It's Time for Proper Eight a Side Cricket
Cricket. It's an epic battle, "played between two sides, each of eleven players" as the Laws state clearly.
That needs to change.
It's time to consider that cricket can - even should - be played by fewer than the magic eleven. It's mostly tradition that keeps us there anyway. So, I propose a new normal: eight a side cricket.
The format already exists with the Last Man Stands competition. However, this is not designed as serious or developmental cricket. It's a game for pick up players to have summer fun. While this is valuable to bring new people to the game, so is helping people in the club game enjoy and develop.
Eight each is a simple way to reach that development aim.
Think about a typical experience in a club match. It's easy to find the game boring: If you don't bowl, then get out for a low score and spend 20 overs in the field hoping a hard ball is not smashed at you, how will you feel Chances are you won't spend too long trying cricket and look to head back to your Xbox.
A better cricket experience
If you are not entrenched as a cricket lover, eight a side makes things far more interesting. You have to bowl, you get more gaps in the field when you bat and you have to cover a bigger area when you field. You are in the game more often and can gain the simple joys of cricket much easier: feeling bat on ball, hitting the stumps and taking a catch.
If you are interested in developing as a cricketer beyond simply having a go, then eight a side gives you more chance to shine in more areas: Every run and wicket has just increased in value by 28%, you have to have at least two strings to your bow, and you get more time on the ball. There is no down side.
There is also the case for selection. Most club and school sides don't have the perfect number of players. If you don't have enough to get a decent eleven you either have "make up the numbers" players who end up doing nothing and feeling rubbish, or you play with 10, or nine, or...
Meanwhile, places with an abundance of players find that eight in a team raises the quality dramatically. Fringe players can join the 2nd XI and the quality cascades down the teams. You have to work much harder to get back up into a higher team. Standards are raised.
Who should play eight?
Of course, this idea is not for everyone. I'm sure you are already thinking of exceptions. I would suggest that it's simple: Junior and development teams play eight a side. Established senior teams play 11 a side.
Here is a typical example from the UK: Professional cricket remains at 11. The top tier of adult club cricket - Premier Leagues - also stay at eleven. Club teams in lower leagues can decide on a basis of standards and availability. However, all junior club and school cricket becomes 8 a side as standard. As do senior development teams (such as Academy teams and the lowest XI in a club). Where there is a grand tradition of eleven a side (Eton vs. Harrow), and standards are high there can be exceptions.
Time for a simple change
This kind of flexibility is great for the game's development in so many ways. And time is ripe for change.
The world is becoming more instant and convenient. Twenty20 is normal cricket and Test matches are dying at the top level. Across most of the world, the number of people getting into cricket is dropping. The game has a perception of being too long, boring and out of date. Eight players might not be the ultimate solution, but is sure is a simple one that will make a difference.
We don't even need a change in rules as the Laws even account for eight by saying "a match may be played between sides of fewer than... eleven players".
The problem is that we look at elite cricket and want to play the same game with the same format. If India play England with 11 each, so should our team in the local competition. Yet the fact is with TV replays, longer games, different rules, and far, far less need for retention, the professional game is a different game.
My appeal is to make this a powerful statement of change: The MCC can change the Law itself to include "eight or eleven". Leagues can introduce this as standard practice. Professional teams could hold an eight a side competition to inspire. Once you are open, the ideas can flow. By switching more cricket to eight a side we have a simple, effective way to make the club and school game relevant, exciting and fresh in the eyes of people who are fast turning away from the game.
If not now, when? If not this, what? Leave your comments below.
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We used to play 8-a-side "pairs" cricket at u11; now I think the format is used for some u9 games, and we use it a lot in summer practice sessions, for exactly the reason you give - everyone bats and bowls, and there is a lot more ground to cover so everyone fields more balls.
But for seniors, cost could be a barrier - pitch hire will be the same, whether you have 11 players or 8, so the cost per player will be higher (unless you expect the 8-a-side game to be subsidised by the 11-a-side, or to attract sponsorship).
It's a challenge, not a reason not to promote 8-a-side.
Cost is a factor for sure. As you say, I would call it a minor aspect in the overall benefit of the game.
