Dale Steyn has been the most recent cricketer to get behind the removal of the toss in Test match Cricket.
Speaking at a promotional event in India, Steyn said that removing the toss would be the “way to go forward”.
Steyn was quoted in The Hindu as saying:
“(Cricket pioneer) William Gilbert Grace will be rolling in his grave if he heard something called the free-hit, a batsman can be out but he’s not out and score four runs off the ball because it’s a no-ball. Traditional cricket has gone out the window. T20 cricket has changed the game”.
What must be remembered though, is that free hits weren’t introduced to give batsmen another chance, they were introduced as a way to deter bowlers from bowling no balls.
Bowlers needed greater discipline, and a way to deter them away from bowling no balls was to penalise them for it. If they didn’t want to be penalised, they’ll make sure their foot is behind the line. So you can understand this rule change. It added something to the game, it meant players had to be better.
What is removing the toss adding?
It is simply a Band-Aid for a team’s lack of batting skills. So say you arrive for a Test in India and no toss takes place, as a visiting side, you choose to bat first. What good will that help if you can’t play spin, come in unprepared or have no game plans? You’ll still get bundled out in one session.
I do not agree with this rhetoric that times have changed so we must move along with it. Just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.
Steyn also says that pitches have become too flat in ODIs, nullifying the ability of reverse swing. Whilst he has a point about this, he then says that he believes flat pitches were the reason Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft resorted to ball-tampering in the Newlands Test earlier this year, saying:
“Players are going to the extent of taking sand paper on the field. It might sound funny, but it’s a desperate plea for cricket to change. Players are getting into more trouble trying to make the ball do something.”
I very much respect Steyn but I do not agree with his reasoning here. There is no excuse for what the Aussie trio did and there is no justifying it.
The pitches in the Test series between South Africa and Australia were not flat pitches either, and it is actually the opposite reason his Proteas captain, Faf du Plessis gives as his reason for wanting the toss removed.
Faf, earlier this month cited that when he started playing Cricket, teams were scoring 400-500 runs, but because teams have such heavy home advantage, these scores are few and far between and games are finishing earlier than they should.
Again, this comes down to the player’s application at the crease, their ability to counter whatever the bowlers throw at them, their ability to fight.
Removing the toss will not cover up a team’s lack of preparation or ability. There is no substitution for hard work and effort.