‘In short forms of the game there’s a chance bowlers will become an endangered species’, says Ian Chappell

Image courtesy of: dailytelegraph.com.au

“Bowlers need to be offered a crumb in the shorter forms of the game otherwise they’ll revolt, as they have done in the past, using extreme methods like Bodyline and chucking”

Following the first three ODIs between India and Australia, former baggy greens captain Ian Chappell believes that “bowlers will become an endangered species” in the shorter formats of the game if batsmen continue giving themselves an advantage by using heavier bats.

While the “surge” in boundaries and sixes may also fetch more “entertainment dollars”, Chappell feels that it will come at the sacrifice of the sports’ bowlers.

“In short forms of the game there’s a chance bowlers will become an endangered species if the trend of heavier and better bats and shorter boundaries continues,” Chappell wrote on his ESPNcricinfo column. “This tendency has led to a surge in boundaries in general and sixes in particular. While this may sound like a favourable result in a game competing for entertainment dollar, the long-term consequences may not be so desirable.

“Bowlers need to be offered a crumb in the shorter forms of the game otherwise they’ll revolt, as they have done in the past, using extreme methods like Bodyline and chucking. If these trends continue, sooner or later the bowlers are going to declare war.”

Taking the second ODI between India and Australia in Jaipur as an example, Chappell noted that “64% of runs scored off the bat were accumulated in boundaries”, which means that batsmen are relying less on “running between [the] wickets”.

“In [the] second ODI between India and Australia, 64% of runs scored off the bat were accumulated in boundaries,” he said. “Singles accounted for around 28% of the scoring — majority of which would have been at the easier end of the scale, with the infielders back on the 30-yard circle — and about 43% of the deliveries were dot balls.

“This means a reduced reliance on fielding and running between [the] wickets — two of the more exciting skills in the game. As the boundaries have been shortened and the bats have improved, the preference for power over artistry in batting has increased.”

As a result of all these boundaries, Chappell stated that he cannot blame the bowlers for being “less inclined to rely on guile for their wickets”.

“If batting skill is reduced to power-hitting, the bowlers will be less inclined to rely on guile for their wickets,” he said. “There’s no incentive for the faster bowlers to seek a length where the ball might swing, if sixes are constantly being crashed down the ground. Spinners too will be less inclined to employ flight to deceive batsmen.

“We’re already seeing the slower-ball bouncer and the wide yorker being regularly used to contain the hitting. Eventually bowlers will rely heavily on batsmen getting themselves out rather than on ambushing them.

“However, administrators still aren’t satisfied with their efforts to punish bowlers.”

The former Australian captain added that fans will also eventually get fed up of watching the sport if “huge first-innings totals become the norm”.

“The short-form games are designed for exciting close finishes,” he said. “If huge first-innings totals become the norm, close finishes will become less prevalent, as the chasing team implodes, seeking an impossibly high run rate. Instead of fans who enjoy a contest, the game will attract spectators who would have revelled in the Lions-versus-Christians debacles.

“More and more we’re hearing commentators say: ‘The batsman is not frightened to take on the outfielders.’ That’s because the odds favour them. But if sixes become even more prevalent, there’s a danger the spectacle will become monotonous.

“The problem is, bats can be further improved but little can be done to the ball to improve the bowler’s lot. There must be consideration given to curbing the influence of the bat and placing more emphasis on the skill of the user. Making the boundaries fairer would be a good start.

“Batsmen are being conditioned to believe rapid-fire boundaries bring bigger paydays than a well-constructed longer innings. Consequently they seek increased hitting power.”

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