Former players hail active 12th man~~s introduction

Published: Tuesday, July 19, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:The novel concept of supersub and the change in fielding restriction rules in Limited Overs cricket might narrow the gap between the second rung teams and world champions Australia, former players feel.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) last month decided to allow on an experimental basis for next 10 months a soccer style substitution in One-day Internationals.

The new rule allows teams to substitute one of the 11 players at any point of time in the match with the right to bat and bowl. The replaced player, however, cannot take part in the match once substituted.

The ICC has also decided to do away with the mandatory field restrictions in the first 15 overs. Instead, it has increased the number of overs with restrictions to 20 with 10 overs mandatory at the start of the innings and the remaining 10, split into two blocks of five overs each, to be applied at the discretion of the fielding captain.

The idea of full-time substitution could come in handy for a team like India that has struggled to find the right balance between bowling and and batting in the line-up. An 'active' 12th man would solve that problem, and would spare the captain much ridicule of his 'seven batsmen' theory.

"Champion sides will always do well whatever the rules. But other teams now have a chance. Normally we pack seven batsmen, three bowlers and a wicketkeeper who can bat. Now we can go in with six batsmen," V B Chandrasekhar, an India international and currently a national selector, said.

"It depends on how the teams use it (the substitution). Captains can have a flexible strategy."

Chandrasekhar felt that the shorter version of the game, besides having become predictable, had come to place too much importance upon the toss, and that the new rules would change that situation.

"Looking at recent results, toss was a definite factor. Teams batting first and scoring 340-350 had the advantage," he said.

"That may not be the case anymore. Maybe they (the rules) need some improvement but the matches will not be so predictable. It all depends on how teams adapt to it."

The 43-year old from Tamil Nadu disagreed that the toss would become a lottery or wreck a captain's plans when the playing conditions dictated team strategies."If you are playing under lights and are short of a spinner, the substitution could be handy," he said.

But Chandrasekhar's former statemate and Test player T A Sekhar realises the potential landmine the concept poses for a captain and the player involved.

"There is an element of risk in it. It is going to be a double-edged sword for the captains. If it clicks, he will be hailed. If he fails, he will be railed," Sekhar said.

"It could also affect the morale of the youngster picked to play. In India, we name teams for two-three matches."

"If the newcomer fails and the supersub does well, it could put undue pressure (on the former)."

Another cricketer who saw lot of positives about the rule changes was former Indian captain Dilip Vengsarkar.

"In my opinion, bowlers who can bat will make the perfect supersub. But more than the supersub, the new field restrictions rule will have a long term impact on the game," the Mumbaikar said.

Chandrasekhar, however, said the 20 overs should be split into four phases of five overs.

"Suppose a team makes 250, and the chasing team scores 100 or more in the first 10 overs, it is still a lopsided game. I think it should be five overs mandatory in the beginning as 10 is still too much," he said.

Again, the basic idea was to allow teams to make up for the earlier mistake and comeback into the match, he added.

He said supersubs would prove to be more effective in Test cricket. He said it would allow the captain to correct any error in tactics or strategy, give the teams another chance to fightback and thereby making the contest more interesting.

"Like in the Nagpur Test (where Australia conquered the Final Frontier last season)," he cited as example. "We went in with two fast bowlers and two spinners while Australia had three pacers and a spinner. If we had substitution, we could have played the extra fast bower."

So, was he in favour of supersubs in Tests as well?

"I will definitely recommend it for Tests. We don't have to hang on in the name of traditions."

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