If cricketers were warriors battling it out on a battlefield, a batsman’s weapon would obviously, be the bat. After all, you need something strong to defend against a projectile coming at you at 140kph, i.e. the bowlers’ leather ball. This simple ‘you show me what you’ve got and I’ll still smash it for six’ war between the two has given cricket fans decades of nervy, nail-biting action.
But what happens when one side gets stronger?
Fat bats and batsman getting stronger has created an ‘imbalance’ in international cricket, a research conduct by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) has concluded. The MCC makes the laws and rules for world cricket.
Submitted in May, the report finds that batsmen are now using bats with thick edges that help them gain an advantage over bowlers.
It also points out that because of the commercial aspect of cricket today, such as the lucrative Indian Premier League, any initiative of change may face resistance from players and custodians of the game.
“There are obvious commercial benefits of the game being more attractive to as diverse an audiences as possible,” the MCC feels. “In certain tournaments, such as the IPL, the sixes are sponsored, making it financially beneficial to the sponsor and therefore to the Board in receipt of funds. Any limit of the bat’s power could have an effect on revenues”
The ninth edition of the IPL saw 638 sixes with over 6,400 runs scored off boundaries.
As hitting monstrous sixes helps players enhance their market value, they have been preparing themselves for it physically.
“Batsmen spend a lot of time in the gym now to build up their strength and they practice ‘range-hitting’, where the sole purpose is to clear the boundary,” the report further states.
There are no ICC laws that restrict the use of bats with fat edges, and as a result fan favourites such as West Indies’ Chris Gayle and Australian David Warner use bats with edges between 45mm to 50 mm, with a spine of 70mm behind the sweet spot. Some batsmen have also been using bats with a thickness of up to 55mm.
The report, however, does offer some insight into how the scales could be leveled.
Use of a thicker, heavier thread along with a small alteration to the shape and size of the ball will offer more spin which in-turn would create more challenging conditions for batsman. It also suggested that an increase in mass to the ball’s core (which is needed for bounce after the ball is seasoned) could help.
Ball manufacturers Dukes, Kookaburra and Tiflex have also been consulted to figure out a possible solution to level the playing field.
Until there is a solution, more sixes to follow.