ODIs need balance not bashing
It has become obvious that cricket is a cruel sport if you are a bowler. The script is ready and bowlers have to act accordingly. Go out in the park and get smashed. 350-400 in every match becomes a custom nowadays. No. 6 batsman can come and score a ton in last 15 overs. Flat tracks, shortening of boundaries, mis-hits going to boundaries, powerplays to assist the high scoring, free hits for all no balls and bigger bats all these are the reasons for this current scenario.
The first 350-plus total in ODIs happened in the 1987 World Cup, when West Indies amassed 360 for 4 against Sri Lanka, Viv Richards, smashed 181 off 125 balls in that game. The 350 mark was crossed, but such scores were still a dream. The next came almost five years later, when England made 363 for 7 against Pakistan in 1992. In 1662 ODIs till the end of 2000, there had only been six 350-plus totals. In the four years between 2001 and 2004, the number doubled to 12. Till the end of 2004, only 0.27 per cent of all ODI innings had witnessed 350-plus totals. In the next ten years, from 2005 to 2014, the rate increased to almost six such scores every year, which was roughly about 2 per cent of the total ODI innings. At the end of 2014, the number of 350-plus totals stood at 69.
Since 2015 to till date 31 more have been made, including seven in the 2015 World Cup, and four in six innings in the India-England series. In percentage terms, 6.31 per cent of ODI innings have passed 350 since the start of 2015, compared to 2.11 per cent between — 2005 and 2014 – that is an increase of 200 per cent in the frequency of such totals.
Former Test opener Sudhir Naik, who is preparing the track at the Wankhede, credited the curators, as well as the tweaked ICC rules in ODI cricket for making things hard for the bowlers.
23, 350-plus totals for India, the most by any team. South Africa have 22, followed by Australia’s 16. India and South Africa have together scored 45 out of 100 350-plus totals in ODIs. 26, 350-plus totals in India, the highest in any country. South Africa have played host to 20 such scores, while no other country has had more than 10. 10 instances of 350-plus scores in run-chases — three each by England and India, two by South Africa, and one each by New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Seven of these have been in wins: three by India, two by South Africa, and one each for England and New Zealand.
There are 8 instances of teams losing an ODI after scoring 350 or more in an innings. Australia has suffered the fate four times, England thrice and Sri Lanka once. England’s two defeats in the ongoing series is the first time a team has lost two successive games after making 350-plus totals. The only other instance of two defeats in a series for teams scoring 350-plus was when Australia lost in Jaipur and Nagpur in the series against India in 2013. 5 Most 350-plus totals in a bilateral series – there were five such totals in the India-Australia series in 2013. There were four in the England-New Zealand series in 2015, and also in the ongoing India-England one. In all tournaments/ series, the highest is seven, in the 2015 World Cup. Since the start of 2014, teams chasing have won 171 games while losing 179, and more teams have chosen to bat first than to chase.
After the last World Cup, rules on fielding restrictions were relaxed to protect bowlers, whom ICC chief executive David Richardson described as on a “hiding to nothing”. Now, especially with restrictions on the size of bats in the offing, the ICC believes the game favours both aggressive batting and bowling, and combines the fast scoring of T20 with the aggressive bowling of Test cricket. There is no respite for bowlers or ways to empower them like allowing them more than ten overs an innings.
In 2002, the year before T20 cricket was launched, the average run rate in ODIs was 4.94 an over; a decade later, it had only risen to 5.05. In 2012, batting-friendly rules were introduced. After a time lag of about a year, there has been a revolution in ODI run rates, which soared to 5.50 in 2015 and were almost as high last year, even with the more bowler-friendly laws. The ability to chase large targets has been particularly transformed: since the start of 2013, 27 per cent of chases between 300 and 324 runs have been successful, compared to 17 per cent between 2001 and 2013.
“People are playing 50-over cricket with a T20 mindset,” observes Jason Gillespie. There is some recognition that a little more variety could enrich the ODI format, though there seems little incentive for home boards to move away from flat wickets, which offer the best prospect of a complete game. On the contrary, we have also witnessed low score thrillers in games where there is just a little-bit help available for bowlers, be it from the pitch or movement in the air or rank turner provided by curator. But, we need to balance ODI cricket and for that we need to give bowlers a bit of breathing room in 50-overs cricket.
by Sorabh Aggarwal