Earlier in 2012
A Ramble on Women's Cricket
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<August> As I type what has passed for the County Championship this year is approaching its end. In many previous years I might have said 'climax' but this year it's a damp squib. So many matches have been lost that the results, calculated on a points/match basis, have resulted in a series of what can only politely be called anomalous looking tables. Indeed the suspicion is abroad that a number of teams, having had a flying start to the season have been desperate (not too strong a word the grape vine tells me) to avoid re-arranging fixtures for fear their points/match drops.
Can you blame them? I guess that depends on your attitude to the tournament and the sport. If your purpose is to win at all costs then I guess not, but if the general idea is to actually play the sport then the attitude is counter productive. And this year a new county structure has meant that there were fewer games to be played anyway.
One thing is however, unforgivable. And what is that? The answer is simple - a set of rules and regulations that allow a side to be tempted to avoid playing cricket. Now it's not easy in this sport, which depends so heavily on the weather, to prevent this.
One thing which has distorted the tables has been the awarding of 'bonus points'. The purpose of any sport must surely be to win the match. Only in the event, at the end of a season where the number of games won by the various sides has resulted in a tie, should any other consideration be taken into account. The bonus point system currently in place encourages sides to risk a win in the chase for these points and distorts play in other ways too. Is there an ideal way of sorting out the tie situation? Well I can suggest a couple. Perhaps the most logical might be to decide on what occurred when the two sides met during the league. This I would suggest is the fairest. A play-off is a possibility but then the situation could arise where the side who had won the previous encounter loses this one - another tie situation in reality. Although I'm always in favour of another match, this seems to have the possibility of a result that doesn't reflect the talents and effort of either side.
Here is a defence of the bonus point idea from Mark Smith...
Having re-read your comments regarding bonus points, I’d put forward the following in their defence: -
In the scenario prior to Mark's comments you have the skeleton of a format that can give rise to all sort of anomalies. It has become common in many sports to have play-offs at the end of a season. It has been, this season, introduced into the UK county championship. Let's just consider the top teams playing-off in a league - team 1 versus team 2 - that's their positions in the league at the end of the league part of the season.
In this 'final', team 1 beats team 2 - no surprises here. After all they had performed better during a whole series of matches or they wouldn't be top.
And then again maybe team 2 beats team 1. During the season team 2 has lost as many as three matches while team 1 has won all of theirs. After this play-off team 1 has lost one game and team 2 has still lost three but carry away the silverware. Not exactly a fair outcome you may feel - and this scenario is a simple but powerful argument it seems to be for not mixing a league structure with what's essentially a knock-out.
Before this season started I did voice my doubts about the whole re-structuring that had occurred during the non-playing season. It seems many have now joined the chorus of doubters. The weather, of course, has brought the situation to a head even more quickly than might have been the case but it has rather emphasised the quirks and inherent unfairness of the current formula. I suggested, before all this took place, that if you wanted some kind of end of season fixture, that the league winners should be the county champions and the two top sides qualify for a different competition (say, called the County Plate). One side might win both, of course, but then again they might not... and if they didn't no-one could claim anyone had been unjustly treated.
Now you will know I am a keen Sussex supporter, and that Sussex have won all five games and finished in the table below those who have won fewer, Something that has had to be explained in detail when you encounter puzzled looks. You might be justified in saying to yourself 'this is all sour grapes'. Since most of the above was voiced to often sceptical supporters, managers etc. before the season started I would argue it's not. At least a part of my annoyance was due to the reduction in the number of matches. This set me looking at the whole set of new ideas and wondering why a system that didn't appear to be broken needed mending. You have just read the results of my pre-season thoughts. I do hope more games next season will mean the anomalies are reduced but knowing English summers that can only be a hope. Maybe too the rules will be changed to encourage teams to get out on to the field and play, and not make them wonder if hiding in the pavilion might suit their cause better.
<October> The 'Finn' problem
While I have yet to see a woman bowler knock the bails off the wicket during her delivery stride, at least I can't recall this occurring, I would have thought the answer to the problem is relatively simple. Anyone who has watched American Football will know there is a very simple principle applied to how penalties are applied to a foul - the side fouled against shall not suffer as a result of a penalty being applied to their opponents. You will not infrequently hear the senior official inform the crowd that the penalty has been declined.
I suggest you do the same in cricket. It would work as follows... Bowler knocks of the bails - the play is allowed to continue until the ball becomes naturally 'dead' - the umpire asks the striker whether she would prefer the play to stand (if for instance she's hit a boundary) of if the ball should be considered dead and bowled again (if she's failed to score or been 'dismissed'.) If she's scored say two runs - well it's up to her. This process should take only a few seconds and the scorers will have no problems since either a dead ball signal is given or it isn't! The same restrictions on how the batsman could legitimately be dismissed could follow the 'free hit' principle e.g. you could be run out and not have the option to call it a dead ball. However, the fielding side might also suffer in the event of a run-out attempt, it being much more difficult to effect that at the bowler's end (the procedure is clear in the Laws) now that the bails are on the grass.
T20 Semis Well, the semi-finalists of the ICC WC T20 have been decided as I type but the matches have still to take place. Most of the matches leading to this point have gone to pretty much the form you might have expected although a notable exception was Pakistan beating India for the first time in the history of matches between these two sides, and judging by the card it was quite a game. Scorecard. It's exciting to see another upcoming team, and while India might argue they had a shocker that day, Pakistan obviously had the nerve to take advantage of that. One ex-New Zealand skipper once said to me that if you play your best against stronger opposition, sooner or later they slip up and you don't. Don't play at your best and you'll never beat them.
There is one player in particular who could make a complete mess of the form book and we all know who she is.
The name on the shirt tells you all you need to know. In this form of the game she has the potential to take any game away from her opponents and I shall never forget her innings at Arundel against England this year which gave a sight of what she is capable of. Should she ever manage a greater consistency in her play then the number one T20 batting ranking must surely be waiting. As a friend of mine remarked after that game, "pretty it isn't, but, boy is it exciting!" One UK newspaper has even run with a headline saying Sarah Taylor's knock was good enough to avoid England having to meet West Indies in the semi-finals as if that were a highly desirable outcome. ("Taylor ensures unbeaten side avoid West Indies in last four") It seems the writer knows her potential.
But my friend had the best of both worlds at Arundel that day having had the pleasure of watching the most elegant on the international scene too, and you won't need me to tell you who that is either. Scorecard.
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