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Sports

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Agencies
May 18, 2018

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ICC may scrap coin toss in Test matches

ICC may scrap coin toss in Test matches

DUBAI: The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) 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.

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 ESPNcricinfo:

“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.”

One of the biggest champions of the concept was former Australia coach Darren Lehmann. He will be absent from the meeting as the representative of international coaches after resigning from his post in the wake of the Newlands ball-tampering fiasco. In his 2016 book, Coach, Lehmann was blunt about the scenario facing visiting Test teams.

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 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.”

Waugh, who as Australian captain from 1999 to 2004 did much to reduce the perceived influence of the coin toss by often sending opponents in to bat first in defiance of conventional wisdom, has argued the psychological effect could be significant.

The English experiment in 2016 resulted in changes. The ECB reported 85% of matches went into a fourth day compared to 74% in 2015 - the highest percentage since 2009. The average score for the first innings was 332, slightly up from 325 in 2015. The average score for the second innings of a match was 343, up from 290 in 2015.

A total of 843 wickets were taken by spin in 2016, up from 752 in 2015. Seventy-one of the 142 matches in both divisions were drawn, discounting two abandoned matches, meaning there was a positive result in the other 71 - whereas in 2015, there were 93 results and only 51 draws.

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