By Faisal Caesar
One of the pernicious fallacies perpetrated by the television age is the misconception that a glut of runs equals to good cricket. Even seasoned commentators, mostly ex-cricketers, are willing victims of this malady where the goodness of a pitch is defined by the quantity of runs scored on it than the quantity. This makes cricket lop-sided.
Pitches are made in such a way to give batsmen an unfair advantage over the bowlers. This unhealthy trend is not just limited to the sub continent; it has also infected places like Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand.
In the last decade, we have seen the domination of bat over ball. Even an average batsman is made to look good on batsman-friendly tracks.
Greg Chappell opines cricket is most fascinating when the ball has a slightly better advantage; the contest then is gripping. I’m in agreement with Chappell’s line of thinking.
Even the rules favour the batsmen. Take the bouncer rule as a case in point. It's one of the weapons to test the best in the business. In the ODIs, one bouncer is allowed while in the Tests just two bouncers are allowed. The element of surprise is taken out of the equation with such restrictions. Why should a batsman, protected by helmet, not face six bouncers in an over? It will be fascinating to watch the fast men blazing away without such restrictions.
In the ODIs, the Power Play for 20 overs is rubbish as it’s the batting side that gets the advantage to make the call for a Power Play of five overs to suit their requirements. They utilize it in the last five overs mostly at will to take a toll on the bowlers.
Again, changing of balls after the 34th over is on the batsmen's request. That is another blow to the bowling side and the practitioners of reverse swing - a lethal weapon in the dead overs blunted by batsmen-friendly laws.
I think Power Play of 10 overs should be compulsory and another five overs should be allowed for the fielding side to decide when they wish to take it. And there should be four fielders outside the ring to give the bowlers options to attack. Changing balls after the 34th over on the batsmen's wish should be done with as cricket should not be deprived of watching the beautiful art of reverse swing.
The placid tracks are making bowlers defensive. Few dare to attack; the majority of the bowlers rely on accuracy, sacrificing pace and swing in the process. The art of fast bowling is almost absent. The sight of the fast bowlers being hit brutally on the dead tracks is quite a sorry sight.
Even a score of 400 isn't safe in modern cricket. The growth of T20s has only worsened things for the bowlers. On flat tracks, a fast bowler is clueless and helpless.
As a cricket lover, I got more joy watching Rahul Dravid's hundred against the West Indies at Jamaica in 2006 than Virender Sehwag's blistering triple tons on placid Indian wickets. The wicket at Jamaica was dynamite. The ball kept low one moment and spat venom the next. It was the perfect track to test the character of a batsman. Dravid passed on all accounts. It proved how a contest can be at its best when the ball has slight dominance over the bat. There are such examples in plenty.
Spectators come to see boundaries and sixes. Taking cue from what the spectator desires, wickets and rules are tailored to favor the batsmen. But when a bowler sends the stump cart-wheeling or makes a batsman bow and weave from a vicious bouncer is also fascinating to watch as the boundaries and sixes. There has to be a semblance of balance between ball and bat. That will add colour and excitement to the game instead of the monotonous one-sided contest.
Batsmen have to earn their runs. For that, the bowlers need encouragement in the form of fair rules and wickets that are not unduly biased in favour of the batsmen. The step-motherly treatment of bowlers has to end. Now.
(Faisal Caesar is a doctor by profession whose dream of becoming a cricketer remained a dream. But his passion is very much alive and he translates that passion in writing about the game)