long.

    Two other ICC-related issues are lurking away in the background. One is the T20 ‘rebel’ league and the possibility England’s UAE tour might be cancelled. No dates have been confirmed yet for the tour which suggests that is not unlikely. (If it was cancelled, what are the odds on a bilateral ODI series against Australia or India as its replacement?). The other is the format of the 2019 WC. The BBC have a new story saying the recent ICC meeting didn’t even discuss it and that the Ten-team format for 2019 still stands. That has Giles Clarke’s ugly paws all over it and it stinks.

  • Couldn’t agree more James. We were glued to the last ODI series because it was so new to see England thrashing bowlers to all parts. And that’s fine. But if – as Anonymous says – people really only turn up to see sixes hit, then just stick a bowling machine up there and be done with it. Scrap bowlers altogether so they can save their bodies for test cricket.
    Personally I found the gargantuan scores in the last World Cup made for dull games. It was no coincidence that the best games had scores of 280 or lower. Watching Chris Gayle club sixes against defenceless bowlers bores me witless frankly, even while I acknowledge the skill involved. I don’t mind if T20 is a bash-fest, but if ODI’s are going to be no more than an extended T20 – then what’s the point? If we’re going to have 3 formats of cricket, then each format should have something different – otherwise let’s just have T20’s and Tests. One for the bash and crash crowd and one for the balanced cricket lover.
    The changes are fine as far as they go but I think the emphasis is wrong. Richardson talks about bowlers needing to be able to defend. Those days are gone. You can’t put the shot a ball mentality back into the box. What you need to do to restore balance in ODI’s is make taking wickets much more valuable – or conversely, make the fear of losing a wicket rein the batsmen in a little. That’s addressing the balance issue.
    At the moment it hardly matters if you lose a wicket. The next man in plays a shot a ball and most sides bat down to 9 or so – so taking wickets doesn’t have much effect unless you bowl a side out. So most sides dispense with attacking fields after a few overs and try and defend.
    I’d rather see wicket taking rewarded. So for example, if the batting side lost 10 runs every time they lost a wicket, and every score was a net score of runs minus wickets lost. So you might get 400 – but if you lose 9 wickets, you end with 310. That opens up a lot more possibilities for both batting and bowling teams – a new set of calculations about how you want to approach the game and how aggressive you want to be.
    It’s too radical to ever happen of course. At the very least I’d scrap the 10 over bowling restriction. The batsmen don’t have to retire, so why should the bowlers?
    All personal opinion – and it may be that I’m out of touch. It may well be that the new generation of cricket fans want to see raining sixes and couldn’t give a stuff about bowlers. I don’t believe that though, and I think cricket will be an immeasurably poorer game if the bowlers’ art is permanently diminished. I’m on record as saying that if I see 500 scored in an ODI then it’s the last one I’ll watch. Hopefully it won’t come to that – but I’m not confident.

    • That’s interesting Kev. I played in a practice match last night (middle practice), and we batted in pairs for four overs each. The pair with the highest score won. It was minus five every time a wicket fell. I also played quite a lot of indoor cricket at university which works similarly. It’s interesting to discuss ideas like this.

      • It’s an interesting idea, but for now I think the ICC have got it just about right. I do, however like the idea of allowing more than ten overs from any bowler. though simply removing the limit would be excessive – put it up to somewhere between 12 and 15.

        The idea that the changes are going to put an end to aggressive batting is absurd; they will merely go a small way to shifting the balance between ball and bat.

  • Totally agree with the fielding restrictions in the last 10 overs – the worst part of it was that the batsmen pretty much knew what was coming which made the job of the bowlers even harder. Not bothered about attacking fielders in the first 10 – leave it up to the captain to decide – the difference between having a side 65-3 after 10 versus 40-0.

    I actually quite liked the batting powerplay, but would let the batting side choose when they took it, anywhere from 11-15 overs right through to overs 45-50. If NZ are 80-0 after 10, then they can choose to keep on going for another 5.

    The problem with ODI cricket and more so t20 is that it becomes boring when it becomes formulaic. While I don’t mind t20, where it leaves me cold is that there’s only one way to play and that’s to tee off from ball 1. Can anybody name their top five most memorable all-time t20 matches? Easy to do with tests, similar with ODIs. The joy of cricket is that on a certain day 250 is a great score and on another 350 is not enough. As BigKev says, there has to be a certain value placed on taking / losing a wicket, otherwise the game just becomes fast food.

  • James, fantastic article and I agree completely. I think the point is that each form of the game should have a different “balance”: T20 can by all means be a slogathon (it’s not quite the same otherwise), but ODIs and tests are far more interesting if they are more balanced. That’s why we have three formats after all.

