ICC abolishes runners, makes tweaks to ODIs

The abolition of runners, the usage of new balls from each end in one-dayers, and regulation of when the batting and bowling Powerplays can be taken are among the key recommendations the ICC Chief Executives’ Committee has made after its meeting in Hong Kong. The suggestions, if approved by the ICC Executive Board, will come into effect from October 1. The other major decision taken was of making a modified version of the Decision Review System mandatory in Tests and ODIs.

Runners have been an established part of cricket for more than a century, though there have been several recent disagreements over their usage. In the 2009 Champions Trophy, Andrew Strauss had denied the cramping Graeme Smith a runner leading to controversy. Earlier this year, Michael Clarke had also questioned the need for runners for batsmen suffering from cramps.

The committee also made a series of proposals to spruce up the one-day game, foremost among them being the decision to use new balls at each end. The white ball loses colour as the innings progresses, making it hard to sight for the batsman, a problem the ICC had tried to address by replacing the ball after 34 overs. The most high-profile occasion so far where two new balls were used was the 1992 World Cup. The new ruling means bowlers will be able to get the ball to swing for longer periods, giving them more of a say in an increasingly uneven battle with batsmen.

The other major decision regarding the one-day game was to allow teams to take the batting and bowling Powerplays only between the 16th and 40th over. While the idea of introducing Powerplays are generally seen to have added an element of unpredictability to the format, bowling sides usually stuck to taking their Powerplay between the 11th and 15th over, while the batting team saved theirs for late in the innings. This meant the Powerplays didn’t address the familiar criticism of the middle overs of one-day game being predictable, something the new proposal aims to correct.

The committee also decided to impose tougher penalties against slow over-rates. While captains were previously suspended for three over-rate breaches within a year, they will now be docked after only two offences.

ICC chief Haroon Lorgat backed the changes suggested. “Even though the success of 50-over cricket played during the World Cup 2011 was universally acknowledged, the CEC rightly supported the enhancements recommended by the ICC Cricket Committee to strengthen the format further, including encouraging Members to trial some specific innovations in their domestic cricket.”

Some ideas the committee recommends for domestic trials include changing the maximum number of overs a bowler is allowed, increasing the number of bouncers permitted in an over from one to two, making it optional to have close-in catchers and restricting the number of fielders outside the circle to four in non-Powerplay overs.

One major item on the agenda which remained unresolved was the format of the 2015 World Cup, with the committee recommending a qualification process for the tournament but not specifying how many teams would participate in the event. The announcement is, nevertheless, a crucial development since it revives the hopes of the Associate nations over participating in the tournament.

Another big issue to be addressed when the full council meets on Thursday is whether to continue with the rotational system of choosing ICC presidents. Pakistan and Bangladesh – the two members who are to put up the next candidates for president and vice-president – are both believed to be opposed to changing the current procedure.