Two new balls or just one new ball is better for the 50-over format?
Cricket has undergone massive changes in the recent times. The law has transformed enormously only to tilt the balance heavily in the favour of batsmen. With most of the factors assisting the batting side, life of a bowler has only become arduous, especially in shorter formats. The surfaces dished out are flat and witness run-fest more often. Here, let’s talk about the two new balls being used in ODI cricket.
ODI cricket has undergone massive changes in the recent times – the fielding laws, limitation on bouncers etc. One of the key changes in this format has been the introduction of two new balls from both the ends. This law came into effect in 2011 and changed the dynamics of the game to a great extent. It is also said that 400 is the new 300 in ODI cricket, for the fact that totals of 300 plus are scored every now and then it has become a benchmark.
The use of two new balls has ruled reverse swing out of the equation as both the balls are hardly 25-overs old till the time game is over. They say the balls stay hard throughout the 50 overs, which makes scoring easy especially in the death overs. The hardness of the ball makes it easier for the batsmen to time the ball. Earlier, the ball used to wear out in the death overs, which made power-hitting a bit difficult. But the scenario has changed drastically now.
Former Indian skipper MS Dhoni was once quoted by Hindustan Times saying, “A bit of swing will definitely be there but there may not be much reverse swing as we expect in the sub-continent. Now the reverse swing also depends a lot on the nature of outfield and how you make the ball but of course legally.”
First and foremost, the white ball doesn’t swing conventionally, it remains hard. There has to be more helpful on the surface for the seamers in order to make the most of the two new balls. Also, the pitches are extremely flat, which makes it more difficult for the bowlers. If the pitch had grass then it would suit the bowlers. Since most pitches around the globe are standardised and flat, it’s only adding to batsmen’s benefit.
For instance, the 1992 World Cup saw two new balls being used from both the ends throughout the tournament. Back then, the bats were not as thick as it is now. In contemporary cricket, edges off the king-sized bats are seen flying for sixes. Also, the pitches were more helpful for bowlers, which provided a good competition. This is not the scenario anymore. Now, the balls are also highly visible in the death overs, which makes it easy for the batsmen to pick.
One of the most important things that have taken a beating due to the introduction of two new balls is the role of spinners. As the ball is just 25 overs old at the end of the innings, the impact of spinners has reduced. The new ball is difficult to grip hence more efforts has to be put in order to make it turn. One should also remember, it’s murderous to let a spinner bowl in the last 10 overs, which is also the time when the ball can be gripped the most.
In contemporary cricket, even mishits travel over the rope, which may not have been the scene with a softer old ball despite having big bats. Is the ODI cricket balanced? Is there a need to balance the format? How often do we see a total of 250 being successfully defended?
Lately, ODI rules have changed quicker than a T20 game turns on its head, and not all of them have made the format more attractive. Going back to old balls could help change the one-dimensional nature of modern day ODI cricket, where one only see a contest between bat and bat. Also, cricket gets more intense when the conditions are bowling friendly.