“While it is understandable that they would want Tests to last 5 days due to financial reasons, the mere fact that they spoke about how the batsman were not benefited seems to be the larger issue here”.
The month of February marked interesting happenings from the world of cricket all over. While Sri Lanka and Bangladesh fought it out in a short Test series, India locked horns with the hapless South Africans, who had no answer to the spinning threats that was unleashed on them by the visitors. The English team had to squeeze in an unnecessary T20I tri-series between their tours to Australia and New Zealand and the PSL got underway sans much hype and attention.
Rahul Dravid remained in the news for his “gentlemanly” acts of behaviour and Heinrich Klaasen stamped his mark on the world stage. There were rumours and bashings directed towards the BCCI for their alleged cancelling of the Tests in New Zealand as the timings did not coordinate with India’s and speculations were rife on the inhumane method of parading and auctioning players in the IPL. However, an anecdote that failed to garner its share of views and reviews was when match referee David Boon termed the Test pitch at Mirpur, that hosted the second Sri Lanka-Bangladesh game as below average, awarding a demerit point to the stadium for the same.
His report ran thus, “From day one, there was evidence of the ball breaking the pitch surface, which resulted in uneven bounce throughout the match, along with inconsistent turn, which was even excessive at times. This pitch produced a contest that was too heavily skewed in favour of the bowlers and didn’t give the batsmen a fair chance to display their skills.”
Very well, you might agree. It is indeed not the first time since August 2017 that a pitch has been termed unimpressive by the ICC. One need not look further than India’s game against South Africa in Johannesburg, that had uneven cracks and bounces and one that did prove dangerous to the batting side at intervals. Then, why this hue and cry over the Mirpur one being awarded the same penalty?
The difference from the pitch at Jo’burg and the one in Mirpur was that while the former did threaten injuries to the players, the latter never did. Sure, it was slow and assisted the spinners – for 30 of the 38 wickets fell to them – but it never proved to physically assault any cricketer. Also, the last sentence of Boon’s report that states that, “This pitch produced a contest that was too heavily skewed in favour of the bowlers and didn’t give the batsmen a fair chance to display their skills”, becomes a rather amusing statement.
Since when indeed has the ICC particularly started showing interest in producing a contest that provided “a fair chance” to the cricketers to “display their skills”? Since when have the officials started worrying about matches that are “heaving skewed” towards one department of the game? If that indeed was the case, the ICC would have come up with a similar match report after New Zealand had scored a mammoth 243 for 6 in the T20I tri-series, only to see Australia chase down that target with 7 balls to spare.
If they were clearly intent on equally the balance between the bat and the ball, why haven’t any steps yet been taken to ensure that the spree of high scores in ODIs do not become a regular norm? Since 2014, eight times, has the target of 400 been breached and thrice has a match aggregate of both the batting sides been more than 743. Scores more than 350 have been chased four times in the recent history and then all that one can ask is, where is the ICC then, with their match report that talks of inadequate chances to the bowlers to display their skills?
If you're looking for balance between bat and ball, stop looking at the regulations…bat size and ground size. The buck stops with the curators. Prepare a pitch that allows bowlers to compete…and not just participate. #NZvAUS
— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) February 16, 2018
A limit has been imposed by the ICC on the bat size, but none on the boundaries. The batting powerplay has been removed but bowlers still must bowl with two new balls from either end of the innings, that has almost eradicated the concept of reverse bowling in cricket in the modern era. But more, unfortunately, these statements from the ICC, wherein the game in Mirpur had the highest team total of 226, is reported only conveys how the Council itself has somewhat reclined to the fact that it is the batsman and the sixes that will bring in more crowds and not low totals.
While it is understandable that they would want Tests to last 5 days due to financial reasons, the mere fact that they spoke about how the batsman were not benefited seems to be the larger issue here. If indeed they wanted a result on the fifth day and not on the third, the ICC can very well send in a committee of curators that will overlook the pitch preparations in a certain ground before an international game. But by stating and deeming a pitch below average, and by stating that the batsmen were not aided, only adds to the hypocrisies of the ICC, who tend to stay silent when the batsmen are being favoured and the bowlers are amid an unfair battle.
By this, they only reinforce the feared – the unfortunate truth that it is the batsmen that drive the game, with the bowlers being mere puppets at the hands of the superstars with the willow.