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Bowlers like Mitchell Johnson are now making centuries in Test cricket

Bowlers like Mitchell Johnson are now making centuries in Test cricket

Recently MY Kasim and Javed A Khan discussed whether batting has become easier in international cricket. There are numerous arguments to say that it in fact has. Mitchell Johnson, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh are examples of bowlers who have recently demonstrated they can bat ably. Has batting become easier?

It is now common for batting sides to score over 300 runs in an ODI innings and over 400 runs in a day in Tests. There are various reasons why this is happening:

1) Short boundaries: the ICC and the boards of cricket nations have realised

Short boundaries have helped players like Shaun Marsh become superstars

Short boundaries have helped players like Shaun Marsh become superstars

 that aggressive batting pulls crowds. Since commercialism has taken priority, boundaries are being shortened so that there are more fours and sixes

2) Restrictions on bowlers- A full toss above waist height is a no ball, a bowler gets a warning if he bowles 2 deliveries above shoulder height and he can be suspended from bowling by the umpire if he consistently bowls short pitched deliveries. This means that a bowler is restricted from bowling too attackingly, which leads to batsmen feeling more safe and confident

3) The emergence of T20 cricket- this has surely helped batsmen develop the aggressive psyche and dominate bowlers. The focus is on hitting and hitting hard and clean.

4) Flat pitches- Pitches are getting flatter worldwide. Flat pitches do not assist pace bowlers as much. There is less swing and seam and consequently, batsmen can play bowling with more ease.

5) Protective gear:  Arm pads, crotch pads, chest pads- batsmen of today have more protection against genuine fast bowlers and accordingly can play more fearlessly.

6) Regulation of bowling actions: It was easy for bowlers to get away with suspect bowling actions in the past. Nowadays, a bowler is only allowed to bend his arm to a certain limit so as not to exercise an unfair advantage over a batsman.

The overarching factor, which acts as an umbrella for all the above factors, is that explosive batting is pulling the crowds, especially in the Subcontinent which has become the centre of the cricket world. In the current era of globalisation and commercialism, the focus is to do whatever it takes to make profit. Hence, the game of cricket is being tailored to achieve this objective.

However, to look at this discussion from a different angle, there are also arguments to say batting is as difficult as it was 15 or 25 years ago, or that is has in fact become more difficult:

Handling pressure while chasing has become a highly valued skill

Misbah is considered an expert in pressure-handling; a skill considered invaluable whilst chasing totals

1) The “pressure” factor- In this age of information technology and media, cricketers become superstars overnight. Players are treated as commercial commodities. This means that one crucial error in one crucial situation can potentially ruin a batsman’s career. There has been a substantial increase in matches that involve “crunch situations” where batsmen batting in the 2nd innings have to plan ahead, take calculated risks and often play against their natural games. This has made batting in certain situations, extremely demanding (although it is accepted that this pressure factor also applies to bowlers).

2) Depth in bowling: Decades ago, deliveries like the “doosra”, “teesra”, “carrom-ball” etc where unheard of. We often discuss batsmen inventing new shots like paddle-sweeps, but hardly anyone mentions new deliveries that have been

The art of reverse swing is no longer a secret

The art of reverse swing is no longer a secret

 invented to flummox batsmen. Related to this is the concept of reverse swing. In the 1980’s only a few bowlers like Sarfraz Nawaz attempted reverse swing; nowadays. almost every fast bowler is able to reverse swing the ball to some degree or the other. Reverse swing has taken the careers of players like Simon Jones of England (who was instrumental in getting Australian wickets in the famous Ashes series which England won) and Zaheer Khan, to another level.

3) Ability, fitness and stamina of bowlers: It is now possible for 90mph bowlers to bowl in excess of 10 overs in a single spell. In the olden days, this could not be achieved because bowlers were not as fit, or fast. In the past, clocking 90mph was considered a rarity; nowadays, it seems every third bowler is an express pace bowler.

