<b>Close-in:</b> bang for the buck
Given fans’ penchant for sixes and fours, limited overs cricket is bang on, but the bowlers are given a raw deal in this format
The three-match One Day International matches between England and India, as predicted, was won by India. England, however, did show some resilience and spunk and made the host side sweat for their victories. The outcome of all the matches clearly indicates that once the game is shortened with overs restrictions, the imbalance of a cricket encounter between a good side and an ordinary side narrows dramatically. The irony of it all is that cricketers are these days judged by their limited over achievements rather than by their test match performance.
Batting on good Indian wickets, with fast and shortened boundaries along with field restrictions in the limited overs game has become a dream for the batsman. A famous Indian phrase depicts the bowlers’ views quite nicely. Aa baell mujhe mar,” meaning come here bull and hit me. This must be what one presumes is going through a bowlers’ mind approaching the wicket. Limited overs cricket has become a grave yard for them, whereas, the batsmen are having a bonanza. The art of swinging the ball is diminishing, as a good in-swinger bowler is careful not to go down the leg side as a little error on his part could easily be called a wide. The predicted area of a bowlers’ direction, has led to batsmen playing the reverse sweep, uppercut and other such innovative shots. I am not suggesting that the spectacular skills and shots that have now embedded itself in the armoury of a batsman should be restricted, but the bowler has to be shown some kindness as well or the shortened game is becoming ridiculously one sided.
The limited overs cricket started with 60 overs per side and to make it more spectator friendly has been reduced over time. The audience wants to see sixes and fours and hence the conventional style of the game was losing its attraction. Cricket has benefitted finally as once again a stadium full of people have adorned the dwindling stands, even in a Test match. The reason being that batsmen are playing more aggressively and seem to have far more confidence in playing shots both in the air and along the ground.

Having achieved the objective of making cricket a popular sport once again, the limited overs games need to be modified to give the bowler a better deal. The fast and shorter outfield, better balanced bats, field restrictions should be pursued with. But there are a few changes that could make the game more evenly contested.
The first and foremost change should be that the leg side wide delivery, which at present is harshly penalising the bowlers, should be done away with. A line drawn on the off-side of the wicket, but at half that width on the leg-side, should be allowed. This will then give the bowlers more options rather than depending on just two popular styles of deliveries being the change of pace or length. Earlier, a bowler was able to outfox the batsman with a slower ball or other such off the cuff deliveries. The batsman is now well informed of the variations that a bowler can bowl due to modern information technology and so is ready to pounce on such a delivery when unleashed. The leg side allowance will bring about an extra variation for the bowler, after all, one does want to see an even encounter between the bat and the ball.
The second change should be in the field restriction. The two fielders in the first 10 overs in a 50 overs game and 6 overs in the 20-20 format should be continued. This law was introduced to make the game more exciting from the start and it has proved very successful. However, I feel the last 10 overs in a 50 overs match and the last 6 overs in a 20-20 should allow the fielding side to have just 2 fielders in the 30 yards’ circle, rather than restrict them to have 5 fielders in the deep. This will result in two things: One the batting side will need to increase the pace of scoring in the middle overs, which is now gradually becoming more of a stabilizer for a launch later. This is making it quite boring and predictable. The scoring rate of the batting side in most cases in the middle overs is far lower than the rate at the beginning and at the end of the innings. This will also require the batsman to play shots on both sides of the wickets.

Presently the field restrictions encourages the captain to attack only on one side of the wicket. This makes it easier for a batsman to understand the plan of attack. The poor bowler just runs up hoping that the batsman mistimes his shot or in his eagerness misses it. The reason being that if the fielders are on the off side, the batsman will move to the off and hit it towards the on-side and vice-versa.
The way the limited over games are played at present, the bat is far mightier than the ball. The Indian selectors should be given a pat on the back for understanding the situation perfectly. They have rested Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, India’s two top spinners, for the 20-20 encounter against England. A clear indication that even the in-form match winners of the Indian side are quite easily dispensable for such a format.
Yajurvindra Singh is a former Indian cricketer
Yajurvindra Singh