A countdown timer will now decide the pace at which Test cricket is played, that is if the Marylebone Cricket Club has its way.

Timeouts and countdowns are relatively new concepts, brought into the more traditional sport of cricket through its youngest avatar, Twenty20. However, following the research that suggests that the past year was the slowest in Test cricket in terms of over rate, the Marylebone Cricket Club’s world cricket committee comprising of illustrious former cricketers has suggested that a countdown timer be used to ensure that time wasting is reduced to the bare minimum.

This would include time for drinks breaks, for when one batsman is dismissed and also, for the use of the Decision Review System (DRS). Of these the latter has been considered one of the big factors when it comes to slow over rate even though cricket laws allow for just two reviews per innings for each team.

There have been rare instances in the past when a batsman was timed out simply for not being ready at the fall of a wicket and it could go some way between teams that look to simply play for time. How a timer would work in such a scenario is still anyone’s guess. For the moment though the MCC is only suggesting addressing the issue of the former where a prefixed time would be set for the new batsman to take the crease. Furthermore, only marginal more seconds would be accorded to the fielding team for a change of bowler and even the decision review system is not being spared either.

Rather than run through the mandatory replays, speeding up the process of arriving at a decision without going through all of the protocol for the sake of television is being mooted. In that light, there is a proposed countdown for play to resume even as the broadcasters and the umpires decide on the fate of the batsman.

While on the face of it, it seems in line with the times and with the need particularly to improve on overrates, at the present time, there are already penalties on teams as well as captains and countdown or no countdown, one wonders if the quantum of punishment change would have a more drastic effect than merely imposing a clock on the screen. Unless the punishment, which currently goes as far as barring a skipper for a match even, perhaps is more impactful on the match proceedings directly, infringements could well continue even if the clock is now prominently displayed before every over, between drinks and between change of guard at the fall of a wicket. Changing the scenario of over rates could, also, prove tricky on pitches that favour pace and bounce rather than the slow, enticing duel of bat versus spin. Several factors to consider as a countdown clock might need an additional support system to be truly effective over time.

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