Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Where have all the bowlers gone?

Haven't blogged for quite sometime now, year end and all that sort of thingie, you know. Meanwhile, of course, much have happened, with 18 trillion gallons of mudwater flowing through the super-holy Ganges. With everything being on fire, the bus from Srinagar to Pakistan does not seem likely to reach and the Pakistanis on the cricket fields do not look like reaching our demoralising scores, either.

The second cricket match brought out, yet again, a disgusting aspect of one-day cricket that no one seems to be bothered about. Over the past 5-6 years, a majority of the matches in the subcontinent have been decided by the flip of the coin. The lucky captain, who calls heads when it turns out to be heads and tails when it turns out to be tails, always chooses to bat. His batsmen then pulverise the opposition bowlers' and pile up a score 300-plus. The opposition would then come out to bat, with glum faces amongst their ranks, put up a "brave and valiant" effort and finally fall around 50 runs short. The bowlers are reduced to a joke, bowling on pitches where it is easier to grow cannabis than take a wicket. No matter if you are Wasim Akram or Harvinder Singh Jr., the Shahid Afridis and the Ricardo Powells will still step out to you and disdainfully dispatch you to the garbage dump just outside the ground. If thats not insult to cricket, tell me what is?

But the teeming millions, who bring the dough to the organisers and the sponsors, seem to love this. And since they bring the bucks, they get what they want. During my stint at my B-School, on a certain day when I was bizarrely awake (probably because I had slept the whole day before), I remember some Professor blabbering sheepishly on consumer power and how the "consumer is the king"; you know, that old management gibberish all MBAs are supposed to know by heart. I felt then, as I feel now, that the best example of the consumer being the king is cricket. Look what was dished out to the spectator before- “slow” matches where the ball would move off the seam, spin off the wicket and the batsmen would often hook along with driving sweetly through the covers. As if the bloody players and cricket gurus knew what the spectators really wanted! Zoom to today and you see why the spectator is the king-he gets what he wants, where the batsmen often reverse-sweep the fast bowlers.

Since there is really is no limit to consumerisation, I propose the following to make the game even more spectator-friendly:

1) Just like you had put a cap of one bouncer per over many years ago to stop the fearsome four, have a new rule-bowlers would be compulsorily required to bowl at-least one half-volley every over.

2) Those bowlers, who dare to do one of the following, namely: a) Take two wickets, b) Bowl two maidens at a stretch or c) Beat the batsmen thrice successively, should not be allowed to bowl another ball and their bowling actions severely scrutinised.

3) Once all bowlers have been gradually eliminated by 2) above, get bowling machines. Each team will then have 11 batsmen and 1 bowling machine.

I know I’m getting carried away, but the point is, one-day cricket today, at least the way it is played in the subcontinent, seems very unlikely to ever inspire another kapil Dev or Wasim Akram from the streets of Haryana or Hyderabad.

I would rather watch a match where the team batting first makes 230 odd in conditions that are at least fair to the bowlers and the opposition responds with 223. The excitement is there till the very last minute and the game doesn’t dwell in the doldrums from the 15th to the 40th over, a period when nothing seems to happen in one dayers now.

And think about it- the very basic facet of the one-day cricket is getting lost amidst all this deluge of runs-the aspect of suspense, the aspect of thrill that made cricket as likely to be a cause of heart attack as football. Successful chases over 300 are very, very rare and the team batting first crosses 300 every other day. Hence, the fate of the match precariously depends on the relative weight difference on the two sides of the coin and the wind speed on that day.

Which is why I’m not even bothered that I’d miss the match on Saturday; all I need to know, of course, is who wins the toss.

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Anonymous akr said...

I know what you mean about the batting (flogging) one way traffic that ODI cricket tends to become. Nowhere more so than in the subcontinent, where flat tracks are a nightmare for the bowlers.

But of late, especially in day matches, the chances for the team batting second are actually pretty good.
I decided to check this up. In the last 20 matches played in India, there have been 19 results.
The average 1st innings score is 276
The average 2nd innings score is 238.

But what is really interesting is that the team bating second has won 10 of these 19 matches, with Pakistan beating India at Eden Gardens being the most recent of these.
Even in the high scoring series in Pakistan last year (india v Pak), Pakistan may have lost but came pretty darned close to winning in high scoring matches.
People like Balaji, Pathan, Hasan, Pedro Collins, Drakes, Srinath and Agarakar have done pretty well for themselves.

Anyway, sorry such a long 'comment'. Did not mean for it to be so when I started!

11:11 AM  

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