ICC Set To Trial Tactical Substitutes in First-Class Cricket

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In a move that could have a game-transforming effect, the International Cricket Council (ICC) may possibly allow tactical substitutes in first-class cricket all over the world after the governing body’s Cricket Committee sanctioned the general use of replacement players.

According to a Telegraph report, ICC has mandated individual boards to trial the unlimited use of “unqualified replacement players” in first-class games allowing substitutions to be made for tactical reasons.

Substitutions haven’t been allowed traditionally in first-class cricket, even if it is for injuries. However, since 2019, the ICC has introduced concussion substitutes in Test cricket after extensive trials upon permitting the same at the first-class level back in 2017.

Last year, the world body also sanctioned replacements for players testing COVID-19 positive, as part of its interim measures for cricket amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cricket teams have always been bound by selection decisions they make before the toss. No change is allowed in the playing XI for tactical reasons after the toss yet. However, if the potential trials at the first-class level extend into the Test match game, the basic concept of cricket as an 11-a-side game would be completely altered.

Captains would love to make changes to their playing XI midway through a Test in case they erred in their judgement of a surface or in picking the team earlier on.

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ICC Set To Trial Tactical Substitutes in First-Class Cricket

Player substitution – famously named ‘super-sub’ – was previously used in one-day international cricket from 2005-06. It was soon scrapped by the ICC, however, after not so desirable results and misuse of the tactical ploy by various teams.

But the governing body is now keeping an open mind on the player substitution issue and how exactly a worldwide first-class trial on the same should work. The ICC wishes to get a better feel of the different aspects of replacement player regulations and identify what is most effective.

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“The recent introduction of replacement players for both concussion and Covid-19 prompted a discussion at the Cricket Committee on the more general use of replacement players in the international game,” the ICC said in a statement.

“To better understand the implications of allowing players to be replaced during a match the definition of a First-Class Match will be changed to allow the unqualified use of replacement players.”

Still, each full member of the ICC will retain the right to conduct their first-class competition the way they want to. It isn’t yet confirmed that the County Championship in the UK this summer will witness tactical substitution of players, for example.

“Individual boards who trial tactical substitutions are free to set their own rules for how the rule could be used,” stated the Telegraph report. “For instance, teams could be limited to one tactical substitution per match, or only allowed to make substitutions at one point in the match – for instance, after both sides have batted once – to make the rule as fair as possible.”

Tactical substitutions could prove handy on multiple fronts. They may help reduce the much-exploited home and toss advantages. And even allow teams to keep their players, especially bowlers, fresh for longer: a team might use an extra pacer in the first half of a Test played on a green top or use an extra spinner in the second essay on a pitch offering turn.

Just as concussion substitutes were, tactical replacement of players can also be allowed in Test cricket soon, depending on how successful its trial at the first-class level is.