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Is Cricket a game only for batsmen?

18th January 2015; 2 cricket matches were played on this day. One can be put under the head “An even contest between bat and ball” and the second one; under the heading “Cricket is a batsmen’s game”. For those of you who follow the game know by now which two matches are being referred to. India and Australia carried on from where they had left off in the Test series. The script was pretty much the

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature 19 Jan 2015, 05:56 IST
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AB de Villiers is always scaling new heights and creating new records

We have always been taught to lead a balanced life. Too much of anything can be a spoiler; so the question beckons, is the same formula applicable to cricket?

18th January 2015; 2 cricket matches were played on this day. One can be put under the head “An even contest between bat and ball” and the second one; under the heading “Cricket is a batsmen’s game”. For those of you who follow the game know by now which two matches are being referred to. India and Australia carried on from where they had left off in the Test series. The script was pretty much the same. A decent batting performance; ordinary show by the bowlers – Australia winning one more time.

A hair-raising performance by ABD

The match that does raise questions and eyebrows is the one that took place between the South Africans and West Indies at the Wanderers. The former amassed a gigantic 439 on the scorecard and lost just 2 wickets. The trio of Hashim Amla (153), Rilee Rossouw(128) and A B De Villiers were responsible for decimating the bowling attack.

It took ABD only 40 minutes and 31 balls to notch the fastest ODI century. In another 13 balls he added 49 more runs to the score. He hit as many as 16 sixes in his innings of 149. 

West Indies had no answer, no plan B, C or D to curb the run flow. What we saw was exhilarating. Undoubtedly one of the best batting displays by a team as well as an individual. No amount of praise will be enough to laud a performance of this calibre from the Proteas skipper. He is probably the finest batsmen produced by world cricket. His talents and records will be difficult to match.

Changing face of the art of batting

Having said that, can we as cricket fans confidently say that ABD’s record will stay intact for a long time? I am afraid not. The way modern day cricket is developing nothing seems to be impossible for the batters. The fastest century record was Shahid Afridi’s to keep for around 17 years. Corey Anderson transferred it to his name and retained it for a year until de Villers decided to etch his name against it.

Who’s to say that on another bright sunny matchday, a young man, say a Steven Smith or a Virat Kohli, will not break his record and create a new one? In the last 8-9 years, teams have surpassed 400+ scores about 12 times and 350+ scores 18 times and only 3 of them were before 2006.

To post 300 and chase it down is considered normal now.  In the past 4 years individual scores of more than 200 in an innings have been achieved 4 times; twice by Rohit Sharma and once each by Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. Are all these facts indicating that bowlers will become just mere participants in the game very soon? Will bowlers only serve to be the other half to exist so that the batsmen can amass tonnes of runs?

From 2010 onwards, bowlers have managed to take 6 or more wickets on only 15 occasions. Will it then be right to say that modern batsmen are more talented than modern bowlers?

Overload of batting extravaganzas

As a lover and admirer of the game, I admit that I enjoy a close contest much more than a one-sided batting extravaganza. Even if the team batting first scores 180 odd runs and makes the chasing team earn every run to win, then so be it. What is it about the modern game that has tilted the scales even more in favour of batsmen? Is it the influence of T20s, is it that the pitches are more placid?

Is it that the batsmen have mastered the art of adapting to different bowlers and conditions better? Are teams playing so much cricket with and against each other that the element of surprise when facing a bowler from the opposition has vanished? Are the bowlers not intimidating enough or is it that the batsmen of the current era are actually superior?

I don’t mean to take anything away from the batsmen because it does take a lot of skill and mettle to score those runs, but what is it that has made them so bold and fearless? I also don’t mean to belittle the bowlers with this piece because there are some very fine ones around right now.  But one cannot miss the fact that the balance between bat and ball has ceased to exist.

As a member of the cricket  loving fraternity, I truly hope that over the years to come we can talk more about 7 and 8 wickets hauls and bowlers winning awards for taking their teams through.

The format of One Day cricket is a beautiful one and all the 3 major skill sets: that of bowling, fielding and batting deserve to be equal contenders for taking a team to victory. One being dominant and the other two being mere participants is unhealthy – for the audience as well as for the peformer.

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