Rediff Navigator Sports
Information Entertainment Online

Needed, an SPCFB

Harsha Bhogle

Informal meetings are often very useful, because they can clear the air that so often is clogged with officialdom and necessarily correct behaviour.

In traditional conclaves like the International Cricket Council, this is especially true - which is why the rate of progress of new issues often resembles the rate of movement of files in government offices.

But as we know, there is a new wind blowing and, as a result, there are refreshing new statements being made and heard. This was always on the cards the moment a captains' meeting was convened. Politics and economics were no longer the dominating issues, and the needs and feelings of cricketers came out in the open.

Feelings! Bet you thought they didn't exist anymore. Especially if you are a bowler in this era of one-day cricket.

The statements reflected individual and team problems. Sachin Tendulkar and Mark Taylor are reported to have asked for a longer break between two series - completely understandable if you looked at the number of air-miles they logged in the last year. According to a conservative estimate by British Airways for the Wisden Cricket Monthly, Australia lead the Test-playing countries with 69,204 air-miles. India were second with 66,471. England and South Africa did around 30,000 apiece.

But the most interesting suggestion came from Courtney Walsh and Wasim Akram, who asked the ICC to look at the possibility of introducing one bouncer per over in the one-day game.

Apart from being senior statesmen of the game, Walsh and Akram are proud and feared fast bowlers, have over 300 Test wickets each, and have known what it is to be slogged by batsmen they would gladly have for breakfast anyday in Test cricket. Or, as they would admit, in more equal cricket.

I fear the suggestion would find its way to the dust-bin with very few obstacles in the way because, in some ways, this is the cricketing equivalent of asking for reservations to be removed from public life and for merit to be the sole criterion. But then, reservations on caste and religion are sacred cows, aren't they? And merit is a dirty word, isn't it? If you are a fast bowler, or any bowler for that matter, you would think batsmen are a preserved species, with newer legislation every day to protect them.

Pitches, wides and no-balls are the weapons that the law has used to subjugate bowlers. A 'good pitch' is always one on which the ball comes easily onto the bat, remember. If a bowler strays marginally, it is a wide ball and if he should choose to display his teeth, the two dentists in white coats promptly pull them out by calling no-balls to anything above shoulder height. In other words, what the law is currently saying is 'Bowl where the batsman can hit you'.

Akram and Walsh are asking for more ammunition in an unequal battle.(Remember we haven't even talked about field restrictions, modern bats and balls that stop swinging in virtually no time). What these two top flight fast bowlers are saying is: "If the batsman wants to put his foot down and come out to us, give us something to push him back into his crease. Allow us one bouncer per over, so that there is at least something for him to think about."

I think it is worth a look simply because we need to do something to prevent ridiculous scores in one-day cricket. With perfect batting tracks and field restrictions, the batsmen have one long happy hour, and bowlers are becoming second class citizens. Worse still, they are losing self respect. Make a list of the top one-day cricketers today and check out how many of those are bowlers. Now take Wasim Akram and Curtly Ambrose out of that list and see what is left.

A bouncer per over would keep that adventurous left foot in check, and would still not prevent the really classy batsman from scoring runs. More important, there would be a more equal battle in the mind.

I see one genuine problem, though, which would need solving. Were one bouncer allowed per over, the numbers of balls that could be scored off would come down from 300 to, theoretically, 250. A last ball finish would always be won by the fielding side because the batsman just wouldn't be able to put bat to ball and there would be a great incentive to play more fast bowlers.

Maybe one bouncer per over in the first 15 overs - that phase of a one-day match that desperately needs some correction? I wonder......Maybe for a start, we should bring the 15 over field restrictions down to 10. Remember, the law was introduced many years ago, in the early days of one-day cricket, to produce more positive cricket. That has long since happened. If the basis for a law no longer exists, the law needs to be reviewed.

But try suggesting it! Try suggesting reservations be removed! Oops!

It's time, I guess, for Bowler's Lib!

E-mail Mail the Sports Editor

Home | News | Business | Cricket | Movies | Chat
Travel | Life/Style | Freedom | Infotech

Copyright 1997 Rediff On The Net
All rights reserved