Some great points in this article, but clearly you do not have the full grasp of Last Man Stands. I suggest you strap some pads on and come face a few of the bowlers from the top leagues of LMS ; )
Over and above this, LMS caters for both social players as well as some extremely serious players! Seriously talented players! As for developmental - you article actually covers most of the points why Last Man Stands is DEVELOPMENTAL! We recently completed and extremely successful junior league in Alexandra Township (South Africa), which included an all girls league.
co-founder Last Man Stands
PS Thanks for the articles on this website. I really enjoy them, and often refer my friends and players here for great cricket tips and articles!!!!
I hope LMS develops a new generation of players in areas where clubs cannot serve. I would add that clubs should adopt some of the LMS philosophy.
LMS is utterly dreadful. The rules were clearly thought out by people with no actual experience of playing cricket.
If you took cricket and tried to find a way to make it more boring and less fun, you'd come up with LMS.
Great article. For me 8 or even 6 a side cricket for juniors should have happened by now.
Football is playing more and more small sided games, smaller pitches, etc. and cricket has to follow suit sooner or later. The sooner the better for me.
On Last Man Stands I think you undersell it. It is fast becoming a very important part of cricket being played. More and more people want midweek short inclusive games and I am certain LMS is only going to grow and grow with more and more really good players playing.
I don't believe even now it is not serious. There is some really good cricket being played out there especially from Asian communities many of whom find this turn up and play format much more to their liking.
I am starting a forced inclusive non-pairs under 11 league in Surrey this summer and one of the rules is you don't have to have 11 players. It's about as many players as possible getting a game of cricket where they at the very least bat or bowl.
juniors play plenty of 6-aside cricket. It works better at that level. For adults it just becomes a bit of a slog-a-thon. Good for a bit of fun in a tournament, but most people wouldn't want to play it every week. You lose too many balls for one thing.
The founders have played premier league club cricket in South Africa and England. Our experiences of playing club cricket help us keep in touch with why players are dropping out of the game. For people who have not done their homework on LMS success, internationally, I understand why they may come to the same conclusions you have.
Co-Founder of LMS
AB, I'd challenge your analysis of LMS. It's not a version of cricket many want to play, but for many more, it's been designed to make cricket fun and inclusive and remove the image of it being "slow and boring".
Of course, those of us brought up in the traditions of the game know that cricket is not boring. Yet, that is it's image. The ideas behind LMS are designed to bridge that gap. It's not for everyone but it is for ANYone. I like that and I feel it has a place.
I also feel more traditional clubs can learn something from LMS. Things like 8 a side are important to consider in a world where traditional formats of cricket are fading. Will 8 a side save the game of cricket? No. DO we need to come up with fresh ideas for the next generation? Absolutely.
Wayne, I don't think you should feel the need to defend the seriousness or quality of LMS. It is a fine format whether played by top players or pick up players. In fact, I would be proud that the focus is more on getting people to participate than to be "proper" cricket.
Andrew I used to have a similar view of LMS but the recent national player survey has shown that this is exactly what players want. I have since gotten involved with them and will be running 2 or 3 venues myself this summer in Surrey and potentially in Milton Keynes with a colleague and am attending their UK conference in Nottingham today.
Traditionalists hated Twenty20 cricket when it came out.....it's done pretty well.
I officiated in LMS Redbridge last year (and hope to stand again in 2015) and I can confirm the comments from Bjorn and Wayne re the standard of play in LMS. Some of it is "pick up", but in the top teams the skill levels (traditional cricket skills) are high.
Participation is key. Not everyone can spare the time on a weekend to play a game that could easily take up 8 hours, including travel. Even midweek t20 can take too long - with games taking 2 1/2 hours you have to start at 6 pm start, and not everyone can get away from work in time.
A playing format that guarantees a finish in just a little over two hours (and thus a later start time), and that also gives everyone a chance to actually play, is essential. LMS comes as close as any other I have come across.
p.s. for the avoidance of any doubt, "andrew.beaven" and "AB" are separate accounts - I am not debating with myself, here...
Compared to normal T20 games, LMS is slower, less accessible, and less action packed. Its just a stupid idea, hence the reason its never taken off and never will. For every bunch of mugs paying to play LMS, there are 1000 normal enjoyable games of cricket going on.
