Trust Ravi Shastri to look upon the toss-or-not debate from his own unique perspective as a commentator, “I’ll have no job left if the toss is done away with.”
That’s the least of his worries considering he’s the front-runner to be the next Team India coach.
It was Ricky Ponting who set the ball rolling with his suggestion that the toss be done away with and the visiting captain chooses to bat or field.
He was seconded by his former skipper Steve Waugh and Michael Holding.
The underlying theme was that home sides would stop preparing pitches that suited them hopefully resulting in more sporting contests.
Would it eliminate ‘hometown’ advantage? Michael Holding felt not.
The English broke with tradition and effected the desired change in their County Championship this year.
The visiting county is given the option of bowling first—should they refuse, the toss is taken as normal and the winning skipper decides what to do, take strike or bowl.
Robert Key, ECB cricket committee member, had this to say:
“My original view was that we should have tougher penalties for poor pitches. But that is so hard to police. It just becomes a minefield. But what I still think is that the stigma over spinning pitches has to end. If we see 15 wickets fall to seam bowling on the first day of a game, nobody bats an eye. But if the ball turns on day one, people start to worry. That has to stop.”
The above is probably manna to the ears of BCCI chieftains and the Indian team’s think-tank given that the Nagpur Test wicket for the match against South Africa was sanctioned by the ICC.
“The cricket committee had a two-day meeting and 90% of it was spent talking about pitches. We went through all the options. We talked about everything you have seen suggested on social media. And in the end everyone there agreed that this was the way to go. The rules governing the use of the heavy roller are remaining the same.
We want to stop counties producing pitches that just suit their seamers. We want to take that luxury away from them and instead get them to produce pitches that result in a more even battle between bat and ball and require pace and spin bowlers as well as seamers.
I’m not surprised by the negative reactions. They are the same reactions I had when I first heard the suggestion. But it was not a decision taken lightly, and I’d just say to people: let’s try it and see what happens. Our original suggestion to the ECB board was to try this for a year in Division Two. It was their idea to try it in Division One as well.
We’re not suddenly going to see five more spinners. We can’t expect a miracle cure. But we might see a situation where, instead of spinners bowling 20% of overs in the Championship, they might bowl 30%.”
Andrew Gale, Yorkshire skipper, disagreed:
“It’s a decision that has come straight after a Test series defeat in the UAE, which has brought the problems to everyone’s attention. But we don’t want subcontinent-paced wickets in England. That is not what people want to watch. If we had gone to Australia and won this close season, I doubt that this decision would have happened.
Obviously the rule has been brought in to encourage spinners and because of a recognition that the wickets have become too seamer-friendly. The intention is a good one – I know that. But if wickets are that bad, why haven’t points been docked? Fifteen-plus wickets have fallen many times on the first day and it has repeatedly been put down to bad batting. I can see Keysie’s point about something needing to be done, but why haven’t pitch inspectors done their job properly? It comes down to people being strong. “
“I am a traditionalist. I love Championship cricket. The toss has existed since the beginning of time. Why keep messing with the game? It’s too complicated for some people as it is.”
Nathan Leamon, England’s performance analyst, wrote a piece for the NightWatchman questioning whether doing away with the toss would achieve the desired results.
The reasons listed were:
Cricket is now played on covered pitches I.e. they are no longer exposed to the ravages of inclement weather. In the era of uncovered pitches, batting first made sense and was definitely advantageous.
Is winning the toss an additional asset—a twelfth man?
Gaurav Sood and Derek Willis answer the above query in an analytical piece on Cricinfo.
“After analysing data from more than 44,000 cricket matches across formats, however, we find that there is generally just a small – though material – advantage of winning the toss. The benefit varies widely, across formats, conditions, and depending on how closely matched the teams are.
We find that over all those matches, the team that wins the toss has won the match 2.8% more often. That small advantage increases for one-day matches and decreases for T20 contests. For day-night ODI and List A matches, the advantage is greater still, with the side winning the toss winning nearly 6% more games.
