June 11, 2017

Bowlers are getting eaten alive in ODIs

Bat v ball is no longer a contest when chasing 300 in rainy England becomes an easy task
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Even with an attack that had pace, seam and swing, India could not defend defend 321 against Sri Lanka © Getty Images

One of the critical duties of cricket administrators is to ensure the laws of the game maintain a reasonable balance between bat and ball, like a pair of scales see-sawing in the process of finding an even balance; a constant jiggling so neither the bat nor the ball is favoured too much.

On the early evidence of the 2017 Champions Trophy, there's currently a bar of gold on the scale representing the bat and a feather on the other side, denoting the plight of the bowler.

Three hundred runs for a 50-over innings is now the norm, and quite often it isn't enough to gain victory. And all this in an England summer blighted by rain squalls that you would normally expect to juice up the pitches.

The former world record-holding wicket-taker Fred Trueman used to bemoan the fact that the "last bluddy bowler to be knighted was Sir Francis Drake". The way things are heading, the modern bowler will only kneel before royalty to plead for mercy.

Despite the inclement weather, the ball has neither swung nor moved much off the seam. That normally lethal finisher Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka has been reduced to pitching deliveries well wide of off stump in the hope that batsmen will either toe-end the shot to the man on the cover boundary or thick-edge it to the fielder patrolling third man.

Once a bowler is directing deliveries well wide of the stumps, all the classic ambushes are removed from the contest and the batsman has the upper hand. Once a bowler is purely trying to contain, often in the hope that the shot will only bring a four instead of disappearing deep into the crowd, the spectacle is basically reduced to a batting exhibition.

To emphasise the normalisation of the 300 total, it has twice been chased down in the first eight matches of this Champions Trophy, once against the much-vaunted Indian bowling.

India, thought to have one of the better balanced attacks in the tournament, were powerless to stop a vibrant Sri Lankan batting line-up imbued with the death-or-glory spirit of the modern batsman.

Six maniacs: hitting the ball into the stands once every over is the norm, not an aberration, today © AFP/Getty Images

There's no doubting the power, the nerveless approach and the innovative spirit of the modern batsman. They appear to be completely oblivious to the embarrassment a batsman used to experience when he holed out in the deep, playing what was deemed a reckless shot. It's now considered an abrogation of duty if a batsman doesn't try to send at least one delivery soaring into the stands each over.

If a fan heads to an ODI hoping to see the odd classic dismissal where the batsman is lured to his downfall after a series of searching deliveries, he had better be seated for the opening over.

In this century alone, the run rate in ODI matches has improved by nearly one per over. In this decade the number of sixes per innings has increased by one and a half times. The average per wicket is three runs better now than in 1999.

This is not a calamity of global-warming proportions, but if batting stats keep climbing at this alarming rate, a tipping point must surely be reached. There will come a time when an ODI becomes a batting exhibition rather than a contest.

The more the first-innings totals climb, the harder it becomes for the chasing side to stay in the contest. There are too few exciting finishes now in ODI games without the number being further reduced.

The administrators are going to have to give greater consideration to the evolution of bats. Boundary sizes will need to come under closer scrutiny, and some experimentation with the ball is required to aid bowlers in gaining some swing. Somehow the emphasis on wicket-taking rather than pure containment has to become a viable consideration.

The game can't become a batting exhibition where fans are baying for the bowler's blood. After all, Lions versus Christians eventually lost its lustre as a contest.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • heathq1437344 on June 14, 2017, 7:25 GMT

    Cannot go without saying this - Steve Smith is one of the best batters in test match cricket along with Virat, Joe and ABD. Can you imagine Smith with all his big movements across his stumps facing someone like Imran Khan who could hoop a ball?

  • heathq1437344 on June 14, 2017, 7:02 GMT

    Further adding to the ODI commment I think a complete role reversal has occcurred, instead of batting first and putting score board pressure on second team, the score board pressure is on the team batting first as they know any total is gettable, my opinion anyway.

  • heathq1437344 on June 14, 2017, 6:56 GMT

    To those commenting on sour grapes cause Aus got knocked out - it is not like that at all. For far to long ODI's and tests have becoming flat batting strips that really give no competition between bat and ball. I said before the test between India and Aust was the best and most exciting I have seen for some time. The last test in particular, as it offered the quicks a even contest and the spin department. And Umesh outbowled our quicks in a great spell of fast bowling. The game is better for fiery fast bowlers and gets people interested. These flat batting strips are killing the game and your average Joe could make runs. We have seen the collapses when the ball does a bit, because most batters have not got the technique and skill of our prior players. If you want cricket to remain a draw card even the contest up.

