The Roar
The Roar


What worth the 12th man?

Should the twelfth man have more involvement in cricket? (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Roar Pro
25th November, 2016

Cricket is an amazing game. All the old clichés are appropriate.

How can you play for four or five days and still not necessarily achieve a result?

Except for being bowled, the fielding team must ask the umpire to make a decision concerning the possibility of a batsman being out, unique to this game alone.

However, perhaps the most puzzling factor concerning cricket is the actual make-up of the team itself.

A cricket team, comprises 12 members, eleven of whom actually get to play in the whole of the three aspects of the game: batting, bowling and fielding.

The twelfth member, known as the ’12th man’, sort of plays and sort of doesn’t. He’s not permitted to bat or bowl, but he’s allowed to field.

He’s there to be a substitute, so that the fielding team can maintain eleven players on the playing field at any time, I assume, in an attempt to have equality between the two sides playing.

The inconsistency revolves around the fact that this 12th man is not permitted to bat or bowl.

Arguably, for a given team to go a batsman or bowler down, due to injury, illness, family emergency, etc., during a game and not permitted to substitute that player, with the 12th man, enabling the twelfth to bat, bowl and field, seems to completely contradict the concept of equality.


The vast majority of team sports, have reserves or a playing squad, nominated for a particular game. This can be on a rotational basis or just one swap.

This concept enables teams to share the workload, hopefully reducing the risk of injury or fatigue.

In relation to cricket, and in this day and age of workload and fatigue paranoia, what better than the fielding team, and therefore also, the bowling team, having another team member, their 12th man, available, not only to field, but to bowl as well?

It would also enable the team, when batting, to select any of their 12 team members, to fill the eleven batting slots.

It would allow some degree of flexibility to the batting order, in relation to the bowling skills of the opposition.

More importantly, it would allow all twelve members of the team to contribute equally, during the game.

Under the present rule, the 12th man particularly at Test level, more often than not is shuffled off to the Sheffield Shield to gain quality playing time.

The 12th man fielding duties get hand-balled to, usually, some unknown Premier/A Grade local league cricketer who gets the opportunity to achieve the dream of their life-time, to ‘play’ for their country at Test level, be it only in a fielding capacity.