Sunday, March 25, 2007

Seven Centuries in an Innings

Australia beat South Africa by 83 runs in the only meaningful encounter in Group A. This means that Australia go in with points into the Super 8.

Yes, Mathew Hayden bulldozed South Africa; yes Ricky Ponting made another big score (ho hum); and yes, Michael Clarke got among the runs. (No, Pollock and McGrath were not their usual parsimonious selves, but that’s a different story.)

But here’s a chilling statistic. Every single Australian scored at more than run-a-ball, and seven of them came out to wield the willow. Gilchrist got an even 42 of 42, Hayden 101 of 68, Ponting 91 of 91, Clarke 92 of 75, Symonds 18 of 13, Watson 14 of 9, and Hussey 5 of 3. Even in that game at the Wanderers, this did not happen.

I don’t want to sound like I’m old-fashioned and say that cricket has degenerated into a batsman’s game. The batsman is as integral to the game as the bowler. And let’s face it, from the perspective of the lay watcher (the backbone for cricket’s commercial success), Pollock’s parsimony is not half as exciting to watch as Gibbs’s six-hitting. (But then, unfortunately, I am an old-fashioned cricket fan who enjoys watching McGrath bowling in the corridor ball in and ball out.)

Is it not possible to make the game exciting for the lay watcher from a bowler’s perspective? After all, a four and a six are the main scoring shots that attract the commercial cricket fan. The wicket-taking equivalents of these are shattered stumps and breathtaking catches. The subtlety of a tight over is as interesting to watch as six boundaries (or even sixes) being hit in an over.

Alternatively, should we stop recording and analyzing bowling statistics? After all, football scores are only for goals scored, the defenders have no formal statistics to back them up. And the same is true of basketball and many of the other major games.

And with the Twenty20 World Cup coming up, it may be a good transition point for the game. It could be the end of the game as we know it, but then perhaps the game needs to reinvent itself to survive. It’s a business now, after all.

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