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Has cricket become cute?

There are many who feel present day cricket is tough, and it is played by hardcore professionals. Going by this theory, competition raises quality, which then is reflected most notably in higher standards of fielding and fitness. As a result, cricket today is sharper than ever before, writes Amrit Mathur.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2010 00:15 IST

There are many who feel present day cricket is tough, and it is played by hardcore professionals. Going by this theory, competition raises quality, which then is reflected most notably in higher standards of fielding and fitness. As a result, cricket today is sharper than ever before.

Right? Well, maybe yes, but not entirely. There exists another view that thinks all this is a huge spin — cricket is slickly promoted, packaged and presented like a product in the marketplace but is it really better than say, twenty years ago?

Some of these doubts stem from the trend that has made cricket more batsman-friendly. As the game shrinks in size, pitches across the world have become batsmen friendly.

The construct of cricket supports batsmen who have superior willows and a fearless mindset. Also, batsmen are now protected by superior helmets and other equipments.

Dennis Lillee is not sure present day players are all that fit either. His take: gym-sculpted bodies look great but if players report unfit while walking from the hotel reception to the team bus then something is horribly wrong. He thinks players have got the training business wrong as hard work has been substituted by cute exercises. Kapil paaji agrees with this wholeheartedly. His mantra: fast bowlers need dum in their legs which comes only from running.

Any mention of excessive cricket resulting in player burnout and injuries causes amusement among past players. Present players, they tell you with facts that can't be disputed, play far less — Tendulkar and Harbhajan does not show up for Ranji because of international commitments.

This players-are-pampered view also heaps scorn on the army of support staff. Sunil Gavaskar feels cricket teams are top heavy and dressing room cluttered by people who contribute little.

The extremists (led by Imran Khan, Ian Chappell, Shane Warne) have targeted bossy coaches who try to run teams. Their stand: the captain has to be in complete control, someone sitting in the pavilion is redundant.