The ICC cricket committee has decided to introduce some more new rules into one-day cricket, which, many thought, were becoming very predictable. First, one substitute would be allowed, who, like in soccer, can replace a player of the playing XI any time during the match. When I think of its impacts, this is what I get:
The current scenario:
A few substitutes are allowed, who can do only fielding. Usually you get some athletic fielders coming in place of sluggish ones, especially in the second innings. Most teams choose 4 bowlers, a wicket keeper and 6 batsmen, two of whom can bowl reasonably well. So, a genuine alrounder gives many good choices to his captain. Teams such as South Africa and Pakistan go in sometimes with only 3 regular bowlers, with players like Kallis or Afridi or Razzaq being good enough to bowl 10 reasonably good overs. More the alrounders, better. Rarely do teams choose 5 specialist bowlers, as in case of what India did for the TVS cup final in 2003 (which we lost, failing to chase a reasonable score).
What would the rule do to the teams?
The teams would announce the playing 12 before the toss. The team batting first would go in with 7 batsmen and the bowler with least batting capability (such as McGrath in Australia or Ntini in South Africa or Sami in Pakistan or Harmison in England) would be the 12th man. The fielding side would go in with 5 specialist bowlers and one of the batsmen would sit out. He could be (a) least athletic and/or (b) most precious batsman, but having a minor injury and/or (c) worst support bowler.
How does it affect the quality?
The effect of an alrounder would be surely lowered. In addition, players such as Shane Watson and S Sriram, who are more of utility players with both bat and ball, would not be considered. They would be replaced by better batsmen and better bowlers. So, the quality of cricket for the entire 50 overs would be surely better. A fifth bowler or sixth bowler, who operates in the middle order is not usually serious or not taken seriously.. that would change..
So , I would prefer the super-sub to be a bowler, who will remove the 'weak link' in the team, viz. the fifth bowler.
How will the teams look like?
Let us see two examples, the world cup finalists.
Aus – Batsmen: Gilchrist, Hayden, Ponting, Martyn, Symonds, Clarke, and Hussey; Bowlers – Lee, McGrath, Gillespie, Kasprowicz, Hogg. 12th Men: Batting – McGrath; Fielding – Martyn.
Imagine an Aus bowling line-up with all the four fast bowlers and Hogg, backed up by Symonds and Clarke..
India – Batsmen: Sachin, Sehwag, Dhoni, Ganguly, Dravid, Yuvraj, Kaif; Bowlers – Zaheer, Bhajji, Balaji, Murali Karthik, Nehra /Pathan. 12th Men: Batting – Nehra or Bhajji. Fielding – Dravid or Sachin.
So, overall, the new 'substitute' rule is sure to make one-dayers more interesting.. Anything can happen anytime.. uncertainity is increased.. Quality would go up.. Some players would get some much needed rest. Bits-and-pieces players would be compelled to go either way - either become specialists or alrounders or perish..
About the other rule on the fielding restrictions, watch out this blog in the near future.