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It is time to prepare for the future.
Does Cricket needs This ? © Creative Commons

A lot of sports have indoor stadiums these days. Baseball, American Football, Tennis, etc. This is to ensure that the interruptions due to the weather are minimized and also so that the game can be played throughout the year. Cricket has been played in an indoor stadium before. Back in August 2000, during the Australian winter, Docklands Stadium hosted a three-match ODI series between Australia and South Africa. Cricket isn’t played in Australia in August but this series was possible only because there was an indoor stadium.

Given the hectic international cricket schedule these days, matches are being held all throughout the year. We recently saw a test match being played at Fatullah in Bangladesh held during the monsoon season. Only 184 overs of play were possible. About 60% of the possible overs in that test were lost due to rain. Due to scheduling constraints, India had to tour Bangladesh during that time. This just shows us how helpless we are when Mother Nature decides to come to the party.

BCCI is amongst the richest sports governing bodies in the world. Given how the climate is becoming unpredictable these days with unseasonal rains and extremely high temperatures during the summer; it isn’t a bad idea to invest in an indoor cricket stadium in India. BCCI could look at part funding of the same or tie up with a private developer to make it a reality.

We could have matches starting at 12 noon in the heat of April and May, and also during the monsoons in July and August. This could help BCCI host three IPL games in a day, play ODIs and even Test matches round the year. This assures cricket fans, broadcasters and players that matches won’t be interrupted due to weather conditions. It might sound far-fetched now but given the erratic weather patterns this could eventually happen.

Indoor stadiums can be used to host concerts, rallies and also to host other sports like Football. If the indoor stadium is made in a metropolitan city, it will surely be used round the year given the number of events that are being hosted every year these days. This would ensure that revenue is being generated throughout the year.

The idea of an indoor cricket stadium has never been explored in India. This is the right time to take it forward. Some of the older Cricket stadiums in India are yet to undergo a facelift. Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, Chepauk Stadium in Chennai and the Eden Gardens in Kolkata have been recently rebuilt and/or renovated. The M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru was built in the ‘70s and has not been extensively renovated. It is centrally located and rain interruptions are common for cricket matches held in Bengaluru. An Indoor cricket stadium in its place should be explored as it can also be used as a venue for concerts and also for other sporting events.

We’ll have to wait and watch whether indoor stadiums become as common as day-night cricket or not. Do let us know in the comments below about what your thoughts on indoor stadiums.

 

DRS: Boon or Bane?

Sooner or later, technology must be embraced.
DRS- a boon or a bane © Creative Commons

The Decision Review System (DRS) is a system that allows cricket players to challenge decisions made by umpires during a match. It was first introduced in 2008 when Sri Lanka hosted the Indian cricket team. It was a new system which hadn’t been trialed in domestic cricket as yet but was directly introduced into the international arena. The BCCI and the SLC had agreed to be the ‘lab rats’ for this.

The DRS is a pretty complicated system and the rules on marginal LBW calls take time to get used to. India had a horrible time with the DRS and only made one successful review that season. On the other hand, Sri Lanka made 11 successful reviews. This was the first test series for Ajantha Mendis and Indian batsmen struggled against him. That combined with their inability to use the DRS effectively, India lost the series 2-1. Post this series senior Indian batsmen, including Sachin Tendulkar, did not take liking to this system (he has been a vocal advocate for the rejection of the DRS system). Since then, India has never used the DRS fully (including ball-tracking) in a bilateral series. However, India did agree to use the DRS without ball-tracking for the England tour in 2011. All other major test playing nations use the DRS in some form or the other. It is only in bilateral series involving India that the DRS isn’t used.

The DRS system isn’t perfect, but if one is able to improve the accuracy of decisions made in the game, it needs to be properly incorporated to reduce the number of human errors made. We’re not saying that the DRS is fool proof and that it gives us 100% correct decisions, a 100% of the time. But the DRS can be used to eliminate howlers and help remove errors that umpires make – they’re human too after all. The flaws in the system and it’s current application are ironed out, it could be applied universally for the better good of the all in the game.

