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Mindless run fests

Having lifeless pitches and loading rules in favour of batsmen is like killing the golden goose called cricket.


MIND GAME

FOURTH UMPIRE

The most heartening aspect of this India-England one-day series? That it didnít produce the kind of unreal run chases that are threatening to become an integral part of modern limited overs game.

April 8, 2006: The most heartening aspect of this India-England one-day series? India clinched the series 4-0? Wrong. The string of low scores match after match. In Delhi, India made 203 and England fell short by 39 runs. In Faridabad, England managed 226 and India reached the targets with four wickets in hand. Goa saw the highest total so far in this series when India raced to 294 and won by 49 runs. Kochi, expected to trigger a run feast with the kind of batting beauty it has, allowed the Pommies only 237 and India romped home with four wickets to spare. 

There was no doubt whatsoever that this England team is streets behind Team India which will give even Australia a run for its money in the next World Cup. In fact, it even had the audacity to announce a team for the next two one-dayers which wonít have the magnificent trio ĖTendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid. Yet, I am not talking about the comfortable margins or the convincing fashion in which India lifted the cup. Iím relieved that it didnít produce the kind of unreal run chases that are threatening to become an integral part of modern limited overs game. 

Last month, we saw Australia unbelievably hit 434 in its allotted 50 overs and South Africa chase the task even more unbelievably. Superlatives were liberally showered: Gratest Match Ever, Biggest Run Chase in History, so on and so forth. Cliches followed even from accomplished writers: Cricket is the Ultimate Winner. 

For this writer, it was disturbing to say the least. When the psychological barrier of 300 was breached in ODIs, it was thought to be a rare occurance. Now, anything below 300 is considered chasable. The fear among real cricket buffs was, will 400 now be the benchmark? 

Is there much fun in seeing batsmen going hammer and tongs at every ball? If every delivery flies to the boundary, where does that leave the art of bowling? Where is the contest between bat and ball? And who can remember all the records and totals?
And the reasons why there are such tall totals in the modern era? The primary one has to be that players, especially batsmen, are striving for excellence and this is anyway called the golden age of batting. The second reason is the technology that goes into bat making. The third reason is the way they prepare pitches that donít offer anything for bowlers. The fourth has got to be poor bowling. A fifth is that one-day rules are heavily loaded in favour of batsmen. The last two can be tinkered with a bit if ICC doesnít want cricket to become baseball-like rapidfire dumb fests.

So, the current series showed that bowlers can still dominate, batsmen are human after all and the game is still worth watching.

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