Jammu & Kashmir
When bowlers are reduced to deliberately bowling wide and wickets come off batters’ errors, you know the balance isn’t right
Australia finally won
the major trophy that has eluded their grasp for more than a decade – the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. They clinched the trophy by clouting deliveries to and over the boundary, while producing a mixture of bowling that combined just enough wicket-taking with the right amount of containment. They also had the good fortune to win the toss when it really mattered, in a tournament where the major matches too often became a “win the coin flip, win the game
That was one of the major flaws in a tournament that achieved quite a lot of success.
There’s an appeal for a worldwide T20 tournament featuring contests between nations. In addition, there’s widespread clamour for franchise cricket, which is increasingly popular and has experienced enormous success. However, there needs to be a wide-reaching survey into the changes required to improve the T20 format. To make it even more popular than it is, tournaments have to include a way to ensure the game doesn’t become a matter of winning the toss.
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There seem to be two widely diverging views on T20 cricket. There is the long-term cricket fan’s fear that the game will become an all-power event that favours muscle-bound six-hitting batters in matches of the sort that are too often won by the chasing team. Then there is the opinion of the not-so-discerning fan, who is unworried by the seeming lack of contest between bat and ball and can’t get enough of the mammoth six-hitting.
Not surprisingly, at my age I prefer the game to remain a contest, and if it becomes a batting exhibition, I lose interest very quickly. I’m of the view that fans should be engaged by the contest between bat and ball, enjoy the tactical battles – both team and individual – and require a certain amount of artistry in the batting. If these features are either missing or nearly non-existent, then it’s a struggle to see envisage the game as truly being a form of cricket.
Then there is the balance between sport and entertainment. In my opinion the balance in T20 cricket needs to be somewhere in the vicinity of 60:40 sport to entertainment. At the moment it’s unbalanced and too much in favour of pure entertainment.
The administrators need to find both the ideal balance between bat and ball and educate fans on cricket’s values. It is fine when middled deliveries finish up in the stands but a bowler should be extremely angry if a blatant mis-hit still clears the ropes. This problem is not so pronounced on larger Australian grounds, but I’m not sure what genius produced the ludicrous mixture of better bats and smaller boundaries. This combination is reducing bowlers to virtual bowling machines. It is a serious slight on good bowlers and needs to be rectified immediately.
When bowlers are induced by the regulations to deliberately aim balls wide of the stumps to avoid major scoring opportunities, it debases the game. They should have the choice to aim the ball at the stumps, as this is by far the best way to keep batters under pressure. Aiming the ball off the stumps, and mainly relying on a batter’s blunder to be dismissed, reduces the contest drastically and therefore the spectacle.
Cricket is a game to be enjoyed. Fielding is a worthwhile occupation that is best enjoyed when it’s combined with the opportunity to have a decent hit.
When I watch sports like baseball, golf and tennis played in their shorter forms, I’m heartened by the fact that the game still remains basically the same. The sport witnessed in the T20 format is a distant variety of Test cricket and not always easily associated with the 50-over game.
Cricket needs to entertain, but it must also maintain a strong association with its roots. The administrators need to remember this crucial point when they plan for the game’s future.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a columnist