January 25, 2016

Horse 2063 - It's Bowlers Getting Belted In The Big Bash; Not Batsmen

After watching the final of Big Bash League number 5 and the recent ODI series between Australia and India, I have pretty well come to the conclusion that the art of bowling in the shorter forms of the game is dead.
"Big Bash" is a pretty apt description for what has been going on in the middle, as the bat appears to have won the eternal struggle between bat and ball, and bowlers have been reduced to automata who exist purely as a delivery system for batsmen to ply their trade.
As cricketers become increasingly mercenary and chase the lure of rupeedollarpounds at the expense of their national sides, the market has decreed that batsmen are worth more than bowlers and as a result, the market has produced an outcome which sees batsmen rewarded for their efforts on the field, at the expense of bowling.

Gone are the days when scoring 200 was a notable feat. Today if you don't get to 200 runs by about the 30th over, then you have performed badly.
In the 1975 and 1979 World Cup Finals, the West Indies made 291/8 and 286/9 respectively. They sound like reasonable totals but in those days, One Day International matches were held over 60 over and not 50. This means that they scored at 4.85 and 4.76 runs per over. In 1983 when India beat the West Indies, they posted a score of 183 from 54.4 overs, at 3.34 runs per over. That scoring rate over 50 overs would have been 167 or in a T20 just 67. Neither of these scores would even remotely be considered as dependable today; yet India won a World Cup at that rate.

In the series just been the losing scores were 309, 308, 295, 323 and 330. If a losing score is more than a run a ball, then either the quality of bowling has fallen off the face of the earth (which I doubt) or the pendulum has swung too far in favour of batsmen,

I take issue with curators of grounds who are preparing batsmen friendly pitches. The Sydney Cricket Ground was once noted for being a spinner's wicket and in test matches, international sides would bring along two spin bowlers to exploit this. Admittedly One Day cricket is a different beast and so teams would drop a spinner in favour of a quick bowler but on Saturday night, the pitch in Sydney gave us so little turn that spin bowling was more or less useless. The curators of the Sydney Cricket Ground gave us a pitch that was more akin to the surface of a motorway in the desert. It was flat, dry and straight. Spin bowlers abandon hope, ye who enter.

Cricket like a lot of sports is very heavily subject to the variable of confidence. We very much saw this in operation in this Australia and India ODI series. Because batsmen are now very much used to accelerating the score beyond 12 an over, they now are far more confident in doing precisely that. If you happen to be a bowler though, having 12 an over smashed off of you, is demoralising and when this happens, bowlers tend to lose their discipline and bowl shorter; which means that the ball is higher when it reaches the batsmen; which means that they can more easily lift the ball over the rope.

What I find incredibly annoying is the introduction of the rope instead of fences. I don't know when the law was changed or when the practice changed to replace the fence with ropes but I suspect that immediately after this change was made, scores rose accordingly.
Once upon a time, when the fence was the boundary, fours were scored by hitting the boundary and sixes were scored by clearing it. At the MCG especially, this meant clearing the ball over a series of battlements which even a medieval army would have trouble scaling. In consequence, sixes were far harder to come by and scores were far lower. Whereas batsmen had to rattle the pickets to get four runs, their job is made as much as 15 metres easier in some cases.
When the best of the Australian bowlers, James Faulkner, gets repeatedly put over the fence and ends up with 0-54, when the best of the Indian bowlers, Jasprit Bumrah, gets 0-40, and when Umesh Yadav gets pummeled with 1-82 at more than 10 an over, bowling ceases to be a thing of skill and a contest and becomes a case of damage control.

The name "Big Bash" describes exactly what's happening within that sacred distance of 22 yards. Bowlers are being bashed by batsmen who neither fear them, nor respect them. A player like Fred Spofforth who debuted in the Second Test at Melbourne in 1877, acquired the nickname of "The Demon Bowler" and would go on be the first bowler to take 50 Test wickets and the first to take a hat-trick. Would anyone get name like that today?
Surely this is obviously idiotic isn't it? Who wants to sign up an be a bowler if your job is to be a sporting punch bag? Surely at international level, batsmen are sufficiently competent enough that they don't need the extra help that playing on a field the size of a postage stamp affords them?

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