The Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA), like its fellow southern associations from Hyderabad and Tamil Nadu, has been conducting an all-India pre-season tournament for a little over 20 years now. Started as the Diamond Jubilee Tournament, it underwent many a change in name and format. While the name changes may not be important for most, the format changes, especially the one adopted in 2013, may be of more interest, particularly at a time when the world cricket fraternity is discussing changes to Test cricket, the premier form of the sport.

A world Test championship has been worked out at long last and four-day Tests are to be tried out. This is where the KSCA experiment could provide insights. The most interesting part? The man who came up with the 2013 experiment is part of the International Cricket Council’s cricket committee and the man who chairs it was president of the KSCA at the time.

It was in 2010 that Anil Kumble and team took over the reins of the KSCA for a three-year term. One of their first decisions was to make the all India tournament, considered by cricket associations around the country as the best preparation for Ranji Trophy, into a four-day affair. Until then, it generally involved three-day matches.

But it was in their final year as KSCA administrators that a radical change was introduced for the all-India tournament. A few days before the Safi Darashah tournament (now called the Dr.(Capt.) K.Thimmappiah Memorial Tournament) was to start, Rahul Dravid, a member of the KSCA’s managing committee as well as its cricket committee, proposed reforms on the lines of Ranji Trophy league stage rules.

Dravid, who could bat for hours and hours, days too, wanted to introduce over limits for each innings in a match. Plenty of tournaments were played that way, restricting, for instance, the first innings for each side to 90 overs and the second to 40. This wasn’t enough for Dravid though. Fed up of teams dominating on the basis of a big first innings, often because they had won the toss, he first took into account the total number of overs played over four days. At 90 overs a day, it would total 360 overs. The argument was made that most first innings in the modern game don’t last beyond 120 overs. Thus came the idea of dividing the four innings into 120 overs in each of the first innings and 60 overs each in the second.

The main twist was yet to come. Dravid had two main issues with the established format as far as the Safi Darashah tournament was concerned, though he was clear that the Test and first- class format would continue for some time. First, he wasn’t happy that most matches were being decided on the basis of the first-innings lead. Second, he wanted to negate the impact of the toss on a team.

Instead of a 120-over and 60-over format, Dravid proposed that any balance overs for the batting team in the respective first innings be carried over to their second innings. This would ensure that if a team was bowled out cheaply in its first innings, it would have another chance, perhaps in better batting conditions. The ultimate aim was to try and ensure that a match would be interesting on all four days (as much as possible, that is) and also that a team would have to do well twice in the game to win.

For example, say Team A wins the toss and puts Team B in to bat. With the pitch being a bit moist, Team A seamers make merry and bowl Team B out for 140 in 67 overs. Team A, in turn, though starting its innings in somewhat tough conditions, makes good use of a better pitch on Day 2 and rakes up 360 all out from 105 overs. Now, normally the match would be dead and buried, as Team A would have 60 second-innings overs to overhaul the first innings lead of 220 and then, if possible, set a target. In this format, however, Team B would have 60 second-innings overs plus the 53 overs remaining from its first innings to make a match of it. So Team B would get a second chance, while Team A, should it bowl well a second time or bat well again later, would have a chance of winning.

A few other scenarios, such as what would happen in a rain-hit game, were discussed before the new rules were implemented. Dravid was clear that this was an experiment, not something he wanted implemented immediately at the higher levels . Given that the ICC is ringing in changes however, and that both Dravid and Kumble are in its cricket committee, one cannot help but wonder if the Karnataka experiment will go global in some form. Perhaps a trial could be conducted in matches involving new entrants to Test cricket, or teams such as Zimbabwe.

The ICC could, for instance, decide that there is no place for a draw in modern cricket, and that there should be a result at the end of four days (a tie will remain a possibility in any case). The choice, then, could boil down to a four-day Test with over limitations in place for each innings (with the current drawn result still in place) or a more radical limited-overs Test.

Interesting times ahead, that’s for sure.

Satish Viswanathan is a cricket writer who has had a stint in cricket administration.

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