If people thought the ball will dominate the bat at this World Cup, the early trend suggests they will have to revise their opinion.
The rule of two new balls and fielding restrictions that demand at least five players excluding the keeper and the bowler inside the 30-yard circle at all times are yet to settle in among captains and most of them have struggled to stop the flow of runs in the competition so far.
After Sunday’s match at Adelaide, both Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Misbah-ul Haq accepted that the 50-over game has become more challenging for bowlers and their captains alike. The rules have virtually negated whatever advantage bowlers generally get from the pace and bounce in the wickets here. Even the International Cricket Council clamping down on bats with extra thickness and pushing the boundary ropes as far back as possible at all venues so that mistimed hits don’t sail over, has not quite pegged back the scoring.
All teams that have batted first in the tournament so far have posted totals 300 or
over. On Monday, Ireland chased down 305 against the West Indies with four wickets in hand and more than four overs to spare.
India’S problem area
India’s persistent problem has been bowling with the new ball and it remained on Sunday. Umesh Yadav got some stick early on and Dhoni had to replace him with Mohit Sharma after three overs. He came back to scalp two in one over and changed the complexion of the match. Dhoni accepted that.
“We need to improve our bowling in the first five overs. In the games we have played so far, we have given away too many boundary deliveries instead of putting more pressure on the batsmen. If they are taking risks and playing the big shots and if they are successful, that’s fair enough, but you don’t want to give boundary opportunities in the first four or five overs because in five overs if they are close to 30 runs, you are putting pressure on yourself,” he said.
Interestingly, the two balls used at either end could behave differently and the team’s ball keeper has to judge the behaviour of the ball and polish it and add moisture to it accordingly. On Sunday, after Dhoni brought Umesh back from the other end, he immediately struck.
Misbah complained that setting a field is a huge problem with the restrictions on. “Especially in the big grounds here it is difficult to plug the gaps. It becomes increasingly difficult with the restrictions,” the Pakistan skipper said.
Dhoni though had a more well-thought solution, which is bowling back of length. Once the boundaries dry up and the batsmen have to run more between the wickets to gain value for shots, tiredness sets in and that can force mistakes.
“Most teams are just bowling back of the length and asking the batsmen to clear the boundaries, and irrespective of how good a batsman you are, that’s one strategy that almost all the teams have employed, and it is working,” he said.
Lasith Malinga going for 84 off his 10 overs against New Zealand is proof that the toe-crusher is not the skipper’s choice at the moment. “But in some games they will see somebody really middling the shots and then they’ll have to fall back on their other plan of bowling yorkers. We’ll have to wait and watch because we have seen that it becomes difficult to contain because of the pace of the wicket and with the extra fielder inside. A lot of times, you don’t know where to really bowl to contain the batsmen.”