“Should power plays even exist? With all the other factors being batting-friendly, why not give the fielding side the liberty to place his fielders wherever the bowler wants. Of course, if most of the fielders are patrolling the boundary, the field is automatically less attacking and the chances of chipping a wicket reduces”.
Over the years, cricket laws have undergone massive changes, which in a way has only aided the batsmen. The balance of the game is heavily tilted in the favour of batsmen in contemporary cricket and a bowler’s life has become miserable.
With king-sized bats, new rules, lightning quick outfields, two new balls from both the ends and emergence of T20 cricket, run-scoring has become relatively easy. A bowler is just hapless out in the middle and if there is no help from the surface, he is bound to get murdered.
With so many factors assisting the batting side on the field, there are very few things that work in bowlers favour. To add to their woes, batting power-play was introduced, which provided more undefended areas in the deep for the fielding captain.
In an attempt to provide some relief to the bowlers, ICC scrapped the batting power-play from ODIs and brought few more changes to make their lives easy. Earlier, a batting side was allowed to take a batting Power-play of five overs, which would leave a major part of the boundary open. The batting side would look to capitalise this phase and use it to their advantage. But as per the new rules, which came into effect recently, there are three mandatory powerplays in ODI cricket. The powerplay law is further explained.
As per the ICC, the fielding laws are as follows:
Powerplay 1 (from overs 10 to 10): No more than 2 fielders shall be permitted outside the 30-yard circle.
Powerplay 2 (from overs 11 to 40): No more than 4 fielders shall be permitted outside the 30-yard circle.
Powerplay 3 (from overs 41 to 50): No more than 5 fielders shall be permitted outside the 30-yard circle
“We have thoroughly reviewed the ODI format after a very successful ICC Cricket World Cup. There was no need to make any radical changes to what has proved to be a vibrant and popular format but we wanted to take this opportunity to make the format simpler and easier to follow for the public as well as maintaining a balance between bat and ball,” ICC Chief Executive David Richardson said after discussing the ICC Cricket Committee’s recommendations at the ICC Annual Conference 2015 in Barbados.
“In making these adjustments, we have tried to ensure that ODI cricket retains the attacking, aggressive and thrilling brand, which has recently become the hallmark of 50-over cricket and sets us on a positive path to the next World Cup in England in 2019,” Richardson added.
The question is, why is batting powerplay a hindrance for bowlers? First and foremost, the fact that contemporary cricket is batsmen oriented is a big hurdle for the bowlers. There is hardly any breathing space for them, an err in length and the ball is dispatched for a boundary. The margin for error is minimal, one just can’t afford to step a foot wrong. Also, the surfaces dished out on most of the occasions are flat, extremely flat.
Cricket is now being marked as the game of sixes and boundaries, games are more or less a run-fest. The crowd loves to see big runs being scored. Even the length of the boundary is shorter these days. The batting powerplay was no less than an icing on the cake for the batting side. With less fielders patrolling the boundary during these five overs, the batting side would pick their bowlers and smash them through the undefended areas.
The batting powerplay only added to the fielding side captain’s trouble. Few fielders outside the 30-yard circle meant the bowler had to bowl to his field, a slight error in length would prove costly. A bowler also becomes more predictable during these five overs. For instance, if a bowler has a field placed for a short ball, the batsman would be ready for it and any change in length would only work against the bowler as most of the areas were unguarded.
ICC’s move to get rid of the batting powerplay was a masterstroke. The teams are now allowed four fielders from 11 to 40th over and five fielders in the last ten, which is also the time when the batting side goes all guns blazing. The bowlers can now have maximum protection in the death overs.
Another question that strikes the mind is – Should power plays even exist? With all the other factors being batting-friendly, why not give the fielding side the liberty to place his fielders wherever the bowler wants. Of course, if most of the fielders are patrolling the boundary, the field is automatically less attacking and the chances of chipping a wicket reduces.
With the new rules coming into play, bowlers are relieved to an extent. But the idea of giving the fielding captain complete liberty to place his fielders can be considered. It’s a tantalising idea but will definitely bring a lot of balance in the game. The batting side will have to drill hard for every run while the bowlers will have some breathing space too. One thing is for sure, batting powerplays are no more needed in contemporary cricket, and one never knows if the future of ODI cricket will have powerplays or not? It’s a tempting thought, but the possibility is always there.