India v Australia – who’d be a bowler?

If you were to ask someone who really knows about cricket what the key to the game is, the chances are they would tell you ‘having a good balance between bat and ball.’ Even if you were to ask a freshly lobotomised cricket newcomer, they’d probably say ‘runs and wickets’. Note how that’s runs and wickets. Not just runs. Clearly nobody has told Indian administrators about this. Recently we have been treated to one of the highest scoring ODI series in history, a series where a six was hit on average every five overs. And we couldn’t have been less interested. It’s almost as though someone with no understanding of the game saw a T20 game and reasoned ‘why can’t we do this for 50 overs games too?’ It gets the crowds in, they get to see Dhoni playing the helicopter, and the BCCI makes lots of money. In doing so however, they create a guaranteed cure for insomnia for most of those watching.

‘Flat’ doesn’t adequately describe some of the decks in this series. You could steamroll a piece of paper and it would be more uneven than the track yesterday. Even the princess from The Princess and the Pea would have had a good night’s sleep on that deck. Just look at the highlights of Rohit Sharma batting yesterday – every shot off the seamers is played with precisely zero foot movement. He made 209 runs with two superfluous legs. He might as well have been lining up in the World Series baseball earlier in the week. You try doing that at somewhere like Trent Bridge and you’d nick off to slip about 50 times before you scored 200 runs. Now of course batting depends on conditions and so on but Geoffrey Boycott’s granny could have made a ton on that pitch with her stick of rhubarb. You could dig up WG Grace and reanimate him and he’d probably score a rapid century. For pity’s sake, even I could probably make a few runs on some of those pitches.

Nigel Molesworth, our spiritual guide in this blog, who is pictured at the top of this page, says the following in How to be Topp: ‘i usually prefer to hav a slosh: i get bowled just the same but it is more satisfactory.’ At Bangalore, Molesworth would be raising his bat for fifty having sloshed away successfully for a few overs.

Oh, to have been a bowler in this series. Just a few stats to point out: across 6 matches, 65 wickets were taken, 3525 runs were conceded, at an average of 54.23 runs per wicket and an economy rate of 6.5. Only twice was a side bowled out in an innings. Even MS Dhoni has come out and said they may as well replace the bowlers with bowling machines. That’s not good, really really not good.

If this sort of nonsense continues, I seriously worry for the future of the game. What youngster would want to be a bowler after watching these matches? Ishant Sharma takes a truckload of stick for conceding 30 runs at the death in the first match, when a lesser bowler would have gone for 36. 7 bowlers in the series bowled 10 overs or more and went at over 7 an over.

Sort it out, cricket. An international six should be an extraordinary shot; difficult to play, daring, requiring substantial skill, timing or strength. Not something that you see ten times an innings and that a club number eleven could close his eyes and do against the best bowlers in the world. I despair. Bring me a strong brandy and a copy of the 2005 Ashes, while I go and huddle in a corner.

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