A couple of decades ago, scoring or chasing a target of 250 above, in a 50-over game, was considered astronomical. A team batting first would acknowledge such a total secure, while for the hunting side, it used to be a herculean task. But, over the years, things have changed strikingly, which made a bowler’s life wretched and gave the batsmen a leverage. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that 400 has become a norm in contemporary cricket due to the king-sized bats, lightening-quick outfield, change in field restrictions and shorter boundaries.
Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) recently issued a new Code of Laws, which will come into effect from October 2017. One of the most prominent changes as per the new law will be regarding the bat size in a bid to “redress the balance between bat and ball”. As per the new guidelines, the new maximum permitted dimensions of a cricket bat will be 108 mm in width, 67 mm in depth with 40 mm edges. With this new law coming into play, a number of international cricketers will be compelled to alter their bats in order to meet the protocol. When there can be a 15 degree line for a bowler, then why can’t a similar rule be applied for bats?
Australian opener David Warner is one of the prominent names from the contemporary circuit, whose current bat will undoubtedly be banned for exceeding the limits. Warner’s bat without a doubt looks thicker than the proposed limit and his Kaboom will have to undergo some alteration. As reported by The Australian newspaper, Warner’s T20 bat has a depth of 85mm, which exceeds the new proposed limit by 18 mm.
MCC’s head of cricket, Joh Stephenson, emphasised on the bat-size limitations and was quoted in an MCC statement saying, “The bat size issue has been heavily scrutinised and discussed in recent years. We believe the maximum dimensions we have set up will help redress the balance between bat and ball, while still allowing the explosive, big hitting we all enjoy.”
A bowler’s life in contemporary cricket has been miserable, especially in the shorter format. With quick outfield, field restrictions, shorter boundaries and king-sized bats, runs are scored heavily and even some good deliveries are dispatched for boundaries. Though the move by restricting the bat-size, is a masterstroke by the MCC, but there are a few more issues, which needs to be addressed in order to bridge the gap between bat and ball.
A bat with thick edge increases the sweet spot on the blade, which means even a mistimed stroke will also travel with immense speed and power. Not just that, even a leading edge has enough bat on it to see the ball flying over third man or the wicketkeeper for a boundary. By having a look at the current bats, it wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the current bat does not have a sweet spot but the whole surface is sweet.
Run-making is an art, which demands precision and hard-work to master it. Hitting a six or even a boundary demands ability to pick the line and length early, immaculate foot work and needless to say, timing. Big bats with increased sweet spot decline the value of above mentioned values. Once the ball kisses the blade, it disappears for a maximum.
A few years back, the sight of a ball getting a top-edge and flying over the keeper for a six was rare, in fact, it was an oddity. But one can witness such instances more often in the current scenario. The fact that the edge of a bat is so thick that even a decent contact is enough to see it flying over the boundary or beat the infield. In short, a good bouncer results in the worse result, a delivery could have produced.
With the advancement in technologies, replays and slow-motion cameras produce enough evidence to show the point of contact with bat or whether the batsman has middled it or not? Many a times, it can be, that the ball is nowhere near the middle or the batsman may have even twisted the handle while hitting. But, the ball still manages to clear the infield. Bats with thick edges hide the technical deficiencies of a batsman for a while and enables a mediocre batsman garner massive runs.
The recently ended One-Day International (ODI) series between India and England saw three nail-biting games, which the hosts won by 2-1. The series saw 300 plus totals being scored by both the sides with ease and England, despite being a visiting side, crossed the land mark without sweating it out. There was hardly any assistance for the bowlers throughout the series and this has been the rundown for a while now. With the emergence of T20s, batsmen are instinctively aggressive, which makes a bowler’s life dreadful along with the big bats.
Also, one can’t deny the fact that the cricket ball has not undergone any significant change in the last one century. When there are technologies available to make the bats light yet powerful, then why the manufacturers haven’t come up with a way to make the leather a more powerful weapon? At present, the balance of the game is heavily tilted in the favour of the batsmen. Hopefully, the times change and become a bit more bowler-friendly once the new proposed law comes into effect.