This is the ninth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and going by the fact that the best cricketers in the world compete in this domestic tournament, it should be setting a benchmark in competitiveness.
But, oddly, the number of wide balls in the first 15 matches is raising eyebrows.
The bowlers, mostly pacemen, had delivered 111 wide balls and conceded 168 runs till the Thursday night encounter between Gujarat Lions and Sunrisers Hyderabad at Rajkot. Of the 100-plus wide deliveries, 49 were bowled by teams defending their scores. Another interesting trend seen in the first 15 matches is that teams batting second successfully chased down the target on 14 occasions.
“When a team concedes 10-12 extras, it’s like giving away those many runs, which isn’t helpful at all. The focus should be on keeping the extras to a minimum,” Sunrisers Hyderabad pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar said after the match against Gujarat Lions on Thursday.
The 111 wides translate into 18.3 extra overs and most of these deliveries were bowled in low-scoring matches.
Former pacer and now Afghanistan’s bowling coach, Manoj Prabhakar, says, “What options do the bowlers have? This is a batsman-dominated format. Bowlers have to save themselves. They are trying to keep the ball away from the batsman’s reach. Sometime they succeed, but most of time, they fail as not everyone has good control.”
Gujarat Lions spinner Pravin Tambe agrees with Prabhakar. “In Twenty20, one has to try different things. When defending small totals, it (keeping the ball away from the batsman’s reach) is the norm and chances are there might be extras. It is part of the game, one cannot help it,” said Tambe.
During the previous edition of the IPL, 115 wides were delivered in the first 15 matches and reducing the number by four this year is not a big difference.
Prabhakar is not surprised, though. “I don’t see anything unusual in this because bowlers are helpless in this format. Bowlers are trying to experiment but they have limited options. ‘Becharey ho gey hai bowlers (Bowlers have become helpless),”Prabhakar, a veteran of 130 ODIs, adds.
Even as franchises hire the world’s best professionals and support staff on exorbitant salaries, the rise in wide balls is something they need to tackle urgently.