David Richardson, ICC chief executive, has conceded that contemporary cricket bats have “shifted the balance” in favour of batsmen, especially in limited-overs cricket. Bowlers have always contested that cricket’s a batsman’s game, but has the dual now become grossly imbalanced?
These days, cricketers make statements with their cricket bats; not just through striking aesthetics but via massive power bulges, thick edges and elongated sweet spots that make the vast majority of the bat’s playing surface extremely powerful, while clever craftmanship is also increasing bat speeds. Batsmen can now send deliveries into orbit, striking the ball higher, further and faster than ever before. The likes of Jack Hobbs and Donald Bradman could only dream of taking the field with a modern cricket bat in their mitts, and just think how destructive Viv Richards or Ian Botham would have been in their pomp if they had been afforded the kind of luxury, sophisticated cricket bats found on the international scene today.
Of course, advancements in cricket bat craftmanship and processes are not the sole reason why bat is dominating over ball. With the rise of T20, the need for instant gratification and the lusting over sixes and world records, boundaries are getting smaller as bats are getting bigger. Bowlers are wincing worldwide and it appears the ICC has decided its time the tide turned. Cricket’s governing body has begun to consider remedial steps, the first of which will come into play during the 2015 Cricket World Cup where boundaries are to be pulled as far back as 90 yards.
“The balance may have shifted a little bit too much because sometimes poor shots or mis-hits are going for six,” Richardson told ESPNcricinfo. “Let us try and rectify that. What we have done up until now is try and maximize the size of the boundary. You will see for the World Cup, most of the grounds in Australia in particular, which allow for big playing surfaces, boundary ropes will be pushed back to at least 90 yards where possible.”
In July 2014, MCC’s World Cricket Committee opted against amending the law governing bat dimensions. A star-studded panel of former cricketers and skippers deemed the maximum bat length of 38 inches and width up to 4¼ inches to be fair. The leniency of such decisions, along with the increasing amount of games being played, means batting records are being shattered left, right and centre. An excitable commentator celebrating a new batting record is beginning to sound, well, like a broken record! It is also becoming increasingly more difficult to compare contemporary batsmen with those from a bygone era. What would Chris Gayle’s be averaging if he was born twenty years earlier?
There’s no doubting the immense talent that is AB de Villiers, who hit the fastest ODI century in 31 balls and 40 minutes last month, smashing the previous record of 36 balls set by Black Caps all-rounder Corey Anderson less than a year ago. Richardson, whilst acknowledging the immense skill of South Africa’s ODI captain, is preturbed that “some batsmen are mis-hitting balls and it is just carrying over the rope and going for a six instead of being caught at the boundary, that is what some cricket people believe has become unfair.”
“The bats are so good these days that the sweet spot is much larger than it would have been 10-15 years ago. The MCC, as law makers, and the ICC will be looking at giving perhaps some consideration to placing limitations on the depth of a bat in particular.”
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DO YOU THINK THE BALANCE BETWEEN BATSMAN AND BOWLER IS UNFAIR? SHOULD LAWS BE ADJUSTED TO STOP CRICKET BATS BECOMING TOO POWERFUL? HAVE YOUR SAY BELOW.