A one-day international (ODI) rule change is nothing new. They fiddle with the regulations more often than Sir Jimmy fiddled with… no, that’s not an acceptable analogy.
While rule changes are rarely in themselves interesting, they do just about become worthy of discussion when you think about the impact on a team’s tactics and strategy. The latest change is that at no point in the innings will the fielding side be allowed five fielders on the boundary, as was previously the case. This basically means that there’s always a boundary shot available, but singles are slightly harder to come by.
Clearly this is an attempt to bring more big shots to the middle overs, but will it work like that? So long as the captain isn’t a complete tool, the obvious boundary shot is always going to be the riskiest. Set against that is the fact that with more single-saving fielders, it becomes an even bigger focal point for the batsman.
A lot of the bigger-hitting one-day batsmen boast more brawn than finesse, but this might not help them when there’s only really one viable segment of boundary to aim for. Skill and timing should bring more fours than mindless heaves, in which case what kind of batsman do you want at the crease during these passages of play and what approach should they take?
Do you still try and work the ball around, accepting that there’ll be fewer singles available, or do you try and exploit the gap? Clearly tactics have to be flexible, but could this change have an impact on which approach is given greater emphasis? Does the extra inner ring fielder sound the death-knell for the nurdler or is it really just a matter of the same batsmen playing slightly differently?