High Individual Scores…Are They Good for the Game?

Chris-Gayle-of-the-West-Indies-celebrates2West Indies’ cricketer—Mr. Cool himself—Chris Gayle became the first cricketer to score 200 plus runs in a World Cup game. Before this, highest batting scorebelonged to Gary Kirsten, who scored 188 against UAE in the 1996 World Cup. Until 2009, no one had scored a 200 in a 50-over game. Several had come agonizingly close. Since then, four have reached that score, including Gayle. The other three are from India: namely Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, and Rohit Sharma. Sharma has scored more than 200 twice in a 50-over game. In 2014, he reached an astronomical 264.

Why are these meaningless scores? Anyone who cares about cricket will tell you that the game is only good when batting and bowling have a fair chance. These scores can only mean that the balance was not right that day. Explanations for this recent trend can get a bit nerdy for most us. But, in short, the bias toward batting has to do with the playing area getting smaller in the modern era; the cricket bats getting thicker and meatier; the protective equipment in general improving (which makes batsman less afraid of the cricket ball); and, finally, the field restrictions that the ICC (cricket’s governing body) have made to encourage more entertaining hitting throughout the 50-over game.

Cricket is perhaps the only sport in the world that would allow the game to tilt so much in favor one aspect of its skill set. Batsman are ruling the roost at the moment. In golf, for example, as the equipment has become allowed the ball to be hit further, the courses have become longer and have become more difficult to maneuver through.

It would not be appropriate of me (Parth) to discredit these feats of greatness as merely average feats of sporting behavior. I genuinely feel that scoring 200+ runs in an innings is not easy. But I shudder to call them “great” because I don’t think they merit me using the word. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call them “good.” I say this because, what makes cricket great is the elegance of the play—whether it is the poetry of the late outswinger or the artistry of the on-drive. And just like great art, we enjoy these shots when it happens rarely (perhaps with a glass of our favorite fermented drink). Of course, such an assessment might be merely the response of a fuddy-duddy who has never enjoyed loud music.These innings may have all the right art. But the gallery has too much of it to enjoy each piece and appreciate it to the fullest. All one can do is marvel at the monstrosity of the gallery owner’s collection.

Now, this should not mean that one can’t revere a big innings, on occasions that actually matter: Adam Gilchrist’s 149 at the World Cup final against Sri Lanka. Virat Kohli’s 183 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup. Kohli’s 133 against Sri Lanka at Hobart. Ricky Ponting’s innings in the 2003 World Cup final. Tendulkar’s innings at Sharjah. Tendulkar’s innings in the CB Series finals in 2007. These are some knocks that come to mind as memorable onslaughts. Such innings in a meaningful context and against a worthy opposition are much more memorable and delightful to those of us who still find 50-over cricket a valid format.

In the malaise in which cricket is played today, it’s very hard for an innings to be memorable. And for those of us who are don’t follow the game as much as we once did, or give credence to the meaningless cricket that occurs a great deal with the modern-day schedule, all those monstrous innings from the turn of the 2010s are, sadly, a big blur.

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About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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One Response to High Individual Scores…Are They Good for the Game?

  1. “But, in short, the bias toward batting has to do with the playing area getting smaller in the modern era; the cricket bats getting thicker and meatier; the protective equipment in general improving (which makes batsman less afraid of the cricket ball); and, finally, the field restrictions that the ICC (cricket’s governing body) have made to encourage more entertaining hitting throughout the 50-over game.

    “Cricket is perhaps the only sport in the world that would allow the game to tilt so much in favor one aspect of its skill set. Batsman are ruling the roost at the moment. In golf, for example, as the equipment has become allowed the ball to be hit further, the courses have become longer and have become more difficult to maneuver through.”

    Thank you, Parth, for these excellent observations (above). I (Evander) feel a bit self-serving replying to a blog on our “Right off the Bat” site, except to observe baseball is the only OTHER sport in the world that goes in for smaller-field dimensions, more supple ash bats to increase bat-speed thro the zone, arm padding to the dimensions of hazmat suits, more-tightly wound and springier the balls. Professional-and-college (no doubt) levels even added a looking the other way for a decade and more while players (primarily, but not exclusively I admit, batters) loaded up on PED/HGH. As teams then resorted to shifts based on Sabermetrics and other fancy statistics to counter all this artificially created offense, to level its competitive playing field as it were, some have come screaming for mandating these as so-called illegal defenses, as in pro basketball, to “re-increase” offense. Competitive balance? Fairness? As Casey Stengel said of a traded player, mutatis mutandis, “We disappeared him.”

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