Time for cricket to embrace the ‘Billy Birmingham’

sheek Roar Guru

By sheek, sheek is a Roar Guru

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31 Have your say

    Sports commentator and comedian extraordinaire Billy Birmingham referred to his alter ego as “the 12th man”.

    Australian cricket has been ridiculed of late by commentators, former players and fans alike for its rotation policy.

    Those prominent ex-players who have criticised the rotation policy cover a wide generation gap, from the likes of Ian Chappell and Dennis Lillee to the more recent Shane Warne and Brett Lee.

    Convener of selectors John Inverarity attempted to put yet another spin on the rotation policy by referring to it as “informed player management.”

    You know an organisation is in trouble when they begin changing the original name of their policy. As if a different name will somehow make a difference. If it’s a dud concept, no amount of name changes will save it.

    I should say here Inverarity and his fellow national selectors Rod Marsh and Andy Bichel are not dills. But whoever is driving this policy has ensured their compliance for whatever reason.

    I can understand the need for the rotation policy up to a point. Players have been rested from matches since the game first began. I recall Lillee missing Shield matches in order to ensure he was right for the next Test.

    Resting players from minor games makes sense. Resting Test players from Tests when not injured doesn’t make sense. Nor does resting players from any games when they haven’t been extended in recent matches.

    Both these situations have occurred recently only exacerbating the derision of cricket fans.

    Although today’s cricketers aren’t necessarily playing more matches than 40 or 80 years ago, what is evident is that they are playing more high intensity matches. This is one reason given for the rotation policy.

    Another is the fact that cricket is still made up of only 11 players for the whole duration of a match.

    Players can be subbed during a match, but the substitute can only field, he can’t bat or bowl. So consequently, any on-field injury impacts negatively on a team (as we saw recently with Sri Lanka).

    For all practical purposes, there are two primary causes for the rotation policy being in place.

    The first is poor scheduling/structuring of the season. Potential Test players have no opportunity to build form and rhythm, or regain form since the Sheffield Shield is suspended mid-season.

    Secondly, cricket is still only played by 11 players with no opportunity for subs or replacements. Consequently, the NSP and advisors are ‘spooked’ into resting players on fear of breakdown, rather than proof they will actually break down.

    The first problem is the fault of CA and can easily be fixed by CA before the next season starts. The BBL should either start or end the season, my preference being the end.

    The key December to mid-January window should be exclusively held over for Tests and Sheffield Shield, which must be played in tandem with each other for obvious reasons.

    As for increasing the number of cricket players in a match from 11 to 12, this requires the input of the ICC and approval by a majority of member countries.

    Australian football is no longer an 18-man game. It is now a 22-man game.

    Rugby union is no longer a 15-man game. Each team has a 22-man squad, which is soon to be 23.

    Rugby league is no longer a 13 man game. Each team has a 17-man squad which will probably end up at 18.

    Soccer is no longer an 11-man game. Each team has 14-15 spots in the squad.

    Cricket should no longer be an 11 man game. It should be a 12 man squad. Select six batsmen, a keeper-batsman and five bowlers.

    When batting the ‘bunny’ can sit out. If you have two ‘bunnies’ then they can each sit out an innings, assuming all 11 batsmen are required.

    When bowling one of the batsman can put his feet up, or the fielders can rotate with time off in the sheds. The 13th man now becomes the new 12th man and is injected into the game when two players are incapacitated for any reason.

    It’s so ridiculously simple, it will work a treat. And it would remove this insidious practice of the rotation policy.

    A former rugby lock, cricket no.11 bat and no.10 bowler, and surfboat rower. A fan of the major team sports in Australia.

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    The Crowd Says (31)

    • Roar Guru

      January 21st 2013 @ 8:20am
      Andy_Roo said | January 21st 2013 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      Hi Sheek,

      Firstly I’m not sure i would want to interfere with the history of the game being eleven versus eleven. Test cricket is meant to be exactly that, a test of a teams mental and physical strength.
      Secondly I’m sure that those in charge would find justification for a rotation policy whether it’s 11v11 or 12v12.

    • Roar Guru

      January 21st 2013 @ 8:48am
      sheek said | January 21st 2013 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      Hi AndyRoo,

      Fair call.

      However, it really isn’t a problem. You still have 11 versus 11, in the same way you have 13 vs 13, or 15 vs 15, or 18 vs 18, but the ‘bench’ gives you flexibility.

