By Madhav Sharma
The ongoing One-Day International (ODI) series between India and Australia has turned out to be a run-fest, and from flat pitches to new fielding rules; almost everything is loaded in the favour of the batsmen. Suddenly, scoring or chasing 300-plus scores has become a joke, and honestly, one must feel for the hapless bowlers.
On pitches that have nothing for the bowlers, batsmen from both the teams have gunned down runs like one would see in EA Sports, Stick Cricket and other video games. The balance between bat and ball looks completely lost, and this series has raised some serious questions regarding the role of bowlers in limited-overs format(s).
Pitches in India have always been batsmen friendly, but the post-Indian Premier League (IPL) era has been all about preparing batting paradises. There is no doubt that crowds in the stadium and also the home audiences, enjoy watching fours and sixes, but the misery of bowlers also need to be heard.
Apart from batting friendly conditions and new rules, the mindset of the administrators also needs to be questioned. Interestingly, there is one more ODI series going on between Pakistan and South Africa, and obviously, the rules are same, but this series has shown a better balance between bat and ball, and we have seen two low-scoring thrillers, so far.
So, to blame only the new rules, seems a little unfair. It’s a combination of three factors: pitches, rules and the mind set. Also, it is very important to find out the right balance between “what the viewer wants & what is good for cricket.”
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was spot-on in his post-match interview after the sixth ODI, and one could easily make out that, he was feeling sorry for the bowlers.”It was more of a fight as to which side bowls less badly. With the extra fielder inside, if you are slightly off target, it goes for a boundary. A few of the bowlers are disappointed, they actually feel it will be better off to put a bowling machine there. It is a new challenge for the bowlers,” said Dhoni after India chased down Australia’s 350 for six with wickets in hand and balls to spare.
It is true that new field restrictions have reduced the margin for error for bowlers and with only four fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle, batsmen can easily pick their spots and when plagued with big bats and ultra-fast outfields; it becomes a bowler’s nightmare. Honestly, the agony of bowlers needs to be addressed in the right manner.
After the arrival of T20 cricket, the ODI format has lost some of its sheen and its viewership is caught between ‘Test purists’ and ‘T20 generation’. T20 cricket is mostly about big sixes and lots of runs, whereas ODIs are meant to be a better contest between batsmen and bowlers. But, with all these batsmen-friendly conditions and rules, ODIs are slowly becoming an elongated version of T20s.
It’s not easy to pin-point a particular solution for this issue. As the writer mentioned earlier, it’s needs a collective approach. Telling the International Cricket Council (ICC) to alter these rules would be asking for too much, but having said that, this is a serious matter and it needs proper addressing.
(Madhav Sharma wanted to be a cricketer. Unfortunately, he has today more words than runs to his credit! He blogs athttp://madhavsharmacricket.