Winning the toss convey an advantage of 2.6% in first-class and Test matches, where pitches can deteriorate, giving the team that bats last a tougher challenge. But the largest boost appears to be in one-day matches, where teams that win the toss win the match 3.3% more often. “
What’s even more striking is the following observation:
“Using ICC monthly rankings for international sides, we looked at whether winning the toss made a difference when teams were closely matched or at opposite ends of the rankings. When closely matched teams play, winning the toss has a larger impact on the probability of winning. As expected, the impact of winning the toss was less when a clearly better side played a weaker one. “
“Whether due to cold weather or grassy pitches that can make batting difficult, teams that won the toss in April matches in England lost nearly 5% more often than they won. In every other month, the toss winner was more likely to win the match. Perhaps that alone will encourage visiting captains to take the field first, at least at the start of the English season.”
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If Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Michael Holding have their way, there will be no more commemorative coins to toss while celebrating special Test occasions.
Former Aussie skipper Ponting suggested—during the recent Ashes series—that the toss be done away with and have the visiting side choose which side should bat first. This would even out any advantage from pitches prepared to suit the home side.
Speaking to Melbourne Radio Station, Waugh said:
“I don’t mind that, I think that’s not such a bad thing. At the end of the day I think there’s probably too much emphasis placed on the toss and the conditions away from home. I don’t mind the authorities looking at some other options.”
Michael Holding, in his column for Wisden India, wrote:
“…the concerned authorities must look at what Ricky Ponting suggested – no more tosses. The minor setback there in my opinion, is that tosses are big for television. It makes for good tension, everyone is focussed on that coin when it’s in the air and the winning captain’s decision and so on. But that isn’t relevant now, times have changed and interest is waning in Test match cricket. What you need to do now is to make sure you have even contests between bat and ball. For that, there should be no toss and the visiting captain should be allowed to decide what he wants to do after inspecting the pitch. It’ll ensure better pitches throughout the world, because no one will look to build a pitch whose features are obvious, and which will give an immediate advantage to the visiting captain. They will try and prepare good quality surfaces that give no obvious advantage to anyone, which is what you want in Test matches. Some may say that policy will produce flat lifeless pitches with boring games. I disagree. You will still see a bit of ‘hometown’ pitches which suit the qualities of the home team more than the opposition, but the slant won’t be as dramatic as we tend to see in some countries now.”
In his previous post, the West Indian fast bowler elaborated on what makes a side great.
“Great teams can win home and away, and good teams will win at home. It’s as simple as that. I don’t personally see much wrong with that, to be honest. It comes down to how people classify them. Teams should only be qualified as ‘great’ only if they can perform all over the world, and can excel everywhere. If they don’t, they’re not a great team, and that’s fine.
I don’t think the boards should actively try and do something about making it even, you don’t need to say: ‘okay, we have to find a way of making sure teams can do well overseas’. On the contrary, talk to the individuals, the players who are actually playing and performing, and see what necessary adjustments should be done for them to be successful when they leave their homes. There is nothing wrong with people failing away from home as far as world cricket is concerned. I don’t think they should try and make an adjustment. If you can, you can. If you’re not good enough, you’re just not good enough.
Having said that, when you go to some countries, the pitches are prepared in such a way that they are highly in favour of the home team. And I’m talking about even going to some parts of the subcontinent, in India, for instance, where you find – not necessarily now, but quite a few years ago – pitches that turn from day one. It didn’t matter who was touring India, because they knew they had great spinners, and they would be brought into the game from day one.
In England, they changed the nature of the pitches altogether, because they recognised that without seaming pitches, they had no chance of beating Australia. As I said before, I don’t see it as a major factor when you say teams are better at home than overseas, but if you want to have consistent pitches in countries, then you have got to adapt the principle that Ricky Ponting suggested – get rid of the toss.
All you need is for the visiting team to look at the pitch and decide what they will do. Then you will always get consistent pitches, because if it’s too heavily favoured in one way or the other, then the visiting team can take advantage with their decision. That way you’ll get consistent pitches, but that doesn’t mean all of sudden touring sides will start winning away from home. They’ll get a better chance of winning, but at the same time, they’ll have to play well to win away from home, because you can’t change overhead conditions. The ball will still swing in England, and you’ll still need good technique to play there. But the pitches won’t be that heavily favoured to the home bowlers.”
