OPINION: The proposed new rules for the game are simply just not cricket
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Don’t you just love a Facebook
It is a throwback to a time when most likely you were living your best life. It’s appreciated even more so now during lockdown when life has come to a virtual standstill due to Covid-19.
My timeline was flooded this week with “memories” of #CWC19. Exactly 12 months ago I boarded a flight for London’s Heathrow via Doha. Although the Proteas’ performance at #CWC19 was unspectacular to say the least, it did not detract from my experience and enjoyment of watching the best cricketers in the world do battle for close on two months in England.
I now regard it as a privilege for nobody knows when an event of such magnitude will be held again. The next scheduled ICC tournament is the T20 World Cup to be held in Australia in a few months' time, but the signs are not promising that it will indeed go ahead with the ICC’s board of executives postponing their decision to June 10.
While extremely cognisant of the health-related risks attached to it, there is also a great desire to get our beloved game going again. That’s each and every stakeholder concerned. For some, like me, it directly affects our livelihood.
There are daily zoom meetings - the new norm - being held across the world involving cricket associations, health officials and governments to formulate a safe plan going forward.
The emphasis here is on the word “safe”. Numerous suggestions have been put forward with the most common at the moment being the creation of a “bio-bubble” that intends to provide a sanitised environment where cricket can be played.
Indian great Rahul Dravid believes the bio-bubble may not even be a viable solution, saying: “In case of the bio-bubble, you do all the testing and quarantine and then on day two of the Test match, what if one player, for example, tests positive? What happens then?”
The process, though, has to be initiated much like Germany’s Bundesliga has done by playing football in empty stadiums.
I support every motion that will assist in getting the game under way again in a safe and secure environment. The temporary use of home umpires instead of neutral umpires makes complete sense. One-Day Internationals and T20s are already officiated solely by home umpires.
The widespread availability of technology via the Umpire Review Decision System should cancel out any fear of home bias. The fact that the ICC have implemented a system where every team will get an additional review per innings no matter the format vindicates the decision even more. Common sense has prevailed, thereby limiting extra international travel and costs.
The same ICC committee recommended that sweat can be used to shine the ball, but saliva cannot. While this is understandable in the current situation, we are beginning to enter murky territory.
Bowlers have already complained for years about being marginalised - that the modern game favours only batsmen in regards to rules and regulations and have petitioned that “ball tampering” be legalised.
Already leading bowlers such as Australia’s Mitchell Starc have declared that not being able to shine the ball using saliva will lead to “boring cricket”.
“If they’re going to take away a portion of maintaining the ball there needs to be that even contest between bat and ball, otherwise people are going to stop watching and kids aren’t going to want to be bowlers. There are some pretty flat wickets and if that ball is going straight it’s a pretty boring contest.”
Maybe it’s a case of that or nothing at all. What is that saying about the new norm again?
My concern, though, is that in the rush to get back to bowling, batting and fielding in the outdoors that the game’s entire structure may be lost.
If this sounds naive that the entire game may be lost anyway if the return is not hastened, then maybe I am not privy to the exact amount of rands, pounds, dollars and rupees being lost every time a series is being cancelled.
I will stress once more that the safety of everyone related to the sport is of paramount importance.
But when new “rules” are being discussed relating to possibly the wicketkeeper standing 5m back from the stumps when a spinner bowls and the slips all stand 2m apart to adhere to physical distancing, that’s simply just not cricket.