Bludgeon, Bludgeon, Bludgeon – The Death of Bowling

Posted on November 5, 2013


Bludgeon, Bludgeon, Bludgeon

Just recently, Sky Sports showed the entirety of the India vs. Australia seven match one day international series. I managed to watch a fair amount of it, and needless to say it was an absolute run glut. A total of 3596 runs were scored over the 11 innings, at a run-rate of 6.64 runs per over. Twice in the series India chased down a total of over 350 (once for the loss of a single wicket), and Australia came bloody close to chasing down 380+ in the final game despite being 211-8 at one stage. The final game saw the third double century in ODI history from Rohit Sharma, the Australian record for quickest half century equalled by Glenn Maxwell and the quickest century for the Aussies from James Faulkner.

One day international cricket has changed immensely since the advent of Twenty20 cricket. As that form of the game was essentially the 50-over format condensed into three handy hours, 50-over cricket was seen as many to be on the wane, to be dying out. It came to feel slower than even test cricket, as the ‘middle overs’ saw teams dotting it around for 1’s and 2’s in the hope of keeping wickets in hand for the late overs slog. The 4th, 5th and 6th bowlers would get through their overs, and everyone would sit on their hands until around the 40th over. Something had to be done, it seemed.

On the basis of this series in India and the massacre of bowling, that something was to tilt the game even more in favour of the batsmen, and essentially make 50-over cricket a slightly longer version of Twenty20. The bowling team can now only have a maximum of four players in the deep. 2 new balls are used. A free hit follows a front foot no ball, and the bats have improved immeasurably, with sweet spots now the size of small villages. The slightest mis-hit can see the ball flying into the crowd, and if you catch a ball in the middle it’s out the ground. The pitches were lifeless, the outfields fast, the boundaries small. Needless to say, limited overs cricket is where the batsman reigns supreme.

Despite the fact I should have been an all-rounder, bowling was without doubt my strongest suit. I’m not sure whether it still is, but back in t’day it certainly was. It’s impossible to watch such violent batting without a sense of fear or sadness in that case. When I started watching cricket, a score of 250+ in ODI cricket was very good, 300+ rare. A chase of anything over six an over was real tough. 60 or 70 ball hundreds were scored only by the finest players, those willing to take their chances in a game that was much more equally balanced.

Now, 300 is almost par. It’s still difficult to chase down, but if you go into the last 10 overs needing less than 10 an over you’d consider yourselves the favourites. Runs are everything, as the game panders itself more to the television entertainment market, the assumption has been built that fans are there to watch boundaries, that if runs aren’t being plundered no one is having any fun. For a long time it has been clear that Test matches are won by bowlers, limited overs are won by batsman. This isn’t something I’m going to debate. We live in the entertainment era.

The technological advances of batting have developed way quicker than the technical advances in bowling. It always was going to be this way, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Where new bats have the wonders of the modern world to help them, bowling is still restricted to what our own bodies can perform and our own minds can come up with. The more advanced bats get, the more illogical it seems to me that teams are punished for scratching the ball. Anything to even things up. Bowling evolutions such as reverse swing and the carron ball evened things up for a while, but the effects of the latter in particular seem to have lessened.

I’m just bitter. When I watch cricket, I would rather watch a team get bowled out for 143 and then have the opposition 117-8 in chase. In games such as that every run is like an extra breath, every ball is potentially vital, the ball is on top but the bat still has a chance to come out the victor. In the last game of the India/Australia series, Australia failed to chase down 383, but this had nothing to do with the quality of bowling on offer, it was just because they ran out of steam.

To put the whole thing in perspective though, the bowling in this series was borderline awful. You’d be hard pushed to find anyone who enhanced their reputation during it. Mohammed Shami maybe, but the rest of India’s attack were poor, poorer even than their Australian counterparts who had an Indian top three in the sort of form that comes along once in a lifetime. Maybe if this series had featured better bowling it would have been a closer contest between bat and ball, and by blaming rule changes I’m passing the buck.

Maybe it isn’t a contest between bat and ball at all. I’m not really sure any more.