  • sbirad2169924 on June 13, 2017, 13:40 GMT

    soon odi scores will become 500 and t20 will be like stick cricket

  • Steve on June 13, 2017, 13:21 GMT

    Just like the 'home run derby' event that happens once a year in baseball, I am sure there will be '6s derby' in cricket (not if, but when) where in the top 10 T20 batsmen will face 10 balls from a thrower/ball machine behind a safety net. As anyone can guess, the guy who hits maximum number of runs (one deducted for each ball that doesn't clear the boundary). Though events like this might be unpalatable to traditional fans, I expect them to be quite entertaining and spread the game to all parts of the world.

  • izzido8204666 on June 13, 2017, 13:00 GMT

    While bats have got broader and chunkier the humble cricket ball has not changed much .It still remains the same in weight and size and has only changed in colour from red to white for limited overs cricket. The batsman wields his bat with such brute force that the ball goes out of shape in no time and has to be replaced quite often . The bowler sometimes has to contend with a out of shape ball unable to spin or swing but the batsman can change his bat at anytime.There is a disparity between bat and ball that the bowler has to be spot on otherwise he can get butchered to all parts of the ground and over. These days any total under 300 is an average score in ODI's while a score of 200 runs is just enough to win a T20 game. If the bowler tries hard and over steps the bowling crease he also gets punished with a free hit rewarded to the batsman while the batsman can step out of his crease and hoist the ball over the fence. It's a batsman's paradise and a bowlers nightmare out there

  • Peter on June 13, 2017, 12:06 GMT

    ICC destroyed the art of bowling to keep just one team competitive. The main idea behind that strategy was to pull down stronger teams equal to a team that was known for its batting only. Although, this strategy has increased profit yet it destroyed cricket. See the list of top 10 earning cricketers. None of them is a bowler.

  • vharih3841505 on June 13, 2017, 10:51 GMT

    I agree 100% with Ian. Its no fun seeing bowlers being thrashed solely due to the rules allowing this to happen. If that were the case, might as well change the rules to have bowlers throw underarm at 40 kmph pace, just to see who can be hit in the most versatile way! How boring!

    Indeed, I question the tilted rules in T20 too.

    I've come to enjoy seeing a good spell of pace bowling repeatedly beat the bat, on the rare occasions that it happens nowadays.

    Arguments like "we have Test Cricket for bowlers" don't hold water. TC is anyway dying, and not many people have the time to watch it. If ODI and T20 are going to remain mainstream for the foreseeable future, then thats where I want to see a good balance between bat and ball.

  • Rohith on June 13, 2017, 10:47 GMT

    The main reason I feel that has lead to this imbalance is the use of two new balls. Once the batsmen see off 7-8 overs of each ball, then it becomes the best time to bat in flat tracks and it stays that way for the rest of the innings. Why don't the ICC make a law where the bowling captain has the liberty to choose whether to start with two balls or use a single ball for the whole innings according to the conditions and the strength of his team. That way a team with good spinners and reverse swing bowlers can choose to take one ball which gives them a better chance, especially in conditions like the sub continent. Or if there happens to be a pitch that look to assist seam bowling, a team equipped with good seamers can choose to play with two new balls and look for early wickets. This can add another dimension to the tactical approach of each team and a better balance between bat and ball in ODIs.

  • Andy on June 13, 2017, 9:21 GMT

    @stever_51: T20 is for batsman not ODI. ODI must have an equal mix, lets say 60 to batting & remaining 40 to bowling. But on pure flat decks bowlers are not getting even 15-20% to work with. @cricfan1751922776: The point here is not about his favorite teams getting knocked out but there has been no parity between bat & ball. 2003 WC was one of the best for me, it had good rewards for good bowlers & good batters could overcome the situations. T20 cricket has brought out more attacking mindset from batters but flat pitches across lets say in Aus, Eng, SC have nearly ruled out bowlers out of the game. Very rarely we see a pitch offering assistance & teams are crumbling in those challenging situations as they're used to the flat decks these days.

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