Bowlers should be given more than their allotted quota of tern overs to rein in the opposition © Getty Images
Bowlers should be given more than their allotted quota of tern overs to rein in the opposition © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

Just how exciting is One-Day International (ODI) cricket these days? The high-scoring matches with successful chases in particular. Yes, often quite gripping. But is it really edge-of-the-seat stuff? When comparisons were made between the Australia-South Africa tied match in the 1999 World Cup with the India-England tied game in the ongoing edition, I found myself preferring the former and remembering it as a much more exciting match. And one of the most important things that swung my opinion was simply that the bowlers were in the contest in that match.

 

Even when the chase goes down to the wire, if the bowlers are uniformly belted all over the park, it results in a bit of tedium. The first few times such high scoring chases ensued, it was exciting for the novelty value. Especially back-from-behind contests like the NatWest 2002 final. These days, there is a feeling of predictability in such contests in that one knows it will go down to the last few overs, which will ultimately decide the victor and loser.

 

In other words, there is not much interest in the middle overs, the meat of the contest, because it doesn’t often influence the outcome of the match. There is a need to give some measure of control back to the bowlers, hapless as they are in the face of Powerplays, better bats and smaller boundaries. It would hopefully restore some balance and excitement in the limited overs game.

 

One idea I would like to propose here is removing the concept of 10 overs per bowler for at least one bowler per side. That is, there’s no need for Ricky Ponting to push through some overs of Jason Krezja and let the batsmen collect easy runs. Should he desire, he can bring back Brett Lee and bowl more than 10 overs off him to rein in the batsmen.

 

It would open up more strategic and tactical options for the captain who is typically left to juggle scarce resources of bowling weapons to halt the batting juggernaut. It would also force batsmen to take more risks because they would not be able to count on milking easy runs off part timers. These days, overs 20-40 have become very tedious to watch as the batsmen comfortably collect sufficient runs to remain within striking distance without taking too many risks, if at all.  There’s a need to force batsmen to think on their feet during these overs, too, so that the contest doesn’t lull the couch potato into comfortable sleep.

 

There can be a fair few permutations of such a concept. The captain could be asked to announce which of his bowlers will bowl an ‘unlimited’ quota of overs before hand. Or, he may be allowed to keep his cards close to the chest until the very end. You may even have unlimited number of overs for more than one bowler. Whatever it be, the idea is the opposition cannot work out how much to target which bowlers to safely reach the target, and the fielding captain is left with a few aces up his sleeve to ambush the batsmen.

 

It is, I concede, a radical suggestion, but let us consider the context in which many of the batsman-friendly restrictions were introduced in limited-overs cricket. Outlawing bouncers, introducing field restrictions, all these were measures to make batting easier in a rather bowling-friendly era of cricket: the ’80s. If you let the West Indies pace quartet bowl bouncer after bouncer, the opposition wouldn’t stand a chance. That is why there was a need then to make the field more even to make the game more interesting.

 

Today, we have reached a stage where the game favours the batsmen too much and there is a need to make it more balanced and exciting again. We cannot rewind the clock back to the ’80s, but we could give more freedom to the captain in rotating his bowlers.

 

As a bit of persuasive evidence in favour of restoring balance, I will conclude by mentioning the England-South Africa and England-West Indies matches from this World Cup. Were they really less exciting than the IndiaEngland match on account of fewer runs per side? If anything, I’d argue they were more exciting, especially the match between England and South Africa. I’ll vote in favour of more such matches and put forth my proposal.

 

On a lighter note, my suggestion, if implemented (stop dreaming!), would let Mahendra Singh Dhoni continue unhindered with the seven batsmen strategy. Or, Zaheer Khan may get injured, yikes!

 

(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake)