Colin Bryden

No challenge in picking 12

2009-10-28 08:52
Sport24 columnist Colin Bryden (File)
Colin Bryden

One of the principal challenges for cricket selectors down the years has been to pick the best possible combination of 11 players.

Being allowed to select 12, which will be the case in the MTN 40 competition which starts on Wednesday, takes away one of the game's traditional balancing acts.

It is also a throwback to the unsuccessful experiment in the Nissan Shield back in 1990/91 when substitutes were allowed, the most memorable aspect of which was umpire Barry Lambson's "Lambada" gyrations when he signalled that a switch was about to be made.

The substitutions did not add notably to the quality of cricket and an unfortunate side effect was that Lambson lost some credibility as a serious umpire just when South Africa were about to return to international cricket.

Despite delving into numerous books and websites, I am not sure how it was decided that teams should consist of 11 players but the number seems to pre-date the first publication of a set of laws back in 1744.

It is a wonderful number because it almost always leads to a conundrum. Unless you are blessed with exceptional all-rounders, of the calibre of Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock when they were both in their prime as bowlers, you are usually going to have to compromise either your batting or your bowling.

In Test cricket, picking the four best bowlers, as South Africa have done in rising to number one in the rankings, leaves the risk that the batting is heavily reliant on six specialists.

Limited overs cricket is further complicated by the need to have at least five bowlers, which usually means that teams either have to pick an all-rounder or two, or make up a composite fifth bowler by having at least two batsmen who can get away with bowling a few overs.

With teams of 12 - only 11 can bat or field - the task is made easier, although I doubt it will make for a better game. It will certainly be less cerebral.

Colin Bryden is a former cricket correspondent of the Sunday Times and current editor of the Mutual & Federal South African Cricket Annual

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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