Cricket All About The Batsmen? Oh Yes! Here are Stats to Prove Why
In stats: Tracing the slow evolution of the game that has resulted in bowlers being at a definite disadvantage.
At Trent Bridge, Nottingham, the England cricket team recently posted a world record total of 444-3 in an ODI against Pakistan.
Three days before that, in a T20 International in Lauderhill, West Indies posted 245-6 batting first, only to be run close by their opponents – India – who replied with 244-4.
After such high-scoring performances, one needs to ask the question – were those matches really a contest between bat and ball as the game of cricket is meant to be?
Did the conditions in Trent Bridge and Lauderhill have anything for the bowlers? Was there any assistance at all to any kind of bowler - medium pacer, finger spinner, wrist spinner? Were the bowlers there only to make up the numbers?
Those two matches, and many others before that, ended up just becoming a contest between the batsmen of the two teams. That is a cause for concern. Because, why then shouldn’t teams stack their XIs with eleven specialist batsmen and have the bowling machine do the dirty work?
Changing Rules to Blame?
Cricket has been governed by a certain set of laws which have been in existence at least since 1744 but have undergone revision periodically. Certain laws though have remained the same.
Starting 1884, the dimensions of the bat and ball have been largely unchanged; the weight of the cricket ball has remained the same – minimum weight of 5 ½ ounces and maximum weight of 5 ¾ ounces, while the size of the bat has remained the same too – maximum length of 38 inches and maximum width of 4 ¼ inches. The cricket ball has become a tad smaller in circumference over the years, although it has remained the same since the laws were revised in 1947.
International cricket matches are governed by a set of rules framed by the International Cricket Council – called Playing Conditions, which are an alteration of the rules framed by the MCC to ensure every format poses a different set of challenges. Most Playing Conditions are framed in favour of the batsmen and that is one among several factors why limited overs games are becoming high-scoring, and at times monotonous. One should also not overlook how curators these days generally dish out pitches which are devoid of any moisture or grass, and make pitches which are hard and flat – especially in the context of limited overs matches.
Elements That Favour Batsmen in ODIs
- Quantity of wood that goes into
the face of cricket bats
- Two new balls per innings
- Reduced size of boundaries
- Field restrictions
- Restriction of maximum number
of overs for bowlers
- Restriction on number of
- Rules such as freehit, benefit
of doubt extended to batsmen
The MCC, the guardian of the laws of the game, are guilty too, for they have failed to bring in regulations to keep the weight of cricket bats in check. While there are laws that govern the size and weight of cricket balls, there is no restriction on how much wood can go into cricket bats.
As it is, with enhanced technology, high quality willow and better compression techniques, manufacturers these days provide players with far superior bats. The ability to muscle the ball is further enhanced by most players preferring additional wood in the sweet spot of the bat. More wood = more power, and more power means more distance the ball can travel.
Run-Feast in Recent Times
The first time the 400-run mark was breached was in 2006 – after 2348 ODIs had been played earlier, when Australia scored 434-4 batting first at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, and South Africa stunned the world with a record chase, scoring 438-9 with one ball to spare.
But in the following 1425 ODIs since that momentous day, we have already had 17 totals in excess of 400. The record for the highest total has already changed hands on four occasions in the last decade. The frequency at which teams are these days posting such daunting totals is alarming; if one were to look at ODIs in the last 20 months, teams have posted in excess of 400 once every 28 matches.
What is also helping the cause of batsmen world over – which bowlers aren’t quite enjoying - is that boundaries are generally brought in. Though there are stipulations in the ICC Playing Conditions with regards to boundary distances, most venue authorities go in with either the minimum boundary requirements, or at least keep one side of the boundary short.
It is therefore not surprising to see runs being scored at a pace never seen before; in this decade, starting 2010, the average scoring rate in ODIs is at an all-time high – 5.18.
The trend of teams scoring big runs is not restricted to teams batting first alone. These days, teams are chasing better too.
In the decades gone by, one would give very little chance or no chance at all to teams chasing targets in excess of 300. But in ODIs in these last two years, the frequency of teams successfully chasing down targets in excess of 300 has dropped down to once in five matches.
If one were to look across the history of one-day cricket so far, the average number of wickets to fall in an ODI has more or less remained stable around 14 wickets per match – which establishes that the returns for bowlers have been more or less same across eras.
But what has changed though is the cost at which bowlers pick up every wicket; from round about 26 runs per wicket in the 1970s, the cost per wicket has gone to a high of 31.13 in the current decade. More reason to find an answer to the question “who would want to be a bowler”.
There’s a general perception that cricket fans – those who throng cricket stadia around the world and those following the game on the idiot box– like to see fours and sixes alike.
After a certain point though, doesn’t it feel monotonous to see the ball finding the boundary regularly? What fun is it to see 400 play 401, and eleven batsmen playing another set of eleven batsmen? More importantly, if the game continues to be played in this manner, which kid will want to be a bowler?
The MCC and the ICC need to ask and answer some important questions of themselves and then find a way to restore balance between bat and ball.
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