Run for money: Getting conditioned to suit game of profits

Succumbing to broadcasters’ demand for high-scoring & uneven contests between bat & ball, officials the world over are creating imbalance that can harm cricket

Published: 23rd June 2018 01:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd June 2018 06:24 AM   |  A+A-

The highest ODI total shows how pitches are tailored to assist heavy scoring

The English summer is exploding with runs. In a country known for its fickle weather and conditions which help seam bowlers, something unusual is happening. Flat tracks, short boundaries and a beaming sun is ensuring a runfeast never been seen before. At the receiving end of this blistering attack on the bowlers is a dispirited Australian side, that seems to have disintegrated in the aftermath of the ball-tampering episode in South Africa. The might of the English batting, manifested in all its strength by its top three, Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales, is on such a rampage that a score of even 500 is now being predicted as being achievable.

There is an air of expectation around England’s one-day clashes with India, given the strength of the Indian batting. If these matches are played in similar conditions, who knows what new benchmarks will be set and how many more peaks will be conquered! This unprecedented batting onslaught, where the marginalisation of the bowlers in the shorter format looks sealed and done, has made even benign critics and experts of the game react in shock.

Sourav Ganguly, sort of a rebel when he was leading the Indian side, is now a mellowed administrator and wears the establishment skin with great comfort. Not one to question the status quo now, he felt the crushing burden of these runs unbearable and tweeted “To see almost 500 runs scored in 50 overs in England is scaring me…about the health of the game and where it is going… Australian bowling getting treated this way whatever the conditions may be is not acceptable… a country of Lillee, Thompson, Benaud.”

In England many felt that the Kookabura ball is the villain as it neither swings nor seams and remains hard till the end, allowing batsmen to strike at will. Bring back the Duke ball, tweeted former English pacer Mike Selvey, saying “ditch the dreadful Kookabura, use a single Duke to encourage reverse swing.” Selvey called the Australian bowling naive, though no one is raising the larger question. Are we in the age of T20 proliferation, heading towards a future where the bowlers are deliberately being made redundant! The very nature of the rules and regulations, which have been framed so that sixes and fours become commonplace, are killing a bowler already gasping for breath. The very lopsided nature of contest, where the game is being designed to become a fight between two batting sides, will naturally end up strangulating the bowlers.

This is the question someone as influential as Ganguly should be raising, if he is feeling scared for the future of the game. Any contest that undermines one set of skills at the cost of the other is bound to be unfair. Those whose responsibility is to course correct and those who have the power to make a difference by raising their voices should do so now, even if it may already be too late. By keeping quiet when it matters and letting market forces and the jingle of money decide the direction the game should take is not the best way to address this imbalance.

We are reaching a stage where 300 is very much possible in T20s and 500 in 50-over games. The broadcasters lust for runs from both sides, as it multiplies their earning capacity in a limitedover game. A recent TRP survey by a TV channel showed that there is low interest in a low-scoring close contest, in comparison to high-scoring ones. If you leave a sport entirely at the mercy of the market then there is no point in lamenting what the future may hold.

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