In 2001-02, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) was looking down the barrel as far as revenue generation from domestic cricket was concerned. The numbers in the domestic One-day tournaments had started to dwindle in the past few years and the sport needed an injection of freshness.
Something needed to be done. And the bigwigs at the ECB decided to do something about it. Stuart Robertson, who worked as the marketing manager for ECB was chosen to come up with new innovations. Robertson spent around 200,000 pounds on research to find what the fans wanted. He found that fans wanted something fast, something that would pump their adrenaline. Robinson submitted his report stating that a new Twenty20 format had to be devised to bring the fans back to the game.
Despite stern resistance from the purists, the proposal was voted in favour of the tournament with an 11-7 margin. Roberston conceptualized the whole concept and in 2003, the first Twenty20 match was played between Hampshire and Sussex in a tournament named as ‘The Twenty20 Cup’. And, the rest, as they say, is history.
Twenty20 is one of the biggest revolutions that the game has seen in the past 25 years. But it’s not like every concept that has been tried has gone on to become a success. In the past 50 years, there have been a plethora of concepts employed by the ICC that have turned out to be absolute duds.
Here we look at the five experiments that in cricket that proved to be absolute duds:
5. Super Sub
There is something about unpredictably. It excites you. It terrifies you. It makes you curious, longing for more. Life is unpredictable. The number of twists and turns that it takes, always tend to keep you at the edge-of-your-seat. Hence, it becomes a part of us. We want it more. We want it in every reflection of life. And, sports is the closest thing that resembles life.
Take the World Cup final for example. Did anyone of us in our wildest fantasies had imagined that the grand finale of the biggest cricket tournament will end the way it did? No one. What if there was no such concept of Super Over? These concepts add a lot of unpredictability to the game and keep fans hooked. Take the example of Football. The concept of using multiple substitutions throughout a game brings a lot of unexpected twist and turns.
In July 2005, the ICC, in a bid to add a cutting edge to One-day flirted with the idea of a Super Sub. A Super Sub was basically a 12th man which the teams could use in place of a regular player at any stage of the game in any capacity. The rule was basically introduced to encourage teams to give more prominence to all-rounders in the team.
But, here’s the catch: According to the rules, the captains were required to name their Super-Sub before the toss. With the teams choosing a specialist over all-rounders, it led to an unfair advantage for the side that won the toss. The team that won the toss decided to bat/bowl according to the Super-sub they’d chosen, rendering the choice of the losing captain redundant in most cases.
For example, suppose India had opted to select a bowler as their super-sub and then they go on to lose the toss and the opposing captain chooses to bat first, simply because he has also chosen a bowler that could potentially help him defend the target later, their choice is rendered almost nullified.
It almost created a 12 vs 11 situation. The concept was heavily criticized by all captains and the ploy was eventually rolled-back only 9 months after its invention.
4. Super Series, 2005
The Australian side of the late nineties up until the mid-2000s was a sight to behold. Its didn’t really matter where who and which format they played. Test cricket. ODI cricket. In Australia or any part of the world for that matter, they were a ruthless juggernaut masquerading as a cricket team.
In 2005, the ICC decided to cash-in on their dominance and introduced a concept termed as ‘Super Series’ where the who’s who of World cricket will play in a team named: World XI against the Aussies in the latter’s backyard in three ODIs followed by a six-day Super Test.
The World XI was selected by a panel which comprised of former greats like Sunil Gavaskar, Michael Atherton, Sir Richard Hadlee, Sir Clive Lloyd, Jonty Rhodes, and Aravinda de Silva.
But, unfortunately, the World XI squad that boasted of stalwarts like Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara, Virender Sehwag, Inzamam ul-Haq, Jacques Kallis, Andrew Flintoff, Graeme Smith, proved no match to the rampaging Australians in either the One-Days or the six-day Test that followed. The margin of victory across formats read 93 runs, 55 runs, 156 runs, and 210 runs respectively
The original aim was that the Superseries would be played every four years. However, with the paucity of crowds in the stadium coupled by a lacklustre contest led to its premature demise.
3. 45-over split
During the latter stages of the first decade of the 2000s, One-Day cricket was facing a sort of identity crisis. With India winning the inaugural World Twenty20 kickstarting a T20 revolution, on that saw the popularity of the shortest format of the game blow the roof-top.
