June 26: For an out-of-form Sourav Ganguly, a new rule which will be tried out from next month might be worth a second look.
The International Cricket Council today approved several changes to the rules of one-day cricket to make the game more exciting, one of them being a soccer-style substitution.
Till now, only the bowling side could bring in a substitute, who could only field. The new rule allows a team one substitution while bowling or batting. The replaced player is out for the rest of the game and the substitute can both bowl and bat.
Theoretically, this means a batsman captain in the middle of a lean patch can be on the field to command his players when they bowl and field but pacify critics by taking himself off when the team later comes in to bat.
More important, the innovation is good news for specialist batsmen, bowlers and wicket-keepers who often have to make way for “bits-and-pieces” players.
For instance, a team can bat with seven specialist batsmen (one of whom can keep wickets) and four bowlers ' as India has done so often 'and then replace a batsman with a specialist bowler while fielding. It will not need to get two or three of the batsmen to complete the 10-over quota of the “fifth bowler”.
If a batsman bats too slowly ' like Nayan Mongia did against the West Indies ' the captain can straightaway bring on a substitute.
But though a batsman can be replaced any time, a bowler cannot be substituted in the middle of an over, the council told The Telegraph.
Ganguly will also take heart for another reason: now a captain can make up for initially misreading the pitch by, say, replacing a pacer with a spinner midway.
If a bowler substitutes for another, however, he can only complete whatever is left of the other’s quota, not bowl a full quota of 10 overs himself.
The ICC has also changed the rules relating to field restrictions. The aim is to stop 50-over matches from falling into a familiar pattern during the middle overs, when the bowling side goes on the defensive, allowing batsmen to accumulate singles almost at will.
Currently, not more than two fielders can stand outside the 30-yard circle for the first 15 overs. Now, this restriction will apply for 20 overs ' the first 10 overs plus two blocks of five each to be selected by the fielding captain.
This will make pinch-hitting more tactical. The Shahid Afridis, if not opening, may have to learn to play cautiously for some time while they wait for the fielding captain to call on one of his five-over blocks.
As for the “close-catcher” rule of two players being inside the 15-yard “inner circle”, it will apply only in the first 10 overs instead of the first 15.
The new rules ' recommended by the ICC Cricket Committee, headed by Sunil Gavaskar ' will be on trial for 10 months after they come into effect, possibly on July 30. The committee will review them at its 2006 meeting.
The innovations could also be put on trial during the NatWest Challenge between England and Australia starting on July 7 if both countries’ boards agree.
The council also backed a proposal for a technology trial during the Johnnie Walker Super Series in Australia in October. It allows on-field umpires to consult the TV umpire on anything, though the final decision rests with them.
At present, they could refer to the TV umpire only line decisions (run-outs, stumpings, catches and saves near the boundary) or ask him if a catch had been taken cleanly (but not whether the batsman had got a touch). The final decision is the TV umpire’s. Now they can refer leg-before-wickets and faint snicks, too.