One of the great positives of the Indian Premier League is the gripping interest it has been able to sustain over six editions.
Cynicism aside, many cricket lovers can’t seem to get enough of the Twenty20 event. And that is good news for the game. The public is an important stakeholder in sport and if this vital organ is well looked after, good health can never be far away.
Even without the dynamism of Lalit Modi, India’s cricketing bosses can be commended for making cricket more and more important to men and women within and outside the viewing gallery.
However, the authorities must guard against the funny turns this sport is known to take. A bit of tampering is a requisite in an entertainment-heavy product and there is a chance of the public getting bored with the big-hitting, with due credit to Chris Gayle’s extraordinary power and overall ball sense.
How about removing the restriction on well-directed bouncers? Or allowing one bowler in the team bowl five overs.
Gayle got everyone excited with his epic 175 off just 66 balls in Bangalore on Tuesday. This unique willow-wielding, run-yielding wonder attired in different colours — red, yellow, blue in the clothing, green shoes and black bandana makes cricket exciting and the best part of his persona is his coolness.
Gayle is welcome to do an encore, but we must see bowlers trying to get him out instead of restricting the flow of runs. Twenty20 cricket can be massively confronting for bowlers, but we must see bowlers outwit batsmen with subtle variations and perfection which can only be possible by working on their craft instead of their muscles in the gymnasium. I'm not saying so.
Great exponents like Dennis Lillee and Andy Roberts among other greats have expressed that view often.
When Lillee got hit by a particular batsman, he always asked his captain for a change in field placement to induce a wicket and not stem the run gush. The great Australian is best described by his first second Test captain Ian Chappell as a ‘batsman’s nightmare and a captain’s dream.’
Most teams now have a specialised bowling coach. Yet, we see bowlers losing sight of the basics. Well, coaches do not play so it cannot be a direct reflection on them, but bowling coaches are part of the deciding groups. In the light of this, I wonder what stops the Mumbai Indians’ experts from insisting that the city’s Ranji Trophy-winning bowler Dhawal Kulkarni is included in the playing XI. Some aspects of the IPL defy logic.
Gayle’s memorable knock notwithstanding, I cannot get over Royal Challengers Bangalore’s India fast bowler RP Singh’s huge no-ball in the game against Chennai Super Kings recently. This act should make it to cricket’s Believe-it-or-not as well as Hall of Shame section. A lot of former cricketers I spoke to could not believe that such a no-ball could be bowled.
I wonder whether legendary West Indian fast bowler Wes Hall saw the no-ball on television in Barbados (the Caribbean is getting coverage, I can confirm).
His mind would have gone back to the Brisbane Tied Test in 1960. Before running in to bowl the last delivery of that game, his captain Sir Frank Worrell insisted he doesn’t bowl a no-ball, stressing the point that he would not be able to return to Barbados if he did. He didn’t overstep. If you see the footage of that Test, the Australian umpires had their heads turned to the left to make sure the bowlers didn’t overstep.
Fast bowlers need to be reminded about the basics at times. And captains should probably be coaches on the field of play. Mahendra Singh Dhoni seems to do it well without giving the viewer the impression that he is being obtrusive.
Back to Gayle. The Pune bowlers whose spirits he demolished will take a while to get over the onslaught. Their coach Allan Donald has no enviable job.
For a great bowler to see his men getting walloped like that must be shattering. But then, that’s the nature of the beast.
Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports Editor