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SA’s sporting tracks breed tight contests

Wickets in South Africa haven’t been what the Indian Premier League had wanted them to be — perfect belters to ensure a barrage of sixes and boundaries. But as the tournament draws to a close, the IPL, with the advantage of hindsight, would have happily settled for strips with enough assistance for the bowlers, reports Subhash Rajta.

cricket Updated: May 19, 2009 01:17 IST
Subhash Rajta

Wickets in South Africa haven’t been what the Indian Premier League had wanted them to be — perfect belters to ensure a barrage of sixes and boundaries. But as the tournament draws to a close, the IPL, with the advantage of hindsight, would have happily settled for strips with enough assistance for the bowlers.

In total contrast to fears that bowler-friendly tracks (a huge deterrent to sixes and boundaries, considered USP of T20) will fail to attract and entertain spectators, the more balanced wickets have ensured far more entertaining contests, what with every second contest going into the last over.

“I think it’s the nail-biting finishes that entertain people more than just a deluge of big hits. Yes, people love to see ball flying out of the park, but nothing can match the thrill of nailbiting finishes,” said Brett Lee. The Australian speedster was spot on, despite occasionally being on the receiving end.

“The joy of watching a contest going to the last ball lasts much longer than just watching big hits in a rather one-sided contest,” said Mike, a cricket enthusiast.

And that’s exactly what pitches with some help for the bowlers have ensured. The big hits obviously aren’t coming at the same frequency, but this has been compensated by the fact that even low totals of 120 and thereabouts have seen last-over finishes.

“It’s good to have such tracks as it provides for a much keener and balanced contest between the bat and the ball,” said Deccan Chargers coach Darren Lehmann.

Other than ensuring the tight finishes, the helpful tracks have opened the scope for new tactics and strategies, sparing the format the monotony that comes with flat pitches.

Helpful tracks have encouraged teams to be more innovative with their bowling. They have opened with spinners, and a few have persisted with them even in death overs. The changed bowling tactics have forced the batsmen to think and adjust accordingly, instead of going about things in the usual slam-bang manner.

Last, but not the least, batting success hasn’t come easy on these tracks. Maybe, just maybe, the IPL will have to think twice before it instructs the curators to roll out typical featherbeds in future editions.