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FORMATS: SHORTING THE SPORT

February 24, 2019

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In the 1940s, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or Eniac as it was called, was the world’s first computer, which weighed some 50 tons and occupied an area of 1,800 square feet. But years later you had the personal computers or PCs which fit on your desk, followed by the laptops, notebooks, tablets and smart phones, which can do much more than the first computer even though they are way smaller in size.

With electronics getting smaller and smaller thanks to innovation and progress, it was realised that small things are not just easier to carry and practical, they are also adorable and cute. Thus we have books coming in normal size as well as pocket editions. Quick question: you see a big German Shepherd wagging its tail before you and nearby you see a small dog, maybe a Corgi. Which one of the two would you want to pet first?

Sports, too, have been hit by the same phenomena of good things coming in small packages, or so it seems. A number of international sports federations are introducing new formats or shorter versions of games by modifying the rules. Perhaps busier lives and shorter spans are equally to blame.

Various sports are coming up with shorter versions, aimed at making them fast-paced and more exciting

CRICKET

From Test cricket to One Day Internationals (ODI) to Twenty20, the International Cricket Council (ICC) aims to take the latest version of the game to the Olympics. With ICC-approved T10 Leagues already held under the aegis of the Emirates Cricket Board and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), they are now set to introduce The Hundred competition from next year. It is going to be a 100-ball per innings game with 10 overs of 10 balls each, aiming to further allure the lovers of the game.

The first-ever Test was played in 1877 between Australia and England with both teams also having the honour of playing the first ODI 94 years later in 1971. Australia was again part of cricket’s newest format when it played against New Zealand in 2005 in the first T20 International.

The ICC has continuously come up with changes in how the game is played. ODIs used to be of 60 overs-a-side, which was subsequently reduced to 50 overs. Fielding restriction rules have changed quite a few times also in ODIs, with powerplays being introduced to benefit the batsmen by allowing only a limited number of fielders outside the 30-yard circle.

A concept of supersub was also briefly flirted with which allowed both teams to name a player who could substitute for any of the players named in the starting XI at the time of the toss. But players, commentators and analysts argued that it would sometimes give undue advantage to the team winning the toss.

In case of overs being lost due to weather conditions in the limited overs format, a statistical approach widely known as the Duckworth-Lewis method was introduced in the 1992 World Cup. The method helped calculating the revised target for the team batting second. As helpful as it may seem, it did manage to upset players and spectators alike, most noticeably in the competition in which it was introduced itself. In the 1992 World Cup semi-final South Africa were at its receiving end with a remaining target of 22 runs from 13 balls revised to 22 runs off one ball after rain had stopped play. A modified version has been introduced recently by the name of DLS.

ICC also introduced the Decision Review System (DRS) first in Test cricket, and it is now being practiced in all formats of the game.

HOCKEY

A view of the five-a-side green Astroturf laid out by the Pakistan Navy at the Abdul Sattar Edhi Hockey Stadium
A view of the five-a-side green Astroturf laid out by the Pakistan Navy at the Abdul Sattar Edhi Hockey Stadium

Following the introduction of the synthetic astro turf for the first time at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH) has brought many changes to the game including doing away with the artistic centre bully.

The FIH has replaced the two halves of 35-minute each and interval of five minutes with four quarters of 15-minute apiece besides allowing rolling substitutions, introduced the Video Referral System (VRS) and scrapped the off-side rule. The style of penalty shootout to decide a tie after stipulated and extra time has also been changed. Under the new rules, a player starts from 23 metres to score within eight seconds. Soon after the whistle is blown, both the player and the goalkeeper are allowed to move freely in their pursuit.

The FIH has also launched Hockey 5s, which is played on the mini Astroturf with five players-a-side.

SNOOKER

From a total of four annual competitions at the world and regional levels, the baize game has also witnessed the launch of its fastest versions in the last few years.

Previously, there used to be four premier events held under the umbrellas of the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) and the Asian Confederation of Billiard Sports (ACBS). These events envisaged 147 points maximum. But now the global and regional bodies of the game have also launched events such as the IBSF and ACBS 6-Reds with 75 points.

SQUASH

The game has witnessed a change in the Point-a-Rally System (PARS) a couple of times. Presently, the 11 points system is practiced in competitions across the world. Earlier though, long ago, there was a nine-points system that was later changed to 15.

The player who wins the rally receives a point regardless of whether the player is a server or receiver. The game ends when a player reaches 11 points but the winner has to have at least a two-point advantage over his opponent.

TABLE TENNIS

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has reduced the point system from 21 to 11, aimed at making the games fast-paced. A game shall be won by a player or pair first scoring 11 points, unless both reach 10 points apiece when the game shall be won by the first player or pair earning a lead of two points.

Previously, five services were allowed to each player during a game played over the best of three or five. After amendments, two services apiece are allowed during a game played over the basis of best of five or seven.

BASKETBALL

A 3x3 basketball match under way
A 3x3 basketball match under way

Besides the regular full court game, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has introduced a new version of 3x3 aimed at promoting and structuring it.

After consistent efforts and test events under the auspices of FIBA, 3x3 made a global competitive debut in the 2010 Youth Olympics at Singapore. This was followed by the launch of the world championships in the Open and U-18 categories. It is set to become a medal sport at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

According to the rules designed by the world governing body of the game, 3x3 is played in half court with one basket. Each team comprises four players with three on the court and fourth as substitute.

According to the rules, the game is played for a single period of 10 minutes with sudden death at 21 points. The team scoring 21 points first or with the highest points in regulation time is declared the winner. Extra time is allowed if two teams are tied in regulation period with the first team scoring two points being declared the winner.

FOOTBALL

Futsal is a shorter version of football which is being played with five players a side on a smaller field. A team consists of 14 players with five allowed to play besides having nine substitutes. Any number of substitutions can be made by either team during a match.

According to Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) rules, the match envisaged two halves of 20 minutes each (actual playing time).

Futsal made a breakthrough when FIFA organised its world cup and it was made a medal sport at the 2018 Youth Olympics held at Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The writer is a member of staff
zuberijournalist@yahoo.com

Published in Dawn, EOS, February 24th, 2019