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A new format after Twenty20 - Cricket Foursome
All sports have undergone several changes in rules, formats and scoring methods to achieve two important objectives: First to improve the quality of the game and the second to adapt with the changing needs of modern followers to run the sport profitably.

Cricket, for instance, had started with a single format which we know as Test cricket. The first match was played between Australia and England from 15–19 March 1877 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. No doubt it is the ultimate test of a player, but the five-day duration of the game slowly drove the spectators away. This concerned the cricket administrators as the game could not spread lucratively without admirers.

While the hunt for a new format, which we know as ODI today, was going on, it came accidentally involving the same two teams and the same venue almost a century later on 5 January 1971. The first three days of the third Test were washed out prompting the officials to abandon the match and, instead, play a one-off one-day game consisting of 40 eight-ball overs per side. Later on, it was changed to 60 six-ball overs a side for some time. Before the current 50 overs a side format, 55 overs a side was also tried in between. Originally played with the traditional red ball in white outfits, the modern white ball ODIs came because of introduction of day-night matches and colored outfits.

ODIs attracted the crowd and the game started spreading. The second format complemented Test cricket rather than replacing it which was a welcome sign. Test cricket remained as testing ground for class and skill while the ODIs provided entertainment value with big bang hitting, particularly during the initial power play overs and final few overs. 

A Test match takes 5 days without the guarantee of a result. An ODI takes a day, around 8 playing hours, which gives us a winner except in cases of rare tied matches. What about a format that gives you a sure winner, using tie breakers to take care of rare cases, in less time with more entertainment? Anybody's guess, it's T20I, the shortest format as on date.

Though initially introduced to bolster crowds for the domestic game, the first Twenty20 International was played on 17 February 2005 between Australia and New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland.

Interestingly, Australia was involved in first ever matches of all three formats and won every time.

After the inception of IPL, T20 spread like wild fire. The shortest format was super hit because it required less than four highly entertaining hours to get an assured result. The game gainfully continues to spread further ever since.

The essence is that the spectators want to see a real fight between the bat and the ball in as less time as possible. T20I perfectly fits the bill. But there is a problem. What if your favourite batsman does not get a chance to bat or bats towards the fag end of the innings? What if he gets out for a duck? It happens so often in a T20 match.

Can there be another format to address the above issues without compromising the quality, competitiveness and entertaining values? Well, possibly yes.

Here is my suggestion.

Like the ATP Tennis events, we can have four-a-side cricket tournament and call it the 'Cricket Foursomes'. Each team consists of two designated batsmen and two designated bowlers. The match will be ten overs a side. Seven fielders including wicket keeper, who can only field but barred to bat or bowl, may be selected from a pool of players by each team. Same player or player(s) can field for both the teams if teams choose so.  

The designated batsmen can bat for entire ten overs. In case any batsman gets out, 2 runs will be deducted as penalty with batsmen changing ends. A designated bowler can bat when a batsman gets out and does not wish to bat further in the match due to whatever reasons. Two designated bowlers can bowl five overs each, but there is no restriction for the batsmen to bowl.

Interestingly, the negative scoring for getting out forces the chasing side to continue batting despite achieving the target till it is impossible to lose even if getting out in remaining ball or balls.

In case of a tie, the team getting out lesser number of times will be the winner. If this is equal, then a super over will be played like in T20. 

Imagine a tournament like Indian Open Cricket Foursomes with 64 teams participating. A typical team may look like Virat Kohli & Rohit Sharma as designated batsmen and Bhubaneswar Kumar & Jasprit Bumrah as designated bowlers or David Warner & Aron Finch as designated batsmen and Pat Cummins & Mitchel Starc as designated bowlers. Now think about a match between these two teams. Ten overs a side will take around 90 minutes of top quality entertainment between these teams, a real contest between batting partnerships against quality bowling. Don't worry if Virat or Warner gets out. Just for 2 runs penalty, they will keep on batting and entertaining us.

A team for such tournaments need not have players from the same country like the doubles team in ATP Tennis events can have players from different countries. The organizer of the tournament will hire players to make up the fielders' pool for the participating teams to choose their seven fielders including the wicket keeper.

We can have Cricket Foursome tournaments like Indian Open, Australian Open, English Open, South African Open, Caribbean Open and Dubai Open etc. The duration of the tournament is only 5 to 6 days which I think all top players can afford to find time to play and it can fit into the cricket calendar as well.

This format, if properly nurtured and planned, will spread the game of cricket to all parts of the globe. A 90 minute thriller of high class entertainment will create more cricketers who will then graduate to T20s or ODIs or even Test matches. Moreover, a ranking system can also be thought of for this format.

In order to make it an international match, a best of three Cricket Foursome matches can be played to decide the winner. Each country will give a list of three teams (RED, BLUE and GREEN) with a reserve of four players making the total sixteen. Here, there will be no fielders' pool as the team members of a country will do the fielding when any of their team members are bowling. The players list shall be submitted before the toss. The first match will be between REDs followed by BLUEs and if required GREENs. 

A typical Cricket Foursome international player list for a match between India and England will look like this:

India:

Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Umesh Yadav, Bhubaneswar Kumar (RED)

Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Krunal Pandya (India BLUE)

M S Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Mohammed Sami, Kuldeep Yadav (India GREEN)

Reserve: Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Shardul Thakur, Yajuvendra Chahal,  

England:

Jason Roy, Jammie Bairstow, Liam Plunket, James Anderson (England RED)

Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, D J Willey, Chris Jordan (England BLUE)

J Butler, Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad, Adil Rashid (England GREEN)

Reserve: Moin Ali, Alex Hales, J T Ball, M A Wood  

It looks familiar with 'Double Wicket' cricket tournaments. But in that case, only two players constitute a team with both having to bat and bowl.  In Foursomes, the batsmen will bat and the bowlers will bowl and therefore the contest is more entertaining.

I hope ICC and BCCI will consider this suggestion for its implementation. It can be fine-tuned to make it more attractive.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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