13 August 2019 last updated at 12:32 GMT
Radical change faces Cricket
Wednesday 25 July 2018

Cricket teams could become 12-a-side under radical proposals for the new 100-ball competition being considered by the England and Wales Cricket Board. Under the plan each side would select a team of 12 but only 11 would be permitted to bat and field.


That means one player would be picked purely as a specialist batsman and not take the field during the opposition's innings, similar to baseball's designated hitter, with a specialist bowler or fielder not featuring when his own side were batting.


The proposal would further differentiate the new tournament from the T20 Vitality Blast and existing leagues around the world but would contravene one of cricket's most fundamental tenets, that matches take place between teams of 11, and would be a seismic change to the game.


The concept will shock the cricket fraternity and, following on from last week's confirmation that all overs will be five balls rather than six, is likely to horrify traditionalists.


If the ECB goes through with the proposals, it would not require further approval from the MCC, who have said that the ECB is free to devise its own playing regulations for the competition.


The intention is that switching to a 12-a-side format will increase standards, because the worst batsman and fielder on each team will no longer be required. A move to 12-a-side would encourage teams to select more specialists; for instance, it would be easier for each team to pick five specialist bowlers without jeopardising their batting strength.


The new 12-a-side format could also encourage the development of specialist six-hitters, who did not need to practise fielding and could focus exclusively on developing the physique needed to hit sixes regularly. Similarly, ageing players - especially batsmen - who are no longer proficient fielders could become more attractive to teams in the new competition.


A model for the idea is the designated hitter rule in baseball. This allows teams to use another player - the designated hitter - to bat -instead of a pitcher. The designated hitter, who is selected before a game, does not field. Teams tend to select their worst fielder as the designated hitter, or someone whose injuries make it difficult for them to field; indeed, some prolific batters have been used as designated -hitters throughout their careers.


The rule has been used in the American League, one of the two leagues that make up Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada, since 1973. The designated hitter rule is viewed as the main reason why the American League regularly has more home runs than the National League, which does not use designated hitters.


While cricket has traditionally been an 11-a-side game, the proposals for the new Hundred competition bear some resemblance to the Supersub concept that was introduced in one-day internationals in 2005. Under those rules, each side were permitted to make one substitution during a match; England's Simon Jones was once substituted before he had batted, bowled or fielded during a one-day international against Australia, because England needed to strengthen their batting after a collapse.


The concept was widely unpopular, and failed to encourage all-rounders as the International Cricket Council had hoped. It was quietly dropped in 2006 after a 10-month trial, with Malcolm Speed, then ICC president, saying: "From the feedback we have received from captains and former players it was apparent we should not continue with it."

More recently, domestic competitions around the world - including in Australia and England - have introduced concussion substitutes, with teams allowed to replace a player who has concussion with a like-for-like substitute. But the proposals for 12 players-a-side in the 100-ball tournament would be for tactical reasons.


The ECB is considering other new concepts for the competition. Each of the eight new sides are likely to have general managers, modelled on US sports, charged with maintaining the high performance of the teams, and ultimately hiring and firing the head coaches. The general managers themselves could be accountable to the tournament organisers.

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