• 12-a-side cricket on the cards

    A bold new variation of white-ball cricket – designed to draw families back to cricket stadiums – is awaiting approval by the ECB.

    The changes being considered by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have the potential to cause heart failure among traditionalists but, in truth, have been well-conceived to add great value to the game and help to improve the standards of cricket among specialist batsmen and bowlers. The major change relates to sides being able to select 12 players to take part in matches that will comprise two 100-ball innings.

    The innovative change proposes that each team can choose a specialist bowler who will not bat, as well as a specialist batsman who will not field. Teams will both only field with 11 players, but this radical shift will allow breathing space for specialists to re-emerge in the age of all-rounders. At present, there is a greater emphasis on bowlers being able to score runs, batsmen being good in the field and being able to turn the arm over.

    Under the proposed new system, teams will effectively be able to field six specialist bowlers as well as six specialist batsmen, or to go with five specialist bowlers and seven specialist batters. Both scenarios would presume that the wicketkeeper is a specialist batsman but, alternatively, teams could field a specialist wicketkeeper and still have six specialist batters and five specialist bowlers at their disposal.

    It’s a tantalising prospect for fans of white-ball cricket and big-hitting action.

    True all-rounders would then, of course, become especially valuable and teams could choose to field seven or even eight specialist batsmen. With only 100 balls available in each innings, the potential for monster scores to be racked up is mind-boggling, although the danger of this version of the game is the impact it might have on Test cricket techniques.

    On the other hand, this format would open up opportunities for fresh-faced fringe players to specialise in the 100-ball game and offer up new talent for the cricket-loving public to enjoy.

    Where the proposal causes greater heart tremors among the elderly members of the MCC is in the proposed change from six-ball overs to five-ball overs. However, cricket has had a multitude of law changes over the years, from bowling underarm in the early days to limiting leg-side fielders, as well as having previously been played with four-ball, five-ball, six-ball and even eight-ball overs.

    Changing to five-ball overs adds one great positive – for both players and spectators – in that it gives bowlers a slight advantage over the batsman. Having one less ball to bowl in an over increases the bowler’s ability to maintain their focus mentally and physically, and in white-ball cricket, bowlers need every advantage they can muster.

    If this proposal is accepted, and if it succeeds in drawing more families to watch at stadiums, then it would truly be a win-win-win scenario for everyone.

    Photo: Nick Wood/ActionPlus/Corbis via Getty Images

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