  • The danger of the new restrictions is that we’ll see the return of the BMO (boring middle overs) where both teams declare a truce for 15 overs or more. At which point ODIs start looking a lot like T20 with some boring bits in the middle… and the decline in audiences comes back…

    • I doubt it.
      In any event, we ought to accept that the game is evolving, and a certain amount of experimentation with the limited overs formats is quite sensible. A regular (biennial; triennial ?) review might be useful.

  • Spot on Metatone. Cricket is entertainment and people want to see boundaries. With 5 on the boundary teams used to nurdle 5 singles an over. This series ws brilliant and bowlers were rewarded if they bowled out. EG Eng bowledout for 300 at Ageas Bowl and NZ bowled out for 200. I was atAgeas Bowl and with boundaries being hit most overs I can safely say it was the best ODI I’ve been to. Only change Id have made was to let bowlers bowl unlimited overs.

    • “change Id have made was to let bowlers bowl unlimited overs.”

      Great, so every team plays 9 specialist batsmen and the balance becomes even worse.

  • The reason the ICC changed the format of 50 over cricket was to stop the decline in footfall through the turnstiles, stop the decline in interest of a outdated version of the game , and , at last it is seems to be working.
    To now change the goalposts because batsmen are bringing t20 skills into the game seems a backwards step, after all they encouraged this style of play, they wanted to engage the audience again.
    I sort of see your point about bowlers, but, what do we want? Do we want meaningless, boring ODI’s where you can sleep in the middle of a game like has been already said? , or do we let this run as is to generate interest in the game again?
    I know where I stand as I said under the anonymous post ( forgot to add my name)

    • An entirely false dichotomy.
      The changes aren’t going to make anywhere near the difference you suggest. Batters aren’t going to unlearn the aggressive techniques and mindsets that have developed over the last decade.

  • Hmm…I find the “youngsters” viewpoint on ODI’s interesting. A 10 year old may never have seen cricket on TV in their lifetimes, thanks to Giles Clark. Their needs are therefore vastly different than those of us fortunate enough to have seen FTA cricket for most of our lives.
    This is a vastly bigger debate tbh, and needs a seperate thread and some considerable thought, because todays kids are tomorrow’s supporters….do we really know what they want, or do we make them realise what we think they should want?????

    • You make an interesting point. When I was 10 the BBC was showing a complete 40 over John Player League match FTA (there was no other way else in those days…) every Sunday afternoon. To my young eyes it seemed the best thing ever, but I’m sure that if I tried to explain what it was like to someone born after the Millenium I’d just sound like a fuddy-duddy.

  • Good point about the boring middle overs… but not a problem if all teams play like New Zealand or Australia or, recently, England

  • Talking of endangered species – there’s a women’s ashes tournament here as well as the blokes one but you’d hardly notice it in the media. It makes me laugh when Sky have their sportswomen slots and shout about women in sport yet they have failed to even have highlights of the women’s world cup on the telly. They report england women’s progress via a wireless set up in 1867 and news is relayed by blokes all the time.

    Well, I had opportunity to watch Sky’s Cricket Writers programme this morning and enjoyed Lizzie Ammon’s contribution. However, Charles Colville behaved as if he’d never seen a woman before. He was appalling at involving Lizzie in the debate rather constantly turning to John Etheridge and Nick Hoult for their views. It looked as though Lizzie would be cast as the outsider until she started making comment more forcibly. Constantly Colville would hear what she had to say and then ignore it. He routinely wanted to move the debate on. It was not pleasant watching – this from a broadcaster that relishes its ‘commitment’ to women. it was franly something from the dark ages. Etheridge just blustered his way through and Hoult provided some fun elements. But Lizzie was treated appallingly in my view. The old boys network at it again. If this is all cricket can offer women – outcast, back of the class, don’t speak, then I don’t want to know this game – riddled with boys networks it is an absolute sham in 2015

    • Sorry didn’t realise the 5 fielders was just for the last 10 overs which I am happier about as 4 fielders in the middle overs will mean more shots.

      But why do the ICC keep tinkering with ODI cricket?

      They should be concerning themselves with bigger issues such as expanding the game and having a proper world cup with 14-16 teams which only takes 4 weeks

    • Sad to read this, ron, Colville’s usually one of the better presenters. It probably didn’t help that Ammon is a freelance while Hoult and Etheridge work for big circulation papers (as much as any paper has a big circulation these days), some hierarchy at work there as well as good old sexism.

