Since my early childhood, as far back as I can recall, cricket has always enthralled me. Not just as a game, but at one stage, it had become a beacon of my life. The day started with watching coverage of whatever matches were being telecast and ended with stuffing my mind with facts and trivia by reading cricket books or magazines.
But, this was not without reason. One of the major reasons for my interest in the sport was that cricket, just like any other riveting game such as football or tennis, offered an equal fight. An equivalent battle between the bat and ball, where you could just be hooked-on for the entire day, watching the ball whiz past the batsman’s nose, and the batter striking back on the very next delivery by pounding the ball out of the park.
Bowlers like Allan Donald, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram and Curtley Ambrose were legends, who made watching cricket a treat, a joy that was unparalleled for the true cricket fanatic.
I still remember those exhilarating contests between Allan Donald and Michael Atherton or the ones between Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne, where you could pay money just to watch the two have a go at each other (although the latter was a lot about the bat ruling the ball).
But Alas! Those blissful days are long gone and all you see now on the cricket field is the batsmen mercilessly attacking the bowlers on batting beauties, where as Geoffrey Boycott would put it, “Even my mom could score a hundred on this.”
While even a total of 250 in a one-day game could be a winning total a few years ago and 280 runs in a single day of a Test match was considered outstanding, it has now become the other way round. Now, even scoring 400 does not guarantee a win and over 350 runs in a day are scored quite regularly by teams.
Recently, I saw a group of kids playing cricket in a nearby park and went up to have a chat with them. It was shocking to discover that most of them wanted to become a swashbuckling batsman like Virender Sehwag or Chris Gayle and nobody seemed interested in emulating the likes of great bowlers such as Glenn McGrath and Courtney Walsh.
The fact that I had unsuccessfully tried to deny since long looked like becoming a reality. It was the death of the bowler!
Twenty20 cricket is a big reason for the untimely demise of the bowler. In fact, the uncontrolled expansion of the shortest format in international cricket threatens to make cricket just a batsman’s game, where quality bowlers will become a thing of the past.
The impact of the rise of T20 cricket has already begun to be felt on the game around the globe as a number of players, especially bowlers, announced their exit from the game in the past one year alone. The toll that the indiscriminate amount of cricket takes on the bowlers’ bodies and the ruthless drubbing received at the hands of the batters is proving to be too much to handle.
If the International Cricket Council continues to keep mum and nothing is done to prevent the rapidly deteriorating situation, the day will come sooner than expected when cricket will just become a contest between batsmen and part-time bowlers, and big sixes will be a major reason for the dwindling spectators in a cricket stadium.