Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Oval Test forfeit

Draft of letter published in The Wisden Cricketer October 2006

The umpires job is difficult, but should not be made impossible. He must apply laws specifically, and not be influenced by the potential interacting ramifications of each decision.

Even when laws are applied consistently, there will conflicts between short- and long-term benefit: this is intrinsic to all laws. But when laws are applied rigorously then people can predict the consequences of their actions. We now know that when a team refuses to play they will forfeit the match; and this will ensure it never happens again.

Darryl Hair stuck-to the law in the face of massive personal pressure, which makes him the hero of this affair.

Bruce Charlton, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

The bowler's 'knuckleball'

There are many similarities between bowling and baseball pitching, including the right-hander's curveball (off-spinner) and screwball (leg-break); but so-far there is no cricketing equivalent of the mysterious 'knuckleball'.

Knuckleballs are thrown off the fingertips with no spin, at the pace of a slow or slow-medium paced bowler. Air turbulence makes the ball flutter and wobble unpredictably in its trajectory. A slow bowler might replicate the effect by holding the ball lightly across the seam with fingers spread, cocking the wrist and bowling a very full length.

A bowled-knuckler could be ideal for the 'death' stage of a one-day match. Indeed, the nearest thing yet may have been Adam Hollioake's highly-effective floated-up slower delivery; which had zero-spin, a transverse seam and was maddeningly difficult to hit.

Cut-and-choose One Day toss

Losing the toss often inflicts too great a disadvantage in one day cricket, especially for a team batting first on dewy morning grass or second under lights.

Instead, the toss should be a 'cut-and-choose' system: the loser cuts, the winner chooses.

For instance, the losing captain might be allowed to deduct up-to 5 overs from either innings. He would offer this 'cut' to the winning captain, who chooses when to bat.

Clearly, there is a strong incentive for the losing captain to divide the innings such that the winning captain does not gain advantage by his choice.

This should reduce the number of unexciting, and unfair, one-day games.

Corruption in cricket

In all the discussions of international cricket policy I have never seen due recognition of the fact that test-playing nations vary widely in their degree of bureacratic corruption.

According to authoritative surveys by Transparency International over many years, the cricketing nations include the most corrupt in the world (Bangladesh, equal worst with Chad), middling ones (eg. South Africa), and some of the least corrupt (eg. New Zealand - joint second best after Iceland).

[Reference: Integrity and corruption, Oct 20 2005]

Since corruption is defined as 'abuse of public office for private gain', it would be surprising if cricket administrators were exempt from their societal norms.

Note: This is the most recent corruption perceptions index 2006 - from I list the main international cricket playing nations.

Least corrupt nation is 1 (jointly Finland, Iceland and New Zealand), most corrupt is 163 (Haiti).

1. New Zealand
9. Australia
11. UK
24. Barbados
51. South Africa
61. Jamaica
70. India
79. Trinidad and Tobago
84. Sri Lanka
130. Zimbabwe
142. Kenya &
142. Pakistan
156. Bangladesh

Legalize weak-throwing to promote the doosra

Original draft of letter published in The Wisden Cricketer February 2006

There are two kinds of throwing which bowlers can engage in: strong-throwing and weak-throwing.

Strong-throwing is when the palm of the hand faces the batsman at the moment the ball is released. It is used to generate extra surprise pace, and is generally regarded as unfair and potentially dangerous.

Weak-throwing has the back of hand facing the batsman at the moment of release. This allows the finger spinner to bowl a doosra (and top-spinner) more easily and effectively. Many people, especially in the South Asian cricketing nations, regard weak-throwing as a fair delivery.

I suggest that weak-throwing (with back-of hand facing batter) should be permitted by the laws of cricket in order to encourage the doosra and maintain spin bowling as an important part of the game, while strong-throwing should remain illegal.

Bruce Charlton, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK