Tag Archives: West Indies

City-based T20 is the future, says international fielding guru

By Sam Blackledge

County cricket must move with the times and embrace city-based T20 franchise tournaments, according to an international coach.

Former baseball player Julien Fountain, who has coached top cricket teams around the world in all formats of the game, says administrators should recognise a growing “instant gratification culture” while keeping sight of the appeal of Test matches. 

“I think the city-based T20 option is the one that works in most places around the world,” Fountain tells Learning is Fun.

“You only have to look at other sports and the majority of teams are city-based. Spreading the entire tournament across an entire summer and eighteen teams makes it impossible to involve large numbers of foreign international players, which is part of the T20 attraction.

“A one-month condensed tournament suits everybody and is the way forward. County cricket must move with the times.”

The 46-year-old, who played baseball for Great Britain between 1988 and 2002 before moving into cricket coaching with the West Indies, Pakistan and Bangladesh, says the way fans watch the game is changing. 

“Cricket has to contend with the same social factors as everything in this era,” he says.

“People have different expectations for their leisure time. Back in the 80s when I was a kid, it was completely OK for boys and men to spend their entire weekends at a local cricket club or watching a professional county fixture.

“Now, the thought of spending an entire day watching cricket draws gasps of amazement from many people.

“This culture of immediate gratification, whilst not being the best attitude, must at least be understood and factored into the enhancement of cricket in all formats.

“T20 is a great platform for introducing people to the game, but the precise nuances and the depth of tactical battles in a Test match should also be marketed.”

Fountain’s specialist area is fielding, an aspect of the game which has changed beyond recognition over the last 20 years. 

“All coaches are working towards creating the most athletic and skilful fielding team possible,” he says.

“Practices involve skill execution and often involve stop watches and speed guns. The margin for error is so small that everybody is striving to achieve the fastest and most accurate piece of fielding possible.

“The speed of the ball; the distance of the throw versus the speed of the batter: margins are incredibly tight

“I always tell fielders: ‘If we can make the runners stutter through indecision, it increases the time for skill execution, and consequently increases our chance of success.”

Expectations have changed, Fountain says, to the point where every player is required to be athletic.

“In the 70s and 80s if a fielder dived to stop a ball they were in the minority,” he says. 

“Now it is considered the norm. Having players that simply cannot field at all has become virtually non-existent, as captains and coaches have realised each run saved in the short format is vital and errors can be very costly as the game reaches a conclusion.”

Fountain believes that while crowds love to see sixes raining down into the stands, the balance between bat and ball has shifted too far. 

“I hope the powers that be start to take the bowlers into account when they think about game improvements, as there currently seems to be a batter-friendly attitude,” he says.

“Fans want action, but it must come from both batters and bowlers. Bowlers are not merely glorified bowling machines and should be treated fairly by legislators.”

He warns against the assumption that successful cricketers will go on to achieve great things as coaches. 

“Having played cricket at a high level can help a coach, but it can also hinder them,” he says.

“Many coaches today are awarded their positions because they have played the game at a high level. Which is great because they bring with them some first hand experience of competition.

“But you should consider that their career has been spent looking after themselves and not worrying about how other players do things.

“Good coaches are able to enhance the performance of a cross-section of players with varied abilities. It is not about simply ‘Do it my way’, because their way may not be appropriate for some players.”

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The Decision Review System and Schrödinger’s cat

by Sam Blackledge

IN 1935 the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger devised a thought experiment applying the theories of quantum mechanics to a hypothetical scenario.

Schrödinger presented the idea of a cat trapped in a box with a vial of poison, a radioactive source and a Geiger counter. If the counter detects radiation, the flask is shattered and the poison kills the cat. But according to Schrödinger’s theory, while the box is still sealed the cat is simultaneously alive and dead in the minds of those in the outside world.

The theory has probably never been aligned with the world of cricket, but during the third day of the second test between England and West Indies it suddenly sprang to mind.

Tim Bresnan bowled two balls to Kirk Edwards. The first one struck him on the pad, a huge appeal went up, but umpire Asad Rauf was unmoved. England decided against the review – a wise choice, as Hawk Eye showed the ball would have gone on to clip leg stump and the original decision would have stood. Bresnan’s second ball again trapped Edwards in front and he was given out. He accepted the decision and the replay had the ball just clipping the bails.

In both instances, the ball was only just hitting the stumps. Had the decisions been reviewed, both would have stayed with the on-field umpire’s decision. But the end result was that one was out, and one was not out. Confused?

The official guide to the Decision Review System (DRS) states: “If the technology shows that the centre of the ball would have hit the stumps within an area demarcated by a line drawn below the lower edge of the bails and down the middle of the outer stumps then it’s out (subject to all other factors being in place.)
“If the technology shows that no part of the ball would have made contact with any part of the stumps or bails then it’s not out. Otherwise, the on-field umpire’s original decision stands.”

You may need to read that again. This aspect of the DRS is in place to take account of that grey area, the unknown land between the ball hitting the pad for real and striking the stumps in the virtual world of the third umpire’s room.

While the players are mulling over whether or not to review a decision, the batsman can be seen as both out and not out. You would think the increasingly impressive technology would bring this existential crisis to a swift conclusion. In tennis, Hawk Eye has done wonders to show conclusively whether the ball is in or out. In soccer, the whole of the ball must be over the whole of the line. But cricket being cricket, we have to make things just that little bit more complicated.

Let’s go back to that first ball from Bresnan. It was hitting leg stump, but given not out. Logic dictates that the decision should be overturned. If Edwards had missed the ball, the technology says it would have clipped leg stump. Would it have been given not out because only one stump was disturbed? Of course not.

If the ICC had a policy of “clipping the stumps is not out”, we could deal with that. But the second ball was clipping the stumps too, and given out. If Edwards had reviewed it, he would still have had to slump back to the pavilion.

The DRS is one of the most significant advances of the modern era. It will surely undergo several changes over the next few years, but in order for it to really work the authorities need to trust it.

By sticking with this system which leaves half of the power in the hands of the on-field umpire, the ICC is refusing to commit and therefore questioning the reliability of its own brainchild. The ball is either be hitting the stumps – out – or missing them – not out. Until this issue is resolved, the cat in the box remains both alive and dead.

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