Fast Paced Cricket, Beautiful Any More?

Do the players believe in taking Cricket slow anymore?

Violinists will know, how important it is to play the pauses. To make it sound how it is supposed to sound. To not rush into it. Patience is sure a key while playing this instrument.

Cricket played in the yesteryears can be compared to this pause-and-play kind of action. Similar to playing a violin. The sport has surely evolved. From tests to ODIs to T20s to people mocking the game to end at the toss itself, the contemporary cricket player has to adjust his style of playing according to the format of the game played. Each format comes with its own set of rules and speed and the players have to adapt quickly. Teams that actively play round the year get a good taste of all these formats. But the question here is that do the players really adjust? Do they actually play a distinctively different game in each format? I don’t think so.

Before the advent of T20 cricket in the international scene, ODI scores have stuck to an average of 260 runs an innings, rarely going above 300. 350 and 400 runs was a distant dream for most teams. Players did innovate but not to the extent to place any kind of ball to the stands. The greats of the yesteryears have averaged a six every one thousand to twelve hundred runs. That means at the most six to ten sixes in an entire career. Now, double this number can be easily hit by two, sometimes even a single player in one single match.

Looking at the matches in this world cup, most of the matches have seen atleast one innings where the score has crossed 300 runs, sometimes 350. The way Gayle scored 215 runs makes me wonder, what do the bowlers do in such situations? When the batsmen show no respect. No pauses. 20 overs cricket was played at the county level, but not so ferociously. A few games yes, not all of them. With the advent of the IPL, the sport has been glamourised  to an extent that if not played this way, the current generation of the spectators will lose all interest in viewing the sport. Fast play is now imbibed in the game. A low scoring game rather becomes a boring game.  Viewers expect each player to hit out or get out! Even the 20 overs don’t want to give time to a player to ‘settle down’.

I’d rather watch football. A game of football can be very exciting even if the scoreline is 0-0. Very few people are now interested to watch a test match. In Indian jargon, “Kaun dekhega? Tuku-tuku khelte hain! Score update hi theek hain.” Bored of the pauses! But isn’t that the beauty of the game, where the temperament of the players is checked? To play safe but sure shots on bad balls rather than take risks to hit every kind of ball out of the boundary? The creators of the game never thought about that. Very few good batsmen hit a boundary and then rotate strikes every now and then, the way it was taught to them while coaching. T20 has led to such innovative shots that the game no more remains a bowlers paradise, be it any kind of pitch. However, yesterdays India-UAE and NZ- Australia were welcome changes to the tone of this tournament where batsmen have reigned. The Helicopter shot and the Dil-scoop, though fun to watch, are far away from convention. There are no balls on which we can say “well left” like the earlier days.

Teams that score high play very safely indeed, rather over cautiously. The match becomes very lopsided. It was better to watch a match where the team batting first would set a competitive target and the game would go down to the wire. Now, the chasing team is mostly sure not to win. Most teams winning the toss but naturally choose to bat first because well, who wants the pressure of chasing 350 odd run to win a group stage match? The players should really work to bring the original beauty back to the game. Where a ball timed well would clear three fielders for four runs more number of times rather than now, where Mr. Gayle believes in hitting more sixes than fours. Hope that happens.

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