Every difference between LMS and T20 is designed to make the game slower more boring. This is simply undeniable. From increasing the time it takes to get through an innings by reducing the number of balls in the over, to allowing ringers to dominate to an unfair degree, everything about it is expressly designed to put off casual or amateur players and drive them away from the game forever.
Your views are respected but you your understanding of LMS appears to be limited. At LMS We
we recognise Test cricket as the ultimate format of the game. We do do argue which format of the game is the better than the other. The great thing about cricket (and what makes it such a great sport) is that there are various formats for people to choose from! LMS provides another option.
On the contrary, I've read the rules and its quite clear that it is specifically designed to make cricket less attractive and accessible to the general public. I can quote you the rules from the website if you're unaware of them.
AB if that was indeed the case why would the ECB be supporting LMS more than just about any other initiative?
The ECB are hardly going to support anything designed to make cricket less attractive are they?
YOU may not like it, and of course you are welcome to that opinion, but the fact is LMS is growing cricket participation where mainstream cricket participation is shrinking and the ECB need the likes of this to keep funding levels in cricket. If cricket continues to lose players cricket will lose valuable funding to help it to grow. We all need to get behind anything that grows participation.
"The ECB are hardly going to support anything designed to make cricket less attractive are they?"
HAHAHAHA! Your statement is unintentionally hilarious.
Is this the same ECB that engineered the removal of cricket from free to air tv and have seen player numbers drop by 25% over the past 10 years, with further large drops expected to come? You think they're a good guide to competence in these matters? A laughable statement.
Despite having plenty of money thrown at its marketing, LMS has abjectly failed to take off in the UK, because its boring, badly designed, and people hate it. Orthodox T20 cricket on the other hand goes from strength to strength, because its faster, more exciting, more accessible and infinitely more enjoyable.
Of course no-one is set to make $$$ out of you playing orthodox cricket, so you hear less about it. Real cricket doesn't need overbearing marketing and stupid acronyms to remain popular. Any time some one says "a new craze is sweeping cricket" ask yourself, what's in it for them? In this case the answer is obvious, they're trying to get rich off the back of some pyramid scheme.
"We all need to get behind anything that grows participation." Of course we do. Unfortunately, LMS does the exact opposite. If you hate cricket with a passion and want to see it die in this country, continue to support LMS. Otherwise engage your brain and join me in debunking this nonsense.
investment banks have similar webpages, doesn't make them any more moral.
No-one here is stupid enough to expect an honest and unbiased account of the scheme on its own propaganda website.
What is your full name and where do you play your cricket? I would love to meet up with you and discuss your concerns. It is easy to troll on website making outrageous statements but if you have a genuine interest in the game then let's meet up and discuss your concerns face to face.
My email address is email@example.com
Is that some kind of thinly veiled threat? Are you going to get the lads up from liverpool to do me in if I don't refrain from justifiably criticising your commercial enterprise?
If you want to attempt to defend your dreadful and exploitative commercial enterprise, be my guest, but please do so in a respectful and constructive manner.
The fact you have to resort to attempting to throw your weight around shows only that you know your organisation to be indefensible.
Ha ha. Very good and well batted today AB.
Interesting article and good debate. I don't want to be drawn into most of the issues AB is trying to raise however one i simply cannot understand..."Compared to normal T20 games, LMS is slower, less accessible, and less action packed. Its just a stupid idea, hence the reason its never taken off and never will. For every bunch of mugs paying to play LMS, there are 1000 normal enjoyable games of cricket going on".
Let me give you an example from my season last summer...You can try and guess which is LMS and which is a club cup match...