4) Ability, fitness and stamina of batsmen: Similar to the argument above, batsmen are also more fit these days. Fitness is linked to ability, so it may be a safe bet to say that the Pontings and the Smiths of today are more able batsmen than the Huttons or Sutcliffes of yesterday. The type of training received by Ponting and Smith is much more advanced than the type that would have been received by past legends. These days batsmen are trained how to play different kinds of deliveries on different kinds of pitches in different climates, all around the globe. So this argument is that batting has not necessarily become any easier, but that batsmen are of a much superior calibre.

Afridi would have been a much more dangerous player 20 years ago when fielding standards were not as high

Afridi would have been a much more dangerous player 20 years ago when fielding standards were not as high

5) Fielding standards: Only 15 years ago one could only expect perhaps Jonty Rhodes to dive and take a stunner. Nowadays, good fielding skills is a requirement for cricketers who want to play at the international level. It is common these days for expert hitters like Afridi or Dhoni to time the shot well, but only to find an athletic fielder diving and pulling off an impossible catch near the boundary rope. This was seen much less in the times of batsmen like Miandad, Gavaskar or Gooch. This has undoubtedly made batting much more difficult as batsmen have to be extremely cautious where they are hitting the ball, and having clean hitting prowess or good timing skills must be accompanied by excellent placement too.

So there are arguments for both sides, those who say batting has become easier and those who argue that times have changed, but batting is still the same as it was. As cricket is becoming a batsman’s game with shortened boundaries and flat pitches, Test cricket is being affected adversely. The interest in Test cricket is dwindling as batting sides are easily scoring over 500 runs in an innings. Since it is becoming difficult to get batsmen out in Test cricket, we are seeing plenty of draws. Now it will be interesting to see when the ICC and cricket boards take action regarding this, because the fans have hinted strongly that they want to see concrete results in Test cricket, not draws. And then we might see ourselves in the same situation as 15 years ago, when pitches were more bowling friendly and produced more convincing results.


Small is the new Big

The talk about IPL as the BIGGEST cricket event is like, “the talk of the town.” But, the question is, which town? And how long this so-called “momentum” will continue? And how long will it keep the spectators and viewers interest alive? Especially when you see the same team playing again and again and that too, with so many new names and new faces you hardly know and you will hardly remember them after the tournament. Generally people believe that BIG is best. But that is only a misnomer, as the expression goes, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” So with all the cricket players and bollywood actresses in it, its like: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water – Jack fell down and broke his crown – And Jill came tumbling after. Lets see whether Jack Ambani falls first or, Preity Jill comes tumbling after?

The Big (Bang) Theory is not just restricted to business only, even in cricket a big country like India wanted to Get Big Fast believing that it is the one and only motto for startups. Because big companies can go public and get more access to capital and use that capital to get even bigger. IPL has Bollywood millionaires and billionaire Industrialists who are financing them. Just like Big accounting firms were the place to go to get audited if you were a big company, because a big accounting firm could be trusted. Big law firms were the place to find the right lawyer, because big law firms were a one-stop shop. Similarly big show-biz attracts big media companies, big media companies means big news and TV coverage.

Of course, it’s not just big organizations that added value to business, they made us believe that Big planes were better than small ones, because they were faster and more efficient. Big buildings were better than small ones because they facilitated communications and used downtown land quite efficiently. Bigger computers and bigger networks could handle more simultaneous users, as well. After all that BIG, Big and big, small happened. Now small is the new big.

Enron – BIG got audited by Andersen BIG and failed BIG. The big World Trade Center was a target. TV advertising is collapsing so fast you can hear it. American Airlines BIG is getting creamed by Jet Blue “think small”. Main frames are already extinct like dinosaur. Big computers are silly, they use lots of power and are not nearly as efficient as properly networked like Dell boxes – at least that’s the way it works at Yahoo and Google. Big boom boxes are replaced by tiny ipod shuffles. (Yeah, I know big-screen TVs are the big thing. Can’t be right all the time). But smaller cell phones are the in thing, rather it is the only thing when men take pride in showing-off by saying: “Mine is smaller than yours.”

