ICC World Cup 2015 highlights new brand of ODI batting
Domination of bat over ball has never been played out in such brutal fashion as in the 2015 Cricket World Cup. Talks of cricket becoming purely a batsman's game have been going on for decades, but the recent run feasts have proved that it was invented to appease those who wield the bat, and those who want to send kids in ball-fetching errands.
As many as 37 centuries and two doubles have been registered in this 14-team tournament so far. With two semi-finals and the big final still left in the competition, more tons are sure to come. Giving the number crunchers hope of an increase in this count is the presence of proven players like AB de Villiers, Brendon McCullum, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, David Warner, Hashim Amla, Glenn Maxwell etc. at this stage of the tournament - all capable of taking apart any bowling attack.
In the final quarter-final, New Zealand opener Martin Guptill carried his bat through the innings to score a record unbeaten 237 off a mere 163 balls against West Indies. Previously in the tournament, West Indian opener Chris Gayle recorded the first-ever double century of the tournament with 215 runs off 147 balls against Zimbabwe.
It's not these high scores, which make this edition a batsman's World Cup, but the sheer brutality, the disdainful manner in which these runs are being compiled by some of the best stroke-makers the game has ever seen. And helping them in this onslaught are modified fielding rules, bigger bats, placid tracks and of course, smaller grounds.
Until the recent past, scoring run-a-ball was considered an achievement worth celebrating. Batsmen as celebrated and explosive as Sachin Tendulkar or Sanath Jayasurya were happy to maintain a strike rate of 100. But today, scoring six runs in an over looks pedestrian at best.
Of the stated 39 innings, only nine have been compiled at a rate slower than run-a-ball, and the slowest being Mahmudullah's 103 off 138 against England. Other remaining 29 tons, including those two double-centuries, have been scored at a rate faster than run-a-ball. Sitting at the top of the pile is AB de Villiers, who hit 162 runs off 66 balls against West Indies in a Pool A game.
The South African captain, during that innings, smashed 17 fours and 8 sixes to register the second-fastest World Cup century. He also recorded the fastest 150 runs in ODIs after getting to the score in just 64 balls. For the record, AB also holds the record for fastest 50, 100 and 150 in ODIs.
Making up this long list of centurions are all sorts of batsmen from teams as varied as four-time champions Australia to new entrants the United Arab Emirates. Australians have posted three tons, but the most centuries have been accounted for by Sri Lanka with eight hundreds, of which four have been scored by the imperious Kumar Sangakkara.
Of the 14 teams, Afghanistan is the only team without representation on this burgeoning list. However, all-rounder Samiullah Shenwari scored a patient 96 against fellow minnows Scotland in a winning cause. In Pool A, batsmen from Bangladesh, England and New Zealand have scored two centuries each, while Scotland got one thanks to Kyle Coetzer's fluent 156 against Bangladesh.
In Pool B, UAE had their first World Cup ton, scored by Shaiman Anwar 106 off 83 against Ireland, Zimbabwe had two – both by Brendan Taylor and the West Indies managed three including that Gayle double. South Africa and India have five tons each to their credit so far.
Spurred by such individual scores, teams posted huge scores and also chased down totals previously considered impossible. The magical 300 and 400 run barriers were breached 27 and 3 times respectively. Pre-tournament favourites Australia posted the tournament's highest score of 417 against Afghanistan, while the other strong title contenders South Africa scored 411 and 408 against Ireland and West Indies respectively.
All the four semi-finalists – Australia, India, New Zealand and South Africa have scored in excess of run-a-ball consistently and justified the favourites tag given to them. Joining the big boys were Ireland as the Associate team scored two 300+ scores, first in a shock win over the West Indies and then in a close win over Zimbabwe.
Amidst the ruin, bowlers have performed well, but they continue to play that proverbial second fiddle to their batting counterparts as the 2015 Cricket World Cup continues to smash run-scoring records.
From that fortuitous One Day International game on 5 January 1971 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, to the birth of many Twenty20 leagues around the world, once a sport of timing and placement has adopted a rather rambunctious aspect of power hitting with batsmen calling all the shots.