Worst casualty of cricket's shorter formats - its artistry

There is no doubt that the thrill quotient of cricket has gone up, but all is definitely not well with this “gentleman’s game.” There have been many casualties in this quest to gain a greater audience and greater revenues.

Seeing David Gower play a blazing cover drive with a casual flick of the bat was a treat to watch.

Cricket has evolved, just like all creations of the Almighty, in its journey across the realms of time. Its laidback style and peaceful ambience have given way to a breathless pace and ferocious crowd involvement. Test matches played over five days evolved into one-day matches and finally into matches lasting just 20 overs a side. Not just that, we now are talking about squeezing a cricket match to a mere 100 balls an innings!

There is no doubt that the thrill quotient of cricket has gone up, but all is definitely not well with this “gentleman’s game.” There have been many casualties in this quest to gain a greater audience and greater revenues. The loss of specialist wicketkeepers and opening batsmen exemplify this trend. Teams instead prefer batsmen who can keep wickets, bowlers who can play big shots and batsmen who can bowl a couple of good overs.

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To a connoisseur of cricket, the worst casualty is the virtual extinction of the great artists of the game, in both the batting and bowling departments. The annals of cricket are replete with batsmen who elevated their skills to the sublime! Pakistan’s Zaheer Abbas, England’s David Gower, our very own Gundappa Vishwanath and Alvin Kalicharan of the once mighty West Indies have been widely regarded as exponents of this rare dimension of the game of cricket. Watching Gower play a blazing cover drive with a casual flick of the bat, Gundappa Vishwanath play his trademark square drive or Zaheer Abbas play a glance to the long-leg boundary was a treat to watch. Possibly, Mohammad Azharuddin and V. V. S. Laxman were the last exponents of this “art” of batting. All these gentlemen quite literally batted as if painting a masterpiece with a brush in their hands and the cricket ground as the canvas!

There have been artistic exponents of bowling as well. Who can forget the alluring flighted balls bowled by Bishan Singh Bedi or the vicious leg-spin of the wily Shane Warne bowling a perplexed Mike Gatting around his legs only to hit his off-stump.

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I, for one, would prefer to watch a “lazy” drive of David Gower over a ferocious “helicopter shot” of M. S. Dhoni any day. I pray for the artists to return to this wonderful game and mesmerise cricket lovers with their magic. Artistic brilliance would definitely score over the raw power that has come to symbolise cricket today.

Dr Gulbahar S. Sidhu is a consultant psychiatrist at Doaba Hospital, Jalandhar.

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