The advent of T20 cricket has revolutionised the sport as batsmen have invented strokes and shots that were unimaginable a few years ago. Earlier, the game was about the grace and class in the shots played and hence, only a few parts of the ground were considered high-scoring areas. The ball was rarely hit in the air and ground shots were considered to be the proper cricketing shots.
But it is not the case anymore as every inch of the ground is productive for collecting runs as the T20 specialists like AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell etc. have come up with inventive shots that were unheard of a decade ago.
The term ‘360-degree batsman’ is used extensively for such players for shots like the reverse sweep and switch-hit that make every section of the ground unsafe. The Dil-Scoop invented by Tillakaratne Dilshan produces runs from even over the wicket-keeper’s head.
Earlier, when the game was about proper cricketing shots involving drives, cuts, and pulls, the square areas of both off and leg were the most prolific areas to collect runs. Many parts of the ground weren’t used at all due to the limited number of shots. One such section of the ground was between long-on and deep midwicket where hardly any shots were directed.
Hence that part of the field was termed as “cow corner”, as shots were rarely played there and cows could graze in that part safely and without danger of getting hit by the ball.
The origins of the term “cow corner”
The term “cow corner” is also believed to have originated from the Dulwich College in England where there was a corner of the playing area on the ground which contained cows and other livestock.
As the game changed, the cow corner came to life as today, the slog is a very popular shot in the game and most of those shots are hit towards this region. Especially during the death overs, bowlers most often target full deliveries and batsmen tend to clear the front leg, and the cow corner comes in the hitting arc of most batsmen and it becomes an easier area to aim at.
Several batsmen who are experts at executing the slog like Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, and AB de Villiers target the cow corner when accelerating the innings. Whereas batsmen who are strong with the bottom hand like MS Dhoni and Chris Gayle are the masters at exploiting that part of the ground without even playing a slog.
A few years ago, a fielder was placed at long-on and another at deep midwicket and the cow corner was left open as hardly any shots were headed there. And if any player targeted that region of the ground, one of the fielders from long-on and deep midwicket was supposed to do the fielding duties to cut off the boundaries.
One more factor why the cow corner wasn’t utilised extensively earlier is that the section is the farthest from the batting crease and batsmen found it hard to clear the boundary. But the batsmen of today are a lot stronger and fitter and the sizes of the bats are huge as compared to that of the past. Even a mis-hit these days ends up way back into the crowd.
A measure to stem runs
The modern day captains have started to guard the cow corner of the field too and it is no longer a section that is left empty. It is has become a run-saving position as the bowlers try to bowl yorkers with fielders at long-on, deep midwicket and the cow corner.
If the yorker is executed perfectly, the less inventive batsmen can only dig it out towards one of these three fielders and get at the most a couple of runs. As the game of T20 gains more and more popularity, the cow corner also becomes an important part of the ground.
The game over the years has become more batsman friendly due to the rule changes made by the ICC to make the game more exciting. Several amendments were made to the powerplay rules in the past few years which turned the game more in favour of the batsmen rather than the bowler.
In ODI cricket, there used to be only 4 fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle whenever the powerplays were not on and to make the matters worse, only 3 were allowed outside when those were on. Batsmen could easily clear the infield and collect boundaries and therefore, so many totals of over 400 had resulted.
A few months ago, the rule of batting/bowling powerplays was diminished and an ODI innings was divided into three phases. The fielding captain now has the luxury to position five fielders outside the inner circle in the last 10 overs and this is where the cow corner comes into play. The extra fielder is now being pushed to that area often to safeguard the boundaries.
Unlike ODIs, T20 cricket allows to have a maximum of 5 fielders outside the circle except for the powerplay and so the cow corner is active for the most part of the innings. With the way the game is progressing, the day does not seem to be too far when a fielder might need to be placed behind the keeper too.