Questions were being posed at the relevance of the 50-over format and obituaries were being published of its imminent demise. It is at this stage that Cricket Australia came up with a rather radical 45-over split concept in its domestic cricket. According to the concept, both teams were required to play two innings split between 20 and 25 overs. The concept allowed a bowler to bowl a maximum number of 12 overs.
However, the concept was heavily criticized by the Australian players association, spearheaded by the then national team captain Ricky Ponting and was scrapped shortly.
2. The Bowl out
Of-course, The Bowl-out! When you think of the Bowl-out, the mind goes back to that maniac September 14 night of 2007. The mind goes back to Robin Utthapa dosing his cap off in all directions after hitting bulls-eye at the Stumps; mind goes back to Umar Gul landing the bowl behind the stumps and most certainly the mind goes back to those contrasting scenes of absolute ecstasy for India and agony in equal measure for their arch-rivals.
The final scoreline read: India 3- Pakistan- 0. No! It wasn’t Soccer or Hockey; it was cricket. It was the ‘Bowl Out’. Bowl Out was a concept introduced by the ICC in 2006 to resolve a tie-breaker. The first game where the rule was implemented during a New Zealand vs West Indies game with the Kiwis winning the first-ever bowl out.
The rules of the concept were simple. Each side would nominate five bowlers, who would aim at the unprotected stumps, and whichever side dislodged them on the most occasions, will eventually win the tie-breaker. However, the rule came under immense criticism with the likes of Gautam Gambhir arguing that the said concept did not challenge the cricketing skills and is almost like a lottery. Consequently, the concept was replaced by ‘Super Over’ in 2008.
But, what if the Super Over is a tie like we had during the final of the 2019 World Cup? According to the rules, in case the Super-Over also ends in a tie, the team that had scored the most number of boundaries [fours + sixes] in the actual game. As a result of this rule, England was crowned World Champions. The boundary-count rule didn’t go down well with the folklore with fans demanding for multiple Super Overs.
While the ICC hasn’t yet addressed the issue, Cricket Australia has announced that it would employ the use of successive Super Overs to decide the winner in such scenario during its flagship T20 tournament, Big Bash League this season.
Have you come across a video on Youtube from India’s tour of New Zealand in 2002 where Sachin Tendulkar is smashing the bowlers to all corners of the ground? Well! You’d say what’s unusual about it? There are millions of videos of Tendulkar smashing the daylights out of the bowlers on Youtube. And, why wouldn’t they? “The guy has scored more than 30,000 runs and a hundred 100s. He played for more than decades,” you’d say!
But there is something different about that video. On the first impression, it looks like a One-Day game, purely because of the coloured clothing that the teams are wearing and also because Twenty20 was still a year away from its birth. But, one look at the scorecard and your mind goes in a tizzy. And you’re like, “How is a team trailing by ‘x’ number of runs in a One-day match?” Another closer look and you realize that Tendulkar is not only hitting 4s and 6s as he usually does, he is also scoring the 8s and 12s.
This is where Google comes to your rescue and you dig deep to unravel the mystery. Okay! For once let me be your Google. The concept we are talking about here was a brainchild of the Late Great former Kiwi captain, Martin Crowe. Conceived and conceptualized by Crowe in 1996, the Super Max cricket is one of the most innovative concepts this beautiful game has ever seen.
The format of the game involved two teams playing two innings of ten-overs each. It was played on traditional grounds but with one subtle difference. Both sides of the ground had a special ‘Super-Max’ carved out covering the region between long-off and long-on. Basically, every shot that the batsman would hit in the Max-zone, he was rewarded with double-returns. If he’s hit a four in the Max zone, it was considered as ‘eight’ or if he’d stroked a six, it was considered as ‘twelve’.
Other rules of Super-Max cricket-
1. Each side could feature 13 players in their side.
2. The duration of an over was eight balls.
3. There were 4 stumps and 3 bails.
4. Wides were credited as two runs to the batsman on strike.
5. There was no LBW and the next ball after no-ball was considered to be a free-hit.
The format that had perennially appealed to the local New Zealand fans and with an aim to capitalize on their interest, the Super-Max International was staged between New Zealand and India during the latter 2002 tour. And, that aforementioned innings was from that game. Tendulkar cut, pulled, drove and lofted his way to an imperious 72 off 27 balls. However, India went on to lose the game by 21 runs after they failed to chase down 108 in the fourth innings, despite having taken a 10-run lead after the first innings.
But the format, despite the backing and genius planning from Martin Crowe failed to take-off at the International level and was scrapped thereafter.
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