Monday - I found 8 players easily and turned up to our designated pitch at 6.20pm, the umpire was already present and the match started at 6.30pm. We posted 140 odd, all our players batted, 6 of the opposition bowled. We then fielded at 7.30, dismissed the opposition for 130 in the last over (with a double play) All my players bowled. At 8.30pm the umpire tidied the pitch for us and as we had time we all went and had a drink with the opposition. The next morning the scorecard was online. Match fee = £5
Wednesday - I spent 10 minutes booking a pitch, struggled to find 11 players (so played with 10). I arrived at 5.45pm to put out stumps, boundary markers and welcome opposition. We batted first and made a similar 140 score. Three of our players batted. Myself and a friend umpired 10 overs each and scored the other 10 overs (we batted at 8 and 9). Second innings started around 7.50pm. The opposition limped to 120-6. 4 of our bowlers bowled 5 overs (2 of them also batted in the top 3). We finished at 9.15pm. All players from both sides went home immediately - some before the game had even finished!! (except me as i was putting the equipment away until 9.30pm and uploading scorecards to play-cricket until 11pm). Match fee = £5
On the Wednesday 5 of my players had what I would consider a good game, 6 did nothing other than field and were nearly impossible to select again for the next round (which we conceded). My team of "mugs" on Monday were people from my office that wouldn't play cricket had this format not existed, I understand there are something like another 30,000-40,000 mugs like us doing the same around the World. Maths isn't my strong point but by your estimations there must be something like 300,000 + people playing and enjoying the Wednesday game I describe - especially if you are the opening batter who also bowls!
*If you are still struggling the Monday game was an LMS match*
If you can't organise a satisfactory game of cricket, that's entirely your issue.
Why did only three of your players bat? Poor game management.
Why did only four of your bowlers bowl? Poor game management.
Why did the game drag out so long? Poor game management.
When I play T20 cricket, every player bats, and every player bowls (apart from the keeper).
LMS IS slower: it fits 200 balls into 125 minutes compared to 240 balls into 140 minutes in a normal game. That's a slower rate. Try it on your calculator if your maths isn't up to the task.
LMS IS less accessible: you're not allowed to retire under 50, you're allowed 4 overs per bowler instead of the usual 2 or 3, wides and no-balls are penalised ridiculously punitively, and weaker bowlers have less protection in the field. If the opposition have one ringer, he is allowed to bat by himself and humiliate weaker bowlers and drive them out of the game. Only the best 8 players are selected, whereas in normal cricket, an extra 3 players would be able to get involved.
Every evening in the summer there are hundreds of games of T20 cricket being playing in my local area, there are zero games of LMS, because who would want to play such a ridiculous boring game? (No-one)
Its a terrible game, designed by idiots.
I would have said that the three extra fielders would have made it much more likely that the newbie or non-cricketer bowler trying the game out would at least have a chance of getting a wicket (or even getting a bowl, given the possible protection) and enjoying the game, rather than having acres of empty space for the sloggers (and that's what you get in short-format cricket) to hit the ball into.
I agree Dave, can you imagine how much fun it must be for a new cricketer to be given the ball with a big hitting ringer at the crease, knowing that a) he's only got 6 outfielders, b) only 3 of these are allowed on the legside, leaving huge gaps, if he bowls a second wide or no-ball, this counts as 3 (3!) runs away.
Does that sound fun? Sounds bloody humiliating to me. I wouldn't let my worst enemy put themselves through this torture, let alone a friend.
I also like the rule that bans weaker batsmen from hitting their own wickets in an effort to keep the game moving, clearly this rule is designed so that weaker players must NEVER be allowed escape their ritualistic humiliation and degradation. A truly abhorrent and disgusting rule. Its bullying, pure and simple.
Thanks for your feedback, ill endeavour to look into the methods of my captaining and game management style during cup matches. I have shared my experiences of both formats, you have shared yours of one. Its excellent you have a format you enjoy so you can access the game, many others don't so LMS (or any other format of cricket) is a welcome addition. I know in my local area there is no midweek T20 cricket other then cup matches (1 or 2 per year).
Its difficult to take much of what you say seriously as it appears you haven't even tried the format. What sort of person goes to the lengths you are to condemn something they haven't even tried!!? If you dislike it this much why don't you exact the same effort into creating a format that isn't "terrible" rather than criticise something that an increasing number of people enjoy. Please don't suggest this already exists, our local midweek league died years ago when the organiser resigned - people do not have time any more. Unless you want to run it for us?
I play in the LMS Regents Park mid week league. We got to the 1/4 final of the London Champions league. Not a bad effort considering there are 370 teams playing LMS in London.
