Bowlers are no longer slaves in T20

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 21, 2013 09:46 hrs

Cricket is a batsman's game is a cliche that has probably been around for as long as the game has been played. Everyone wants to be a batsman while no one wants to be a bowler is the general belief. 

This is even more pronounced when it comes to limited overs cricket with there being field restrictions and the bowlers being able to send down a maximum of ten overs in ODIs and four overs in T-20 games.

Kapil Dev recently said that bowlers belong to the labour class while the batsmen are the officers. When T-20 internationals were first played it was said that the bowlers were just willing slaves while the batsmen entertained the spectators and the worldwide TV audience hitting sixes and fours galore.
But within a few years we have seen that this is not necessarily true. Bowlers too have come up with ideas and theories of their own to counter attack the batsman, who is also under pressure for the time available is too short and he has to get quick runs or depart the scene. A couple of dot balls and the beleaguered batsman aims a wild swipe only to be dismissed. 

Also innovative strokes like the switch hit, the reverse sweep, the upper cut and the Dill scoop have more than an element or risk in them.
Captaincy too has played a major part in the evolving of T-20 into a format of tactical skill and not just slam bang cricket. As Adam Gilchrist said in an interview a couple of years ago the demands on the captain in the Twenty20 format are ''extreme to say the least. The mind is racing to try and think an over ahead, while still trying to control the current over. As we all know the course of a game can be changed in one over, in two or three hits. It is demanding and you have to be aware of situations.''
In short, the shorter the format the more important is the captaincy. In Test cricket and first-class cricket there are times when the flow of the game will dictate what happens and what decisions are to be made. Things just flow along in its natural way. 

Yes, at crucial times the captain's tactical knowledge will come in handy. But in Twenty20 decisions have to be made almost every delivery. The captain has to be very alert and very aware every single delivery. 
In a way it is a good thing that the captain has a bigger role to play, where he can dictate terms and he has a lot more to do in changing the flow of the game. He plays around with his resources a bit more and goes with his hunches a lot more than he would in the longer version and this adds considerable interest to an already immensely popular format.
So the captain and the bowler have much bigger, even decisive, roles in the shorter formats of the game. It is not just the batsman who is controlling the game. Just a week ago on a sub continental track where 300 is supposed to be a par score, India defended a total of 167 against Pakistan, winning by ten runs.
Sure there will be matches like the one at Johannesburg in 2005 where Australia and South Africa between them amassed 872 runs from 99.5 overs. But there will also be matches like the one in Sharjah in 1985 when India defended a total of 125 by dismissing Pakistan for 87. 

And to give two recent examples on January 11 there were two totals of 300 plus as India went down by nine runs at Rajkot while exactly a week later 16 wickets fell for just 149 runs in the game between Australia and Sri Lanka at Brisbane.
To put it in a nutshell limited overs cricket has something in it for both batsmen and bowlers. Administrators too are trying to make it a level playing field. If the new rule of having an extra fielder inside the 30-yard circle is partial towards the batsmen, the two bouncer an over rule and the two new balls per innings favours the bowlers.
In the just concluded Big Bash League in Australia teams with totals of 134, 133, 127 and 113 carried the match to the last over before going down. Sure, there were totals of 170 plus and 180 plus and on a couple of occasions even these were chased down but that's just the point I am making that the shortest format of the game is for both batsmen and bowlers.
This is even more true of the Fifty50 format and is borne out by a few tell tale figures. Ten batsmen have scored over 10,000 runs in ODIs while eleven have taken over 300 wickets. Seven batsmen have made 20 or more hundreds while seven bowlers have taken seven or more wickets in an innings. 

There have been 19 scores of 175 and above while there have been 29 hat tricks. There have been five batsmen with a career strike rate of 100 plus (qualification 50 matches) while there have been four bowlers with a career strike rate of less than 30 balls per wicket (qualification 50 matches). 

Eight of the top run getters (over 8000 runs) average 40 plus while nine bowlers among the leading wicket takers (qualification 250 wickets) average under 25. In addition six bowlers (qualification 50 matches) have an economy rate of less than 3.50 an over. Coming to totals whereas teams have registered a 400 plus total on ten occasions, on seven occasions they have been bowled out for less than 50.    
The T-20 international figures are not very different - further proof that limited overs cricket is almost as much for the bowler as it is for the batsman.  

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