It needed the mega stage of a World Cup final to expose the stupidity of an ICC rule on tied matches. Sadly, this was not the first time that cricket’s expert committees were guilty of not using common sense as the basis for rule making.
It is ironic that Dave Richardson, CEO of ICC, was at the helm when the ridiculous rule of identifying the World Cup champion on the basis of boundary hits was arrived at.
Ironical because the same Richardson, as South African batsman, was at the crease in 1992 at the World Cup in Australia when another bizarre rule was in force.
At that time, Brian McMillan and Richardson were batting beautifully, putting on 25 runs in 18 balls and were well on their way to scoring the remaining 22 runs in 13 balls when rains came down.
The umpires offered the option of going off the field to the teams. England were smart and opted to go off, with skipper Graham Gooch claiming that underfoot conditions were slippery while South Africa’s batsman stayed on.
At that time the prevailing rain-rule was complicated. The target score was arrived at by taking off runs from the most economical overs. Thus, when play resumed, South Africa required were asked to get 21 runs from one single ball! They promptly lost by 19 runs and England proceeded to the final.
That silly rain rule raised such a storm that it was done away with and eventually replaced by the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Richardson, having been at the receiving end of a bizarre rule in 1992, was expected to do all that he could as an administrator to eliminate similar snafus.
Alas! That was not to be.
Unbelievably, an ICC Cricket Committee with many experts – Anil Kumble, Shaun Pollock, Ranjan Madugalle, Mahela Jayawardene, Rahul Dravid, Richard Illingworth – among others came up with a terrible rule that the World Cup winner would be decided on the number of boundaries!
Thus England who scored 26 boundaries against New Zealand’s 17 when the Super Over too was tied was declared winner.
Essentially cricket is a simple game where matches are won or lost either by wickets or runs. If runs are equal then lesser number of wickets lost should have decided the winner, not number of LBWs or slower deliveries bowled or leg byes conceded.
Rules must be made simple enough that the spectator sitting in the gallery stands can identify the winner. If explanations have to be given, however simple or quaint they might be, to make the spectator understand who has won, those in charge of making rules have failed. It is as simple as that.
Also, it is not that those who have played the sport at the highest level have all the answers. They might end up complicating rules instead of simplifying them.
In this one must point out the situation when golf maestros like Tiger Woods, Justin Johnson or any of PGA’s top golfers are foxed by a situation. They simply withdraw from the ball and summon the marshal or referee and get a ruling from him before going ahead. They don’t claim they are better golfers and thus know the rules better.
Likewise, cricket experts who have played the game would need to use a commonsense approach or else their short coming would be horribly exposed at the biggest stage.
Not so long ago there was a similar faux pas in the World T20 Championship when India and Pakistan tied their group match. The rule then was for a bowl-out wherein five designated bowlers would take turns at knocking down the stumps. Whichever team knocked down the stumps more often would be the winner.
India won that encounter 3-0 but the rule was ridiculed badly, with some even asking if next the ICC would implement a rule where batsmen threw bats at each other! The bowl-out rule was quietly jettisoned after that.
The sad part of Sunday’s World Cup cricket final was that the Wimbledon final too was played in London at the same time and the spectators there could identify the winner without a tamasha!
Many of cricket’s recent rule changes defy common sense. The first step for the new ICC CEO would be to take stock of them. Certainly this boundary-rule must be the first to be buried if the game has to grow beyond hardcore fans and experts. Over to you ICC.