The first, and one of the most important issues, is the cost and the kind of equipment available at the disposal of the third umpire using the DRS. For test series that take place in England and Australia, Hotspot and real time Snicko are used. But not all test series across the world have the availability of Hotspot. This sort of variance should be avoided. The ICC need to define a set of equipment which are to be used under the DRS which should be consistent across all cricket playing countries. To foot the bill for the equipment they could look at roping in a sponsor. Whenever a review is taken the commentators can call it the ‘XYZ review’. XYZ being the name of the brand which foots the bill for the DRS. If they aren’t able to find a sponsor to fully fund the DRS, the ICC should look at bearing some of the cost, thereby subsidizing the equipment in order to keep a level playing field.

The second issue is that of the umpire’s call. Under the current system we have a situation when 51% of the ball hitting the stumps is given ‘out’ if the umpire originally called it ‘out’; and the decision is ‘not out’ if 49% of the ball hits the stumps when the umpire originally gave it ‘not out’. Here, the centre of the ball with reference to the line of the stumps at the time of the impact on the pads is taken into consideration. The umpire’s call has to be drastically revised and an acceptable margin of error has to be put in place, depending on the ball-tracking mechanism capabilities. If there is a margin of error of 10% in the current ball-tracking system, then it has to be considered and not the current 51% for umpire’s call.

The third issue is the number of reviews a team has. While 2 are adequate per innings in test matches, 1 review per innings in an ODI is too few and no reviews in the T20’s is absurd. Teams have to be given 2 reviews per innings in all forms of the game. It might slow down the game a little, but this will ensure that a higher percentage of decisions are taken correctly.

The bottom line: One needs to embrace technology and think of ways to improve the system in order to improve the percentage of correct decisions being made. Rejecting a system entirely because it isn’t 100% accurate is hardly prudent for our teams.

 

Understanding the vastly different playing conditions.
Maidan vs International

Indians play cricket matches wherever they get space. This is true especially in big cities where it is extremely difficult to find open spaces to play sport. Cricket is played practically everywhere, be it on a street or inside a classroom or in a local maidan (playground). The passion for the game shown in India is infectious. Local maidans hosts a lot of serious matches and the prospective players hone their skills. Players aspire to play for India and put in many hours daily to perfect their skills. Here, we will look at the differences between playing in local playgrounds and international stadiums:

Number of matches

On local playgrounds, a lot of matches are played simultaneously and the best pitches are usually on a first-come-first-serve basis. The iconic Azad Maidan in South Mumbai has 22 cricket pitches and at times, 22 matches are being played simultaneously.

In international stadiums, the ground size is massive and hosts a single match at a time. Everyone’s attention is focused on one game. There are many pitches in the central square (typically 4-8), but at any given time only one of them is used.

Practice areas

In local maidans, even a small open space is used as a practice area. Makeshift nets are set up and players make the best use of the space that is available to them.

Most international stadiums have designated practice areas inside the stadium complex, but outside the main playing arena. Some of the older stadiums have a couple of practice pitches inside the main playing arena as well.

Crowd

Anybody walking around the maidan becomes an audience for the game. They do not have designated seating areas and most of the audience watches the game by standing inside the maidan. Typically, many matches are being played at a given time, so the audience has options and can watch any game of their choice.

In international stadiums, there are proper designated seating areas and barriers which separate the crowd from the playing arena. For international matches, the stadium is full and the whole crowd is intently watching the match. With many eyes tracking the game, there is a lot of pressure on players from the home team to perform.

Rules

At maidans, the rules are tweaked depending on the playing location and player availability. Boundary location varies as per the pitch location on the maidan. If there is an obstacle on the ground like a tree and a batsman hits it, a designated number of runs are given. At times, the umpire is from batting side. Matches are also played with hard tennis balls.

In stadiums, standard cricket rules apply and all the facilities are in place. Rules are rules. The boundaries are pre-defined. There is a neutral umpire in place. Matches are played with a cork ball and every member of the team wears the team uniform and the batsmen play after wearing full cricketing equipment.

Aspirations

The players who toil daily on these maidans aspire to play for their first class team and eventually the national team. This is what drives them to continue playing in these conditions and be recognised by the selectors and talent scouts.

First class cricketers who play in these international stadiums aspire to play for the national team and those in the national team want to perform for the nation and play for the country. The dreams and aspirations get bigger.

 

Royal treatment throughout.
VIP Box © Creative Commons

Watching a cricket match at the stadium is a fantastic experience. One can soak in the atmosphere, appreciate the finer aspects of the game as there are no ad breaks. You can scream your lungs and cheer for your favourite team. In the last ten years, most stadiums in India have been extensively renovated or reconstructed from scratch. The entire experience of watching a match in the stadium is much better than what it used to be in the 90s. All cricket fans must watch at least one match at the stadium.

