By: Vignesh.P (LTEN)
It was a time when in legendary Richie Benaud’s voice “Shouldered arms to that one” would boom across from the television set. In a gesture that could shock present day T-20 fanatics, the batsman would simply raise his arm to the incoming delivery and let it sail through to wicket-keeper. The gesture would be so elegant that along with our regular “practice” of shots we, as wannabe cricketers, would also practice this gesture to perfection. Some batsmen did it with such panache that it would be a treat to watch them; some others (lower down people) would be comical.
What is so difficult in that, you ask? The ability to resist the temptation to tick away the bowl for a batsman is the greatest battle. Also, it would be most comical if the batsman left it alone and to his horror the bowl crashes onto stumps. He would be chided no end. So not all batsman would be able to do that. For the batsman to be able to confidently leave a bowl alone, he must have judged the conditions to perfection and must have a lot of patience and confidence. That brings me to an innocuous area of change in the way game of cricket is played today.
Present day cricket is all about ‘power hitting’ with batsmen scoring by hook or crook. This has no doubt led to new innovations in shot making. An unthinkable shot, some years ago, of playing the bowl over the wicket-keeper’s head is today a common place. Some cricketers have earned the distinction of being a ‘360 player’ suggesting their ability to play all around the park. On the other front, due to this kind of batting onslaught, bowlers have started becoming more disciplined and smart, adding new skills to their quiver. No more is just fast bowling considered an asset, contrarily, the ability to bowl slow bowls is more lethal.
Cricket has changed over the years. Probably the greatest reason for this change is the advent of T-20s. The contest between bat and ball is increasingly turning into a contest between bat and other bats! We seldom see ‘spectacular’ bowling performances; and when we see one, it is more due to the condition of pitch rather than skill of the bowler that gets the acclaim. At this rate we might have bowling machines replacing bowlers in actual matches! Cricket’s character is, it is a glorious game of temperament, players are expected to be on their best for over 100hours which requires a lot of patience, have a great deal of confidence and that indomitable spirit of hope even in the face of adverse situations.
In present times, though the batsmen have learnt the art of hitting breathtaking boundaries at will, it has become the norm rather than exception as was previously. The art of “shouldering arms” along with Sir Richie Benaud has also been rested in peace!