Like Lays Chips Hyundai cars, everybody in India and around the world wants a piece of the flavour of the season. I’m talking about the Cricket World Cup, of course! With India, the reigning ODI champions, stepping into the series with thunderous victories, television sets are pretty sure to be constantly tuned to ESPN for the next few weeks. While the world focuses on the upcoming match, I am struck by a certain blast from the past.
When Rohit Sharma scored a 264 against Sri Lanka in 2014, a little part of me died inside. No, it’s not what you think, I don’t support the Lankans. Watching Rohit make a mockery of the bowling attack is what did it. It was a day’s work of arm-swinging and he made more than what Tendulkar or Ganguly have ever made in any test match! Rohit Sharma made their (and many other legendary batsmen’s) career look irrelevant. I’m bitter because Rohit’s highest score in test cricket is 177 and going by India’s current form, he won’t be getting a double hundred anytime soon in tests.
I don’t mean to take any credit away from Sharma’s once in a lifetime innings, but you have to admit that the Lankan Lions’ bowling attack was miserable. Except perhaps the lone ranger, Angelo Mathews, everyone was carted all around the pitch. It would be quite an obvious statement to say that this wouldn’t have happened in the time of “Mr 800” Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas. As a primary cricketing nation, though, they surely could have found one seamer somewhere who could have bowled a slow Yorker while Sharma was chugging away over long on and long off. In other words, there is a clear dearth of quality bowlers.
This isn’t happening just in Sri Lanka. All over the world, it is clear that the golden era of quality bowling is fading. Other than a Steyn here or a Narine there, there aren’t any bowlers who can dictate the play and induce fear into the hearts of batsmen. Let’s find out why.
The principal reason for such a trend is due to the ICC itself. After all, most of the game’s laws seek to make a batsman’s life easier and a bowler’s life harder. Rules such as powerplays, fielding restrictions, one bouncer per over rule and free hits have all been introduced for the aid of the most protected species in cricket, the batsmen. The lawmakers of cricket know where the money lies, as the audience wants to see more runs being scored in less time. Hence, they brought to us T20 cricket. Hardly anything has revolutionised the world of cricket like T20 has. Matches that get wrapped up in three to four hours need at least 150 runs per side to get the crowd going. That brings pressure on the pitch curators to make batsmen-friendly pitches. And that’s why you have bouncy, waterproof pitches even in the subcontinent these days, which in the words of South African captain Graeme Smith, is a “feast for the batsmen”. Even the stadiums made nowadays have shorter boundaries and flatter pitches.
With the untimely demise of the immensely talented Phillip Hughes last year, the online world was awash with “anti-bouncer” chants. But will taking away the only weapon from a fast bowler’s quiver do any good to a sport that is known as the Gentleman’s game? However, it was indeed appreciable and heart-warming to see various cricketers come out in support of Sean Abott, the poor chap who bowled the ill-fated ball. In India, there is more glory in being a batsman. The crowd likes you, it’s physically easier to do, and just the feel of connecting the ball with the bat and watching it zoom away is reinvigorating. The hall of heroes of Indian cricket comprises mostly of batsmen. This has been latently ingrained in the mind of kids and youth, who win the toss and always choose to bat first.
Fans of the living legend, Sachin Tendulkar, are building a temple for him in Atarwalia, Bihar. The white marble statue, which depicts him holding the World Cup trophy, weighs an astounding 850 kilograms and has cost a staggering figure of 8.5 lakh Rupees! What’s more, the idols of Captain Cool Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh too will be placed inside the temple. Too bad that India’s most successful bowler with a ten wicket haul in tests missed out on the ‘honour’. Guess Anil “Jumbo” Kumble has to be content with a circle named after him in Bangalore, for now.
Maybe it is time that cricket boards in India and abroad try to do something for the bowlers for a change. Perhaps, let three bowlers bowl twelve overs in an ODI. Why not restrict the size of the bat? Or they can bring back the reader ball, which uses fourteen strands of seam in its twine, rather than the present one which uses nine strands. Let the current generation try to emulate the likes of Warne, Walsh and Akram instead of Tendulkar, Lara and Border. Maybe it’s time to tip the scales in the favour of the bowling side, thereby improving the quality of the contest.
Maybe it’s time to let the bowlers have a ball!
Vasant Menon (Instrumentation Technology, 3rd year)