      I’ve seen it before. The worst was some sort of debate on the future of cricket, they had Clare Connor there – a woman of considerable capability and influence as well as an excellent record as a player and captain – and ignored her completely.

      If England’s women do better than the men in the Ashes, as they have in the recent past, expect a chorus of head-patting.

      • thanks – sometimes seems like you in a puffy cloud of intellegensia without any real understanding of what’s going on – can’t disturb the boys club can we?????????

  • In other news: Daniel Bell-Drummond (Kent opener) hits 127 in Kent’s 2nd innings versus Australia (Johnson, Harris, Siddle et al).

    Next in line for England opener?

    • Thanks Zephrine. We’re still playing around with the new look, so the home page might change a bit in the next 24 hours or so. We’ve still got a few things to try out. Stayed tuned ….. :-)

    • quite!! – no doubt it can be purchased at Waitrose
      The Alastair Cook Public Schoolboys Waitrose Sledging Select Eleven are all over the press – is there something happening? Ever so spiffing, what?

  • And it’s good to note that Bairstow and Bresnan broke Ranjasinhji’s 1902 record for the highest seventh wicket partnership in county championship history.

    How many other cricketing records are over a century old ?
    (Some from the first half of the 20th century – career runs scored; wickets taken – may stand for a very long time, but aren’t yet quite that old.)

    And ought Bairstow to be England’s test keeper ?

    • Not at the minute, Buttler’s been pretty damn good since getting in the team, apart from too often getting stranded with the tail.

      There’s not a lot in their keeping and Buttler has yet to do anything to warrant being dropped. Now if you were to say, Bell & Root up 1 and put Bairstow in at 5 and drop Ballance? There might be a different answer.

      I think Ballance will be an excellent player, I just don’t think he willl be in this series. Hope I’m wrong.

      Will wait and see what transpires

      • I wouldn’t drop him – I’d play Buttler at 4 purely as a batter, with Bairstow keeping.
        Would save his knees and longevity for the one day team.

        Then a straight fight between Ballance and Bell for their place in the team. Not quite sure which at the moment, and not fully convinced by either.

  • Hi Guys,

    We’re still in the process of updating our site at the mo. I’ll be fiddling with the homepage this morning, so don’t be disturbed if things start looking a little weird.

    In the meantime, I’d like to tell you about our new cricket forum. There’s a link to it on the right hand side of the top menu. You can start your own discussions there, without waiting for Maxie or I to write an article about it.

    It’s a good place to go if you’d like to talk about the latest cricket news, but can’t find a relevant article. Enjoy.


    • tried but given up understanding how forum works – just get message saying forum can’t be empty – still it would be good to debate things other than the bloody ashes like the influence of fine wine in cricket – does it aid the degree of swing on a cloudy day, does red or white enable a better choice when deciding to bat or bowl first?

  • I agree with James that the changes are a good thing. For 2 reasons.

    First, I actually have children (9 and 7) who are just beginning to play cricket, and they are both showing signs of being pretty good bowlers – the 9-year-old is right at the start of the county selection system. They love to watch 6’s being hit – we’re off to a T20 on Friday as it happens – but the older one is already beginning to question the fairness of having pretty much no help as a bowler in limited overs. He in fact reckons that being a Test bowler and T20 batsman is the way to go! I’m pretty sure that a few more years of the ridiculous imbalance of shorter boundaries, mega-bats (and please don’t buy the manufacturers’ nonsense that their £500 cannons are just resculpted Scoops), and having to leave gaps everywhere will put him right off. So balance can only be a good thing.

    Second, those of you who reckon the ODI series was the best ever, I wouldn’t disagree, much. But it wasn’t because of the runs, it was because of the way it played out. Imagine the first ODI had been reversed – 408 for NZ and 198 for Eng. Nobody here would be defending the regs – they would be saying how dull a game becomes when one side posts an unchaseable score. But it was us, amazingly, so it was great. What made the rest of the series was not the runs, but that it was close. The second match would have been just as exciting if it had been a chase of 275, and the third was less fun but pretty even. If the 4th had had the teams reversed we’d have been complaining again, and the 5th had all the jeopardy of a decider with the added buzz of a DL chase. It was a brilliant series, but the runs were a bonus. The fact that England won – after the horrors we’ve had to endure – was the icing on the cake. But it would have been just as great if we’d knocked 50 or even 100 runs off every total. With the boundaries and bats as they are now, big hitting is here to stay. The less sophisticated in the crowd will still get their fill, but the balance will return. If it doesn’t, I might as well get my kids playing baseball now – or, worse, football!


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