Thursday, Jul 18, 2002
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That the International Cricket Council (ICC) rejected the Test captains' demand for a reduction in the number of Tests and ODIs leaves me disappointed. The decision appeared harsh, to say the least.
The captains not only represent the sentiments of the players, but their views also reflect the mood in their respective nations. And the ICC just brushed aside their appeal.
These busy international schedules take a heavy toll on the cricketers' bodies and apart draining them emotionally. In fact, only days ago, this column focussed on this specific topic.
One of ICC's primary jobs is to protect the interests of players, for if the cricketers are jaded and burnt-out, it will affect the other aspects of the game, including commercial interests, such a dominant force today.
The players are, after all, human beings and not robots. They do need to spend a few more weeks with their families. At least on humanitarian grounds, the ICC should have agreed to the captains' wish.
They could have put off the decision by a few days or months, and bought more time, instead of rejecting the demand outright. Maybe the ICC is acting tough, but it also ensured that the captains left the meeting a wounded lot.
Here, I would like to dwell on the playing conditions for the ODIs. Last year, I had attended an ICC meeting in London, where changes in the playing conditions, for both Tests and ODIs, were discussed.
I had suggested that instead of having field restrictions during the first 15 overs of an ODI, they could be spread into three batches of five, that could be used by the captain at any point of time during the innings.
This will surely add to the contests in terms of strategy and intelligence, apart from making it more flexible. Now, we more or less know than the batting side, if the conditions aren't too bad, would be close to 80 by the 15-over mark.
In fact, Allan Border also came up with an innovative idea. Of the captain having the right to name the eleven from the twelve, after the toss. This will definitely increase a side's options; i.e., if a team knows it is batting first, then it might opt for a second spinner.
It is crucial too that the ODIs are played on sporting wickets and not on pitches totally favouring the batsmen. No doubt, the spectators love to see plenty of strokeplay, but they also respond positively to aggressive, wicket-taking bowling, such a key element of any game. The battle between the bat and the ball, in any form of the game, should never be lop-sided.
Finally, the BCCI decision to include the hero of the NatWest Trophy triumph, Mohammed Kaif, and Dinesh Mongia in the Indian Test squad sends the right message to the youngsters. That their performances are being recognised. Even if they do not actually make it to the Test eleven, they are sure to gain from the experience, with so many tour games around.
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