Today, little companies often make more money than big companies. Little jets are way faster – door to door and small hauls – than big ones. Today, craigslist has only 18 employees and it is the fourth most visited website according to some measures. They are partly owned by e-Bay which has more than 4,000 employees, which hopes to stay in the same league, traffic-wise. So, is it better to be the head of craigslist or the head of UPS?

We all know the Caribbean WC was a big failure, financially and otherwise and they also complained it as a very long and boring event. Why IPL is still catching the so-called “momentum”? There are a few reasons, the population; a majority of whom have no entertainment source other than Cinema, TV and cricket and evening outings is sheer entertainment for them. But, it cannot continue that long. Mind you this is just the first IPL tournament and that too halfway through and some people even in India don’t watch all the matches. Most people I know in this part of the world say, its hard to spare time from work and when you don’t follow there is no interest even on week-end you have time to do groceries and shopping besides we don’t know the players, so I guess we don’t miss much. Besides, this tournament is too big and too long, its going on and on. Therefore, one needs to think about the bigger picture rather than the one you see and hear in the “town.”

To conclude this thread based on the facts mentioned above, small is the new big. Because, small gives you the flexibility to change the business model when your competition changes theirs. Small means you can tell the truth on your blog. Small means that you can answer email from your customers. A small law firm or accounting firm or ad agency is succeeding because they’re good, not because they’re big. So smart small companies are happy to hire them. A small restaurant has an owner who greets you by your name. Don’t wait. Get small. Think big.

If you as a blogger don’t agree with this thread, shout BIG and say, “I am agree” NOT.


IPL Analyzer

The IPL tournament started a couple of weeks ago, as it is progressing it needs some introspection from the organizers point of view and debate from the spectators, viewers and bloggers point of view. Not just about the cheerleaders but, also about the other incidents that are taking place and getting more attention from the public. You as bloggers need to say how you feel about its progress, you are the analyzers of this tournament even halfway though this tournament you can make your own predictions and pass verdicts.Someone on this blog said IPL is creating jingoism and regionalism. That was obvious when Sehwag was demanding from the crowd to clap and applaud for his 50 and no one clapped, there was dead silence. Because, he was playing against the home team. Someone else responded that city vs. city or province vs. province rivalry is common and it happens even in domestic cricket. Yes, thats true but now there is a mix of national and international players in this league. Also, there is something called sporting spirit which is lacking among the Indian spectators.
And look at what happened to personal rivalry between the players? Harbhajan slapped Sreesanth and got a 11 match ban. The picture we have used above is an indication of how friends can become foes. Is it the money, fame, or the spur of the moment of madness that makes it happen?

Hotheadedness and madness may have a place in other games like, ice hockey, rugby and even to some extent in soccer but not in cricket. Sledging and rude behaviour is often punished whereas, slapping another player on his face is way out of the decorum and conduct of the game. Hence severe action needs to be taken and not just one person but, the so called victim needs to be admonished and we all know that Sreesanth is not SaintSanth. As the name implies Sree or Saheb or Mr. and the meaning of Santh is Guru or a teacher of the highest esteem. But, Shanta Kumara Sreesanth is not a teacher or an innocent bloke, he provokes, abuses and instigates his opponents and that is his first nature. This time he mistook and underestimated his opponent Harbhajan Singh. “Bhajan” means spiritual song. “Singh” means a lion. A lion who recites a spiritual song of “Har.” That is the literary meaning of his name. But, he too is a headstrong character and responded instantly without thinking.

After the ban Sreesanth is claiming that it was a “friendly” altercation between two “brothers.” Now, they can say whatever they feel like. The irony is this incident did not happen in the dressing room but somewhere in the dugout or wherever but, they have a video evidence and good enough for the match referee to impose a ban.

The question that is being posed on you is: Does Harbhajan deserve this ban? In that case he loses his millions. And, don’t you think that Shanta (peaceful) Kumara Sreesanth (Saint or Sainyee) also deserve some punishment? In Zidane’s case he was first banned but then he became a hero. Do you think the same will happen to Harbhajan? It is for you to decide. And below is something for you to cheer up as someone is definitely being lifted up and cheered.

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