For a while now, the changing rules of cricket have been piled against the bowlers while the benefits continue to be stacked up in favor of the batsmen.
First the bats changed from straight wood to curved, enabling the batsmen to hit higher and farther resulting in more sixes. The thin bats gave way to thick bats and from lightweight bats to heavy bats, resulting in more boundaries.
Meanwhile, the cricket ball remained the same weight and size, 5.75oz. The only change came when the white ball was introduced for one day and T20 games. Once again, this ball is a little less glossy, so it ages quickly and becomes less friendly to a fast bowler.
Additionally, the bowlers are limited to bowling two bouncers an over. They have to suffer through multiple power plays (fielding restrictions) and more.
All this favoritism is being implemented with the notion that when more runs are scored, the spectators at the stadium and viewers at home are provided better entertainment value.
Sure enough, the net result has been that the number of runs being scored in one day and T20 matches keeps going up. The number of runs scored by a team in a one day game went from a little over 200 to 250 runs in 50 overs to now – easily scores of over 300. It has become a dictum that if a team wants to ensure a win, they have to score over 300 runs in a one-day match.
This doctrine was upended by Pakistan, a team that was ranked number 8 among the 8 country ICC Championship – 2017 tournament in the UK. Pakistan was expected to lose all 3 of its designated matches and return home with the team’s future hanging in the balance as to whether it would qualify for the 2019 World Cup.
True to prediction, Pakistan succumbed to India in a humiliating defeat in the tournament’s opening game. But then something magical transpired in this brash bunch of upstarts that will become part of Cricket folklore.
Young Pakistani bowlers took charge and changed the rules of the game by their sheer skill and willpower. In their bowling performances, they have restored that missing balance that most diehard, passionate cricket lovers crave to witness – those tests of fine skills in a match, that intricate tussle between the bat and bowl.
In the remaining four matches leading to the Trophy, the Pakistani bowlers came roaring back, on a belter wicket and disintegrated the batting line-ups of top championship contender countries like South Africa, Sri Lanka and England. Then in the final, Pakistan won the championship by blowing away the mighty Indian batting line-up that was never tested beyond the loss of six wickets in any of its previous matches. Pakistan bowled out the entire India team in 30.5 overs for 158, their lowest score in the tournament.
Except for the first match, in which the Indian team was able to score over 300 runs, no other team in the subsequent 4 matches was able to score over 236 runs against Pakistan. In the last 4 matches, the Pakistani bowlers have bowled out the competition with an average score of 206 runs per team, taking 38 wickets.
In this process, Pakistani bowlers may have create a new paradigm: It’s not that a team has to score over 300 runs to win a match; instead, it has to limit the opposing team to a score of 250 or less, thus, providing their own batsmen an easily achievable runs target.
What remains to be seen is whether this was a flash in the pan performance or that the Pakistanis can sustain their bowling momentum. Are other countries going to follow this change in the rules of winning or stick to the routine? 2019 is not far away. Let’s see who prevails, the batsmen or the bowlers.