Three Test matches concluded recently and combined, they produced a rarity. Not only did all three matches produce a result but the man-of-the-match in each case was a bowler! Furthermore, two of those bowlers have been side-lined for the next Test with injuries. We hear from many sources that there is too much cricket these days and the players’ bodies, particularly the bowlers, can’t bear the load. But I have a new thought.
I have to admit that the seed of the thought is not my own. It belongs to Christian Ryan and he recently published an interesting article on Cricinfo http://www.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/436870.html
The gist of the article was that bats have changed in recent times. It is widely acknowledged that bats are more powerful, have bigger sweet spots (,are in fact one giant “sweet spot”), are more elastic and the batsmen gets more runs than he is fairly entitled to. That defensive lean that races to the boundary, that should not have passed mid-off. The mis-timed or top-edged hook that should have been caught by deep fine leg but sails safely over the fence, no, the rope (when now does the batsman actually have to clear the fence to get six runs?).
The article then suggests that the ball should be looked at. I must admit I had not thought of that. There has been much talk recently about cricket favouring batsmen and how this is detrimental to cricket. I agree with that and have written about it myself. Much of this talk looks at the benign pitches, and they are a concern. The ICC has no control over pitches. However, why not review the ball. The laws or cricket can, and do change.
The cricket ball was made 1/16 of an inch smaller in 1927. Since then, the ball has not change one bit. It is exactly the same as it was 82 years ago. Cricket authorities might delude themselves into thinking that the bat has not changed, either. Some dimensions are fixed, it is true. But some are not. The weapons the batsmen hold these days are still mostly timber but in them you will find titanium, graphite or Kevlar. And the timber itself has a rather more springy countenance. I would like to see how a bat made to 1927 specifications would perform today. Probably the same as 1927 but not the same as in 2009.
What technological advances have been made to bowling since 1927. Let’s see now.. There was Brill cream, Vaseline and Murray Mints. Judicious use of bottle tops and finger nails. It’s called ball tampering, it is illegal but what can a bowler do? Then there is chucking. Eventually the ICC made chucking legal. However you look at it, it’s all cheating and the bowlers deserve to be able to apply their trade with honour.
I have some of my own ideas about how the ball can be changed to help the bowlers strike back. The ball could be made smaller and/or bouncier and that is quite obvious. But how about aids to swing. I always love a day when the ball swings – it is brilliant entertainment. But that only happens under certain conditions – either environmental or when the ball achieves are certain condition, either by chance or because the bowling team knows how to “prepare” the ball. I remember a few years ago at the family Boxing Day cricket match, we had one of those sponsor’s products “Swing King” balls. One half is heavier than the other and anyone could swing it like Alderman. Are cricket administrators so blind? They were being shown the way by their own main sponsor – a retailer of fatty chicken products.
Then there are those heavy rubber balls that are owned by at least 500 million children around the world. They would give any batsman a hurry up. There would be no more worries about dead pitches. Whack a seam on it let it loose I say. Then we could try the golf ball model. I sometimes used to practice by standing five metres from a brick wall, bat in one hand and golf ball in the other. Throw the golf ball hard at the brick wall and quickly get ready to play it. My goodness, I quickly learned not to throw the ball quite so hard. It was bloody dangerous. Mind you, if the batsmen did get hold of it, it would go 300 metres.
I think the ICC should give all of these balls a try. Better still, why not make them all available to the bowling team. Each time a new ball is taken (including the start of an innings) the bowling captain can chose what type of ball he wants to use.
This idea might be easier to get past the traditionalists than you think. Not only do I have some ideas about improvements, I have the essential ICC “spin” to go with it. With all the talk of Day/Night Test matches, this is the chance. D/N Tests go hand in hand with some change in the ball (so that it can be seen at night) . This is one of the dilemmas facing D/N Tests. They have tried painting red balls white and also orange but not only do they lose their colour, the properties change. Why not put in a new type of ball and say, well yes, the properties have changed and that is the intention?
It is time for the ICC to show some balls and change the ball to create a level playing field. Give the bowlers a chance. Maybe they are getting injured because they have to try so hard because things are stacked so much against them.