With the advent of T20 franchise cricket; now, women and families also form a sizeable audience. A T20 game lasts for about 4 hours and each game typically has a lot of twists and turns. The game is equal parts sports and entertainment. If you wish to heighten the fun factor, make sure you get a ticket at one of those fancy VIP boxes.

I have been lucky to watch matches from the VIP boxes at a number of stadiums. There are various perks of watching matches from the VIP box which aren’t present in other stands at the stadiums. Some of them are listed below.

  • Best of both worlds: The VIP box is mostly air conditioned, so one need not sweat it out in the heat. Additionally, many stadiums have a private area/balcony from where one can soak in the atmosphere as well.
  • Celebrity Spotting: It’s not called ‘VIP box’ for nothing. One can see former cricketers, movie stars, politicians, etc. up close. Some of the VIPs are kind enough to oblige to requests of selfies and autographs as well.
  • Wifi & HD TV: Most VIP boxes have hi-speed WiFi connections available for free and also have a large screen TVs to watch slow motion replays in case you missed out a catch while getting the autograph signed.
  • 10 seconds of fame: A cameraman is always stationed inside the VIP box and the glimpses inside that are shown many a times during the course of the match. There is a very good chance that you may appear on the television during the live broadcast.
  • Treated like Royalty: Often, VIP boxes comes with perks like unlimited food and drinks are served. Finger food and drinks are constantly brought to your seat by butlers so one doesn’t have to get up from their seats and miss even a single shot. Sumptuous buffets are also laid out and one can eat to their heart’s content during the breaks.
  • Bragging Rights: One can narrate the whole experience to friends & family who will be very keen to know about your experience. For many, it will be an once-in-a-lifetime experience which will be forever etched in their memories.

Have you watched a cricket match from one of those fancy stands? Do let us know in the box below.

 

When the playground turns into a battlefield!

Colleges that are located close to each other often establish rivalry with each other over the years. This rivalry typically extends into all playgrounds but sporting rivalry is what people mostly remember. In the cricketing world, there are many college rivalries that exist. These rivalries are one of the vital cogs which maintain the popularity of college cricket. A lot of pride and bragging rights are at stake and college teams take these matches very seriously.

Given how popular cricket is, almost every student plays it and many of them are very good at it. Every college has year-wise teams and it is a matter of prestige to get into the team. It is an arduous process and at times over 150 people try to grab a spot to represent their college. Players train hard and typically put in a couple of hours daily after classes to learn and polish their skills. The best of the lot make the cut. This ensures that the quality of cricket played amongst colleges is not compromised.

There are a lot of tournaments that are played at the campus level. It starts from the intercity and district level and extends to the state and national level. In India, BCCI pays close attention to college cricket. Top players from each zone form a team and compete in the Vizzy Trophy. Nowadays, we even have college tournaments which involve other countries.

At the above mentioned tournaments, college students get to play in stadiums which host international cricket matches. They use state-of-art facilities under the watchful eyes of proper coaching staff. These opportunities help the students to hone their skills and become better cricketers. It also provides an excellent opportunity to showcase their talent to a large audience which might help them land a PSU or corporate job under the sports quota or get into the U-21, U-23 and First Class teams.

With so much at stake, it is not hard to see why college cricket is extremely competitive and the players give it their all to win matches.

 

The difference between a good and a great team.

Cricketers these days are playing more and more matches. With three different formats, games are spread throughout the year. This schedule hardly gives them any time to rest. We see cricketers taking breaks during the gruelling cricket season by skipping less important series and matches (dead rubbers) to keep themselves in top condition for the more important ones. Players are often overworked and are getting injured more frequently than before. Taking such breaks helps the players relax, keep them at the top of their game for a longer period of time and avoid injuries by identifying them well in advance.

Teams typically rely on their top stars to win them matches but if these top players are injured and can’t play, the team’s chances take a massive hit. To minimise this risk, it is very important to have a good bench strength so that the players on the bench can replace the injured players and the team’s chances are not adversely affected. We have seen this with the Australian team in the previous decade when their bench strength was strong and even new players were performing whenever they got an opportunity. For example: Brad Hodge played just six test matches but averaged 56 and scored a double century against South Africa at Perth when he was called upon from the bench as a replacement for an injured player.

