Out of The Box

New Delhi:

All of a sudden, cricket is jumping out of the box because of creative innovations, a process sparked by the ICC when it took a big leap to jazz up one-day cricket. The rejig meant introducing power plays and super subs, changes designed to pep up a boring phase when players gently knocked the ball into gaps around instead of smashing it out of the ground.

Both changes turned out to be duds, silly no-balls, which did not speed up action or advance the game tactically. Instead, they added confusion and gifted an unfair advantage to the team winning the toss.

No wonder this triggered a loud chorus from captains and experts that these rules be junked forthwith, a demand, which shows the ICC is not on the ball and divorced from ground reality. Obviously there is a serious disconnect between theory and practise, between past wisdom and current knowledge.

Hopefully, this fiasco will dim the enthusiasm of reformers, people will now think hard before wanting to abolish leg-byes, doing away with the toss, allowing rotating substitutes, permitting one bowler to bowl beyond his normal allowance of ten overs.

Unlike failed out of the box thinking, 20-20 is a big hit, it scores ten on ten on the popularity index. Purists may frown or suffer cardiac arrests but the people love it. In a social situation where time is scarce, 20-20 delivers quick action even though critics crib that this is more entertainment than sport.

Interestingly, this innovation comes from England, normally so sensitive about protecting tradition, because economics prevailed over sentiment and regardless of one’s preference, cash makes sense. But India refuses to touch 20-20, scared this will become a cancer, a development that could swamp established cricket.

With laptop-clutching coaches manufacturing ingenious solutions to old issues, out of the box thought has profoundly affected on-field strategy. Already, because of this epidemic, the conventional batting order has been rejected, tossed away, permanently junked. In the Indian team, for instance, promising middle order players, rooted to their positions earlier, are now upwardly mobile – Pathan is not a pinch hitter but opener, Dhoni an option at five, Dravid an allrounder, keeper one day, number one or four in the batting order the next. In this new arrangement, players are no different from paploos in a card game, the hero is also a character artiste, every batsman is a flexible option capable of filling any slot.

Unfortunately, the selectors haven’t fully adjusted to this changed mindset, they remain trapped in yesterday’s thinking. When Jaffer was added to the Indian squad we were told a trained opener was required, but a team management that thought out of the box defeated this move, they simply had no use for him. Jaffer went to Lahore and like a good tourist visited Bagh-I-Jinnah and the Food Street.

In cricket, change is inevitable, and desirable. And the beauty is what appears out of the box and weird today becomes normal tomorrow. Ultimately, the box wins. Whatever, or whoever, jumps out, comes back. Family life is an encroachment on private life Karl Kraus.

Mathur is the former Media Manager of BCCI