The great thing about LMS is all 8 players get game time with out the skipper having to manufacture scenarios to ensure everyone gets a game. We used to play mid week 11 a side T20 against other Corporate sides but we struggled to get 11 each week. The good players stopped playing because I used to retire them at 25. The fringe players got bored in the field. The bowlers moaned about travelling to a game and then only bowling 2 overs. LMS has revived our interest in the game and is very well organised. Our LMS games are usually completed in 120 minutes meaning we can start at 18.30 and be finished by 20.30. When we used to play 11 a side T20 our games started at 18.00 and were done by 21.00. This extra hour was one of the reasons our team normally only had 8 or 9 before it eventually folded.
There already is a perfect format: orthodox amateur T20 cricket.
If people in your area are too lazy to organise yourself into a handful of cricket teams and play rules that are appropriate for your level of play and enhance the enjoyment of all involved, you are probably beyond my help or the help of anyone on this website.
If you choose to play a woefully substandard version of the game that ostracises newcomers, then you are doing more harm to cricket than good.
Please do not use the word "cricket" or make any use of the terminology of cricket in your bastardised version of the game, as you could put people off real cricket and do genuine damage to the sport.
I arrived in England from India last year. I found LMS to be a very welcoming organisation.i tried to join a local cricket club but i am not very good. I did not feel welcomed. I heard about LMS and joined as a "ringer". The local league organiser helped me find a LMS team. I don't normally plays as batsman but when I did get chance to bat the extra gaps in field meant my confidence in batting went upwards. I beat my previous highest score of 27. One of the LMS players invited me to join his clubs side. I am now playing LMS and club cricket as all rounder.
Having played T20 cricket and only one LMS match before, I thoroughly agree with the majority that LMS is both enjoyable and entertaining. (In my opinion T20 lacks enjoyment on occasion)
I've seen how it can influence young players to start playing the other formats as well, and I have no idea how anyone can think of it as bad for the game. This is only my view of it, and if someone can give me a clear reason why it is bad for the game that I can't argue with I'll change my view. But so far no one has?
AB, it's very funny how all of your "arguments", are 100% opinionated. It's also quite hilarious how you riddle them with mindless rhetoric and accusational words when you get angry because no one really cares what you think. If you had a sensible, well-delivered argument that doesn't include endless criticism and dogmatism you might come across as less egotistical and rude (which would make it all the more easy to convince people of your point of view and also easier to read your comments without instantly disliking you)
You clearly know the game of cricket and its nuances very well, but fail to realize that it will always find new ways of growing (whether they be positive or negative) and that we can't change this. Rather accept it and find ways of encouraging and/or improving these ways of growing. LMS is a format of the game that helps with its growth, as is indoor cricket, 35 over games etc.
David, I think the article is well-written and agree with the point that you have made. Watching international players playing LMS would be very entertaining. Maybe a World LMS XI vs a Developing Countries LMS XI as a charity match? Stupid suggestion, I'm just fantasizing.
There is nothing "opinionated" about the fact that playing 20 5 ball overs rather than the usual 15 8 ball overs significantly reduces the amount of the time spent actually playing rather than changing ends. This is simply a statement of fact. As is the fact that the less fielders there are, the more time is wasted trying to retrieve balls from the shrubbery.
If you enjoy actually playing cricket, play T20 cricket
If you enjoy changing ends, searching for lost balls and time wasting, play LMS.
Again, no opinion here, just straightforward statements of fact.
Great pseudonyms by the way Wayne. Amazing how all these non-regular commenters with dubious names (CD? please) have suddenly sprung out of the woodwork.
Fetching balls from the shrubbery is only a regular problem in some grounds. I have never been in a cricket area where this is a problem and I have been in about 20. I don't know if that was just a failed attempt at humour or if you were being serious but this is highly irrelevant to many (most?) players.
I enjoy playing cricket, and thus I would play LMS had there been an LMS tournament here. How does time wasting, searching for lost balls etc. correlate to playing LMS? Many people think that test cricket is a waste of time because why would you want to spend 5 days trying to bowl someone out twice if you can bowl them out once in 2 days and be done with it. I don't share this opinion. However, I think that fast bowling is a huge waste of time and that at least half of the overs played in a day by any test side should be bowled by spinners. Fast bowlers amble back to their run-ups and succeed in bowling fast but do so in a manner that holds no intrigue whatsoever to me because I have seen Shaoib Akhtar and Brett Lee bowling at much faster pace. Most of us don't want to spend 2 minutes watching a pacer sail like a snail back to his 35 meter run-up, only to bowl at 135kph and take no wickets. My opinion is not often shared by others and I accept this, I don't verbally attack fast bowling purists and call them idiots for enjoying such a slow, sadistic art even though I want to.
