By Hardik Rajgor
Cricket is no longer a contest between bat and ball. It’s Virat Kohli vs Steve Smith vs Joe Root vs Kane Williamson. Bowlers do not exist to create their own legacies, they merely exist as a hindrance to a batsman’s legacy.
When I played Brian Lara International Cricket on our Pentium 4 PC as a kid, I was an addict who had figured the game out – quite the way Nirav Modi had figured out the loopholes in the banking system. If the computer bowled a good length delivery outside the off stump, I had to move my batsman a bit, press Shift + Right Mouse Button (RMB) and it would go for a six. Every single time. Perhaps it was a game bug but I couldn’t care less as I smashed 250 runs in 20 overs and became the gaming nerd of my society.
To put things in perspective, it was 1999 and these were humble times. A time when good batting line-ups would struggle to chase 250 runs in an ODI game.
As I watched England take Australia to the cleaners at Nottingham yesterday, amassing 481 runs in a 50-over game, I realised that Codemasters, the developers of Brian Lara International Cricket, had actually made a prophecy all those years back. It wasn’t a game bug after all. Every good length ball outside the off stump was quite literally disappearing out of the ground. Only, this time around, it wasn’t a video game. This was real life and the Australian bowlers couldn’t just throw a fit and press “Quit Game”.
In a recent episode of the web show Breakfast With Champions, Afghan sensation Rashid Khan narrated a funny story where he cheekily asked a pitch curator during the IPL to prepare a turning track. The curator told him, “If I make a bowling track, no one will come to watch the game.” The quick-witted Rashid immediately shot back, “If you make a batting track, I won’t be able to come next year.” They both had a good laugh about it but the story captured the popular sentiment quite aptly: Bowlers don’t matter, everyone just wants to see big runs scored.
Cricket is no longer a contest between bat and ball. Remember the old days when tours were promoted as a contest between Imran and Gavaskar, Sachin and Warne, Lara and Murali? Today, cricket is a contest between my batsman and your batsman. It’s a dick-measuring contest. If you can score 350, I can score 351. If you can score 400, I can score 401. It’s Virat Kohli vs Steve Smith vs Joe Root vs Kane Williamson. Bowlers do not exist to create their own legacies, they merely exist as a hindrance to a batsman’s legacy.
The assault on bowling has been institutional and relentless. To paraphrase the poetic brilliance of German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller:
First, they changed the fielding restrictions, and I didn’t speak out. Because I wanted to see more runs.
Then, they allowed bigger, better, wider bats and I didn’t speak out. Because I wanted to see more runs.
Then, they invented the T20 format with shorter boundaries, flat tracks and I didn’t speak out. Because I wanted to see more runs.
Then, they started penalising bowlers with free hits and I didn’t speak out. Because I wanted to see more runs.
Then, there were almost 500 runs scored in an ODI with no one left to speak for the bowlers.
The ICC would quite simply argue that it is giving the fans what they want. If people love Race 3, Bollywood will keep making Race-like movies. If people want to see fours and sixes, fuck the bowlers, we’ll give you fours and sixes. It is a beautiful advertisement for the World Cup to be held in England next year. Come to the stadiums, pay for a ticket, we promise a run feast. As for the bowling, we’ll get cement tracks or replace humans with AI machines if we have to.
Today, cricket is a contest between my batsman and your batsman. It’s a dick-measuring contest.
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