There are several changes to the game of cricket that are being talked about in the upper echelons of the cricket world. The International Cricket Council (ICC) is contemplating to remove the culture of flipping the coin—toss. The laws of cricket were first framed in 1544 and since then the toss has been the established way for a team to decide on whether to bat or bowl.
It is the uncertainty of the outcome that make it thrilling and exciting. Removing such a significant part of the game, I feel is most uncalled for, as the toss has a far deeper connotation to it, than what meets the eye.
Flipping the coin is prevalent in nearly every sporting encounter. It is universally accepted and has been in existence for centuries. Cricket with its uncertainties, even a 50 per cent chance of getting a possible advantage due to winning the toss, is what a cricket side looked forward to, for that extra bit of confidence. The feeling of winning the toss is a way to positive thinking. One of the glamourous sights in cricket is to see two leaders, smartly dressed in their country blazer and cap, exchanging pleasantries and the team sheet before the toss. Earlier, the only people present were the two captains, but now the match referee and in International matches the television presenters are part of it Toss is very important for the captain as the walk to the center in any level of the game makes him feel more responsible and establishes him as a leader. In junior and school cricket, it is as prestigious as being the head boy/girl of the school. A cricket captain has an aura which is quite unique and walking out to represent one’s team does make one feel proud.
The reason one feels, why the ICC wants to remove the toss is to avoid home teams preparing a wicket to suit them. There is nothing wrong in doing so, however, the prepared pitch should be of a certain standard. An under-prepared wicket is a concern and the ‘win at all costs’ attitude of the modern game is responsible for local curators to follow the instructions of the men who count. The only way to avoid such a situation at the International and First-class level is to have an independent curator, who should be responsible for the playing strip. This would then remove the influence which the local authorities and cricketers may have in tampering with the wicket and making it suitable for their respective side.
The other change being discussed is to bring in a 100 ball per side limited format. The idea is to shorten cricket matches further and with less change overs. An over will be of 10 balls and can be bowled by three bowlers. Furthermore, suggestion of a 10-overs limited version is also in the pipeline. There are also talks going on that the 20-20 cricket should become of two innings with 10 overs each. One does understand the paucity of time and patience that the young millennial cricket followers and viewers have, but the more we shorten the format the further we go away from what the game of cricket stands for.
The first International cricket match was played between Canada and the United States of America in 1844.
The long-drawn format of a cricket game was acceptable for the life style of an Englishman but was not suitable for the new-found Americans. A game of baseball, shorter, faster and result oriented became the ideal bat and ball encounter for both Canada and America.
Cricket lost its strong hold and the game thereafter, lost its identity completely there. This is what worries one when ideas of shortening the game for commercial purposes is so forcefully and rapidly being pursued. The coffers of the ICC and several cricket playing countries may flourish but the authentic sport called cricket may gradually become a relic of the past.
The ICC and the cricket established countries should play a major part in popularising Test cricket, rather than tinker with the game even further. The day-night Test cricket is a good initiative to draw crowds to the match. India may have refused to play a day-night match in Australia, but that is solely because they are still not comfortable with the idea at present. The ICC should push the teams to play it, or else it will never see the light of day. The One-Day International 50 overs and the 20-20 overs format have now found an identity amongst the cricket followers. Having three formats of the game is more than enough. Introducing new shorter formats and tampering with established ones will just lead to more confusion and chaos.
Change is inevitable but change just for the sake of it is not constructive.
(The writer is a former India cricketer)