As with every innovation in sport, and indeed life, there has to be a period of reserving judgement, of taking stock, of assessing the impact.
Four rounds of the County Championship is a perfectly adequate ‘reserving judgement’ period over the change of rules regarding the toss and judgement can now be passed: What a load of nonsense!
That change being of course that the visiting team have the option of bowling first or can choose to toss as normal should they not wish to bowl.
It’s an innovation that’s been brought in for sound reasons. The aim is to make groundsmen prepare pitches that last for four days and to prevent them from presenting a surface that is inadequate and is weighted too heavily against the batting side.
It’s also been done to aid the development of spinners, the theory being that they will get the chance to bowl more overs on better pitches. Admittedly, too many poor pitches were on show in the County Championship last season and the ECB should be applauded for taking action.
They’ve just gone the wrong way about it. If the pitches in recent years were so bad, why were no points deducted as a result? That had to be the starting point. There was no need to jump in at the deep end and abandon a tradition in the sport since the first county championship game in 1890.
What they have done with this change is force groundsmen to go the other way and we’ve seen a plethora of flat belters that have produced centuries galore and precious little chance of a result.
After three rounds of Division One, we saw just two results. Two! Yes, there has been a bit of weather around but the main reason for the volume of draws has been the pitches that have been prepared to negate the threat of being asked to bat first.
Naturally, county coaches don’t want a surface with plenty of grass on and a bit of uneven bounce as they know full well that the visiting team will insert them and they could be all out by tea on the first day.
So we’ve seen matches like that at the Oval, where Surrey amassed 701 runs from their two innings, while Durham managed 607 from their one innings. There were 26 centuries in the first three rounds of the new season, which is fantastic on the one hand, but ridiculous on the other.
In round four, every Division One game saw a toss, because every side now knows that the pitches in the County Championship are bat-first and pile-on-the-runs wickets.
The abandoning of the toss has taken the game, already dominated by batsmen, even further away from the bowlers. The decision is made for good reasons, it makes sense.
But Formula One’s decision to change the qualifying format at the start of this season was made for good reasons.
That didn’t stop it turning qualifying into the most boring event in the history of the sport. Formula One swiftly scrapped it and cricket should do the same.
It may well aid spinners towards the back end of the season, but with the volume of matches in April and May, the move has done more harm than good. The pitches are just too flat and are giving us matches that never look like ending in results.
Perhaps it was worth a trial, but it’s not a trial that should turn into something permanent. Cricket has to be about an even contest between bat and ball, and while the threat of being inserted without the chance of a 50/50 coin toss remains, we will continue to see flat pitches that make batting first a simple, risk-free task.
Bring back the toss and you’ll bring back pitches with a bit in it for the bowlers. If a county starts preparing poor pitches again, with too much in it for the bowling side, then hammer that county with points deductions.
It’s a simple solution and one that doesn’t change the fabric of the sport.
So while some fans in other sports protest demanding a change of manager or the removal of unsavoury owners, this county cricket fan wants something altogether more simple.
Just give us back that age-old tradition of a coin toss at the start of the game. Let us witness that shiny coin go up in the air and give us back that element of chance that has defined cricket matches throughout the history of the sport.