A large part of the focus in the Big Bash League, currently showing on a TV screen near you, is on the hitting of sixes. Perhaps I should say, more accurately, a large part of the commentators’ focus anyway. The fast food-spieling game-callers strive to outdo each other in exaggerated amazement at the distance each six travels (electronically measured) and lap up every crowd catch or would-be catch.
Those Goliaths of commercial cricket, Channels 10 and 9, structure their marketing of T20 and List A games around the action of big six hitting, highlight packages thrive on a roll call of sixes and the frenzied crowd reaction.
Everything is geared towards facilitating the hitting of sixes; the boundary rope positioned some distance in from the fence as a safety measure to prevent serious injury to fielders sliding into the boundary palings (in the manner befalling Simon Jones at the Gabba in 2002), allied with modern bat technology and fielding restrictions. The outcome; sixes have become as commonplace as cooking programs on the box, it’s all too easy for the top batters in T20.
Consequently hitting a six has been devalued as an achievement, it is no longer considered anything that special or exceptional, just something really to be expected or anticipated … this ball, next ball, next over.
Basil Fawlty in the ‘Rat’ episode of Fawlty Towers (many of you will no doubt recall it) takes back an over-generous portion of veal cutlet he has just served up to the public health inspector for the third time, saying to the exasperated inspector, “Too much of a good thing always leaves one wanting less, I always find.” So it is with the spate of faux sixes that pass over the rope without clearing the fence. Incidentally, I just don’t get it! How can the ball lobbing on the full on the rope be considered a six, given that when the full field was previously used in matches the ball had to clear the white picket fence to register a six (whereas hitting the traditional white pickets on the full was only four). It seems to be simply all about making it easier to hit a six … sixes and wickets, the constant flow of both is the raison d’être of the limited overs game.
My proposition is that we reintroduce the score of five to correctly acknowledge the devaluation of this lesser six. Before the Great War a stroke that cleared the boundary line or fence on the full was worth ‘five’ (a little later it was adjusted up to ‘six’ to give the shot a fairer proportional differentiation to a ‘four’). A five could be awarded for a shot that lands over the rope but does not clear the fence.
The difference between a ‘5’ and a ‘6’ might not amount to much in the scheme of an individual’s innings (below see Footnote) but it does justly reward the superior hit, a real six which truly is “hit OUT of the field of play”.
Footnote: Although it could make a substantial difference to a batter’s score – the great pre-WWI batsman Victor Trumper in a Sydney grade cricket match in 1903 hit 22 fives (as a six was worth at that time) in an innings of 335 in 165 minutes. If achieved under the amended value Trumper would have scored 357.