Your opinion that LMS is a waste of time is an opinion. Some people enjoy watching how grass grows or how paint dries. To them it's not a waste of time. To me it is. Do I call them idiots? No. To each his own.
You might think that LMS players are wasting time, partaking in an absolutely useless and counter-productive activity, but that is your opinion. And you have a way of expressing your opinion that makes it seem like it's a law of physics, while it's actually just a simple thought.
I have asked myself "Is AB right? Is LMS as bad as he makes it seem?" and I don't see any reason why I should believe so. You have hardly succeeded in convincing anyone.
I enjoy T20 cricket, I've enjoyed LMS, as do many other people. You don't enjoy LMS, but you enjoy T20 cricket. Neither of us is right or wrong. Just leave it at that.
LMS can be improved or adjusted to suit some people more, but so can T20 cricket. Both are far from perfect.
Is watching grass grow better than watching paint dry?
It is simply false advertising. It claims to be faster and more accessible than orthodox cricket, but a simple look at the rules reveals this to be the exact opposite of the truth. If it advertised itself as slower, duller and more humiliating for beginners, then that would be fine. As it is, trading standards might quibble with some of the extremely dubious claims made by the organisers.
Its also a commercialisation and commodification of what should be a free game open to all and owned by no single entity. This should be fought passionately by anyone who cares about cricket.
In contrast to your rather daft subjective opinions about fast bowling, none of the above is an opinion, its simply an objective statement of the rules and their logically inevitable result. Look at the rules for yourself if you don't believe me.
Well this is abit awkward...you see AB, where my team play our games of LMS cricket there is only one change of end per innings, we bowl 10 overs from one end, and ten from the other, it speeds things up. The umpire at our venue always has a bag of spare balls so we tend to not bother wasting time looking and just get back to playing the cricket.
Anyone who would have taken the time to play the game or do due diligence would know this!!
False advertising? I just had a look at the rules and although some of them are slightly ridiculous the game still seems like precisely what it is described to be - a fast paced, fun packed game of cricket!
With regards to the rest of your accusations towards the organisers of LMS, I won't even attempt a comment on that since I know next to nothing about the politics behind cricket.
Apparently a different ball will be used from each bowling end in the world cup. I don't know if the rumours are true but if they are, wouldn't you consider that to be precisely what you consider LMS to be? (Bad for the game and time-wasting) Things like that are more likely to have a bad effect on the game than innocent innovations like LMS (excluding the politics)
I'm all for making cricket more fun and accessible, I just don't think LMS achieves that if you actually look at the rules in an objective manner.
Consider usual amateur T20 rules: 15 overs of 8 balls, game is done in 2 and a quarter hours. LMS is inferior: less balls in similar time.
Flexible player numbers- anything from 9 to 12, any less than this and the game becomes a farce with no protection for the inexperienced bowlers. like in LMS.
Two overs per bowler, meaning most players get a bowl if not all, and one good bowler cannot win the game by himself. Unlike LMS, which is 4 overs per bowler, meaning only 5 players bowl.
Retire at 25, so everyone gets a bat, and one good batsman cannot win the game by himself. Unlike LMS, which is retire at 50, meaning only a handful of batsmen may get a bat.
No rebowl of wides or noballs until the final over, so inexperienced bowlers are not penalised punitively and the game is not delayed.
No stupid gimmicks, like home runs, double plays, overly punitive 3 run wides, and the ridiculous last man stands rule itself, which allows one ringer to dominate proceeding and extend the game unnecessarily. Cricket is an exciting enough sport without idiotic gimmicks that undermine its credibility.
Also, if people really cared about cricket, they'd simply share their ideas freely and openly and wouldn't form a profit making organisation to try and ring money out of inexperienced cricketers.
I was involved in Last Man Stands World Championships in London in 2013. I played in one of charity matches. Last Man Stands funded the trip for a team from a township in South Africa to get to England and play at Lord's. I had a superb time and made many friends.
Look out for my slog sweep in this video.