Why should batsmen have all the fun

The sight of grown men weeping on TV because they have won or lost a match is very irritating. Cricketers, in particular, seem very prone to it. Vinod Kambli crying in Kolkata, Kapil Dev crying when defending himself about match fixing, Inzamam ul-Haq shedding tears when he got out in his last innings, the entire ­Bangladesh team breaking down when they lost the final of the Asia Cup, the entire South African team crying when they lost to New Zealand… it is an annoyingly long list.

The latest additions to this Cry Baby Hall of Fame are three Australian cricketers. However, there is a difference: they were weeping not because they had won or lost; they were weeping because they had been caught on camera tampering with the ball. I doubt, though, if they were crying because they had colluded to ‘change the condition of the ball’ as it is defined. More likely, it was because they had been caught and pilloried. For a similar transgression in England in the 18th century they would have been shipped off to, yes, Australia which was a penal island then.

The latest additions to this Cry Baby Hall of Fame are three Australian cricketers who were weeping when caught on camera tampering with the ball.

This definition of ball tampering — ‘attempt to change the condition of the ball’ — has always perplexed me. I mean, if batsmen can tamper with the bat — heavier and more curved ones — why can’t bowlers tamper with the ball? Indeed, a batsman, if he is cussed, can change his bat for every ball bowled thus using six bats per over, and even more if there are wides! So why not let the bowler use six different balls per over? Going a step further, there could even be three red ones and three white ones, all of which came in different states and the bowler could choose any combination he likes. That would stop ball tampering for good as the match would be not be tilted in favour of the batsmen.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has, in any case, allowed two balls to be used in the 50 over format, one from each end. So each ball is used only for 25 overs, thus reducing the need to ‘change its condition’. I want to add a slight modification to this: why not allow red and white balls, one from each end? That will reduce the disproportionate bias in batsmen’s favour and eliminate the fielding side’s urge to tamper with the ball.

Some years ago Sachin Tendulkar had suggested that the 50-over game be played in two innings of 25 overs each. But television didn’t buy the idea.

Some years ago Sachin ­Tendulkar had suggested that the 50-over game be played in two innings of 25 overs each. Had his suggestion been accepted by the ICC, the match would be played with four balls per team, which too would have reduced the need to scratch it or grease it or spit sugar coated saliva on it or rub Vaseline from the eyebrows. But television didn’t buy the idea.

There are two other things I don’t understand. One is about the restrictions on players altering the state of the pitch — you can’t make indentations with your boots near the two creases lest a spinner gets the batsman out, how dare he? But there are none on the way the wicket is prepared in the first place. Result: there is no standardisation in the way there is for the ball whose weight, colour and seam height are all regulated.

Secondly, there is no restriction on the distance of the boundary which, thanks to TV’s hunger for big hits, has shrunk over the last 15 years. In the past, it used to be 70 yards on an average; now it is barely 55.This has made it easier for the batsmen to hit sixes. Why can’t this also be standardised?

That said, there is no reason to feel very sorry for bowlers. It always evens out in the end. After all, in IPL, even mediocre bowlers earn as much as a lakh per match — for bowling just four overs!

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