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Helmets to methodology of Messrs Duckworth and Lewis: nine novelties in cricket

Wisden India logo Wisden India 16-09-2016

Test cricket is getting a makeover. For the first time in its 138-year history, Australia and New Zealand took the field for a day-night Test in Adelaide on November 27, 2015.

The use of the pink ball under flood lights might not please a cricket purist, but dwindling crowds and thoughtless scheduling prompted administrators to come up with a novel idea to ensure the longevity of the format.

The possibilities of changes – both accidental and intentional – in the game will never cease, and will only aid the evolution of sport. Wisden India looks at some of the other innovations in cricket over the years.

Overarm bowling

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Overarm bowling became an accepted mode of releasing the delivery in 1864 – only 13 years after the first-ever Test. Playing for All England against Surrey at The Oval in 1862, Edgar Willsher staged a walk-out with eight of his teammates after he was no-balled six times for bowling overarm by John Lillywhite, the umpire. The incident raised a storm and the Marylebone Cricket Club stepped in to change the rules for the 1864 season, permitting a bowler to do anything other than throw the ball. But it was not until the infamous Trevor Chappell incident in a tri-series match between Australia and New Zealand in February 1981 that underarm bowling was completely banned from the playing conditions of competitive cricket.

Covered pitches

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“England carry Derek Underwood like an umbrella in case of rain,” was a popular saying that did rounds in the late 1960s. A left-arm spinner, Underwood was known for his ability to exploit the pitches softened by rain. Not just him, a number of spinners excelled when the pitch would be drying as the ball would turn and skid a lot. A few sheets of tarpaulin on the ground might not actually seem like an innovation, but covered pitches were responsible for the beginning of the end of the wrist spinner – a trend that eventually gave rise to another find like the doosra. Uncovered pitches were phased out in the late 1960s, and that led to the normalisation of batting conditions across the world. Over the years, heavier bats and smaller boundaries have added to the woes of an offspinner, and it all boils down to covering the pitches.

World Series Cricket

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No one would have thought that a tiff over television rights would split the cricket world. Kerry Packer approached the Australian Cricket Board in 1976 with an offer to televise Australian cricket; the administrators were content with their relationship with the national broadcaster ABC, and dismissed Packer’s suggestion. The media mogul retaliated by secretly recruiting players from Australia, West Indies, South Africa, England and Pakistan to participate in made-for-TV matches in Australia in 1977 – the World Cricket Series. Although the series fizzled out with time, it paved the way for a host of innovations like coloured clothing, white balls, limited-overs cricket and day-night matches – all staples of modern day cricket.

Bouncer rule

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West Indies had reigned over world cricket in the 1980s primarily because their pace quartet picked up a reputation for testing the batsman’s mettle with searing bouncers. It resulted in many injures, and many talented batsmen got psyched out. There was also the slow over-rate factor with fast bowlers taking more time to complete their over. In 1991, the ICC introduced the one bouncer per batsman per over rule in an attempt to end the intimidation and buck up the over-rates. The change in rule defanged the fast bowlers to a certain extent and also coincided with West Indies’ declining fortunes.

Use of helmets

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The use of helmets by batsmen was an innovation born out of compulsion. Until the late 1970s, helmets were unheard of and batsmen wore nothing to protect heads except a cloth cap. After Peter Lever’s bouncer hit Ewen Chatfield on the temple and left him clinically dead for a while in February 1975, Tony Greig wrote: “I know it is time the situation was examined.” Dennis Amiss and Graham Yallop were among the first batsmen to sport a helmet in the modern era. While Amiss wore it regularly during the World Series Cricket tournament in 1978, Yallop was booed for wearing one while facing the famous West Indies quartet.

Fielding restrictions

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The limit on the number of fielders outside the 30-yard circle was a revolutionary innovation in One-Day Internationals. Before the rule came into effect, a lot of batsmen were apprehensive of going over the top. But in the 1992 World Cup, Mark Greatbach flogged bowlers over the top in the first 15 overs. Sanath Jayasuriya adopted a similar technique in the 1996 World Cup. Pinch-hitting, facilitated by the 15-over field restrictions, where only two fielders were allowed outside the 30-yard circle, was adopted during the World Series Cricket in 1977-78, and eventually standardised in 1995.

Duckworth-Lewis method

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Utterly confusing to the ordinary fan but quite fair, the Duckworth- Lewis method is a complex formula that helps in setting a revised target for teams in ODIs that are affected by weather. Devised by Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis, cricket’s famous English statisticians, the method came into existence in 1997, and takes into account how a team has been affected by rain, and also the number of wickets a batting side has in hand, before concluding the target. It replaced some bizarre rain rules, one of which playing a big factor in South Africa getting knocked out of the 1992 World Cup.

Third umpire

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Over the years many batsmen have suffered due to unfair decisions as the on-field umpires didn’t have technical assistance. Aided by various technological innovations like Snicko, Hawk Eye, microphones, multi-angled cameras and Hotspot, the concept of third umpire was first introduced in 1992 during India’s tour of South Africa. Interestingly, Sachin Tendulkar was the first victim, adjudged run out by a direct hit from Jonty Rhodes. Since then, the third umpire has been an integral part of the game, catering to even the minutest doubts.


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The shortest format of the game was dismissed as a gimmick when it was launched in 2003. With an aim of increasing attendance in county matches, the idea was floated by Stuart Robertson, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s marketing head. The first T20 match was played between Hampshire Hawks and Sussex Sharks in June 2003 and, even before the first fortnight-long season was over, a revolution began. The format paved the way for explosive hitting with many batting innovations like the Dilscoop, switch-hit and ramp shot. It didn’t take long for the three-hour contests to gain popularity around the world with the advent of various domestic tournaments like the Indian Premier League, Big Bash League, NatWest T20 Blast, among others.

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