Bowlers are people too

There's a need to redress the balance between bat and ball to make ODIs fair to bowlers.

Ishant Sharma

The shorter versions of cricket have turned out to be a burial ground for the bowlers. The laws have shifted the balance totally in favour of batsmen, making the traditional arts of swing, cut and change of pace quite irrelevant.

Ishant Sharma is one such example. His action brings the ball into the right-hander. This at times results in a wide when he gets appreciable movement.

Bowling for him becomes easier to a left-hander because it goes towards the batsmen’s off-side. Bowling to a right-hander, his natural flair is thereby restricted and he delivers the ball wide outside the off stump.

Similarly, spinners have to curtail their flight and turn from outside the leg stump to ensure that they are not penalised.

Seeing batsmen making runs is a wonderful sight, but for them to do so without a challenge has made the shorter version of the game less skillful. A smile on the face of a batsman when a bouncer flies well over his head must make a bowler cringe in anger.

The time has come for the ICC to make the game more balanced between bat and ball. They could start by going back to the earlier field restrictions and the most important one would be to allow the bowlers to go down the leg side.

The strict leg-side rule needs to be a little more relaxed. The umpire also should be more flexible in judging wides by considering the stance, shuffle and movement of the batsmen, at times even before the ball is bowled.

The reverse sweep is another shot that needs to be reviewed, as a bowler is compelled to bowl on the off side whereas the batsmen has the luxury of using both sides bringing into play a double-handed backhand.

A bowler presently needs to indicate from which hand he will deliver the ball and from which side of the wicket. The removal of this restriction could give the bowler the freedom to choose his option without the knowledge of the batsmen.

The umpire would then need to place himself appropriately. That could make it even game. The two newball rule should also be seriously looked at. One way to make it more acceptable could be to give the bowling side an option to change the ball after 25 overs.

This would then give them the flexibility to decide the course of action according to their strength. Presently it is a sad sight to see fast bowlers performing well within themselves, delivering slow bumpers, leg spin and other such variations.

A turning or a green wicket attracts a plethora of criticism. A pitch allowing high scores is praised because the spectators feel they have got money’s worth and the television channel is over the moon for getting the maximum mileage for their commercial deals.

Sport is supposed to bring the competitive spirit into play, if the competition is fair. The time has come for a change or else the game of limited-overs cricket will dwindle into a farce.

(The writer is a former Test cricketer)

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