For long, it has been stated that balance is the key to everything in life. Think too much and you will border the lines of mental ailments. Make yourself too vulnerable and the world will only take advantage of you. Talk too much and the art of dwelling peacefully in your thoughts will keep eluding you. Thus, you are advised to always stray away from the path that does not preach equilibrium and focus on each aspect with equal measure.
To wholly understand the practical version of the statement, one doesn’t need to look further than the twenty-two yards of a cricket field. Or to be more precise, the twenty-two yards of a cricket field when a T20 match is in progress. Twenty overs of carnage, they say. Twenty overs of ultimate excitement as the ball keeps whizzing past the boundary ropes. Twenty overs of cricket and a rendezvous with a sport whose other formats have become too time-consuming.
But while you cheer on for yet another maximum hit even off a good and accurate fuller length delivery, draw your sights to the man with the cherry in hand. Cricket, being a game of the ball and the bat, will cease to exist without his presence but the shortest format has pushed him towards transparency. He exists but is forgotten. He delivers but is overlooked. Almost like the pervasive presence. One who is meant only to bowl- good or bad, it will hardly matter. All that matters will be the shot that is attempted by the willow.
Now imagine a situation where a T20 game has eleven specialist batsmen take the field. The game to commence will be a battle between their skills and the efficiency of the bowling machine. As the machines spurt out the deliveries the players will have to counter them and succeed against them. Hits will be applauded and dot balls blamed on the batsman’s inability to strike hard. A mistimed pull that accounts for a wicket will be attributed to his rash shot and clearly not to the good “bowling” by the machine. A Yorker will soon be forgotten in the lumps of sixes and either a good or a bad target on the scorecard will be the fault of the batsman. Well, a machine cannot be given any credit, can it?
Now replace the bowling machines with the bowlers. It will not be tough to see the startling similarities between the two. How often do you remember the perfect short of a length deliveries bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Dwayne Bravo? Likewise, how often do you remember the 360-angled shot that disappeared into thin air by AB de Villiers or the textbook cover drive by Virat Kohli? The questions are mere rhetorical; the answers well known.
With just four overs being the full stipend of overs allowed, it is but obvious that the batsman’s role in this shortest format will be highlighted with sincerity. Anyway, with the increased demand for all-rounders in the team, the role of a specialised bowler has been reduced. It is indeed sad to state that a team might even consider playing with just one or two full-time bowlers, allowing the part-timers to fill in the remaining overs. What if that bowler has an off-day and the part-timer picks up a three-wicket haul? How will that affect his morale and his confidence? Will he not contemplate his diminishing position in cricket; wherein he will consider himself a liability in the team? Someone who is unable to pitch into the team’s cause after his four overs is complete. And even then, he leaked runs and failed to someone who wasn’t even a “proper” bowler.
Even if he has bowled a couple of awe-inspiring balls that befuddled the batsman, long after the match is over, he will only be known for his economy rate that runs in excess of 8. The theory of momentum finds no place in the format, for it is but common to get blown away even after bowling the best of deliveries. Six overs of powerplay and thicker bats; shorter boundaries and placid wickets; the absence of reverse swing or the failure of the wicket to wear away all contribute to the melancholic presence of the bowler in the T20 format.
For the staunch supporter of the game, Test cricket will always display the utmost levels of skills and potential. The sight of a batsman bowing down to the line and length of the bowler remains a pleasure and the realisation that the innings will end only after all ten wickets have been plucked out spreads smiles. Cricket is meant to be just that. It is meant to be the riveting contest between the defence of the batter and the pace and control of the bowler. It is meant to be the gruelling fight between the skill to hold one end up whilst accurate canons are being shot down- far away from the tilted scales that are on offer in T20s.
A bowler pushes his body and runs the hard yards before every game but is it worth putting the body through the toils if he will be failed to be acknowledged, forget being appreciated? Will it not be better to have a game with a machine instead of trampling upon the hard work that is being pitched in by the bowler?
If he has been cast aside with such crudeness, then we might as well carry on without them. They did not spend their childhood years sweating it out to reach this position where they will be constantly overlooked. One might not respect their presence but T20 cricket should not degrade their efforts in such a harsh manner either.