ODI, still a batsman-friendly format

Two new balls. More fielders inside the circle. And, of course, bigger and heavier bats. All these reasons culminated in 350 being a par score, at least on the flat decks on sub-continental conditions.

England's captain Eoin Morgan called it "cruel" after his side failed to defend 350 on Sunday.   -  Reuters

Of the 35 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) India has played since the start of 2013, the home team has registered six 350-plus scores, which includes India’s > successful chase of England’s 350 for seven with 11 balls to spare on Sunday night. Add to that three more 300-plus scores and an old-timer might start wondering whether India is invincible at home in the 50-over format. But the fact that two of these nine scores have come in a losing cause is a firm indicator of the changing nature of the game.

Two new balls. More fielders inside the circle. And, of course, bigger and heavier bats. All these reasons culminated in 350 being a par score, at least on the flat decks on sub-continental conditions.

Jake Ball, who was England’s most successful bowler on Sunday, admitted that bowlers’ role is quite limited in the ODIs now.

“The scores are going up and up. The average scores are going to keep getting higher. When you play on the flat pitches you are playing on and the smaller boundaries as well, the bars are going to get higher. It’s difficult as a bowler but we are working on things and if you bowl a good ball and still get hit for a four or a six, you just have put your hands up and say ‘well played’,” Ball said on Tuesday, after England’s last training session before the entourage moves to Cuttack for Thursday’s second ODI.

He may have been a newbie on the international front but Ball is a regular on the English county circuit for six years now. Asked if he would like anything changed to restore the balance between the bat and the ball, Ball didn’t have to think much. “I’ve got a lot in my head. It’s a difficult one because people fancy the ball going for a four and six,” he said. “One thing that comes to mind is four out of the circle is very tough, especially when players are going from ball one to the last ball. It’s difficult to block them out or set a Plan B.”

Restoring the balance of the game has been a big challenge for the game’s governing body. It has tinkered with the rule changes way too much in the recent year. In a bid to give something more to the bowlers, in its last amendment, the ICC did away with the Batting Powerplay and allowed an additional fielder on the boundary lines for the 10 overs.

‘Cruel’

England captain Eoin Morgan had also expressed similar views ahead of the series-opener. “50-over cricket is cruel nowadays. You know two new-balls were brought in with the intention of stopping the batters. But I think in fact it has made the ball harder for longer periods,” Morgan had said last week.

“Probably when you look back 10 years ago, the white ball used to swing. It doesn’t swing anymore for some reason. You can only have four fielders outside the circle. So it’s about having a positive attitude of taking wickets all the time. Because nowadays people seem to naturally go for runs. Doesn’t matter how good you are.”

All this discussion takes you back to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s statement while leading the team during a high-scoring home series against Australia in 2013.

“I think [the rules are] something that we need to sit and think about if 350 is the new 280 or 290 or 300,” Dhoni had said in October 2013. “A few of the bowlers are disappointed, they actually feel it will be better off to put a bowling machine there. It is a new challenge for the bowlers.”

Is the ICC listening?



91

Number of times India has crossed the 300-run mark in 905 ODIs so far.

21

Number of times India has crossed the 300-run mark in 95 ODIs since January 1, 2013.

9

Instances of 350-plus totals tallied by India since 2013.

18

Instances of a team piling on 400-plus totals in ODIs in all. Of these, 9 have been recorded in the last three years.