If captains performed like the ICC they’d be out of job in no time, writes Ian Chappell.
At long last the ICC has decided there’s a problem with bats; they’re being hailed as too good and consequently disturb the balance between bat and ball. This, combined with the fact that the ICC also recently decreed that shorter boundaries are contributing to the problem, is a classic case of being way behind the game.
If a captain isn’t at least two overs ahead of the game he’s in big trouble. The ICC is fortunate there’s no selection process to decide their fate following a spate of bungling.They were similarly tardy in reacting to the plethora of dodgy bowling actions that plagued the game. After a couple of decades of allowing kids to copy all forms of weird and wonderful deliveries, most of which would have been deemed ‘pelting’ in bygone eras, they’re now in the process of cleaning up bowling actions.
That’s good news but they still haven’t addressed the most important aspect of chucking. There’s no protection for batsmen dismissed by an illegal delivery. There has to be an on-field call of no-ball from the umpire in the case of a bowler who chucks the odd delivery.
The ICC has decreed that the boundaries, where possible, will be at a distance of 90 metres during the World Cup. This is an admirable decision but it should’ve been taken ages ago. If a bowler is good enough to entice a mis-hit, the ball should stay within the field of play. This hasn’t been the case for quite some time.
However, the massive increase in the number of ODI sixes isn’t the main concern. The likelihood of serious injury and the tilting of balance between bat and ball are far greater issues. The ball is now rushing back at bowlers and umpires at such a rate that the issue needs to be addressed before there is a serious injury.
The balance between bat and ball has seen a major shift in favour of the willow wielders. Mis-hits are clearing the ropes far too often and edged drives are flying over the head of the slip fielders.The problem that cricket has in comparison to games like tennis and golf, is there’s only one way to rectify the issue. Tennis can slow down the balls and courts while in golf the course can be lengthened.
Cricket can’t do much with the ball and so, apart from keeping the boundaries at a reasonable distance, bats are the only solution. While it’s hard to stop progress in bat manufacture, it’s time to restrict the depth of wood in the bats.
The width of the edges and the meat of the bat have increased enormously and with it the ‘sweet spot’ is widened. Bat manufacturers have said bats aren’t the sole reason the ball is flying further. They are probably right but the reason bowlers and umpires are in danger is the speed of the ball coming off the bat. That is all down to the improvement in bats. If a captain is behind the game too often, he faces the sack. However, if lawmakers remain oblivious to crucial trends in the game, it’s only a matter of time before someone is going to be seriously injured.