Toss the Super Sub back into the mix

Given that the Cricket Committee is happy to regularly fine-tune the powerplay structure, the rapidity with which it dumped the Super Sub innovation, and has steadfastly refused to reconsider it, is surprising.

Updated: June 08, 2012 12:45 IST
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There's no other sport where rules are tinkered with as often as they are in cricket, of that there is little doubt.

Every year, the wise men that constitute the International Cricket Council's Cricket Committee come up with recommendations aimed at making the sport more interesting and appealing to a wider audience. Invariably, much of their focus is on the 50-over game, sandwiched as it is between the traditional, unshakeable Test match version and the rapidly growing upstart that the Twenty20 format is.

Almost without fail, the powerplay comes under intense scrutiny. This year, the Cricket Committee has recommended the abolishing of the bowling powerplay and completion of the batting powerplay by the 40th over, apart from suggesting that in the non-powerplay overs, no more than four fielders be outside the 30-yard circle.

The recommendation that two bouncers be allowed in an over must be music to the ears of the faster bowlers, who have hitherto been forced to resort to changes of pace for the most part despite the fact that as of last year, two balls are being used in a 50-over innings.

The lack of context when it comes to One-Day Internationals is one of the primary reasons why the Cricket Committee is forced to dig deep to keep it a visually appealing spectacle that doesn't drive the fans away. The World Cup in the subcontinent last year reiterated that the 50-over game can hold its own; whether, against this backdrop, a five-match series between England and Australia next month will help the cause of 50-over cricket is debatable, but that's another matter altogether.

Given that the Cricket Committee is happy to regularly fine-tune the powerplay structure, the rapidity with which it dumped the Super Sub innovation, and has steadfastly refused to reconsider it, is surprising. Cricket, of course, is an 11 v 11 contest. The Super Sub introduced the possibility of a 12th playing member from each side which, it could be argued, goes against the very grain of the sport.

Saying that, at any given point, it was still an 11 v 11 face-off. The Super Sub was a nominated 12th man who could replace any member of the original 11 during a match. The replaced player could take no further part in the game. As a concept, it was pregnant with possibilities. However, the one-year experiment showed up the futility of a nominated Super Sub in the event of the loss of the toss.

In no other sport does chance, which is what the spin of the coin is, have as much of a say as it does in cricket. While the toss can never been the decisive factor, in several conditions it can significantly influence the outcome of a contest. To lose the Super Sub because of the loss of the toss - as happened in most instances - was a massive blow. Indeed, in some instances, it did appear a 12 v 11 contest in favour of the team winning the toss.

At one stage, when the Super Sub option was in vogue in the 2005-06 season, India often nominated him assuming that they would lose the toss. That defeated the very purpose of having the additional option to fall back on, and it didn't take long for the Cricket Committee to decide that the Super Sub wasn't adding any value to the one-day game.

Why not, then, allow the teams to nominate the Super Sub after the toss? There will still a designated playing XI that the captains exchange at the toss. Once the coin settles, the captains could then name their respective Super Subs in the presence of the match referee, thereby ensuring that neither side feels short-changed and that both teams can use their Super Subs effectively.

A few traditionalists did scoff at the Super Sub idea when it was first introduced, but it's not as if they have embraced the Twenty20 game whole-heartedly or are in favour of day/night Tests that could be a reality in the not too distant future. If the exercise is to liven up the 50-over format, then any step in that direction must be welcome. The Cricket Committee has done a fair bit to keep ODIs competitive and interesting. Maybe, a rethink on the Super Sub will not be such a bad idea, either.

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