New Delhi: Former Australia captain Ian Chappell today supported the ICC's proposed crackdown on the size of bats after the upcoming cricket World Cup, saying that the increase in the thickness of the willow put the bowlers and umpires under the risk of suffering injuries.
Chappell at the same time took potshots at the ICC for waking up so late and being way behind the game in several issues, including that of the size of the bat.
"At long last the ICC has decided there's a problem with bats. They are being hailed as too good and disturbing the balance between bat and ball. This, combined with the fact that the ICC also recently decreed that shorter boundaries are contributing to the problem, is a classic case of being way behind the game," Chappell said.
"The likelihood of serious injury and the tilting of the balance between bat and ball are far greater issues. The ball is now rushing back at bowlers and umpires at such a rate off thunder sticks that they do not have the time to react properly. This issue needs to be addressed before there is a serious injury, not after a mishap," he wrote in his column for 'ESPNcricinfo'.
"The balance between bat and ball has seen a major shift in favour of the willow-wielders. Not only are mis-hits clearing the ropes far too often, edged drives are flying over the heads of the slip fielders more regularly. Once the contest is diminished, cricket becomes little more than a statistical exercise," the former captain said.
He said the 'sweet spot' of the cricket bats has considerably widened and that has led to the increase in the speed of the ball coming off the willow.
"While it's hard to stop progress in bat manufacture, it's time to restrict the depth of wood in the bats. The width of the edges and consequently the meat of the bat have increased enormously and with that, the 'sweet spot' has considerably widened.
"Not surprisingly, bat manufacturers have come out strongly on why bats aren't the sole reason the ball is flying further. They are probably right but the sole reason the bowlers and umpires are in danger is the speed of the ball coming off the bat. That is all down to the improvement in bats," said the 71-year-old Chappell.
Chappell said that the decision of the ICC to increase the distance of the boundaries was also an "admirable one but one that should have been taken ages ago and for all cricket".
"The ICC has decreed that the boundaries, where possible, will be at a distance of 90 metres during the World Cup. The general rule should be: if a bowler is good enough to entice a mis-hit, the ball should stay within the field of play. This hasn't been the case for quite some time and mis-hits have been clearing boundaries as easily as a world-class high jumper sails over a two-metre-high bar," he said.
Chappell came down heavily on the ICC for being "tardy in reacting to the plethora of dodgy owling actions that plagued the game".
"After a couple of decades of allowing kids to copy all kinds of weird and wonderful deliveries, most of which would have been deemed 'pelting' in bygone eras, it is now in the process of cleaning up bowling actions. The ICC still hasn't addressed the most important aspect of chucking: there's no protection for batsmen dismissed by an illegal delivery. There has to be an on-field call of no-ball from the umpire in the case of a bowler who chucks the odd delivery," he said.
"If a captain is behind the game, often enough he faces the sack. Other than wounded pride, no one is hurt. However, if the lawmakers remain oblivious to crucial trends in the game then it's only a matter of time before someone is going to be seriously injured.
"If a cricket captain isn't at least two overs ahead of the game he's in big trouble. The ICC is fortunate there's no selection process to decide its fate following a spate of bungling," Chappell said sarcastically.