Craig Salmon's Soapbox: Tourists must prepare in order to succeed abroad

Could scrapping throwing of a coin transform the fortunes of Test cricket?

Wednesday, 23rd May 2018, 5:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd May 2018, 5:16 pm
Former England captain Andrew Strauss tosses the coin while ex-India skipper MS Dhoni calls heads or tails before a Test match at Trent Bridge
Former England captain Andrew Strauss tosses the coin while ex-India skipper MS Dhoni calls heads or tails before a Test match at Trent Bridge

That is the question which is soon to be debated at a meeting of the International Cricket Council in India later this month.

Watching opposing captains walk out to the middle before the home skipper flicks a coin to decide who will bowl first has been one of the game’s great traditions.

Whether it’s the white-hot atmosphere of an Ashes Test match, or the more genteel surroundings of a village green in local league cricket, the ceremonial coin toss has been a significant part of the history of the sport.

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It’s amazing to think that over the years, the winning and losing of some of the biggest matches have depended largely upon whether the visiting captain has managed to call ‘heads’ or ‘tails’ correctly.

However, there is a credence to the argument that getting rid of the toss could level the playing field in Test cricket, which currently seems stacked in favour of the home team.

One of the ideas to reduce the impact of home advantage is to hand the away side the option of bowling and batting first, which could discourage home cricket boards from doctoring pitches thus creating better wickets. 
Doing away with the coin toss is a proposal which has been put into action in England’s County Championship since 2016.

In domestic four-day matches, the visiting captain is given the option of bowling first or having the toss as normal to decide which side bats first.

Removing the toss has generally seen games in this country last longer, 
although the number of away victories has not increased. With T20 cricket seemingly sidelining the longer format of the game more and more and dimishing its popularity, it could be argued that getting rid of the toss is worth the experiment – see if it actually does make a difference.

Personally, I am not in favour of the tradition being abandoned.

I think the beauty of cricket is the different conditions around the world from seaming and swinging pitches in England, to the fast and hard bouncy wickets in Australia and the dust bowls of the sub-continent. I think the big problem nowadays is the lack of preparation teams have when they tour other countries.

Not having enough matches and experience of unfamilar conditions is the main reason why tourists come unstuck on their travels.

The first Test of England’s series against Pakistan begins this morning and it will be interesting to see how the visitors fare at Lord’s early in the English summer.

For England, it is important that they get that winning feeling back as soon as possible after the disastrous tour of Australia and the subsequent defeat in New Zealand.