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ODIs will soon become a batting exhibition than a contest

Former Australia skipper Ian Chappell says the game so heavily favours batsmen there is an urgent need for administrators to tweak things to give bowlers a chance

cricket Updated: Jun 11, 2017 11:08 IST
Ian Chappell
Former Australia skipper Ian Chappell believes the laws of the game must maintain a reasonable balance between bat and ball as the game heavily favours batsmen these days.
Former Australia skipper Ian Chappell believes the laws of the game must maintain a reasonable balance between bat and ball as the game heavily favours batsmen these days.(Getty Images)

One of the critical duties of a cricket administrator is to ensure the laws of the game maintain a reasonable balance between bat and ball.

The example should be a pair of scales see-sawing in the process of finding an even balance. This is the balance required between bat and ball; a constant jiggling with neither one nor the other favoured too much.

On the early evidence of the 2017 Champions Trophy there’s currently a bar of gold on the scale representing the bat and a feather on the other side denoting the plight of the bowler.

Three hundred runs for a 50-over innings is now the norm and quite often it isn’t enough to gain victory. And all this in an England summer blighted by rain squalls that you would normally expect to juice up the pitches.

No swing or seam

The former world-record holding wicket-taker Fred Trueman used to bemoan the fact that “Last bluddy bowler to be knighted was Sir Francis Drake.”

The way things are heading, the modern bowler will only kneel before royalty to plead for mercy.

Lasith Malinga has been reduced to pitching deliveries well wide of off-stump in the hope batsmen will toe-end their shots. (REUTERS)

Despite the inclement weather, the ball has neither swung nor moved much off the seam. That normally lethal finisher, Lasith Malinga, has been reduced to pitching deliveries well wide of off-stump in the hope batsmen will either toe-end the shot to the man on the cover boundary or thick-edge it to the fielder patrolling at third man.

Once a bowler is directing deliveries well wide of the stumps all the classic ambushes are removed from the contest and the batsman has the upper-hand. When a bowler is purely trying to contain, often in the hope that the shot will only bring a four instead of disappearing deep into the crowd, the spectacle has basically been reduced to a batting exhibition.

India bowlers powerless

To emphasise the normalisation of the 300 total, it’s twice been chased down in the first eight matches and once against the much-vaunted Indian attack. India, thought to be one of the better-balanced attacks in the tournament, were powerless to stop a vibrant Sri Lankan line-up imbued with the death or glory spirit of the modern batsman.

In the 21st century, the run rate in ODI matches has improved by nearly one per over. In this decade the number of sixes per innings has virtually doubled. (Hindustan Times)

The modern batsmen appear to be oblivious to the embarrassment a batsman used to experience when he holed out in the deep playing what was deemed a reckless shot. It’s now considered an abrogation of duty if he doesn’t try to send at least one delivery soaring into the stands each over.

If a fan heads to an ODI hoping to see the odd classic dismissal where the batsman is lured to his downfall after a series of searching deliveries, he better be seated for the opening over.

In this century alone, the run rate in ODI matches has improved by nearly one per over. In this decade the number of sixes per innings has virtually doubled. The average per wicket is three runs better now than at the turn of the century.

If batting stats keep climbing at this alarming rate, a tipping point must surely be reached. There will come a time when an ODI becomes a batting exhibition rather than a contest.

The more the first innings totals climb, the harder it becomes for the chasing side to stay the contest.

The administrators are going to have to give greater consideration to the evolution of bats. The boundary sizes will need to come under closer scrutiny and some experimentation with the ball is required to aid bowlers gain some swing. Somehow the emphasis on wicket-taking rather than pure containment has to become a viable consideration.

The game can’t become a batting exhibition where fans are baying for the bowler’s blood. After all, the Lions versus Christians eventually lost its lustre as a contest.

Ian Chappell, former Australia cricket team Test captain, writes for Hindustan Times exclusively