Dean Jones on the four big evolutions he wants to see in T20

By Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

Dean Jones approached one-day cricket in the mid-’80s like many others would in the ’90s. He was one of the best when it came to running between the wickets, and he understood the importance of accelerating in the middle overs instead of sitting back and waiting for the last ten. He wore sunglasses to help him take catches when the ball disappeared in the glare of the sun. And he experimented with oval bat handles, which offered better grip, he found, than the traditional cylindrical handles.

In 1991, Jones published a book One-Day Magic, which contained suggestions for changing the rules in the one-day format. One of those was to limit the number of fielders outside the circle. Another was to be more “flexible” with regard to bouncers. He also proposed that the lawmakers permit substitutes to bat and bowl, which was something the ICC eventually trialed with the Supersub rule in 2005.

So who better than Jones to talk to about some of the innovations he wishes to see in T20s? Currently in Toronto as a TV commentator as well as a brand ambassador for the GT20, Jones spared some time for a chat.

Innovation 1: If the ball travels over 85 metres, give the batsmen an 8

I spoke to Don Bradman. I played golf with him, spent time with him. I’m a very lucky man. I once asked him why he hit only six sixes in his Test career. He said, “Why would I lift the ball off the ground and hit it over the fence to get an extra 2? If I got 8 for it, I would have thought about it.

In the 1880s, until 1910, if you hit the ball over the fence it was a 5. If you hit the ball out of what they called the “ground proper”, you would get six. So why can’t we say – if you hit a ball more than 85 metres, you have an 8? We’ve had a few 85m hits already in this competition. We have wonderful technology, it’s right on the money. I think we need to have an 8.

Innovation 2: Get another umpire down there for calling no-balls

This is a bit controversial, but I’ll still go with it.

We need another umpire on the ground. Now why? Because there are too many no-balls that are being missed in every game. I asked Geoff Allardice, the ICC general manager, in a forum – how many no-balls are they missing in a 50-over match and in a T20 match? He said between 5 and 7. Five and seven! How much time are we are wasting for the umpire to check for a no-ball after a guy has got out – and we as commentators have called the shot and you see all the celebrations there – and now they’ve got to stymie the celebrations because we’ve got to see if it’s a no-ball.

Isn’t it better to use technology for calling no-balls?

Now, the technology you need for a no-ball – the infra-red and all that they do for tennis – costs money. And it’s not instantaneous. Let me tell you why that matters. If I’m the coach of Islamabad United and I have one of my batsman, say Andre Russell, on strike. If he takes a single, goes to the other end, and then the technology comes back and says ‘that was a no-ball’ – I don’t want Andre Russell taking that single. He is the biggest hitter in the game. He needs to be on strike. So we need instantaneous calls.

Why not have another one-field umpire to help out with no-balls?

Where does the umpire stand?

My first logical thought is that he stands behind the non-striker. He can see straight away if it’s a no-ball. The main umpire can’t see a no-ball most of the time because the bowler’s right hip covers their front foot. So the umpires are guessing sometimes. But if an umpire stands behind the non-striker, he’ll see everything. Back foot, front foot, everything. And I’ll tell you what, when you have Mitchell Starc bowling 150-clicks, and you’ve got to watch his back foot bowling around the wicket – because you’re worried about him touching the return crease – then then watch his front foot, then you have to look up and see the ball he has bowled… to check if it’s a nick or not! It’s 150 kilometres an hour [shakes head]. You’ve got to have a better system. And you know what? What’s the cost of an extra umpire compared to the technology? So I want to have another umpire down there.”

Innovation 3: Intentional drops 

As a coach, if you’ve got an opposition player in there and he’s not batting well… let’s call him Player A. He’s got 20 off 23 balls. And the opposition have got Shahid Afridi and Andre Russell to come in. As a coach, you don’t want to see those guys come in for three or four overs.

Instruct your fieldsmen not to catch the ball. This game is about winning, right? Is intentionally dropping a catch in the spirit of the game? Hmm. It is. Because I don’t have to catch the ball. So if Player A hits it in the air, make sure the ball bounces before you throw it in. Because you want to keep him in. As an opposition coach, I don’t want Andre Russell coming in and making 30 off 11 balls.

Innovation 4: Retired outs

We’ve come to a time – and I’ve nearly done it once – to retire batsmen in T20 cricket. If I’ve got a player like Andre Russell who is sitting in the shed, I don’t need a player who is blocking or struggling to get it off the square.

The teams that I’ve brought this idea up have with hated it. ‘Coach, how do you do that?’ Well, if a bowler bowls a bad over, I’m not bowling him in the next over, right? So it’s no difference with you as a batsman. If you’re not hitting it, I don’t want you out there. I know you’re trying. But off you go. Is this in the spirit of the game? Of course it is. And it’s in the laws.

But if you drop a batsman, isn’t there a chance they will get ultra-aggressive because they now know they’re not going to get caught?

When I look at players, I look at how many sixes they’ve hit in their career. If you’ve got a guy in that hits one six every 14 to 15 balls, compared to Andre Russell who hits one six every four balls, you want that first player out there. He might hit you for six but he’ll still not hurt you as much as a Russell or one of those players. That’s where I think the game is going. Coaches in T20 cricket will get more and more involved in certain set-up plays. There’s no doubt about that.