Regardless of the views many Almanac readers and writers have about the shortest form of the game of cricket, it is beyond doubt that it is a major financial contributor to the business of cricket that cannot be ignored.
Whether we like it or not, local and international games in Australia are drawing large crowds both in person and on TV. Further, the actions of the BCCI in planning a radical overhaul of international cricket, through the body that currently is charged with administering it, should show that the power rests in India, where the shortest form of the game is strong.
T20 is both a major source of revenue to world cricket, and a source of significant income to the players. As a result, it is fanciful to think that either group would want to see the product diminished or diluted.
The power and money that it generates cannot be underestimated.
However, if the game in this form is here to stay, is it reasonable that the traditional laws of cricket are in place for it? T20 is evolving at a rapid pace, tactically and strategically, and whilst it is tempting to see that the ‘close your eyes and slog’ form of planning is all that is involved, a quick listen to the commentary of Ricky Ponting, in particular, and Mike Hussey shows that there’s more to it than that.
With that in mind, there are, I’d argue, three laws of the game that I believe should initially be re-considered specifically for T20 cricket, as these laws haven’t kept up to date with how T20 is being played.
Catching – whilst T20 lends itself to hitting a six more than Tests or even ODIs, the shorter boundaries, multitude of grounds clambering to host matches (which may not be at Test or usual cricket standard or size) and heavier bats mean that hits over the boundary are becoming common place. Therefore, is it reasonable that as the fielding side has a smaller area to operate in, catches still have to be taken inside the rope?
I’d argue that if you shorten the ground continually, and make the boundary artificial rather than permanent, a catch taken inside the field of play, even if the player continues outside the field of play after catching it, should be considered. At the pace the ball is going, it doesn’t seem reasonable that a player with increasingly limited areas to work in should be restricted to having to be inside the rope for these dismissals. As long as both feet are inside the rope and on the ground (ie. the field of play) when the ball is deemed to be under control, even if the momentum takes a player over the rope, I would still advocate it being seen as a catch in T20.
Wides – a feature started in ODIs but becoming common in T20 is a batsman backing away from his stumps, usually towards square leg, to give himself space to play shots on the offside, including the reasonably common ‘inside-out’ shot over cover. However, any delivery that goes behind the batsman’s back is called a wide. I am glad to see that common sense has meant that a delivery that sees a player back away and miss a ball that goes between him and his leg stump isn’t called a wide, but with ramp shots, flicks to fine leg and batsmen moving around as the bowler is about to deliver happening a lot, is it fair that a delivery that barely shaves the leg stump and cleverly restricts the batsmen from playing a slog shot and reminds him to play off his hip, is called a wide?
More so, if a batsman moves when a bowler is about to deliver, and the bowler follows him by bowling down the leg side (or where he believes the batsman is moving towards), if the batsman then assumes a normal batting position, why does that ball become a wide? I would argue that a wide down the leg side should have nearly the same area to be considered legitimate or illegitimate as it does on the offside, and/or any delivery that still enables a batsmen to play a legitimate leg side shot, is a fair delivery.
LBW – this is more controversial and slightly more technical, but in short, a right handed batsman playing a switch hit (i.e. changing mid delivery or whilst the ball is coming towards him, and in theory becoming a left hander, as opposed to just playing a reverse sweep) should be for that ball considered by the umpire a left hander for the purposes of LBW appeals.
I have no issue with the batsman attempting something quite difficult facing a ball delivered at speed to give himself an advantage and exploit the field to suit himself. However, that cannot be done without any fear of potential reprisals if he mucks it up and is struck on the pad. If a right hander is becoming a left hander, mid delivery, then the consideration of an LBW appeal, and what constitutes pitching in or outside of the line, and where it would go after striking the batsman, must be reviewed. At present, apart from trying to get power into an unorthodox shot and the risks associated with playing it, the batsman has protection that I don’t believe he deserves. If he abrogates his right to be seen as a right hander (if he is) for a delivery, the law should treat him as a leftie for that delivery.
A counter argument has traditionally been that bowlers don’t nominate what they will bowl from one delivery to another, so why should a batsman nominate how he will bat. Fair enough. But bowlers have to nominate what hand they will bowl with and on what side. A batsman doesn’t have to nominate ahead what shot he’ll play or how, but if he switches, I believe he loses some rights in how he is seen for that delivery.
No doubt there are potentially other rules that could be applied to only the shorter form of the game that don’t impact Test or first-class cricket. Already, for example, the time a batsman has to get to the crease is much shorter in T20 than in Tests.
However, as T20 evolves, and people try to get an advantage over their opposition, the administrators of the game must also take into account the multitude of differences between Test and First Class cricket and T20 in making the decisions about the game itself.