Finally, a cricket contest more even between bat and ball

  • Sai Prasad Mohapatra, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Oct 24, 2015 16:36 IST
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2nd R) celebrates after dismissing South Africa’s AB de Villiers (unseen) during their fourth one-day ODI in Chennai. Kumar’s bowling was a concern, but he has done well in the series. (Reuters)

By allowing an extra fifth outfielder in the final 10 overs of an ODI, the International Cricket Council has finally shown it has a heart for the bowlers. Post World Cup, the format otherwise heavily tilted in favour of batsmen, is slowly starting to show another shift--in terms of run making and the psyche of batsmen and skippers.

Post World Cup, the format otherwise heavily in terms of run making and the psyche of batsmen and skippers. The final 10 overs of an ODI innings has started to indicate that bowlers are now regaining a long-lost conviction: the game has something in it for them.

“After the World Cup, guys realised how difficult it was to bowl in the last 10 overs. Scores of 400 and 380 in Australia and New Zealand were never seen before on a regular basis and it was just because of one fielder. Now if you use the bouncer, slower bouncer or the cutters, it’is difficult to hit over the boundary. You’re left with only one shot. You have to have a big slog over mid-wicket. With the guy out there, it’s either six or out. It’s a big risk,” said Dale Steyn.

Assuredly bowling with a deep mid-wicket, Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh too gave the new rule the thumbs-up. “I think itfs a good rule bringing in lot of balance between bat and ball,” said Harbhajan. Even world’s biggest hitters like Virat Kohli and skipper MS Dhoni are beginning to concede how it is no longer a period of batting prosperity.

In fact, it is a new mental adjustment about what score to target batting first. “It’s not easy to just go in and slam the big shots and get 80-90 runs in the last 10 overs. Youwill see most of the sides saying, ‘Last 10, if you are chasing, you shouldn’t have more than 65 runs or 70 runs’. That too if you have a good day,” Dhoni said.

India scored 69 losing five wickets in Chennai in the last 10 overs, South Africa scored 64 and lost three. In Rajkot, India lost four wickets for 67 while the visitors scored 60 at the cost of three wickets. Another strategy that is regaining recognition is return of the back-of-the-length deliveries. With protection at mid-wicket, bowlers can try that more often and these have troubled batsmen the most especially on Indian wickets where the ball sometimes stops and comes on. “More than the short deliveries, it’s the length deliveries that are more difficult to hit because with the reverse swing, the bowlers they can actually cramp you,” said Dhoni.

“With that extra fielder outside now, the batsmen who come in especially after the 40th over, straight away if they are supposed to go in and play the big shot. But theyfll find it difficult. The scuffed-up ball doesn’t come off the wicket. So when a bowler digs in short you have to play the big shot and it’s not easy to always clear the boundary,” the India captain added. It’s a healthy sign for many who advocated the balance between the bat and ball. Now it will be interesting to see how someone like Virat with his phenomenal chase record reacts to this new reality.

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