A lament for bowlers

The game has grown frustratingly batsman-friendly.

Cricket today needs the flamboyance and skill of players like Imran and Kapil. Cricket is said to be a batsmen’s game, although a Test cannot be won till a team has been bowled out twice. The evolution of the game has always favoured batsman. The laws have always encouraged teams to score as many runs as possible, making the batsmen the star performers.

The earlier fast bowlers were termed demons as they bowled vicious and unrestricted number of bouncers and beamers. Bowling such dangerous deliveries was curtailed to protect the batsmen and subdue the bowlers.

Thereafter, the front-foot rule of a noball was changed to ensure that the bowler did not take maximum advantage of his long stride. When all this failed to make the bowlers less effective, pitches started to be covered.

We now have playing conditions insisting on covered wickets and daily cutting of the grass. This ensures that the match is played for five days on dry and pitches giving the batsmen enough opportunities to score plenty of runs.

Cricket enthusiasts and followers marvel at the feats of Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar, and conveniently ignore the performances of the blue-collared workers of the cricket arena -- the "bowlers".

Cricket strategies, however, have always revolved around bowlers. From the days of Douglas Jardine to the recent Ashes, captains and coaches have structured plans to be executed by the bowlers. The remark by Australian captain Michael Clarke to his best bowler Ryan Harris at the end of the series was quite touching. He apologised on behalf of the Australian batsmen for letting down his magnificent effort.

What cricket lacks these days is genuine bowling all-rounders and flamboyant cricketers. Cricket and cricket enthusiast have always been partial to batsmen, but to me the best cricketers are those who on their day, can change the fortunes of the match through either their bowling or batting.

Kapil Dev is the best cricketer India has ever produced. But if we were to ever do a research among the millions of Indian fans, it would be Sachin Tendulkar or Sunil Gavaskar. Batting will always decide greatness. Similarly, an Imran Khan would be overshadowed by a Hanif Mohammad or a Javed Miandad or in England the same fate may be faced by Ian Botham, in New Zealand a Richard Hadlee or a Keith Miller in Australia.

(The writer is a former Test cricketer)

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