Mon | Sep 16, 2019

Akshai Mansingh | ICC cut dem nose fi spite dem face

Published:Saturday | February 9, 2019 | 1:05 AM
West Indies’ John Campbell plays a shot for four runs during day one of the first Test match against England at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados on Wednesday, January 23, 2019.

Cricket has tried to modify itself in the interest of spectator excitement. One of the most monumental changes must have been moving from timeless Tests (when teams played till one won) to five-day Tests. One recalls hearing of the West Indies versus England match in Jamaica being called off in 1930 after nine days as the English would have missed their ship back home. Limiting the number of fielders on the leg side behind the umpire was a way to stop negative bowling as was negating LBW if the ball pitched outside leg stump.

Time wasting was considered ‘gamesmanship’ when employed by a few but was then relegated to ‘unsporting behaviour’ when adopted by all. A minimum of 20 overs were mandatory in the last hour of the fifth day to prevent this, though it did not stop players from dropping their pants at the crease on occasion.

This was then superseded by a minimum of 90 overs per day to ensure that spectators got their money’s worth. Or so it was said. That rule coincided,curiously, with the West Indies finding a sustainable formula of winning with four fast bowlers. Even the two bouncers per over rule (which has been negated with the helmet) has been introduced supposedly in the interest of the game.

All innovations and variations were for the stakeholders – players and spectators. To keep series alive even when the rubber was decided, a ranking system was introduced. This also linked the autonomous series into a real “world series”.

With all these good intentions, one wonders where they could come up with the idea of banning the captain for two breaches of slow over rates within a year without scrutiny. I am sure that if these breaches were for purposely delaying a game it would be appreciated.

But when it has no bearing on the result of the game, it is ludicrous. In the space of a month we have seen two incidents where this has been shamefully enforced.

Following South Africa’s victory in the second Test against Pakistan in just over three days in January, their captain, Faf Du Plessis, was banned for his second breach in a year.

Holder suffers same fate

Last week, West Indian Captain Jason Holder suffered the same fate in spite leading his team to victory within three days. In both cases of the series had been decided by victories in the second Test, but supposed they had not?

Can you imagine going into the third Test in St Lucia, tied at 1-1 and no Jason Holder, the top all rounder in the world?

Through some warped logic all Cricket Boards (including the West Indies) signed off on this rule in the interest of what? Certainly not the spectators. Certainly not the points on the ranking system.

In an era where Test cricket is losing its appeal and needs to reinvent itself, depriving spectators and the viewing public of seeing top players in action demands an explanation.

What are they trying to prove, and who are they trying to prove it to? This is by no means the first instance of a captain being banned. Why haven’t the administrators rectified it?

Pretty soon teams will name a different captain in each Test to counter this rule unless something is done soon. Not bowing to spectator interest, maybe the sponsors need to speak up.

The ICC would be better served educating the youth on how to enjoy Test cricket. On how each session of play is like a minimatch which amalgamates into a match by the end.

The last few months has had as good a run of Test Cricket as any other. Now is the time to advertise the virtues of the game.

Unfortunately, in this instance, the ICC has cut their nose to spite their face.