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New ODI rules don't excite

July 15, 2005 23:23 IST

As I left Lord's on Sunday evening, I could not help thinking that a lot had changed since my last visit to the ground.

France was no longer the favourite to win the 2012 Olympic bid, London was no more than just a "potential" target for terrorists, poverty was about to become history along with the rest of the world (as global warming continues unabated) and the first law of cricket had been thrown out of the window.

Yes, a lot had changed in eight days since the NatWest final, but a few things seemed to have withstood the test of time: McGrath is still the best bowler around, Lord's is still the worst ground in the world to watch one-day cricket in, and no amount of American sounding terms like Super-subs (Yuck!) and Powerplays (Yuck again!) could make a one-sided One-Day game any more interesting.

The Lord's cricket groundBefore I justify my statements about Lord's, let me discuss the new rules, as they seem to be hottest topic of discussion these days.

According to the ICC, these rules have come into force with the intention of making the One-Day game more interesting. Glad to know that someone has finally admitted they have been dishing out rubbish to unsuspecting fans all along!

Unfortunately, it looks like nothing's about to change any time soon, as the two games played with these new rules have been anything but interesting. It may be early days yet, but I hope the irony is not missed.

To be fair, the new Powerplay rule does add a little bit of excitement and drama to the game, but can hardly be said to breathe life into a one-sided contest. Besides, I don't see any reason to extend the fielding restrictions from 15 to 20 overs. Somehow, the ICC playing committee tends to equate exciting cricket with lots of runs and hence continues to come up with rules that enable batsmen to score more runs with less effort. They only have to look at two games played at Lord's, on June 23 1983 and July 2 2005, to see how wrong they are.

The tussle we see in a one-day game these days is no longer between bat and ball, but between ball and the batsmen-friendly laws. It's only a question of time before there will be a law banning yorkers, and any other potential wicket-taking delivery. After all, who cares about wickets or dot balls, when you can give the audience an overdose of four and sixes!

A quick comment on the trivial matter of the name of this rule before I move on: since it is the fielding captain who is forced to use Powerplay, would it not be better if it was called "PowerlessPlay"? After all, does it not diminish his power to attack the opposition?

The less said about the Super-sub rule, the better. The rule is flawed as it is loaded heavily in favour of the team winning the toss (as if winning the toss wasn't an advantage to begin with). And when Umpire Lloyd used the Basketball style 'Time-out' signal (Yuck three times over!) to signify that McGrath has been replaced by Haddin, the full impact of this rule sunk in; if the Aussies were to be 9 down with 4 to win, we would not see McGrath, being booed by 30,000 spectators, trying to win the game against all odds. Now, I don't approve of booing, but give me that sight any day over seeing a batsman walk in trying to win or lose the game from that position.

The NatWest final was even more exiting because it was the likes of Giles and Gough battling it out against Lee and McGrath. Replace them with the likes of Peitersen and Solanki, and the game would have lost some of its edge and charm.

Bottom line, the tail-ender has been an integral part of cricket, and I fail to see how replacing him makes the game any more exciting.

The debate on these laws is likely to continue until the ICC playing committee meets again in 10 months' time. I am sure monotony will have set in the one-day game and the batsmen will be struggling to make 400 runs in 50 overs.

What then? Bring on Powerplay 4, 5 & 6! And extend the super-sub rule to Test cricket, the sight of McGrath walking at the Eden Gardens trying to save a Test match be damned!

After all, exciting cricket is all about fours and sixes, or so thinks a committee headed by none other than Sunil Gavaskar. Irony, anyone?

Like I said, some things stand the test of time, and the ICC's inability to govern the game properly is high up there.

Enough about the new laws and the ICC; back to the cricket at Lord's.

I apologize if my earlier statement conveyed the impression that Lord's is a boring place to watch cricket. There is an aura, a sense of history as you walk into Lord's that no other ground can achieve. People can question its claim of being the epicentre of cricket today, but few can deny its claim of being the birthplace of the game we all love.

While Lord's is a bit unimpressive from the outside (you could go around it five times and still miss it), the sight inside is anything but. The Pavilion is majestic, the new Media centre is breathtaking and the playing field flawless. Give me a day of Test cricket at Lord's any day, but when it comes to One-Day cricket, it falls short.

No, I did not die of boredom while watching the One-day games at Lord's, but something was missing. And I am not comparing it with cricket on the subcontinent or the Caribbean. All you have to do is cross the Thames and go down to the Oval to understand what I mean.

The decibel levels of the spectators fall way short of what one expects in one-day cricket and the absence of banners and drums does not help. Maybe the aura and history of the ground intimidate the spectators, forcing them to behave differently or, maybe, quite simply, Lord's was never meant to play host to pyjama cricket.

It does not mean I will not go to watch One-Day cricket at Lord's again. I have enjoyed all the games I have watched there, with three of the four games having been very exciting. (The first game and the subsequent game of the 2003 NatWest series, and the 2005 NatWest final last week.) After all, a 75% record of exciting games is more than what one can expect with one-day cricket these days, so I will take my chance next year and go to Lord's to watch Pakistan take on England in another meaningless one-day game.

Since a lot has changed in eight days, I am sure lot more will change in one year. I hope during that period common sense prevails, and the first law of cricket is restored and cricket is back to being "a game of eleven players".

Even if this does not happen, I am too much of a fanatic to let silly terms like Powerplay and Supersubs come in the way of my passion for the game.

As long as there is an opportunity to watch "bat on ball", I will be watching!

Saurabh Wahi