'Bloody boring overtime'

By: Ian Chappell

Ricky Ponting’s assertion that, “If you are touch and go towards the end (of the fifty overs) the worst thing you can do is to take wickets,” should ring some alarm bells with the International Cricket Council (ICC).

If a captain is convinced that taking wickets any time in a cricket match is not a good thing then the administrators need to overhaul the laws of the game. And I’m not talking about revoking the law where a captain can be suspended if he can’t ensure the overs are bowled in time.

That is a penalty the ICC has had the opportunity to invoke twice in the last twelve months and has failed in its duty. Hence there are still many cases of teams infringing with their over-rates and it remains one of the most pressing problems in the game.

The ICC has to stamp out overtime in the game of cricket when it is caused by slow over rates. It is annoying to the public and just as importantly is the bane of all commercial television networks and the only way to achieve this aim is to penalise the fielding captain because he basically controls the flow of the game.

However, to impose this harsh penalty on tardy captains the ICC has to have its own house in order and at the moment their establishment is in a state of disrepair.

In order to convince international captains that this thoroughfare is a two-way street the ICC has to implement some time saving measures.

Changes that would help captains avoid suspension unless they dawdle at a pace that would leave them in the wake of Inzamam ul-Haq and Sourav Ganguly. These measures would include permanent sightboards with no advertising on them so it doesn’t matter where the bowler is operating from the game isn’t held up.

The placement of rope boundaries at all grounds affords an opportunity for ball boys (or girls) to be employed to ensure a quick return of the ball.

The current crazy law which causes prospective boundaries to be replayed to check if a fieldsman’s leg, hand or torso is touching the rope should be scrapped and a much simpler one written. The game doesn’t need more hold ups and a law that says, “If the ball hits the rope it’s four and if not it’s what the batsmen run,” is all that is required.

In addition to these changes now might be the ideal time to trial a back foot law in One Day cricket with a view to making the meaningless no-ball extinct. While they are at it the officials should also overhaul the leg-side wide interpretation as this often punishes a bowler for a batsman’s incompetence.

With a bit of thought a few more time saving measures could be included to help captains ensure the fifty overs are bowled inside the allotted time.

By making this gesture the administrators would not only display rare leadership they would also demonstrate their determination to clean up one of the biggest blights on the game — bloody boring overtime.

Having made those compromises the officials would then be entitled to demand that any captain who offends should face a lengthy suspension, no questions asked.

Ponting has referred to Brett Lee’s “long run up and long follow through” as being one problem for a captain especially if he bowls “a few wides and no-balls in his ten over spell.”

Hopefully the measures referred to above would eradicate some of those problems and in addition a look at footage of former great Australian all-rounder Keith Miller might provide a solution for the long follow through.

Miller was as intimidating as any fast bowler but he didn’t linger after he had delivered a ball, he immediately turned on his heel and was quickly back to his mark. In the case of his bouncer it looked suspiciously like Miller couldn’t wait to deliver the next one.

However, the biggest player initiated hold ups in the game are drinks constantly being served and interminably long discussions between captain and bowler over field placings.

These are areas where the players need to compromise to meet the officials half-way in an effort to overcome this blight on the game.

When taking wickets becomes a hindrance it’s definitely time to take stock of where cricket is heading. It’s time for a major deviation on over rates with the officials driving the change in direction and the players navigating.

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