Test cricket’s fundamental starting point may be scrapped, as the ICC’s cricket committee prepares to debate whether or not the coin toss should be removed as a way of reducing home ground advantage in the looming Test Championship, reports Cricinfo.
Every single Test match since the very first, between Australia and England at the MCG in March 1877, has begun with a toss of the coin to decide who should bat or bowl first. The home captain flips the coin and the visiting captain calls heads or tails.
However, there has been a growing body of opinion that home boards have manipulated conditions to suit their team, in turn adding a disproportionate level of importance to the toss.
The proposed remedy is to abandon the coin toss for matches played as part of the Test Championship, to commence with Australia’s Ashes tour of England in 2019, leaving the visiting side to elect whether to bat or bowl first.
This would be an extension of the playing conditions now used in the English County Championship since the start of the 2016 season, whereby the visiting team can choose to bowl first, with a coin toss to follow if the captain is not fussed.
According to briefing notes circulated ahead of the ICC cricket committee meeting at the end of May in Mumbai and seen by cricinfo, ‘There is serious concern about the current level of home team interference in Test pitch preparation, and more than one committee member believes that the toss should be automatically awarded to the visiting team in each match, although there are some others on the committee who do not share that view.’
A new international coaches representative on the committee, which features Anil Kumble, Andrew Strauss, Mahela Jayawardene, Rahul Dravid, Tim May, the New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White, the umpire Richard Kettleborough, ICC match referees chief Ranjan Madugalle, Shaun Pollock and Clare Connor, will be decided before the May 28-29 meeting.
Numerous others, including Ricky Ponting, Michael Holding, Ian Botham, Shane Warne and Steve Waugh, have also endorsed the idea.
‘The concerned authorities must look at what Ricky Ponting suggested – no more tosses,’ Holding wrote for Wisden India in 2015. ‘The minor setback there in my opinion, is that tosses are big for television. It makes for good tension, everyone is focused on that coin when it’s in the air and the winning captain’s decision and so on.
‘But that isn’t relevant now, times have changed and interest is waning in Test match cricket. What you need to do now is to make sure you have even contests between bat and ball. For that, there should be no toss and the visiting captain should be allowed to decide what he wants to do after inspecting the pitch.’
An English experiment in 2016 resulted in changes. The ECB reported 85 per cent of matches went into a fourth day compared to 74 per cent in 2015 – the highest percentage since 2009.