Sunday, February 04, 2007

The "Twenty20 Gavaskar" and a wish for even contests

Statutory Warning: Certain contents of this post may shock Shahid Afridi fans like cricpro, who I guess was busy scripting a profile for the Afridi we all know pretty much around the same time as Afridi was playing the innings referred below....

The other day I happened to switch on the telly during a Twenty20 international between South Africa and Pakistan. It was the 2nd innings; Graeme Smith and Loots Bosman were racing to the target. They showed the scorecard of the Pakistan innings and the sixth data on it knocked me hard.

Reason: One gentleman by the name of Shahid Afridi came in at no. 6 in the 10th over of an innings that is scheduled to last just 20 overs and scored a pathetic 7 off 17 balls. Was this the same batsman that often returns inverse figures in much longer versions of cricket? Afridi’s knock on Friday was certainly as much of an aberration as was Sunil Gavaskar’s when the latter scored a Test ton in 1983 against the mighty West Indians - in less than 100 deliveries!

On a more serious note, I am truly disappointed with the rules of Twenty20, or the lack of some as I see it. Is it not a bit too unfair on the bowlers to let 10 batsmen throw their bats over a span of a meagre 120 balls and, at the same time, keep a provision that any one of those ‘blessed’ guys can stay till the end playing 70 or 80 of them? Indeed I am desperately eagerto see a ceiling on the maximum number of deliveries a batsman is allowed to play in a Twenty20 innings, much like the bowlers have in all limited-overs forms of cricket.

Something of that sort happens in the 5-overs-an-innings matches of ‘HongKong Super sixes’ – a batsman has to go out after scoring 30 and can come back only if all other wickets are gone - and I see a lot of logic and fairness in implementing similar stuff in Twenty20 rules. Here, though, I would like to see a simpler rule, e.g. a batsman having a maximum number of 35 deliveries to face after which he has to walk off regardless.

In fact, I am no less disillusioned at the ICC not touching upon the 10-over limit on bowlers in the ODI’s. Even a small adjustment of that rule can lead to interesting repercussions. For example, even allowing 1 (or better 2) bowlers to bowl 12 overs max can convert 2 (or 4) of your potential worst scoring overs from part timers into an extra incisive spell from your leading bowlers that is so often lacking in the middle overs.

Cricket, irrespective of format, is about the contest of bat and ball. Certain rules are implemented in the various formats of the game only to shift the balance of that contest. However we need to critically review the present rules - or lack of them - if these tend to destroy the balance.

The ‘one bouncer per over’ was a nice breather incorporated a couple of years back, one that aimed to return some usurped ground to the fast bowling clan. However teams having strength in their spin department have hardly benefitted from that rule change. The extra-overs-for-some-bowler(s) option we are discussing, however, should be equally acceptable to all teams. What is more, a specialist bowler will have a bigger role to play in the matches that way and that can only add to the attractiveness of the format. I guess you will agree even if you are a batsman.

Ian Chappell recollects a few changes in the limited overs format over the decades since that inaugural World Cup of `75 here. Would it not be a nice gesture if the ensign of change is allowed to proceed forward and bowlers playing in the 2011 edition can be allowed some more leverage?

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