There is football, where every second of injury time comes as arrears after 90 minutes of the game, often deciding its result. There is Formula 1, where lap timings are recorded up to three or four hundredths of a second to adjudicate winners, and then there is cricket, where captains and players are handed monetary fines and match bans for taking a few minutes longer to bowl the stipulated overs, result notwithstanding.
At a conference in Hong Kong last year, the ICC tightened the rules concerning 'over rates', and many players have been docked already for erring. While Dhoni was made to skip a test and an ODI in Australia, Misbah-ul-Haq has been warned to face the same if he doesn't stick to the rules in the coming 12 months. The threat of the clock and the subsequent banning is a cloud that is on all modern captains, unfortunately Asian more than others.
We wonder what the powers-that-be discussed in that meet, and have little clue what disasters they see if a bowling side takes five-and-a-half minutes more to finish 50 overs (or 90 overs in a test). Agreed, there must be a regard for time in the cricket game for logistical, telecast and well, meteorological reasons. But we see no point in penalising a captain - obviously the man in-charge who could have finished on time - by making him sit out the next game(s). It's the worst possible punishment for any in-form player, robbing the joy of the game away from him and his followers.
We want to ask some more pertinent questions, such as ‘why not penalise the batting team too, for their delays?’ but given that this bizarre threat is here to loom, we shall rather present some equally bizarre solutions, tongue firmly in cheek.
Dear Dhoni and Misbah, the next time you're on the field and feel your team is lagging by three-point-something in 'overs per hour', cut-short all your bowlers' run-ups. Make Zaheer Khan or Wahab Riaz simply roll their arms over after two steps. Then, make sure your extra players, squad members and fans from the crowd if need be, are stationed across the boundary to shoot back the ball the moment it reaches there. And those diving saves to cut-short a certain boundary, chuck them. Ask your fielders to kick the ball in and get on with things!
Those moments when the batsmen ask an opponent player to tie his laces? They must soon be snubbed - no nonsense please. Who knows, this might start a new trend of Velcro-strapped shoes! Also, those mid-over meetings for strategy and damage control can be avoided (and many minutes saved) if the captain and players use sign language and mimes. It will make the game more animated, don't you think, ICC? And as for injuries and changes of equipment, a ban is needed here too. (Substitute runners have already been banned, for real!) The batsman, even if he loses a limb, gets stinky gloves, chips his bat into half or is nearly passing out of thirst, must continue batting. This. Is. Sparta!
Jokes apart, we hope this needless tightening of time doesn't steal from us the small, timeless moments that happen on field every match. And that someone from the powers-that-be is reading this and will raise it at ICC's next annual meet!
(Image Courtest: The Hindu)