Cricket needs to be a fair contest between bat and ball

  • Ian Chappell
  • Updated: Jul 09, 2016 16:11 IST
The shorter forms of the game also need to be a fair contest between bat and ball unless they’re viewed more as entertainment, rather than being worthy of carrying the term cricket, in their title. (Representative image/Shutterstock)

It’s encouraging that a current player and a recent retiree have called for an overhaul of the law governing the dimensions of a cricket bat. However, I don’t understand why both Josh Hazlewood and Ricky Ponting would agree that the change should only apply to Test match bats.

The shorter forms of the game also need to be a fair contest between bat and ball unless they’re viewed more as entertainment, rather than being worthy of carrying the term cricket, in their title.

For more than a decade it has made no sense that bats keep improving dramatically while the boundary dimensions are being reduced. This combination could only be satisfactory to a connoisseur of clouting or a masochist who had it in for bowlers.

Read | Searching for the sweet spot: IPL pushes sixer-hungry batsmen to the thick edge

As the improvement in bats started to really take hold, it became obvious that it was changing the balance of the game in favour of batsmen. Edges that in the past would have been a catching opportunity for second or third slip, were suddenly carrying two thirds of the way to the boundary. This should’ve sounded alarm bells for lawmakers.

The improvement in bats also coincided with a shift to a more conservative mentality in field placements. While this was a trend among captains who, influenced by a plethora of short form cricket erred on the side of containment, it became an obsession when point and square-leg fieldsmen were regularly posted on the boundary from the reasonably early overs of a Test innings.

By then the alarm bells in the halls of officialdom should have been deafening.

The more recent improvements in willow manufacture mean the ball is now pinging off the bat at such speeds that bowlers and umpires are in grave danger of being seriously injured. When an umpire starts wearing a helmet or a protective shield on their arm, it shouldn’t be difficult to interpret their feelings.

Hopefully, it won’t be the gut-wrenching sound of sirens that finally influences officials into changing the law.

I’d only thought of the danger posed to bowlers and umpires in matches. However, former Australian keeper Ian Healy made the excellent point that young net bowlers engaged to prepare T20 batsmen, were even more exposed to the danger posed by batsmen wielding lethal weapons. This could also apply at junior cricket levels with such variations in the size and strength of players.

Read | Flat pitches, not bats to blame for bowlers’ plight: David Warner

One of the primary duties of cricket lawmakers is to maintain a balance - like an evenly weighted pair of scales - between batsmen and bowlers. When the balance is too much in favour of batsmen, it usually results in disgruntled bowlers fighting back by resorting to such drastic tactics as chucking or Bodyline.

A good rule of thumb for lawmakers in maintaining that balance is, the mis-hits should by-and-large stay within the field of play. If a bowler is good enough to induce a mis-hit, there should be a reward; if there’s no fielder in the vicinity or there is but he drops the catch, then it’s bad planning or bad luck but the mistimed shot shouldn’t finish in the stands.

When Limited Overs cricket first captured the public’s imagination the points of excitement stressed [apart from a tense finish], were the improvement in fielding and running between wickets. There won’t be much brilliant fielding or the daring, Virat Kohli style of running between wickets, if the bulk of the runs are scored in boundary hits.

Administrators who believe a high proportion of fans crave sixes, should consider the motive of those patrons. I liken six-craving fans to guys who attend an establishment because the waitresses are topless. When another bar opens down the road shortly afterwards with waitresses who are even more skimpily attired, they quickly shift their patronage.

Former Australian skipper Ian Chappell at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi. (Ravi Choudhary/HT File Photo)

It’s good that modern cricketers are clamouring for a change to the law regarding bat dimensions. However, it’ll be an even more effective clarion call when it’s a current batsman who asks that changes to the bat size should occur in all forms of the game.

Read | I’m all for it: Pacer Hazlewood backs Ponting’s call to regulate bat sizes

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