Five cricket innovations more “full toss” than “yorker”
Casual punters might think that cricket is a stagnant game that has been unchanging over the course of human history. But that’s actually not true: cricket has evolved, from bowlers bowling underarm, and batsmen using what was pretty much a hockey stick, into the game we know today: you know, the one with all the cheerleaders.
But this innovation has come at a price. Not every idea is a good one; and here are five cricketing innovations that must’ve sounded like good ideas at the time.
#1: The Supersub
To me, a super sub is a footlong piece of bread, stuffed with salami, ham and mozzarella, toasted, with all available toppings, honey mustard sauce, and a smidge of salt’n’pepper for $7.95.
To the ICC, a supersub was their best way to turn an eleven player team sport, into an eleven-point-five player team sport. Bear with me for this.
The supersub was the twelfth man named in a one-day international team, who, at any stage of a one-dayer, could replace one player from the playing eleven. (Confused? Alrighty!)
The supersub could bat, bowl, and/or field; but once they subbed in for a player, that player couldn’t swap back for the rest of the game. It was a one-way switch. And it heavily favored the team that won the toss. If you picked a batsman as a supersub, you’d bowl first then sub in the batsman for extra firepower. If you were the team who lost the toss – and you batted first, with a batsman as your supersub – then you were essentially a player short.
This was an experimental rule introduced between July 2005 and February 2006… and I really don’t miss it. In fact, all it ever did was make me hungry.
Mind you, at my local cricket club, we’ve been using a supersub since the late nineteen-ninties. Little have other teams realised, one of our first XI is actually twins. It’s genius! In fact, it’s much smarter than…
#2. The UDRS, or the “Umpire Decision Review System”
The UDRS is a bigger mess than Nathan Bracken’s late-noughties haircut.
Essentially, if you feel that the umpire has made a poor decision – for instance, giving you out LBW when you’re batting, or not giving somebody out whilst you’re bowling – then you can challenge their decision.
It’s supposed to be a reviewal system that eradicates umpiring howlers from the game. But instead, most teams use it as a hail-mary to try and overrule an umpire’s decision if it inconveniences them.
Here’s an editorial for you, “#opinion“: from my perspective, the UDRS not only undermines an umpire’s on-field authority, but it also legitimises doubting and arguing with the umpire – which is not how young cricketers should be brought up.
Suburban cricket has its own UDRS, although it’s much less formal. It’s when two opposition teams bond over post-game beers whilst comparing notes on how Bobby’s eyesight is gone, or how Trevor’s forgotten how the LBW law works. Umpires: bringing local cricket teams together since the 1750s.
Hey, this next cricket innovation is listed here for me, specifically:
#3. The scoop
A.k.a the paddle scoop, a.k.a the ramp shot, a.k.a that bug-fuck thing Ryan Campbell brought to prime-time Australian TV one summer afternoon, has spawned variations by Tillerkaratne Dilshan (the Dilscoop), Dougie Marillier (the Marillier shot), and Brendon McCullum (the McScoop), among others.
But all it does is make me deeply uncomfortable. And maybe this is me being a prude, or a cricket snob, but I just don’t see it as a proper cricket shot.
All I see it as it a great opportunity to cop a ball to the face. I can’t imagine playing it in a game, let alone practicing it. I’ve had braces, my teeth are important, and I need these for eating.
But then, I’m not a batsman, in fact, I’m barely a cricketer, so maybe I just don’t get it.
Maybe it’s because, as someone who bowls seam-up about as fast as a lizard farts, I know that one day, some bloke in a suburban cricket game is gonna scoop me for four. And that’ll be the day I quit cricket forever.
Moving on now from a literal cricket shot, to a metaphorical shot in the dark:
#4. Split innings domestic one-dayers
In season 2010-2011, Cricket Australia implemented a few funky changes to their domestic one dayers. I use the word “funky”, although there’s another “f” word that I considered using.
Roughly a year before the wildly successful 2011 cricket world cup, Cricket Australia were concerned that people were losing interest in fifty over matches. So, one winter evening, Cricket Australia stood in front of a whiteboard and said:
“Oh, hey guys, this year you’re gonna keep playing one dayers, but you won’t bat for fifty overs, you’ll bat for 45, but we’ll split this up into lots of twenty and twenty-five overs. Even though we’ve shorn five overs off your innings, your bowlers can now bowl twelve overs each. Oh, and you can name twelve players, too, except you can only choose eleven to bat and eleven to bowl. Um, except, the Australian national team will continue to play conventional fifty-over matches. And I know that, when we surveyed you players, 78% of you said it was a terrible plan – but we think it’s a really good idea, we’ve thought about it a lot and we think it’s a really good idea, so we’re just gonna go ahead and do it. Right? Right.”
This raging innovation lasted one season. A bit like my decision to become a batsman last year – I scored four runs in four innings. Sometimes, you just get it wrong.
Much like this final brain-wave:
5: Australia playing Australia A
Over six weeks in 1994, the Benson and Hedges World Series took place in Australia, as per usual. Only this time, there were four teams competing: Australia, England, Zimbabwe, and Australia A.
The narcissist in me assumes this decision was made because the organisers had little faith in England and Zimbabwe to provide entertaining cricket.
Whatever the reason, it lead to an intense competition between the “up and coming” Australia A players, and the incumbent Australian XI.
It pitted Greg Blewett, Matty Hayden, Damien Martyn, Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting against Michael Slater, the Waugh twins, David Boon, Shane Warne, and Glenn McGrath. Australian captain Tubby Taylor mentioned that the entire competition made him uncomfortable.
And it wasn’t without more controversy: Paul Reiffel dominated for Australia A during the group stages, then got picked for Australia in the finals and was made twelfth man. Michael Bevan was dropped from the Aussie team for poor form, then tore England to shreds for a century whilst playing for Australia A.
There’s an excellent article on The Roar which explains the whole schmozzle eloquently – give it a read if you’d like more information.
So, these are my five cricket “innovations” that were more full toss than yorker. What have I missed? What cricketing innovations have made underwhelmed you? Let us know in the comments below.