What Is a Powerplay?

Wake me up when it gets exciting.

In the last decade or so, the one-day, 50-over form of the game of cricket has been under assault. Too many longueurs, complain critics and administrators, who look at the thirty overs between the first and the last ten and wonder how they can make them more exciting. The answer has been the Powerplay. In the current iteration, there are three of them. The first occurs in the first ten overs of the innings. During that time, the fielding team must keep all but two of its players within a circle of thirty yards around the bat. This is meant to encourage the batsmen to hit over the top of, or through, the infield, and supply the crowd with more to entertain them. The second Powerplay, lasting five overs, is at the fielding captain’s behest. During that time, the fielding team can only have three fielders outside the circle. The third Powerplay, also five overs, is the responsibility of the batting team, and all but three fielders must be within the circle.

If you’re confused, I don’t blame you. So are the captains and batsmen on the field, who often fail to take advantage of the Powerplay. In a recent world cup game, Zimbabwe left the final Powerplay until their last two (and worst) batsmen were at the crease, while England were denied a wicket against The Netherlands when it was discovered that they hadn’t had the requisite number of fielders in the circle. And all the rigging for excitement still hasn’t sorted out the perceived “problem” with the middle overs, where batsmen will knock the ball around the field taking one or two runs here and there, and not generally playing the “big shots.”

One reason the one-day game might feel tired is that there are so many of them that the players are heartily sick of them. Meaningless series and pointless competitions between mismatched teams have meant that it doesn’t much matter if you miss one game because another one will come along in a minute. When I was growing up, One-Day Internationals (ODIs) were relatively few and far between, and therefore relished. Bowlers could also bowl bouncers and the batting team wasn’t automatically awarded with an extra run if the bowler delivered the ball behind the batsman (a leg-side wide in cricketing teams). In other words, the games were rare, the bowlers could attack the batsmen, and it wasn’t all wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am.

By the time you read this article, the 50-over structure may have changed again. It may even have gone extinct—changed into two innings of 20 and 25 overs each, or reduced to 40 overs: anything to manufacture some excitement. My solution is simply to play fewer of ’em. Sometimes in sport, you’ve got to leave them wanting more.


About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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