The joy of watching cricket

So much variety and so many thrills are making the game attractive as a whole.

West Indies captain Jason Holder tosses the coin alongside his England counterpart Eoin Morgan before the start of the fourth One-Day International at the Grenada National Stadium. The match was a great example of how even scores over 400 are not really safe anymore. England won it by only 29 runs despite getting to 418. West Indies still had two overs left when a sudden collapse meant they were all out. Who knows what could have happened if Chris Gayle, Carlos Brathwaite or Shimron Hetmyer were batting then.   -  Getty Images

In 1971, the first One-Day International was played between Australia and England. It was an unscheduled game after the first four days of the Melbourne Test match were washed out without a ball being bowled. Since there was no chance of a result with just one day’s play remaining, the authorities decided to play a limited-overs international and that was how limited-overs cricket at the international level began. Of course, there were limited-overs games at the first-class level in all the countries, so it wasn’t as if the concept was new to the Australian and English players.

As it started to gain popularity, the followers of Test match cricket tried to create a fear factor about it affecting the purity of the long format of the game, adversely. As it has turned out, it has actually made the longer format more attractive as there are more runs being scored and more boundaries and sixes being hit than ever before. If anything, the 50-overs format has energised the longer format and there are more results seen in Test cricket than in the first 100 years of the game.

Similarly, with the advent of the Twenty20 format, the one-day game, too, has benefited as most teams now score at six runs an over quite regularly and again more big hits are seen than ever before.

The recent one-day series between West Indies and England is a great example of how even scores over 400 are not really safe anymore. England won the fourth One-Day International by only 29 runs despite getting to 418. West Indies still had two overs, or 12 deliveries, left when a sudden collapse meant they were all out. Who knows what could have happened if Chris Gayle, Carlos Brathwaite or Shimron Hetmyer were batting then.

Sri Lankan batsman Tillekeratne Dilshan plays a scoop shot during the fourth One-Day International against South Africa in Pallekele in July 2013. Dilshan developed the stroke during the World T20 in England in 2009 after which it became popularly known as Dilscoop.   -  AP

 

The confidence gained from the the ultra-short format of the game is seen in the attitude and approach of the players even in the ODIs and Tests, too. How regularly do you see the reverse sweep, switch hit, the dilscoop, the ramp shot and the upper cut being played in Test cricket? The lofted drive has always been played in Test cricket, albeit not as regularly as you see now. The bowlers delivering the slow bouncer, or the back of the hand slower delivery is also a frequent sight in Test cricket. It won’t be long before the knuckle ball is also seen in the longest format of the game. So much variety and so many thrills are making the game attractive as a whole.

Add to that the athleticism, agility and strength of the modern player and you can see the game has climbed to another level altogether. The sliding stop, the dive to pull the ball back in, the relay throw, the boundary catches with the fielder throwing the ball up in the air before crossing over the boundary ropes and then quickly getting back to the field of play and completing the catch are terrific sights and bring the spectators to their feet. Today there is hardly anybody who is a poor fielder and so the captain does not have to scratch his head thinking of where to hide him. The players are all super athletes. On a lighter note, the only drawback is that with all of them sporting beards it is tough to tell them apart.

Cricket has never been such a joy to watch as it is today. The television coverage is simply outstanding, and it brings out the tensions and pressures on the players faces quite vividly.

The biggest tournament in the game, the ICC World Cup is upon us soon and even if the unpredictable English weather can be a dampener, let’s hope that the players will warm us up with their performances and bring a smile on the faces of the lovers of the game.