11 January 2017
The gulf between bat and ball continues to widen.
David Warner’s display during the Sydney test was the perfect illustration. During the second innings, he played nothing more than a subtle nudge through backward point, and the ball careered into the fence for four more.
There’s no doubting Warner’s quality as a batsman, though that shot should have been a single at most.
Something needs to be done about this gross imbalance.
Suggestions have been offered to even the scales. Creating bat restrictions, adjusting the rules to give bowlers more freedom and increasing the size of the boundary, are all reasonable proposals and wouldn’t be difficult to implement.
So, what’s the hold-up?
Administrators are worried about the short-term implications.
While quality bowling and wickets are exciting, they’re not as exhilarating as boundaries and big scores. Twenty20 draws in people who wouldn’t normally think cricket as entertainment.
The Big Bash and other Twenty20 leagues around the world are revelling in record crowds. Why would those in charge change anything?
Because cricket’s future is at stake.
Governing bodies are failing to recognise the negatives created by the imbalance. How many youngsters are looking to become the next best bowler? Head down to your local park and you’ll see kids emulating Steve Smith, not Josh Hazlewood. The result: a greater discrepancy between bat and ball.
Batting too is starting to lose its craftsmanship. Last night I saw Ben Hilfenhaus, a genuine tailender, strike a six with a peculiar tennis-like stroke. There is no longer a need to manipulate the field with delicate shots, nor piece the covers to reach the boundary. Simply swing, and swing hard and you’ll likely be rewarded with a maximum.
Will big scoring games lose their appeal too? Scores below 300, in ODI’s, are already leaving fans disappointed. This loss of appeal will only grow. There is now an expectation for the ball to regularly make it to the boundary, and if this can’t be produced consistently, supporters will stay home.
There’s been enough talk. And enough reasoning. Making changes to recreate balance between bat and ball has to happen, and soon. While the public may grumble a little, cricket will maintain its long-term appeal assuring its future.