Monday, March 28, 2011

SECL Rule Change

I recently had the opportunity to attend what some in cricket clubs loathe, AGM’s. these meetings of the mind between club and league can produce the most nodding heads in the room as we all struggle after a long day at the office to again listen to the monotone sounds of a large committee of volunteers discuss the basics of a league that is variably unchanged for 100’s years.

Personal I enjoy the meeting of captains and teams prior to the beginning of battle, this time off the field allowing the competitive cricketer the opportunity to lay down ones weapons at the door and talk in peace of the past season, hopes for the coming one and what we have done in the months of ice and snow.

The Southampton Evening Cricket League (SECL) is a traditional evening competition for which I have been told fables of players such as Robin Smith & Malcom Marshall fame strutting around on the municipal grounds of Southampton, with images of crowds 6 deep on the boundary edge. These days the 4 soon to be 5 division league is much more in the aide of those who cannot find time to escape life’s’ duties on a weekend, or for those clubs looking for an extra game (that’s where we fall) With expansion this season to 5 Divisions it shows a distinct rise in those taking up the game, even if it is in its shortest format of 16 over’s. The more men wearing white the better I think the world would be.

With the 80th year of the AGM a change was to come in the form of a new bowling rule, currently a team can bowl 1 bowler a maximum of 4 overs per a match, with most teams relying on the use of 4 bowlers. The new rule proposed was to restrict teams to 2 bowlers of 4 overs and the rest to make up the 8 remaining overs.
The committee and the argument from those in favour were to bring more people into the game, and to restrict sides with 4 “star” bowlers knocking over the opposition quickly.
For 80 years the SECL as far as can tell has always been a competitive league, based on results. In the past no club has been forced to bowl only 4 bowlers and are well within their own rights or team ethos to give everyone ago, but they haven’t for fear of losing. An argument was spoken of a side who are named after one of the major sponsors of the league and their situation of an aging team that wishes to stay competitive in the future by blooding youngsters (15-17yr olds) this season, and they fear the threat of 4 seam demons making light work of the juniors.

Is this not your choice? Yes I can see that without these youngsters you may not field a side, and heaven forbid you may even lose a few games, and at worse it could be a season of relegation battles rather the trophy and trebles, but in a league based on wins and losses why should I care if you field a young team or an old team, for its not the age of the side but how we play the game that counts.

Teams must be responsible for the way they choose to have club involvement, some sides are your all winning no losing, others like a mixture of both winning & fun and then others are there just for the post match beer. Our side falls in the middle ground of fun first with the by-product of happy team, a winning team. And our skipper has managed the difficult task of keeping people involved and winning as best he could last year, and might I add with success having won the Division crown.

For those who bowl tend not to bat, and those that bat will not be bowled is the general rule of thumb within the side. This generally allows our team of all-rounder’s to be given a chance to perform in one part of the game. Now this worked and allowed us to win games as well enjoy our Thursday afternoons in the fading sunlight, had we not won games I doubt anything would have changed for our 4 bowlers would still been given the ball more than they were given the bat.

By encouraging sides to find a 5th bowler this could prove detrimental to the league, many of the sides we played found it hard to have 4 solid bowling options let along a 5th and in some cases a 6th. Even in the top Divisions you don’t want to be showcasing men unable to hit the strip. The by-product of this will result in pie-chuckers getting more overs therefore increasing the runs and lowering your chances of wickets, so in the end you will have more batsmen walking the boundary and topping up the tan than you will actually batting, so in the end 1 extra person gets to bowl, where as 8 more men get to watch the openers bat.

The SECL would have been better off introducing a retiring batsman rule of say 50 runs, thus allowing a team to rely on batting as a unit rather than putting all its eggs into one basket of 2 openers. When looking at some of the averages and discussing this with other sides it was clear that teams having a strong opener/s were keeping the rest of the side watching birds. By having this rule you appease to every cricketers thoughts process, not everyone can bowl, but every loves to bat. And is this that brings the pleasure to the amateur player, you never get caught by the good wife practising your googly in the mirror its always that blazing cover drive that see’s us using cooking spoons as MRF’s.

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