Last week was not short being from dull to maniac; many of us will have different adjective for the type of test matches or the brand of cricket we witnessed across different continents. These two different types of game also determine the brand of cricket; viewers want to witness. During Mid 90s when I started playing serious cricket; days would start with serious and tough fielding drills and if lucky end with batting practice. There was a prowess of batting culture all the way in the Indian cricketing system & being bowler meant less skilled or someone whose chance of being successful at top level were not very bright. That to me would come across as some sort of caste system where coaches would motivate players to develop into batsmen more often than not & fielding to everyone meant; the player is being abused physically. Coming back to perception on batting; My parents always wanted to see me batting and not fielding or bowling; not just my parents but everyone around me from neighbors to coaches wanted to see team India bat whenever the team played on national television.
There is a contrast in perception of the cricket being watched in every country; while Indian has always been a land of great batsmen outshining great bowlers (not to take any credit away from all the bowlers who ever has taken field for India) & other countries have great balance of both bowlers, batter and not to mention outstanding fielding standards amongst the first eleven on the field. This perception and mindset of watching the brand of cricket we are use to is the reason why we have the tracks on which India plays its domestic cricket. There is huge hoopla or upsurge about Sachin’s 100th century and right from sponsors to broadcasters want to tap that event. Even a today Indians will want to watch a Sehwag, Sachin, Dravid or Laxman in full flow but no one would want to watch each and every ball delivered by Ishant, Zaheer or Harbhajan.
In these times of instant gratification where everyone wants to cash in money with each and every shot played by India’s most wanted batsmen. Even the Ranji Trophy games are batting paradise where a century scored is the new 40 or 50 runs scored. While we analyze the consumer’s inclination towards batting heavy cricket; some of the state boards like baroda should be applauded for the green wicket prepared for their last Ranji Match against MP; which tested batting skills.
While watching India vs WI Test & SA vs Australia gave me two different flavours of the same game; much like in a multi cuisine restaurant where same dish can be offered with different flavours. No wonder the pan on which the dish was prepared was different and hence the different taste. The pitch was much different one on both occasion throws light on kind of the game played; consumers in South Africa, Australia or crowd in England want to watch. One being a slow one assisting batting and spin and other one being a sporty one which had balance between bat and ball unless it led havoc on day 2 which accounted for more than 50% of the match getting over in single day’s play leading to 23 wickets falling. Clearly the second test match was more enjoyable; although broadcasters would have lost some money around but viewers had every moment of this match worth it.
This is why boards and players should learn as much as they can about the pitch and encourage to develop a culture around this; there are lot many voices in cricketing system advocating the use of sporty wickets but none to be seen around too often during these domestic competitions in India. Overdose of the Spin friendly pitches negates fast bowling reserves as there is almost no help what so ever. At times the impact of the pitches has on individual cricket innings is under estimated; for instance Rahul Dravid’s unbeaten 27 against South Africa at Durban in 1996 was a titanic effort in light of India being dismissed for 66. He batted for 120 minutes against the brutal South African pace attack on a lively track was surely impressive as a five hour century on a more flat track.
India is a country within its pervasive influence; cricket is a dominant strain in our culture consciousness which needs a balance as well. Although our culture does define the way we view our cricket but the boards with deeper pocket also has the responsibility to make the game more interesting as well. India does have advantage of spin friendly pitches but at times due to lack of consistency these pitches flat out and result of the game is compromised. As a cricketing nation these are the conditions being aimed for which shall produce enjoyable match with result in store. Having said that; the change in cultural mindset would enable the best bowlers both of spin & fast genre prosper in the modern game.