Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bowling, anyone?

Anyone who had doubts on whether cricket is a batsman's game must really have a clear picture now. After MCC's endorsement of Pietersen's "left-handed pull/sweep" (I still don't think its a reverse shot), bowlers all over the world must be looking for alternative careers. "It will add to the excitement", they say. As long as there's potential for more scoring options, the ICC doesn't mind roping it into the laws. Anything that ensures high scoring is branded "exciting". Bowlers now have nothing but a peripheral role in the team as bowling skills alone cannot justify a player's inclusion in the side anymore. If things keep on going the way they are, bowling itself would be a rare and intimidating skill that people (especially youngsters) would be too scared to learn.

I remember the times when low scoring matches were as much, if not more, exciting than high scoring ones. Now any low scoring match ends up with an inquiry on the pitch and the curator. Bowling friendly or low scoring pitches are deemed "un-fit" for cricket and match referees are brought in at once to provide a report on the pitch and conditions. On the other hand, 400 plus score pitches are encouraged and celebrated.

The "free-hit" is another ludicrous example of how bowlers are given no breathing space at all. Contrary to prevalent opinion, there has always been a free-hit available to the batsman. A batsman cannot get out on a no-ball, so he is allowed to hit it anywhere without concern. By giving the batsman another free-hit, the bowler is being penalized twice for a crime that does not deserve the bill. Some people say that the batsman on most occasions cannot hear the umpire's call in time to make use of a no-ball. My response to that is, does it matter? Why should a batsman have the comfort of knowing that he can't be dismissed before going for a shot? It can only lead to ungraceful and bizarre strokeplay.

To bring some balance between bat and ball, the ICC (or MCC) should allow bowlers to bowl with their left hand without prior warning. I think that would definitely bring some excitement to the game. And the free-hit should be done with as soon as possible. The ropes should be put back nearer to the fences to allow for more 2s and 3s, and even the odd run 4. Intelligent running between the wickets can also add a lot of excitement to the game. Its about time batsmen, who are already pampered with helmets and other protective equipment, are shown that it takes two to play this game.

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