      In cricket, you still have 11 batsmen versus 11 fielders & bowlers, the only difference being being you can swap a batsman for a bowler or vice-versa, depending on whether you’re batting or bowling/fielding.

      As for the history of the game, cricket has endured continuous change. Tests have gone from three days in England out to five, & from unlimited days in Australia back to five. Rest days have been removed.

      Overs have gone respectively from four balls to five balls & to eight balls in Australia for a very long time, but now standardised to six balls. Wickets used to be uncovered & left to the elements, creating ‘sticky’ wickets. Now all major pitches are covered when it rains.

      There are many more changes that could be mentioned, many of them cosmetic. The essence of the game doesn’t change however, if you go from a squad of 11 players to 12. It is still the same game.

    • January 21st 2013 @ 8:50am
      Red Kev said | January 21st 2013 @ 8:50am | ! Report

      The only issue I have is the one that we saw Clarke struggle with at the SCG when Australia had 5 frontline bowlers. The rotation was too much for him, he’d bowl guys for short spells and sub them because he felt he had to.
      Overall I like the idea, but it needs to be trialled at lower levels so captains can get the hang of how to manage it.

    • January 21st 2013 @ 9:31am
      Happy Hooker said | January 21st 2013 @ 9:31am | ! Report


      The BBL only works at a fan level, because so many people are on holidays and the kids aren’t at school when its on. Transfer it to the end of season, and crowd numbers will end up being of the magnitude of Sheffield Shield.

      • Roar Guru

        January 21st 2013 @ 10:00am
        sheek said | January 21st 2013 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        Hi Happy Hooker,

        I agree the BBL should be at the end, or towards the end of the season. For one thing, it provides an incentive for fringe players to keep their name in front of the selectors throughout the season.

        I guess we should determine at what point is the end of the season?

        I would hold open until mid-January for the test window, especially an Ashes series of five tests. Whether five or six tests in season, they should be played out over a nine-ten week period. This then allows two x three test series to be played over weeks, with another week or two break in between.

        An Ashes five test series ought to be played over eight weeks. All tests being played two weeks apart except for Boxing Day/New Year’s Day tests, which would start eight days apart.

        When should the Shield final be played? Could it be brought forward to the end of January, thus freeing up February for BBL? And where do we fit the one-dayers in?

        The practice of cutting the Sheffield Shield season in half, & they do the same with super rugby, is totally wrong in my view. I would rather see the Shield season finish earlier than have it cut in half. You don’t do this to other prime comps like the AFL, NRL or A-League.

        I know many major football comps in Europe have a mid-season (end of year) break, but this is due to practical consideration of weather conditions, & not at the whim of administrators trying to extract the last dollar out of the paying public.

    • January 21st 2013 @ 10:14am
      El Capitan said | January 21st 2013 @ 10:14am | ! Report


      I think players just need to play and get match fit, not gym fit. Last night when they put the old 80’s games on during the rain peroid, those players weren’t necessary gym fit, but were match fit enough not to break down.

      Players need to be able to bowl 20-30 overs in a day and still back up to perform the following day. there are two ways to achieve this. Net sessions, like a game day conditions and or off season matches. Net sessions are straight forward. Put a batsman in and bowl, just like a normal match. Bowl your 10 overs have a rest, chasing balls, catching practice ect, then back and bowl again.
      Off season matches, well I’m sure CA could establish games to be played in Cairns/Darwin ect during winter, where the climate is kind, and they can keep performing through out the off season, or they go on tours (maybe a CA invite team to SL/India/WI/SA) where they can play all season long (fringe players)

      What ever the case there must be a better way than leaving a player out cause he’s due for a rest.

    • January 21st 2013 @ 10:49am
      The Kebab Connoisseur said | January 21st 2013 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      Not a fan of rotation policies. End of the day, you are not fielding your best 11. I pay good money to watch the best play. If they are not fielding the best Australian 11 then I will keep my money.

      Now that is the ultimate judgement on on well your policies are working cricket Oz.

      If burn out is such an issue then maybe C.A.should schedule a lot less fixtures.

      One thing from a lifelong fan of cricket. The authorities have just about killed off the shorter forms of the game for me and I stopped going about 6 or 7 years ago due to the average teams they keep putting out there.

      Next time Australia is at the MCG against West Indies I will look at the team line ups before thinking of attending. It is a lot of money to go nowadays to watch a couple of second string elevens going around. It should only cost 20 bucks a ticket to sit anywhere in my opinion.

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