Not sure how many of us are bold enough to persuade young kids to take up bowling for a career in the game. “Who would want to become a Vinay Kumar or an Ishant Sharma when you can become a Virat Kohli or a Rohit Sharma?” would be the answer from the kids. The balance between bat and ball is virtually disappearing in the 50 over format. People are talking about saving Test cricket. But at this rate, it’s the ODI format that needs to be saved. The recently concluded ODI series between India and Australia highlighted this issue.
In 2013, 22 matches (involving at least one test playing nation) have produced 300 plus scores. In some cases, both teams scored more than 300 which is a worrying sign. What’s even more worrying is the fact that 9 of those came during the India-Australia series, which meant every completed game had a 300 plus score. And scores in excess of 350 were chased down twice. We had some good games in the Champions Trophy where we had a nice contest between bat and ball in almost every game. But still the general feeling among the cricketing fraternity is that we are going to see more high scores in the modern game.
There are quite a few reasons as to why we are seeing some high scoring games these days.
- Flat pitches with nothing for the seamers and spinners in it. And like rubbing salt to an injury, the boundaries are also pretty short.
- Having just four fielders outside the circle never helps. Chasing teams have a huge advantage especially on flat tracks as they take full advantage of this new rule where it’s easy to get runs with an additional man inside the circle
- The two new balls rule has completely taken reverse swing out of the equation. This new rule also provides a disadvantage to the spinners. In seamer friendly conditions, it does help the bowling team but on flat tracks it’s just easy pickings for the batsmen as the ball would still be pretty hard after 35 overs making scoring easier.
- 20-20 cricket has brought some innovative shots and also a sense of fearlessness among the batsmen while facing some of the world’s best bowlers. Batsmen are confident of chasing down any target these days.
- Thicker bats have ensured that when a bowler beats a batsman hands down with a bouncer, the reward he gets is actually a Six!
Impact on modern day bowlers
It’s really pathetic to see even the good bowlers going for runs because of these factors. Just comparing the economies and averages of some of the leading bowlers of India and Australia during the recent series tells you the story. Ashwin, India’s no.1 spinner had an economy of 6 (which was decent considering the carnage) compared to his overall career economy of 4.9. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar who looks to be India’s long term new ball bowler found it very hard to pick wickets with the new ball as he picked only two in the entire series. Not to forget Ishant and Vinay who ended up with economies of 7.8 and 7.9 respectively. And if you think only the Indian bowlers had a bad time, then think again as Australia’s new ball bowler Clint Mckay averaged 74.5 with an economy of 6.47 compared to his overall career average of 24.4 with an economy of 4.77. The usually reliable and economic Shane Watson wasn’t spared too, as he had an average of 76 with an economy of 7.1 while his overall average and economy stand at 30 and 4.8 respectively. Johnson was their best bowler, but even he averaged 33 whereas his overall average stands at 25. A total of 107 sixes were hit which is easily the record in a bilateral series.
Or maybe it has something to do with the Indian batsmen. They grow up on flat home pitches. Their batsmen are extremely talented and fearless. Also the top 4 series in terms of run rates involve India. They chased down 350 plus scores twice in the recently concluded series. While the new rules did have an impact, you do get a feeling that the Indian batsmen are special. Their batsmen dominated the Champions Trophy like no other team. And in 2012, when these rules were not applicable, India chased 320 in 37 overs against Sri Lanka in Hobart. And in a few days time, they managed to chase down 330 against Pakistan in Mirpur.
Turn back the clock ICC
Nevertheless, it’s clearly seen that the ICC needs to take a look in to where the 50 over game is heading. Almost everything is against the bowler. One extra fielder was brought in to make every game produce a lot of runs. But nobody wants to watch the batsmen dominate a game for the entire 7 hours. This rule needs to be scrapped. And the ICC needs to make sure that almost every pitch around the world has something in it for the seamers or the spinners. Day night games can be started a bit early to negate the effect of dew in some places around the world. Dhoni went to the extent of asking “Is 350 the new 280?” and he felt in that case, we are better off using bowling machines. He was spot on. 230 to 265 games were always interesting compared to these high scoring matches. A 320 plus game is fine, but only if it happens on a rare basis. No kid growing up would want to become a bowler at this rate which would ultimately destroy the format in a few years time. Even contest between the bat and ball is what the fans and the players want, and that should be the ICC’s top priority.