The Future of Fast Bowlers in Twenty20 Cricket

January 24, 2023 8:00 am32 commentsViews: 259

Twenty20 Cricket, the ultra-abbreviated form of the game, has emerged as a very popular format of cricket and its popularity is growing exponentially. It’s so popular that even Fantasy Cricket contests are held in the game. One of the most interesting things in the game is the contest between batsmen and fast bowlers. But if anything can be learnt from the condition of fast bowling in Twenty20 Cricket, it is surely that outright fast bowling will struggle to survive in the future. It may not necessarily die altogether, but its importance could wane. Here’s why.

Twenty20_cricket

Variety More Important than Speed

For decades these fiery leather slingers would go about their business with one thing in mind: bowling fast, extremely fast. Fast enough to cause damage not only on the scoreboard but sometimes to the bones and nerves of their willow-yielding opponents as well. This is not to suggest that the captain’s words, “line and length son, line and length,” would not be taken on board. Certainly the pumped-up quickies would endeavor to do just that, so long as they could achieve their goal while bowling extremely fast.

Yorkers used to be for variety — an attempt at catching the batsman off-guard and uprooting his middle stump. Slower balls did not exist unless delivered by a fast bowlercarrying an injury. Both became more prominent with the introduction of One Day cricket. If you can’t get the batsman out, don’t let him score a boundary. This is the mantrain T20. The line and length can go for a six. A perfect outswinger that finds the edge gives the batsman guaranteed four runs through the slips. How can the umpire judge an LBW appeal with the batsman fidgeting around his crease like an impatient toddler?

Saving Runs a Priority Over Taking Wickets

Fast bowlers aren’t searching for wickets anymore; they’re searching for a place to hide, thanks to the new cricket rules that all favor the batsman. Fast bowlersare praying for six singles off six deliveries in the over and nothing more. Wickets are merely an afterthought.Where’s the glory in that? Restricting the other side to 120 without any loss is more pleasing than, say, 130runs with nine men back in the pavilion. And who could blame a captain for feeling this way? In sport, results are everything, you know. Doubtless there are many supporters who care only for victory, but then there are those too who relish the nature of the contest where the fast bowler is going for the kill.

According to statistics provided by Cricket Info, there were fifty-four team innings in the last T20 World Cup and in all but seven of them the batting side was not dismissed fully. Restricted to one or two-over spells, a bowlerwould struggle to judge the weaknesses of a cardboard cut-out batsman, let alone a living, breathing, reacting one.

These days it’s not about being fast; it’s about being frugal. One of the best fast bowlers in the limited forms of the game, Australia’s Nathan Bracken runs almost fewer paces than the spinner NathanHauritz and extracts more turn! He must be suffering from an identity crisis and he’s not the only one. West Indies captain Chris Gayle has almost forgotten what Test Cricket is, and told Anna Kessel (The Guardian, 14/05/09), “I wouldn’t be so sad if test cricket died out.” If he had to bat for more than twenty overs, he’d probably startcramping.

What Does the Future Hold?

This begs the question how young up-and-coming fast bowlers are supposed to practice. The same leg-cutter just outside the off stump might get them a wicket in a Test match but be slapped to the mid-wicket in T20 Cricket. Are there kids all over the world now charging into bowl four consecutive slower deliveries with the brand new shiny ball and then slipping in the fast one as a change? Indeed, if rules are not changed and attitudes adapted, fast bowlers might soon become a dying breed.

The Invention of Twenty20 Cricket

In an attempt to broaden the game’s appeal, a new, shorter, and to many minds shallower, version of the game was created: Twenty20 Cricket. Matches could be finished in just a few hours, not days, and both runs and wickets were expected to flow as teams set and chased quick-fire targets. This format was introduced in England by the England and Wales Cricket board in 2003.

To say that the idea was a success would be an understatement. Fans flocked to matches, lucrative TV deals were signed, and the format was exported around the globe, most notably to India, where it was welcomed with typical panache and fanaticism.

The Impact of Twenty20 on Test Cricket

The financial security of the game was, at a stroke, assured. But all was not well at the home of cricket. Twenty20 had been accepted – or at least tolerated – as a rather silly little sideline that brought in the cash, but now it was threatening to take over the highest form of the game, Test Cricket,and challenging the popularity of the latter.

The traditionalists rebelled, mocking Twenty20 as a ‘hit and giggle’ event. A brief festival of slogging and rushes of blood to the head, incomparable to the Test Cricket and its unique demands of technique and concentration.

The point is valid. It would be unforgivable if the custodians of the game the fans, including fantasy game app users, as well as the officials allowed Test Cricket to wither, for it is aptly named, and should remain the ultimate test of a cricketer. It’s the crucible in which a cricketer’s skill and will are put on trial. But it does not need to be the only form of cricket, and now may be the time for it to learn to share the limelight. Thoughit has come to be regarded as the natural form of the game, even Test cricket was not played until 1876, perhaps 300 years after the inception of the game.

Cricket, whatever the dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists would like to believe, is as susceptible to change as any other sport. If it were not, then bowlers would still be bowling underarm at batsmen guarding two stumps. The rules have evolved and expanded, the LBW rule being a case in point. Players, sometimes aided by these changing rules, have developed new techniques and variations. The march of technology and sports science has impacted cricket as much as on any other game.

Innovations in Twenty20 Cricket

Nobody wants to see cricket become as fickle and fiddly as Formula One, which has annual rule changes and constant tinkering with formats and regulations.Change for changes’ sake should be resisted. But Twenty20 genuinely has something to add to this venerable game.

The challenges may differ from those in a Test match, but when played at the highest level, the skills on display in Twenty20 demand respect. Big hitting has its place, especially during the opening and closing overs, but proper shots reap greater dividends than wild swings. And a good batsman must know how to pace an innings, particularly if early wickets fall. In the middle overs, creativity is far more important than raw power. A player who is equipped with a wide range of shots and can pick off singles all around the ground is more useful than a compulsive slogger.

Bowlers must have a comprehensive armory too. Simply bowling a good line is unlikely to confound a truly top first-class opponent, so a variation of pace and length is vital. The inswingingyorker is a much prized weapon for a quick bowler, and so is the innovative slow bouncer. Spin bowlers, who at the dawn of Twenty20 looked obvious targets for attack, keep scoring rates low through guile alone – a point hardly consistent with the derogatory term ‘hit and giggle.’

Some of these skills may transfer themselves to the Test arena, as many aspects of the fifty-over game have done, even improving the ‘ultimate’ form of cricket, increasing scoring rates and revolutionizing fielding. But even if this is not the case, Twenty20 has provided a much needed fillip, has given a chance for newer cricketing nations to cause shocks that would never be possible over five days, and has brought the game to a wider audience. These are good things, and they are also unavoidable if cricket is to survive. The time has come for the traditionalists to accept Twenty20 Cricket. As for fast bowlers, we hope some game rules are modified in the future to help fast bowlers and make the game a balanced contest between bowlers and batsmen.

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