Whatever the verdict of the series be, how much ever more runs George Bailey and Virat Kohli might plunder, the enduring image of the series will be Ishant Sharma’s, after his fateful night in Mohali. The mop of hair waving down his embattled visage, as though a veil that hides his anguish, his shoulders drooped with those lengthy arms resting on his hips in utter helplessness.
In a more symbolic way, he is emblematic of all the bowlers in the series, both his compatriots and his counterparts. For, seldom has bowlers looked so abject in a series – even 350-plus scores were successfully pursued twice and 300 seems a lesser challenge nowadays – so much so that suggestions of bowling machines replacing bowlers have gained a grave tone.
Though it has been in vogue since the end of October last year, the wisdom behind International Cricket Council’s new field restriction diktat of only four fieldsman outside the ring in non-Powerplay overs has never been questioned or criticised as much. So lopsided has it been this series that even the batsmen cannot but sympathise with the bowlers. “I think it’s something we need to think about (that so many high run chases have been achieved of late). Is 350 the new 280, 290 or 300?” asked Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The Indian skipper reckons this wouldn’t benefit the game. “It’s sad to see that even the fast bowlers are bowling with third-man and fine-leg up. Not sure where it’s going but if we are chasing like this, it is not going to be good for the long-term health of the game. Only seeing boundaries and sixes for seven hours,” he opined.
Not just the bowlers, even the skippers too are dilemma ridden. “We are not sure as to what field we should set for a particular batsman. One fielder less on the boundary means, the batsman can take that extra risk. The fielding side has lost the extra cushion. We can’t figure out what is a safe total and what is not. We can’t even figure out what is a good performance and what is not,” Dhoni pointed out. It has considerably disadvantaged the teams which bat first in that they are never sure of a safe target, and hence that extra pressure. “You can break it into Twenty20 games. At 30 overs, if we need even 170-odd runs with wickets in hand, and with one more Powerplay and the extra fielder inside (the circle), 180 is something every team will look to achieve in the last 20 overs,” stated Dhoni, who believes the bowlers would eventually adapt to this.
So does believe his Aussie counterpart George Bailey. “When it first came out, I thought scores would go through the roof. What we have seen is that bowlers have adapted pretty well. They will continue to (improve), as they had been throughout the years,” he reckoned.
Maybe, the series is a case in isolation. For in the Middle East, at around the same time India chased down 351, a non-subcontinent side defended a meagre 183. Hence, the blame needn’t be put squarely on the rule. Only that pancake flat wickets and mediocre bowling have exaggerated the drawbacks of it.
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