Last October, the ICC once again changed the rules of the game, especially in limited overs cricket, in the hope that the pace of the middle overs phase of the game which has been considered a drag is picked up. Though amending the rules, in lieu of the changing demands of the game is fair enough, but doing it frequently can make it really confusing not only for the fans but also the players.
Lot has been made about the new rules, saying it has been once again skewed in favour of the batsmen. In view of that, allowing two bouncers per over is a welcome change. It can test the batsmen, knowing that there can be one more bouncer which can be bowled at them.
The rule to implement two new balls at each end had received a lot of flak, as it would kill reverse swing. It has been in place for more than a year now, and from what I have observed, it seems that conventional swing bowlers have really found this rule to their liking. It would be really interesting to see how the scores have been affected in the first 15 overs due to this change.
One of the biggest changes has been the reduction of fielders outside the 30 yard circle from the traditional five to four fielders. Five fielders outside the circle has been a constant ever since the ODI game has come into inception and it would have taken a lot of thought to modify the rule. This rule has received irk from the captains who have suggested it will be really harsh on the spinners as they won’t have an extra man on the boundary. Their reservations are valid, but I feel one of the advantages with this rule is that the captains are forced to be a bit more attacking. It had almost become a norm that once the powerplay overs were done with, you had captains placing five fielders on the boundary irrespective of the fact that a new batsman had come to the crease. The batsmen were ready to milk the bowlers and get settled and captains were happy to not concede the boundaries due to which some fans have felt that the middle overs were a drag.
With this new rule, the batsmen may have to try more attacking strokes to get runs, which can lead to more wickets. I remember distinctly an ODI in 2006 when Dravid had used the powerplay to get wickets. Pietersen was in one of his belligerent moods, yet Dravid opted to take the powerplay. With the field in, Pietersen probably felt the need to go for one shot too many and in the end he lost his wicket. The decision could have totally backfired, but what it does show here is that once the fielders are in, batsmen can feel the urge to over attack and it can lead to wickets.
I feel this is a positive change, and it can bring in some more positivity from the captains. The only drawback with this rule I feel is how the spinners respond. Will they start bowling flatter or will they toss the ball a lot more to entice the batsmen into a false stroke. Only time will tell.
There are some changes which the ICC have to look into as well due to recent developments, that of Steven Finn. He has a terrible habit of knocking the stumps down during his delivery stride, and it has led to umpires declaring it as a dead ball if the act has been performed repeatedly. It really would be annoying for the batting team if the ball is declared a dead ball when they have hit it for a four or six. It can make a big difference to the result. Probably a bowler can be given a warning, and the next offence can be marked as a no-ball. It is important a rule is created, so as to standardize the decision wherever the game is played.
With the game being heavily in favour of the batsmen, probably there is a case of allowing one bowler to bowl 12 overs instead of the stipulated 10. In the age of heavy bats, flat decks and shorter boundaries, there definitely should be some rules to please the bowlers as well! Whatever said and done, the ICC has to ensure the rules aren’t changed constantly, as it really hard for the followers to keep track of every change being made!