Of DRS and Runners
It seems that ICC's appetite for controversies is growing on a daily basis. Being cricket's apex authority, it has perfected another art in addition to governance that keeps the fans amused. The art of hitting headlines courtesy confused and controversial decisions. The love affair keeps on growing. One after another, ICC is giving cricket's batting maestros a run for their monies with its own masterstrokes.
I won't go deep and limit myself to discussing two recent instances only that have generated much debate to the point of giddiness.
First, its vacillating view on DRS that pitted it against the member cricketing nations barring BCCI has led many to suggest whether it is becoming a slave to BCCI's economic might.
Its unequal attitude towards the implementation of the ball tracking technology raised many eyebrows that subsequently led to a variety of arguments and counter-arguments. The clause of ‘mutual consent’ that dictated as to whether DRS would be implemented or not in a bilateral series created much confusion.
What that meant was in effect any bilateral series involving India would be deprived of DRS technology since it had reservations regarding the same.
Apart from this, the sensitive nature of technology owing to its military significance would also result in country-specific formalities and hurdles.
However, better sense prevailed when ICC's chief executive committee met in Hong Kong and unanimously agreed on mandatory implementation of technology sans ball tracing but with audio-tracking devices and infra-red cameras i.e. using ‘Snickometer’ and ‘Hot Spot’ technology respectively.
It seemed as if the monkey was finally off the back, but what ICC failed to take into account was the cost of implementing ‘Hot Spot’ technology. Not every cricket board in the world is blessed with the money that the top four or five cricketing nations have. Provided that the host nation agrees to foot the bill, the system would be put in place for a specific series.
BCCI did agree to the implementation of the technology in the meeting but it seems that it has drawn a lot of concessions in lieu of giving its approval.
Consider this; India won't be hosting Bangladesh or Zimbabwe for a Test or ODI series until 2020. It is another fact that India have never hosted Bangladesh in a bilateral series since they got their Test status in 2000. Maybe BCCI does not consider them to be a lucrative prospect in terms of money, sponsorship, eyeballs, considering their minnow’s status.
Who can dismiss this as not being a favour?
Future Tour Programme also provides a window for IPL in April and May along with Champions League Twenty20 in September that will allow most nations to make their best players available for both the tournaments, which again would be a least concern to anyone else but BCCI.
How much ICC is subservient to BCCI can be gauged by the recent comments that former West Indian great Michael Holding made against the influence of BCCI. “They (BCCI) have too much power. I do not believe that any country should be able to dictate to the rest of the world.”
In short, Holding called BCCI the real power that runs the sport that ideally, ICC ought to be.
No Runners Anymore
Another significant decision that resulted in one of the most endearing, often amusing but nevertheless, a distinguishing feature of cricket as a sport coming to an end was scrapping of runners.
The argument behind this was its abuse at the hands of batsmen. I agree with that. An on-field umpire is not in a position to judge whether a batsman is limping because of some injury or just making it out so as to get an advantage.
Well, apart from preventing potential unfair exploitation of rule; this has also deprived a genuine case with an option to fight even when chips are down. This is unseen in other sports be it football or tennis where once injured a player is substituted. But the option of not having a runner would rob a player to display grit in unfavourable times.
Some are suggesting it was unequal to bowlers. How? If a bowler gets injured, he can still bowl provided he is willing to do so but if he injures his leg or bowling arm then how in the world do you think he will continue? A batsman can continue so by taking the help of a runner if he decides to continue in the event of an injury. How can a bowler’s inabilities to bowl resulting from injury is comparable to a batsman employing the services of runners?
You would say it is unfair for the fielding side. But the fielding side gets an option to replace an injured fielder from reserves. Doesn't it? So how is this unfair?
At most, ICC could have limited the usage of a runner subject to an extraneous injury and disallowing it in the event when it was demanded because a batsman got tired after playing a long innings.
Abolishing it altogether was a bit harsh as Indian batsman Yuvraj Singh said in an interview.
In the world of Formula 1, drivers get opportunities to replace their corroded tyres, so that they have a fresh set and can continue their race. ICC's decision to do away with runners is like barring the drivers from changing their tyres, forcing them to continue on the eroded ones.
The time that a driver takes while changing tyres can make differences in his race timings. ICC could have taken a leaf out of Formula 1 and could have modified their rules for using the runners. But instead of brainstorming, they decide to do away with it altogether.
Like they say, life is not perfect and neither is the game of cricket and its governors. Maybe better sense prevails but till then, hope that ICC does away with amusing us with its topsy-turvy decisions.