David Leggat: Toss the toss, but keep the occasional green seamer

That's life, you might say. McCullum would have bowled first. Them's the breaks. Photo / Mark Mitchell
That's life, you might say. McCullum would have bowled first. Them's the breaks. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Among the ideas being thrown around to improve test cricket is one involving tossing the coin, or rather not tossing it.

It's as old as the game itself, starting the contest with the flip to decide who bats and bowls.

Now there's talk of doing away with the toss.

The way this would unfold, say the proponents - who include notable former test players - is the visiting team choose whether they want to bat or send the hosts in.

The quid pro quo is the home side, but not the visitors, can change their XI after the decision has been made.

Designed to remove the more overt doctoring of pitches to support the home cause, it's worth a decent think.

Take yesterday at the Basin Reserve where the toss had an inordinate say in the events on a hugely anticipated day, both in terms of Brendon McCullum and the sheer excitement of the return transtasman series.

Australia's seamers were good but the ball jagged about in the morning as if in the hands of a mischievous marionette operator. The first seven batsmen were caught between wicketkeeper and third slip.

It was no fun for the batsmen and now New Zealand need a big shovel to stay in the contest.

That's life, you might say. McCullum would have bowled first. Them's the breaks.

True enough, but the pitch had been slightly overjuiced by the new groundsman, Hagen Faith.

This is his first test at the helm and maybe, like an over-eager Masterchef contestant being berated by a shouty judge to avoid bland at all costs, he threw an extra couple of tablespoons of green chilli into the pot.

To compound their difficulties, New Zealand didn't need another umpiring gaffe in the final over of the day either.

Dudded by one English umpire at Adelaide in the day-night test - Nigel "It could have been anything" Llong's match-changing clanger - New Zealand suffered at the hands of Llong's countryman, Richard Illingworth.

His penalising of Doug Bracewell for overstepping when he sent the ball cannoning into Adam Voges stumps was shown within seconds to be a howler. Why can the third umpire not bellow into Illingworth's ear "Wrong call, champ. Fix it quickly"?

Umpires are quick to tell a departing batsman to hang on while they check the validity of a wicket-taking delivery. Does the reverse not apply?

Cricket doesn't need more stoppages, but if it's to right a wrong, there's a good case for it.

Back to the pitch. The occasional bright green seamer is no bad thing. This is a batsman's game, ever more so as the bats get fatter and the grounds smaller.

Give the bowlers something to cheer them. Not a fair contest? Not fair when they're being flogged to all parts on the roads around the international circuit either. Remember Perth in November?

At Hobart five years ago, in equally green conditions, New Zealand won a thriller by seven runs. Australian captain Michael Clarke was out of the blocks as soon as he'd parked himself at the post-match press conference.

We'd hear no complaints from him, Clarke said. The batsmen get it too easy too often, was the gist of his remarks. Neither a popular leader nor personality, Clarke in this case was bang on.

- NZ Herald

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