One-day cricket is in a total mess these days……
Presently, we are going through a path-breaking phase in international cricket, especially in the 50-over format. In recent times batting records have strewn all over the place. Just over a week ago, New Zealand eves posted the highest ever total in a women’s One-Day Internationals (ODI) when they made 490 for 4 against Ireland in Dublin. Then came England’s record-breaking 481 for 6 against Australia in an ODI in Nottingham, suppressing their previous men’s record of 444 for 3 against Pakistan at the same venue back in 2016.
Clearly, the so-called balance between bat and ball has gone for a toss and it raises a serious question about the present health of ODI cricket.
Have ODIs become an extended version of T20s?
Well, quite precisely. Isn’t it?
With two new balls in ODIs, there is hardly any scope for reverse swing, which once used to be the main weapon for the fast bowlers in the death overs. The ball doesn’t get soft, which earlier used to make it difficult for the batsmen to hit through the line. Also, these days we encounter flat batting wickets (in which 300 is a par score, if not more) in all over the world. Bowlers hardly get any help from those tracks. Furthermore, with powerplay and new field restrictions in place (limiting fielders on the boundary and the legside), the game is currently heavily favouring the batsmen, who have rapidly evolved in this era of T20s, adding a greater range of shots to their armory.
Hence, no wonder even 500 seams achievable in 50-over cricket of late. Interestingly, England run-riot at Trent Bridge was the eighth score of 400 or more since the start of 2015. Before that, there had been just 11.
Gone are those days when we used to enjoy an intense battle between bat and ball. Nowadays, it is more or less ‘hit out or get out’ kind of stuff, where batsmen’s primary instinct is to hit the ball out of the boundary ropes, even in the ODIs, much like a computer game. In fact, thanks to the attacking batsmanship in T20 cricket, batsmen these days are well equipped to 7-8 runs per over without taking any risk even in the middle overs of a one-day fixture.
And for the legends of the game like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Waqar Younis this trend is very ‘scary’.
“To see almost 500 runs scored in 50 overs in England is scaring me ..about the health of the game and where it’s going,” tweeted former India captain Sourav Ganguly when England narrowly missed the 500-run mark against the Aussies.
“Having 2 new balls in one day cricket is a perfect recipe for disaster as each ball is not given the time to get old enough to reverse. We haven’t seen reverse swing, an integral part of the death overs, for a long time. #ENGvsAUS,” during the same match, Tendulkar wrote in Twitter.
Later former Pakistan skipper Younis, who was a master of the reverse swing during his playing days, tweeted that he “totally agreed” with Tendulkar. “Reason why we don’t produce many attacking fast bowlers. They [are] all very defensive in their approach. Reverse swing is almost vanished..#SAD,” (sic) he quite rightly mentioned.
Basically, at present, the bowlers step into the field without any shield and face the heat across conditions. The modern-day batters approach a 50-over innings like two 20-20 games. So, they come out with the license to go on a rampage right from the initial overs. And because of this unhealthy practice bowlers are losing their mojo. That’s why these days in ODIs we hardly see a score of below-200 is being defended in the 50-over format.
With no proper contest between bat and ball, the modern-day ODI cricket is becoming more and more one-sided. Today it is all about getting those big scores and keeping the broadcasters and sponsors in good humour. Nobody cares about the bowlers.
I am afraid if ICC and other boards do not take the necessary step to stop this run-fest in ODI cricket, soon bowlers will be treated like bowling machines.
Don’t think that scenario will be ideal for the charm of this format.