Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Five-minute recess would stir up interesting debate

This is where the ICC should make a significant change to their game. Photo / AP
This is where the ICC should make a significant change to their game. Photo / AP

Bowlers are restricted to a set ball measurement but batsmen use any willow design which suits their style.

That cricket anomaly is getting a belated overhaul in October after lawmakers specified bat dimensions to rectify the imbalance between the cherry and the blade. While the ball had to fit through a circle measure, batsmen were carting trees to the crease.

Irregularities were thick on the ground in India, too, where the Aussies said it was coincidence their batsmen looked at the dressing room as they considered a decision review.

Another incongruity rode into closer focus in Dunedin as New Zealand and South Africa prepared for the opening duel of their three-test series. Acres of newsprint and hours of radio and television discussion were devoted to questions about whether to bat or bowl on new groundsman Mike Davies' test track.

Consensus suggested win the toss and field. However, South African captain Faf du Plessis chose to buck that trend and bat to avoid a fourth innings spinning inspection from Jeetan Patel, Mitchell Santner and Kane Williamson.

Five-day weather forecasts for Dunedin and predictions about the state of the pitch on Sunday are as challenging as unravelling the continuing chapters about Kieran Foran's physical and mental fitness.

In rugby, league, football or netball, dealing with the elements is one of the usual challenges of those shorter contests unless you are playing rugby under the roof in Dunedin or Cardiff. In cricket, conditions have a significant impact and produce debates about whether they produce compelling or unfair contests.

This is where the ICC should make a significant change to their game.

Once du Plessis decided to bat in Dunedin, he and Williamson should have got five minutes to consult their advisers and hand their starting sides to the match referee. That would remove much of the tedious chatter which invades tests about the luck of the toss. Groundstaff could prepare wickets to suit the home side but they needed to win the toss to benefit fully from that strategy and then wait while their opponents countered with their selections.

In that scenario, South Africa may have followed convention in Dunedin and asked New Zealand to bat first rather than spotting the spinners on the team sheet and looking to counter any fourth innings impact.

How did South Africa get that "early" team news anyway? Usually details are declared once the toss is made and television hosts ask the captains for their sides but NZ's decision to drop Tim Southee seemed to be common knowledge well before du Plessis called correctly.

After a five-minute recess, Williamson and coach Mike Hesson may have stuck with their same side. However, when they were asked to bowl first, they could added Southee and left out one of their spinners.

Multiple options could have been covered with an extended squad in camp. Specialist spinner Ish Sodhi could have partnered Patel to take the ball away from the South African right-handers, they could have opted for greater speed from Lockie Ferguson or Adam Milne and had Tom Blundell or Luke Ronchi for the keeping duties.

Unlike rugby, league or football coaches who go to their bench as fatigue hits, cricket could make those fascinating calls and ramp up some meaty discussion before play.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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