GAME PLAN – Batting for lesser willow won’t play well

Jaideep Ghosh

FILE | Ian Bell and his Bat Photo: AP/PTI

FILE | Ian Bell and his Bat
Photo: AP/PTI

When the concept of Test cricket with pink cricket balls came up, it was greeted with the same kind of scepticism as the first-ever steam boat.

When this said boat was displayed by inventor John Fitch on the Delaware River in the US in 1787, one of the onlookers had observed “he can’t make it run”.

But when it ran on August 22 of the same year, the same observer, after an understandably shocked silence, claimed righteously “he can’t make it stop!”

So was the story with the pink cricket ball. Well, essentially.

It was pink! Not red. Not even the white that was grudgingly accepted with coloured clothing once Kerry Packer had his way. Pink!

Then, it would be used in floodlit test matches. What on earth is a floodlit Test match? Test matches are played in the day, boy!

But as is true with all unstoppable steamboats, pink ball cricket has come in, most likely to stay. Why, even the Board of Control for Cricket in India is experimenting with it!

This is one of the innovations which seem to have intrigued people. Initial tests (no pun intended) concluded that you could indeed hit the pink ball as well as the red or white ones, and it didn’t seam or sing so alarmingly to make it bowler-friendly.

That is the other aspect with the International Cricket Council (ICC) is mulling – making things a little friendlier for the bowlers.

One of the first suggestions in that direction is some plan to control the girth and dimensions of the cricket bat.

Now, the bat has evolved so much that it is now practically unrecognisable from the original stick wielded by good old Dr. Grace at Lord’s.

While the face of the bat has remained largely the same as prescribed by the ICC many years ago, new advances in manufacturing and wood processing have made it possible to add immense amount of meat to the back and sides of the thing.

So what has happened is that, while the front of the bat remains largely the same, the sides and back have become large enough to land a jumbo jet.

This has gone a long way in making batsmen out of hackers.

File photo of former Indian Cricketer Sunil Gavaskar. Photo: PTI

File photo of former Indian Cricketer Sunil Gavaskar.
Photo: PTI

Many of the current-day cricketers would struggle to get ten runs with the bats carried by, say a Sunil Gavaskar or Alan Border.

Why? Simple. Sunny or Border had to use the middle of the bat to effectively get the ball of the square, making technique irreplaceable.

Till the new bat came in.

I mean take a look at the current crop, hitting sixes for a lark, with bats that have edges which are almost as broad as the middle!

Anything that hits this piece of wood – irrespective of whether it is the edge, the toe end or the shoulder, more often than not flies clean over the boundary ropes (which have been dragged in anyway).

Makes for a great spectacle, the white ball flying to all parts – a reason why the T20 format is making such headway.

Sure, you may all argue that this, after all, is the game – score runs by the heaps and see the ball flying to all parts and also see the dollars flying around with it.

But it would equally be a challenge to see a Kieron Pollard trying to hoist a Sunil Narine out of the park with a bat that has more solid wood than a ‘sweet spot’.

But that is all wishful thinking.

No way the money spinners in all the big tournaments – the Indian Premier League, the Big Bash League or the Caribbean Premier League for a few – will take too kindly to any suggested modifications in the shape of the bat.

That would make some of the batters look downright mediocre, which they really are. Imagine the dent on the star and money powers of such cricketers!

So this is one boat that may sink at the moorings.

Would be nice though, to have a contest where the batsmen are asked to negotiate some quality bowlers and a challenging pitch with one of these old bats. That would indeed be a sight.

File photo of Indian Wrestler Sushil Kumar. Photo: PTI

File photo of Indian Wrestler Sushil Kumar.
Photo: PTI

Sad end for Sushil: It was indeed sad to see Sushil Kumar’s bid for another Olympic slot end in such shambles. But then, it wasn’t his by right and what has happened is how it should have been to begin with.

Sushil will always be one of the biggest Olympic sport stars of India, but one wishes he had ignored the highly misplaced advice of acquired relatives and so-called well-wishers and decided to back Narsingh Yadav’s effort at Rio de Janeiro.

That would have enhanced his image tremendously.

But sadly, that wasn’t how it all panned out. Sushil took to legal recourse and that ended as all of us had anticipated, making him look small and rejected.

That is not what this was supposed to be about. Yadav had won the Olympic quota place fair and square and is the right choice. Should have been left at that.

Sadly, it wasn’t.