Teams also need to have all types of players on their bench i.e., a top order batsman, an all-rounder, a wicketkeeper, a fast bowler and a spinner. This helps the team to have a relevant replacement where the player from the bench can play in his natural position instead of being forced to play outside of their comfort zone. We recently saw this during the Test series between Sri Lanka and India where India’s regular openers, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan got injured but their replacements KL Rahul and Chesteswar Pujara were called upon from the bench and both of them played crucial knocks which helped India win a Test series in Sri Lanka after 22 years.

With good bench strength, there will be a healthy competition for spots in the team and players can be rotated as well. Additionally, all players go through form slumps and at times like these, players from the bench can be called upon to replace them. This will ensure that any player does not take their spot in the team for granted and players will strive to perform better so as to hold onto their spot in the team.

As we all know that the playing conditions are vastly different all over the world, we have pitches which suit spinners in the subcontinent and pitches that help the pace bowlers in Australia & South Africa. Teams tweak the playing XI as per the conditions to get the team balance right. The coach and captain are constantly trying to figure out the best combination for different playing surfaces. A strong bench will help the coach & captain pick ‘horses for courses’ and help the team compete in all conditions.

 

 

Players need to avoid these mistakes at all costs.
little things that make cricket interesting  © Red Bull Content Pool

Cricket is a complicated sport with lot of rules and regulations which need to be kept in mind while playing. Some of these rules might slip the mind while playing an intense cricket match. We look at 6 such little things that matter.

1. Grounding the bat

While taking an easy single or double, at times batsmen forget to ground their bat and just plonk it in or just walk into the crease. This is very dangerous as at times the fielder has a shy at the stumps from afar and hits the stumps directly. This sort of laziness has ensured a lot of run outs. It should be avoided and the batsmen shouldn’t hand his wicket to the opposition on a platter.

2. Hitting the stumps while bowling.

Some bowlers like to get very close to the stumps in a bid to bowl a stump to stump line. This sort of discipline is good and makes it difficult for the batsman to score freely but many times bowlers hit the stumps with their bowling hand. As per the latest rules, the ball is adjudged a no ball and the batsman gets a free hit. A wicket taking opportunity is lost for two deliveries and the batsman has the license to go after the bowler on the second delivery. The penalty is extremely harsh and hence the bowlers have to ensure that this isn’t done.

3. Putting the helmet in a safe position

There is a penalty of 5 runs if the ball hits the helmet which is put on the ground, one has to be careful especially during first class/test matches to place the helmets in a safe position where it is very unlikely for the ball to go. Putting it behind the keeper is a safe option. But it shouldn’t be forgotten.

4. Fielders inside the 30 yard circle and in catching positions.

In limited overs game, it is a mandate that a certain number of fielders be inside the 30 yard circle. The number of fielders depends on the match situation. More are required during power play overs and less during non-power play overs. A captain has to ensure the required number of fielders, else it is deemed as a no ball and the fielders have to be alert as well given the captain may forget at times about this. With the new regulations a no-ball like this will result in a free-hit.

5. Freakish ways to get out.

Under obstructing the field means a batsman willfully obstructing the opposition fielders by word or action, the umpire can give him out. Also if a batsman changes his path of running so as to hinder the fielder taking aim at the stumps, one can be given out.

Handling the ball is a freak way to get out when the batsman willfully touches the ball with a hand that is not holding their bat. Consent has to be taken from the fielding team before one can touch the ball.

A batsman is timed out if he isn’t ready to face the ball within 3 minutes of the previous batsman getting out. This would be the most unfortunate way to get out as one is out even before coming out to bat. To date 5 batsmen have been timed out in First Class Cricket. In Test Cricket, during the 2007 SA vs India Test match at Newlands, India’s No 4 came out after 6 minutes. This happened as Sachin Tendulkar wasn’t eligible to bat as he was replaced as a fielder for 18 minutes at the end of the South African innings and India lost two wickets quickly. Eventually, Ganguly came out to bat after 6 minutes but the South African Captain Graeme Smith was kind enough not to appeal for a “timed out”

6. No of fielders on leg side

There cannot be more than two fielders, excluding the wicket-keeper, behind the popping crease on the leg side. The ball is deemed a no-ball and with the new regulations a no-ball like this will result in a free-hit.

 

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here

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