Monday, September 28, 2009

Runners in Cricket

I am so glad that this event happened - a captain turning down a runner for the opposition for reasons unrelated to injury. I am really very glad. Here is my take on it - a runner is not a general purpose substitute pair of legs. It has to be a specific replacement only in case of injury - injury that was collected on the line of duty in that particular match.

The problem is that all teams in cricket have been abusing the system of runners. I recall the days when weak players with less stamina would just call upon a runner as they ran tired of scoring their centuries (If you don't know who they are, think of a laughing Sardarjee and a enigmatic prince from an east Indian state.)

The system gets even more unreasonable when cricketers carry small injuries into a match and use a runner to replace their running. This happened in the ICC 2007 world T20 final, where thankfully, the umpire refused one to Imran Nazir for a injury he carried from a previous match.

Well, frankly speaking, there shouldn't be a concept of runners in a T20 match. Just let the injured guy get back to the pavilion and move things on. If your injured player has to come back as the eleventh man, then probably a runner can be allowed. If your entire batting line up can't survive 20 overs just because of one guy's injury, then sorry, you shouldn't be winning anyway.

Now, as happened in yesterday's match, a player shouldn't be asking for a runner because of cramps. Cramps is not an injury, its a problem of under preparation, and the sport shouldn't bother subsidizing their training. In fact, it gives an unfair advantage to the relatively-unfit cricketers. And that only decreases the value of the sport.

It also belittles accomplishment. When Saeed Anwar scored his world record 194 against India, I was left in a bad taste - I knew that Viv Richards didn't need a runner for his 189, so why should a runner-supported innings of Anwar's be considered better than Viv's genius performance?

The bigger problem is that ICC and the Cricket leadership is often found wanting in taking action to rid the sport of its ills. For instance, they haven't yet worked on the over-rate problem effectively. They are yet to effectively tackle the issue of toss-winners getting too much advantage in lopsided pitches. And this one - of not-so-fit cricketers using the game's rules to achieve what they couldn't have without the support system. In the end, I dearly wish the leaders of the game get together to tackle these, and other problems, to make the sport better.



Administrative note

All tech posts have now moved to http://tech.shreeni.info or you may subscribe to its RSS feed. In due course, I shall be moving it out completely, so if you follow my tech posts, please shift to following that blog.