Spare a thought for the bowlers

Written by: Sajith Balakrishnan
Published: Sunday, March 21, 2004, 15:20 [IST]
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The rise of One-day cricket has been quite phenomenal. What began as an afternoon entertainment didn't take much time to take the cricket world by storm.

Australian media magnate Kerry Packer knew how to market cricket into a commercial proposition. The World Series Cricket was his brainchild. He changed the face of One-day cricket with the red cherry giving way to the white balls, and coloured clothing replacing the traditional white flannels. Even the sight-screen witnessed a change in colour. There was stiff opposition from the purists and the connoisseurs who dubbed the innovations as nothing less than pyjama cricket or Packer circus.

Despite the opposition, the Packer show went on to conquer hearts with the concept of the glorious uncertainties of the game coming to the fore. The quadrennial World Cups were also a stunning success. However, the contests during those times were even.

Of late, One-day cricket has become a run feast, with the contest narrowing down to a battle between bat vs bat rather than bat vs ball. A classic example is the present ODI series being played between India and Pakistan where even totals in excess of 330 are found to be tough to defend and batsmen are being fed with sumptuous stuff.

From time immemorial, cricket has been known to be a batsman's game. The rules have always favoured those wielding the willow, rather than the ones ready to fire with the red cherry. The bowlers have been at the receiving end, especially on the placid tracks of the subcontinent that where quite often a batsman's paradise.

Nowadays, batting looks so easy that even tailenders can whack bowlers of reputation. The concept of pinch-hitting too has dented many a figures of bowlers. There were times when a total of 220-225 was considered a fighting total. Now, even 300+ totals are being successfully chased with alarming regularity.

The fact that even in countries like Australia, where the pitches are supposed to be fast and bouncy, totals in excess of 300 are being compiled proves that One-day cricket is becoming too predictive and losing its sheen. It won't be a surprise if we see teams running totals close to 400 and, of course, those being overhauled in the near future.

Batting has undergone a sea change with the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya, Adam Gilchrist, Shahid Afridi, Virender Sehwag and the lot firing on all cylinders from the word go. The 15-over field restriction rule too weighs in favour of such explosive batsmen. It is here that the concept of pinch-hitting too has met with success.

It's said that the crowds pay not to see wickets falling like nine pins, but to see the ball crossing the fence and above the ropes. Yet, the contest has got to be even, not like the ones being witnessed now where the bowlers have no chance at all and are being sent all over the park. The ICC had given some leverage to the bowlers by reverting back to the one bouncer per over rule. But bowlers need more of such help for the game to survive as there is nothing more mind-boggling than the sight of the timber being knocked out by the red cherry.

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