With the Ashes decided, it was Rahul Dravid’s straight talk that made news. The former India skipper referred to the oldest form of the game as its life source (http://cricket.yahoo.com/news/dravid-s-suggestions-to-save-test-cricket-025842258.html), comparing Test cricket to a tree trunk and one-dayers and Twenty20 as its branches.
The erudite Bangalorean hit the nail on the head with the assertion that the longer formats of the game prepare youngsters for the shorter ones.
Undoubtedly, the shorter formats have improved the standard of the game. Today, one sees imaginative shots and innovative bowling and fielding has been exceptional.
But there are a few skills that are dying a slow and painful death. The lack of tearaway pace bowlers in recent times is one example of the negative influence of the shorter versions.
Lack of classical spinners is another.
In today’s cricket, with the exception of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, there are not many bowlers who can be compared to the tearaways of the seventies and eighties like Jeff Thomson, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Imran Khan, or even those who came later like Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Brett Lee, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar.
Most batsmen of that era will swear that they had more spots left by the ball on their ribcage than on the blade of the bat. There are stories of how Thomson and bowlers before him like Frank Tyson, Roy Gilchrist, Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith scared the living daylights out of batsmen.
Former India batsman Vinod Kambli told me how he was greeted by the West Indians when he came out to bat in a Test match.
“Let’s see some blood on the wicket,” is what the slip cordon was shouting. There can never be a better example of the expression ‘baying for blood'. Times are different now. Most of those that operate with the new ball prefer to use swing to bag wickets. In their second or third spells, they bank on reverse swing.
The Decision Review System ensures more LBW decisions than ever before making accuracy more important than speed.
The shorter versions encourage bowlers to reduce pace and concentrate on swing and variations. Munaf Patel is a classic case of a bowler who generated speeds past 85 kmph when he started his career, but is much slower today focussing on accuracy.
Fast bowlers need role models. Gilchrist, Hall and Griffith inspired Roberts, Holding, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall who passed on the baton to Walsh, Ambrose and Ian Bishop. The brilliance of Imran spawned the ambitions of Akram, Younis and Akhtar.
Fast bowlers were huge draw cards. Old timers recall how exciting it was to see the gold crucifix dangling on the neck of Wes Hall during his long run-up. The open shirts of Imran, Dennis Lillee and Thomson kept spectators rooted to their seats. It was magical to see uprooted stumps and batsmen running towards square-leg.
Sadly, there aren’t too many fast bowlers who can be termed as role models. Giving more emphasis to Test cricket is one way we will get to see bowlers with sheer speed.
(The writer is a former Cricket Club of India captain and Bombay University cricketer)
Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.