Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Eight ball overs

I would like to see eight balls in an over, instead of six.

This used to be the case in Australia, apparently, but I must admit I have never seen a match with eight balls in an over. My reasons for thinking it would be better are purely theoretical.

1. Eight balls would divide the match up into more significant units. The appeal for me is when a bowler and a batter are engaged in a 'duel' - when eight balls allows a bowler more scope for 'setting-up' the batter with a sequence of deliveries: for example a series of away swingers followed by an inswinger - or a mixture of leg-breaks and googlies, or short pitched deliveries followed by a yorker. The six ball over allows this kind of thing to only a limited extent.

2. Eight ball overs would save time, by redcuing the number of changes between overs. This would be a particular advantage in one day and Twenty20 matches.

3. I think eight ball overs would increase the advantage of a good bowler - because the batters couldn't get away from him for an extra two balls, and batters would forfeit more runs to play purely defensively to a good bowler.

But eight ball overs would be much harder to negotiate for a poor bowler. A poor bowler (for example a change bowler, or part-timer) might give away a very large number of runs in eight balls, more than an extra 33 percent, because the batter could afford to use-up two or three balls as a sighters, then still have time to hit boundaries off the next three or four deliveries. A canny captain would be taking a big risk in 'slipping-in' an over from a part-timer: he might well risk giving up a dozen or twenty runs.

4. So - I think that good bowlers would perform better with eight ball overs, while poor bowlers would do worse. This would be a good thing, I think, rewarding excellence in both bolwers and batters. Overs would tend to be more extreme - probably more low-scoring overs where the bowler dominated but also more high scoring overs where the batter 'took the bowler apart'.

5. In other words, to return to my original point, each over would have more the characteristics of a 'game within a game'. This is an aspect of baseball which I enjoy - the way that sometimes an 'at bat' can develop into a long-lasting duel between pitcher and batter, with a 'full count' of 3 balls and 2 strikes then being continued for several more deliveries, by the batter deliberately fouling-off pitches behind, waiting for a ball he thinks he can hit fair; the pitcher trying to throw the ball past or getting the batter to chase a wide or low pitch.

6. The main disadvantage of eight ball overs might be that fast bowlers would find them too tiring (although they would also have somehwat longer to recover between overs).