Give the bowlers a fair deal

Spare a thought for Ishant Sharma, when conditions are loaded so much in favour of the batsmen.-AKHILESH KUMAR

The argument that high scoring games rake in money does not hold water primarily due to the fact that the percentage of revenue generated through gate money is just average.

There were a lot of jokes floating around after the couple of big scoring games in the India-Australia ODI series but in a way the orgy of runs in those games was a joke in itself. Ishant Sharma was the butt of most of the supposedly creative one-liners and but for Dhoni defending him in the press conference there was a possibility of him losing his place in the squad. Typical of some aspiring journalists looking for a different angle, the stats of runs given by Indian bowlers were revisited and they went to town. The stats are alright up to a point but one has to bear in mind that comparing the numbers when they have been achieved on different tracks and playing conditions will not provide a true picture.

For instance, the economy rate of Ashwin has gone southwards marginally. But since the last season, the spinners have to contend with just four fielders out in the deep. Of course, the same goes for the pace bowlers as well but at least they have a couple of bouncers to make the batsmen think. Now it is not all about either the ability or inability of a bowler. But the tracks on which the high scores were made will most definitely discourage not only the current day bowlers but even young kids who are aspiring to hurl the cherry at a furious pace.

In as much as Kohli deserves to be lauded for his fastest century, one also needs to reflect on whether the game has anything on offer for bowlers, be it the laws or the pitch conditions. It was not just Ishant Sharma who was hit all over the park but someone like Mitchell Johnson went for far too many when Kohli went on the rampage. When bowlers of real quality from both sides leak runs purely because the conditions are loaded so much in favour of the batsmen, there is a strong message for the administrators. It is all well to say that the public like to see the ball being thumped all over the park but I dare say that the spectators would like to see a good contest. The bowling ilk have their fans too and repeated bludgeoning of their heroes will make one section of the fan base stay away from the game. The very phrase “it isn’t cricket” that is used to convey when something is not fair is in danger of being ridiculed given the placid tracks that are dished out for the shorter formats of the game. The ODI version might be in danger of getting into oblivion but the solution is not making them an extended version of the T-20 format wherein runs are scored at a mind boggling rate of around 7 per over spread over 100 overs.

The argument that high scoring games rake in money does not hold water primarily due to the fact that the percentage of revenue generated through gate money is just average. The lion’s share comes from the television rights and as such, it does not matter if the ball repeatedly keeps disappearing to and over the ropes. Cast your mind back to some low scoring tight matches and you will realise that television sets are not switched off if the bowlers get some responsive tracks on which batsmen don’t get to launch big shots at will. The time has come to preserve the function of bowling rather than one format which is facing a threat. I am sure we can compromise (if it comes to that) a wee bit if the 50-over version becomes extinct but we need bowlers for the game to be played. Whether they like it or not, the time has come for the administrators to do something about giving the bowlers a fair deal.