Should club cricket still have declarations? | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Should club cricket still have declarations?

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A recent article in Wisden looked at the format of club cricket, questioning whether the game should be played in a declaration or limited overs way.

In England at least I feel there is no choice in the matter. One day declaration cricket is more fun, more challenging and leads to better games.

Playing declaration cricket in a day makes it harder to win games. With the draw always a possibility, sides have to do much more than set a huge total and defensive fields. To win you must bowl the opposition out. In order to do that you probably need to declare on a target that is challenging but appears to be within reach. That is unless your bowlers are in the unusual position of being supremely better than the opposition batsmen.

That means captains need to be more tactically astute, which can only be good for the development and fun of the game.

It also means players down the order have to learn to bat. Playing out for the draw is a skill. Young bowlers can develop their ability to play straight if they have to save games. My own club 1st XI have had a poor year, yet one of the benefits we have seen is a dramatic improvement in the batting of two of our younger bowlers because they have had to bat so many games out. Both players have gone from specialist bowlers to genuine all rounders due to this opportunity. If they were playing limited over cricket with no draw they would probably have got out hitting out.

The down side of declaration cricket is negative play. Sides can choose to bowl first then not go for the target if they feel they have no chance of winning. For me this is just another challenge to a captain's tactical skills. If a team bowls first and seems weak batting, you have the control to declare far too early making them think they have a chance after all. If you declare later then you can still bring a side back into the game with some deliberate poor bowling too. Controversial? Risky? Yes, but that's what makes declaration cricket so great.

Declarations give you that control of the game.

Limited over matches are essentially just a numbers game. You spend more time calculating the rate per over than you do trying to take wickets. This is because there is no direct benefit to bowling the opposition out. It's just as important to keep the run rate down and you can do that well with defensive fields and defensive bowling.

Where is the fun for anyone in that?
What do you think?

What format does your team play? Would you prefer to see win/loss games or declaration cricket where you play? Leave a comment and let me know.

Photo credit: pj_in_oz


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My club plays T20 cricket and we almost always have close matches. As the pitch we play on are usually bowling tracks; we do not have the kind of hitting games thats you see on TV. With a bowling track comes and good fight between bat and ball even in T20 and we have many more closely fought matches than in ODI cricket.

T20 is slightly different in that the shortness of the format leads to many more closer games. I agree dhruv. However, over longer periods (40-60 over single day matches) I prefer to see declarations.

We play limited overs cricket (40-50 overs depending on the division), and I agree, it can sometimes lead to poor games where one team piles on the runs and the other just throws away wickets in an all out chase. But there are a few things in place to try and make it more tactical. Like bonus points for the amount of runs scored and wickets taken, and being able to "steal" overs from the other team by bowling them out quickly in the first innings.
So even in a game you lose, it's possible to salvage almost half the points by bowling the other team out and scoring well.

That's sort of like the "losing draw" system many leagues use.

In short, yes, or else our 2 day games wouldn't be very practicle. in saying that, our grade is compulsory declaration at 50 overs 1st innings, and then whatever you choose in the 2nd innings.

Do you have one day declaration cricket where you are Andy? I suspect it's a uniquely British thing.

The problem with declaration cricket is that it takes the right attitude from both sides to create a good match. And a manufactured match can sometimes be unsatisfactory as, if it ends in a draw, both sides are well aware who the better side was, but the game is a "draw".

A few years ago, I captained a game which was 100 overs with up to 52 overs used by the side batting first. We got 270 on a tiny pitch and very flat wicket in about 45 overs and declared. We then got 4 wickets very quickly and they were in real trouble, but two guys came in and blocked. We had 7 slips knowing that runs were no object but still it looked like we had 40 overs of watching them block ahead of us.

In the end we bowled non-bowlers to toss the ball up and give them 20 an over for a bit until they felt they had a chance and then resumed the proper game, all be it with me still employing very attacking fields to aid their run scoring. With careful management they ended up nine down as we entered the final over and I missed a run out chance throwing from mid-off which would have won it for us. They needed 6 from the final ball and didn't get it (despite trying) - game drawn.

The way different people reacted was interesting. I had criticism from one of my team in particular who thought I'd come too close to throwing the game away. Some of the opposition bought me a pint afterwards and told me that's the way cricket should be played. I came away with mixed feelings - happy that I'd created a winning position from one that would have been the most boring of boring draws, but disappointed that the best team were not considered to have won.

After over 20 years of club cricket, I'd say that the number of teams willing to play it in the right spirit and make declaration games exciting on flat tracks is reducing all the time. And the anger at playing in boring draws is increasing, certainly amongst my team at least - people have other things to do with their time and boring draws don't help club cricket participation. With that in mind, one day club cricket where 10 wickets are not needed to win will become a necessity at some point in the future. I give it a decade, max.

Ah, alas no we don't have declaration 1 day cricket as such, the exception being if its a 2 day game that has been shortened to 1 day due to rain. In that case it becomes 100 overs in a day, you choose when to declare.

Ed - great story but your conclusion makes me very sad. Let's hope not eh?

I think it can be avoided if league administrators change points systems.

For example, in another game I captained the opposition scored 400-2 off 50 overs and declared 2 overs earlier than they had to. We scored 392 all out off 50 (we should have won but lost our bottle!).

In terms of bonus points we received no greater credit for getting so close than if we had got 200 despite the fact that we'd gone all out to chase a mammoth score. That sort of thing needs to change and then that will in turn influence the approach of captains and players.

Yes, the closer you get the more points you should have. That makes sense.

For all games, we have a point system where you get 10 for the win, 5 for a draw/tie and 0 for loss. But, we also have it that you 0.1 points for every run scored, and 0.2 points for every wicket taken, that would probably help the situation you guys face?

Declaration cricket is great for Sunday games, but you really have to think carefully about the points system to make sure you incentivise varied and attacking play in a league system and don't make the points system unintentionally biased towards the team either batting or bowling first.

There's definitely a feeling among the younger players I know that straightforward Win/Lose cricket is preferable to having Winning/Losing Draws and Bonus Points, even in League cricket, not least because that is how the one-day game is played at a professional level in the UK, but also because it is perceived as generating more attacking/exciting cricket from the team batting second.

I suspect that, when this generation reach the age when they are the representatives on club and league committees (assuming they haven't changed their opinions by then) that there will be a change in how League cricket in this country is played.

Its a shame, because playing a win/lose/draw format tends to produce a greater diversity of passages of cricket. When I introduced my team (who usually play a limited overs format) to declaration cricket, they couldn't believe how much fun it was (and how completely different to what they were used to) to get the spinners on, crowd the bat on all sides, and try to bowl a team out with no concern for giving away runs. Its a completely different game.

The only diversity in a limited overs game is the decision between "do we try and bowl them out straight away or do we just try and squeeze the runs now and save the best bowlers for the death?"

I think you could come up with a compromise where there are a couple of extra bonus points for bowling a team out/not getting bowled out. Most club leagues have bonus points for runs and wickets anyway.