I wrote during the Ashes in England earlier this year of some changes I would like to see made to the laws of the game of cricket at the top level of the game. One of the areas in which I was proposing change was in the area of the running onto the field of drinks by 12th, 13th and 14th men.
I was astonished to see live just the number of interruptions to the flow of the game by such “drinks waiters” during the first three days of cricket at the Gabba during the first test match. The accountant in me decided to tally up the number of interruptions during one hour of play, specifically the third hour of play on day 3.
During the hour in question, in which the only wicket to fall was one in the final over of the hour, there were no less than eight incursions onto the field by drinks waiters to provide members of both teams with a drink and, in the case of the batters, a change of gloves. Most astonishingly was the call onto the field by the Australian captain, Michael Clarke, for a change of gloves and a drink exactly four minutes or one over before 1:40pm, being the time an actual drinks break would have taken place.
Now I concede that it was a warm and steamy day in Brisbane on the third day of the test match when I undertook this exercise of counting the number incursions by drinks waiters on the field but in an hour when 14 overs were bowled can it really be justified by either side that greater than half of the breaks between overs in the hour in question were punctuated by a break for a drink? Put differentialy, was it really necessary for the drinks to be on the field every 7.5 minutes during the hour of play?
I understand that the ICC has directed its umpires to stamp out this practice in the interests of speeding up play, however, if Messrs Dar and Dharmasena received that message from their pay masters they obviously decided to ignore it because, aside from the occasion I complain of immediately before drinks when Mr Dar did approach Clarke, ostensibly I assume to speed things along, they did nothing to stop the drinks waiters entering the field of play seemingly at the whim of the players.
Of course, every incursion onto the field creates a delay and every delay means that play has to go into overtime to allow for all of the overs required (90 in a day) to be bowled. I just don’t understand why these constant incursions into the field of play are continued to be allowed. At the top level of the game, cricketers are professional athletes and surely they have the necessary level of fitness to continue in the middle without the need to have a drink every 10 minutes (or more to the point every 7 minutes). Club cricketers the world over are called on every weekend to wait for the full hour between drinks so why do the “professionals” get special treatment?
It is a black mark on the game of cricket and I again maintain that it is time for a change in the laws to be made because that is the only way the practice is going to be stamped out. I concede that there are bigger issues in the game that require amendment to the laws but having seen the delays caused by these ongoing disruptions it is the one that is at the forefront of my mind at present.