Bazball has no future

England v India - Fifth LV= Insurance Test Match: Day One
England v India - Fifth LV= Insurance Test Match: Day One

Cricket is a game of convention and tradition. There is always a proper way to do something. There's a proper way to construct your innings, there's a proper way to take a catch, and more strictly, there's a proper way to bowl.

However, every now and then, with various degrees of variance, these conventions are challenged by individuals who try to mould cricket in a way that would enhance their game.

While some, like Shahid Afridi and Rishabh Pant, challenged the way you should construct your innings, cricketers like Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah bring new wisdom to the mechanism of bowling.

Often, new strategies and designs work in cricket. The innovation of the carrom ball or switch hit are some of the examples of how cricket has evolved through its years. However, there are doubts about a new strategy that has taken the cricketing world by storm - the ultra-aggressive way of playing Test cricket called 'Bazball'.

Bazball works on a simple strategy - You play an aggressive brand of cricket, and all batters look for the highest scoring opportunity on every ball. The conventional wisdom of playing Test cricket suggests that a batter needs to ensure they remain 'not out' first, and only then, when the ball isn't good enough to get you 'out', you look for a scoring option.

However, the Bazball method lets you look for a scoring option on every ball, no matter how risky it is. Of course, there are checks and balances to this method but it is far riskier than what an average cricket fan is used to.

“If you come on a wicket that’s got some grass and Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc are rolling in at you. Is it going to be the same? We’ll see what happens.” #SteveSmith on #BazBall.…

The only team that has so far used this strategy is England, and they have tasted great rewards for their risky endeavors. They beat New Zealand and India, two teams with fierce bowling attacks quite handsomely.

This begs the question - Is Bazball a better way to play Test cricket? Although Brendon McCullum, the England coach, and the chap who brings 'Baz' to Bazball, hates this term, he clearly thinks this approach is working and should be persisted with.

England captain Ben Stokes challenges his team to target 600 in a day. The Bazball story, however, may not be as long-lasting as it is portrayed to be, simply because it isn't affordable.

One of the key pillars of the Bazball strategy is having at least four to five batters who can target world-class bowlers as soon as they arrive at the crease. The quest to find these batters is not easy.

First, you need to have a world-class domestic red ball tournament that prepares your batters for Test cricket, and then you need to have a great domestic T20 tournament that prepares your batters to strike from ball one.

This requires systematic changes, and to bring about those systematic changes, you need broadcast and sponsor money flooding through the gates of cricket boards.

Sadly, this luxury is a monopoly of the three richest cricketing boards - India, England, and Australia. It is difficult for the West Indies cricket board to suddenly produce batters that can strike bowlers like Anderson and Bumrah, and also defend against them regularly.

Without money, it may require decades of hard work to adopt the Bazball way of playing cricket, even if they probably have one of the strongest T20I teams in the world. The same goes for teams like South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and others.

Bazball is possible because there is a strong domestic cricketing structure that supports it. So will only England, Australia, and India be the only teams that'll be able to adopt Bazball?

Well, England have created it, so they might persist with it but Australia and India may be a different story. India believes in a different philosophy altogether. This is something that the cricketing world has always seen, but it was most common with the successful Australian teams of the late 90s and the early 2000s - assigning defined roles.

#Ashwin has said that players 'need to be careful about #Bazball brand of…

India have assigned batters, or specialists, that wreak havoc on the opposition on a need-to-be basis. Players like Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul, and Rohit Sharma can easily switch to aggressive T20 batting when need be. Meanwhile, players like Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Hanuma Vihari, Mayank Agrawal, and others stick to a more conventional approach to batting.

This gives them a balanced approach where striking freely is an option, not a compulsion.

Australia, on the other hand, have a fragile batting unit. The team is transitioning towards a more cohesive batting lineup, with Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne positioned as their pillars.

A Bazball approach may prove lethal to them now, and delay their quest to find permanent batters for each position. However, when Pat Cummins, their captain, is convinced about his batters, they will be in the best position to adopt this strategy. The pitches in Australia are flatter than ever, and a Bazball approach might just be the serotonin boost they so desperately need.

“If you come on a wicket that’s got some grass and Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc are rolling in at you. Is it going to be the same? We’ll see what happens.” #SteveSmith on #BazBall.…

So, the only question that remains to be answered is how long England can continue with a Bazball strategy? The answer lies in who they are playing against.

Common wisdom dictates that Bazball philosophy might not work on an Ahemdabad pitch when India plays three spinners on a track that has more cracks than a grandma's feet. It may also not be of much use when batters like Root, Bairstow, and Stokes, the trio that's been entrusted to enforce Bazball, lose form.

Cricket has thrown us many surprises, and most of them have worked. Strategies have helped teams win multiple trophies. England themselves took hold of their first 5- over trophy when they started playing an aggressive game in ODI cricket.

Bazball, however, needs more things to go right than it affords to get wrong. It is a car, driving on the highway at full speed, with headlights on - the crash is imminent. Nor can everyone afford this car, and people who do, better have insurance.

Cricket will keep throwing us new strategies. Most of them will work, but it is safe to say that Bazball has no future.

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Q. Do you think that Bazball has no future?



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Edited by Ritwik Kumar


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