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