By Hammad Mateen
Cricket moves on, but for people of my generation, Tendulkar was the last of cricket’s classical era. Today, when the game has become relatively easier because of advanced scientific tools like the Decision Review System (DRS), computerised research and analysis facilities for players as also modern training facilities, the level of the game has gone down compared to the era in which Akram and Tendulkar played.
Rules have changed a lot over the last 10 years and so have the opportunities to make more runs and take more wickets. Cricket is being played in more countries and in more formats than ever before. Careers have been shortened and quality compromised due to the excessive amount of games going around at all times.
I remember the time when we used to argue about who between Rashid Latif and Moin Khan was better. A single collection not made well behind the stumps by either of them was criticised heavily and considered a justification to drop the guilty. Wicket keepers like Adam Gilchrist and Mark Boucher were examples of the idiom ‘safe as a house’ behind the stumps. Today, unfortunately, I do not find a single wicketkeeper who I can call a ‘natural’ in the art.
Sachin Tendulkar, inarguably the best batsman to have ever graced the cricketing field, was criticised throughout his career for not being able to finish or win matches for his side in crunch times. Batsmen like Steve Waugh, Brian Lara, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Ricky Ponting, Saeed Anwar, Mathew Hayden, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Muhammad Yousuf, Gary Kirsten, Stephen Fleming and many more ruled the pitches. Each batsman knew his specifically role in each format of the game and was considered a specialist at that.
I still remember the days when even at the fall of a few early wickets for Pakistan, we never panicked the way we do now because in those days we knew that the great Inzi will sort things out in the middle along with Mohammad Yousuf at the other end, and control the run-rate at will when at the crease.
T20 cricket has had a very bad impact on the temperament of the modern day batsmen and all they seem to care about is to manage a 100-plus strike rate, even if that means getting out on eight from just four balls.
As far as bowling is concerned, fast bowling was actually ‘fast’ when bowlers like Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Alan Donald, Shane Bond and Brett Lee literally steamed in to bowl with speeds constantly around the 100 mph mark. Dale Steyn the solitary exception in today’s cricket, which is devoid of genuine pacers.
Then there was another league of fast bowlers who were artists with the ball. Bowlers like Akram, Glenn McGrath, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Chaminda Vaas and Shaun Pollock could conjure magic with a cricket ball in their hands. Watching these bowlers was not just entertaining but educational as well.
Spin bowling then was blessed with exponents like Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, Saqlain Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed among others. Creativity was at its peak. The above mentioned bowlers share a total of 4,146 wickets between them in all forms of the game. Apart from Saeed Ajmal in modern day cricket, there are no more spinners worthy of being called ‘magicians’.
Modern day cricket has its own set of superstars like the MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Dale Steyn and Kevin Pietersen. Some of them are role models for the present generation. But for me, the classical era of cricket is a thing of the past.
Also on cricketcountry.com