Will the ICC look into the matter?
We don’t wish to see series everywhere decided by the toss and pitches suited to the home side.
We’d like to watch real contests and adaptable players, not bully boys who score by the tons and take wickets by the dozen in their backyards and come up a cropper elsewhere.
We need classy players and their class should be evident on all surfaces and in all conditions.
Take away the toss if that’s what’s needed.
Prepare sporting wickets if that’s what’s needed.
Make curators more independent if that’s what’s needed.
Do whatever that’s needed.
Just don’t let Test cricket die.
“Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I’m gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust
How do you think I’m going to get along,
Without you, when you’re gone
You took me for everything that I had,
And kicked me out on my own
Are you happy, are you satisfied
How long can you stand the heat
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat”
Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne have launched a Legends T20 Cricket League to be held in the USA in August-September.
Shah Rukh Khan has gone a step further and extended the Kolkata Knight Riders brand by buying Caribbean T20 team Trinidad & Tobago. Mark Wahlberg and Gerard Butler are other actor-owners of Barbados Tridents and Jamaica Tallawahs respectively.
This confluence of acting and cricketing giants to promote the sport overseas is welcome.
The more the merrier.
Ageing superstars and retired cricketers have much more in common than their age. They enjoy a hold on their fans way past their expiry date.
The Legends T20 League will test this theory. More power to them.
What he said (via Sydney Morning Herald):
“And there’s an elephant in the room at the moment in Ricky Ponting that nobody is really addressing.”
Chris Cairns begins the mind games prior to Australia’s tour of New Zealand.
The Kiwi all-rounder believes that Ricky Ponting’s shelf life has neared its expiry date and called for his retirement.
I don’t think you can have two years averaging 27 as a No.3. I think it’s his time. And when you look at the likes of Mark Taylor, [Ian] Healy, Mark Waugh – they were told it was their time. And there’s an elephant in the room at the moment in Ricky Ponting that nobody is really addressing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got the utmost respect for Ricky Ponting but there’s a time and a place. And for me, his time and place is Hobart in the second Test against New Zealand. That’s to say, ‘Thanks very much’.
Australian selectors have been kind to Ricky Ponting in comparison to his predecessors, none of whom were retained.
And whilst [the Ponting saga] continues on, the media circus will go with it and the guys will just be surrounded by that talk instead of just getting on and playing cricket.
Absolutely [Cricket Australia are avoiding the tough decisions]. They’ve allowed Ricky to keep going because of his stature in the game and who he is. But why should he have to make the call? At the end of the day, for me, Australia has always been about the team and what’s best. He is behind Bradman, Australia’s greatest batsman, so they’re managing it. But I just think it’s an elephant in the room. I really do. Australia has got rebuilding to do.
What he really meant:
“Australia have one captain too many in the dressing room—a non-performing one to boot. They all know what needs to be done. The question is ‘who’s going to bell the cat?’”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Ricky Ponting has to be nursed along much like Sachin Tendulkar. Treat him with kid gloves.”
“If you were averaging 35 when I was playing your dad would go and buy you a basketball or a footy and tell you to play that.”
Ricky Ponting illustrates that the standards of Australian cricket have dropped in recent times with an apocryphal anecdote.
What he really meant:
“If you’re not averaging 40+ in Shield cricket, then you might as well pack it in.”
“Hmm, I wonder what I would have aggregated if we were playing T20 then.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Now that explains why Australian rules football is more popular than cricket. ”
In breaking news, it is learnt that India’s cricket captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, was approached—jointly—by the West Indian Players Association (WIPA) and the West Indian Cricket Board (WICB) to become the brand ambassador of Caribbean cricket.
The bodies-at-loggerheads—through Dhoni—seek to drive home the message that West Indian cricket is under threat of slow extinction and needs revival to promote continuation of a joyous, carefree brand of island cricket.
“He’s gone from eating baked beans, margarita pizzas and cheese sandwiches to broadening his horizons a little bit."
Shane Watson jokes about Shane Warne’s eating habits.
What he really meant:
“Warnie’s a healthy eater now.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Broadening his horizons sure narrowed him down—at the waist.”