After England had scored a record breaking 481 against Australia last year, Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar had lashed out at ICC’s decision to use two new balls in ODIs. Raising his concern over the spate of run fests, Tendulkar had said “having two new balls in one day cricket is a perfect recipe for disaster” as it had taken away the concept of reverse swing, which is an “integral part of the death overs”. His concern was right as now totals in excess of 300 or 350 are just not being set up by teams but are also within the range of being easily chased down. In the recently concluded five-match ODI series between England and Pakistan, we all saw how England was able to breach the 350-run mark on four occasions and made mockery of the Pakistan bowling attack. In the second match (first being washed out), even after setting up a monumental total of 373/3, the hosts were just able to defend the target with Pakistan falling short by mere 12 runs.
In the third match, Pakistan thought that they had the game in their pocket after setting 358/9. However, England which boasts of having one of the destructive batting line-up in contemporary times, crossed the line with 31 balls to spare. In the fourth match, Pakistan again set up a total in touching distance of 350 (340/7) which was again chased down by the Eoin Morgan-led side. And in the fifth and final ODI, England successfully defended 351 as Pakistan got bowled out for 297. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, a total of about 270-280 was considered to be a winning one. However, the situation has changed in the recent year, especially after ICC introduced the two new ball rule.
Now, even after posting a total in excess of 350 (not even 300), teams can’t breathe a sigh of relief. 300 plus totals are becoming more and more frequent because of the influence of T20 cricket, changed field restrictions, better quality bats and shorter boundaries. 350 is the new 300, and even that is not a safe total. The ICC had introduced the concept of two new balls, keeping in mind the discolouration of the white ball towards the end of the innings, which in turn made it difficult for batsmen to sight the ball. However, as pointed out by Tendulkar, the pacers have not been able to generate the reverse swing towards the death and are, therefore, taken for plenty.
Spinners, who are handed the ball in the middle overs, are effectively bowling with a ball which is just eight or nine overs old. The ball doesn’t get soft and as a result, not much turn is available for the spinners who are literally slaughtered by the batsmen and sent on a leather hunt.
In the 11 World Cups played till date, totals in excess of 300 have been scored more than 75 times. And cricket pundits have already predicted that owing to small grounds and flat pitches, the upcoming World Cup in England and Wales will be a high scoring one where totals in excess of 350 would not be safe and teams chasing such targets will always believe they are in the hunt.
The game, which is already heavily in favour of the batsmen, has moved even further from the bowlers who, despite coming up with different gimmicks and varieties, are made to toil. There condition isn’t any better from bowling machines.