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Javagal Srinath

One-day cricket leaves bowlers hapless

February 10, 2004

As the defeat in the World Cup still looms large in the minds of many, the VB series final at the SCG was just the repeat of the final in Johannesburg.

In the current one-day cricket scenario, the dominance of batting is so rampant that perhaps the only job a bowler is left with is to entertain the crowd by being butchered at the hands of the batsmen. It is a real cause of concern and worry for the entire bowling fraternity throughout the world. The docile tracks, field restrictions, the bouncer rule, the ball changing acts have all reduced the bowlers to mere mercenaries who are asked to virtually commit suicide in the centre.

The fate suffered by the bowlers in the recent one-dayers doesn't instill enough confidence among budding cricketers to take up bowling. Pure bowlers are not too far from a possible catastrophe. It's time for the ICC to make amends to bring the necessary balance between the bat and the ball.

The one-day cricket format is not only calling for the extinction of pure bowlers but also threatening the mother status of Test cricket. Every calendar year indicates a decrease in the number of Test matches played throughout the world. Right from the deserts of Middle East to the different non-cricket-playing continents there is a curious interest in hosting the one-day tournament. The globalisation of cricket has only popularised one-day cricket. Test cricket is must for bowlers to stay alive.

The toss once again played a crucial part at the SCG. The bowlers were again the casualties, either at the hands of the batsmen or because of injuries. Anil Kumble's persisting shoulder injury and Ajit Agarkar's vulnerability on such a long arduous tour made the captain's job difficult in picking the final eleven. It left the skipper to pick the side from the fitter players than from the best players for the occasion.

Ajit's injury concerns will always make the team scramble to fortify the bowling department. It was finally the energy levels that differentiated the Australian and the Indian team. Although India had the upper hand in the Test matches, the Australians were back to show their supremacy in the shorter version of the game.

The loss in the finals of the World Cup still haunts me and an honest assessment of the reasons for failure could be few. It could be the fitness component or the sense of achievement of reaching the finals, or the subservient attitude to accept the supremacy of the Australians.

Likewise on this hard tour Down under, I would dread to believe that it is the sense of achievement in the Test matches that led to the not so great show in the one-dayers. In my opinion, it's the fitness concerns in the form of injuries and exhaustion that deprived the Indians from creating history.

This just-completed series will give a new dimension to the Indian cricket team. More than the personal landmarks, the guys have understood that the goals achieved for the team can be morally rewarding. The poor performers of the team have felt the pressure to improve.

Some of the ideas floated in the team, like retaining and supporting the achievement-oriented players, have sent strong signals to the younger lot. The team members with varying degree of commitments have been suitably rewarded and reprimanded at the same time. The so-called great critics have been made to eat humble pie for their unreasonable comments.

Irfan Pathan is the find of the tour, whereas Balaji has moved few strides in building up his own confidence. Anil has once again reiterated what experience can deliver.

Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag have shown the world of cricket that they are the best in the business. Sourav Ganguly earned tremendous respect from the Australians and has emerged as the best captain Indian has produced so far.

Now the real question arises: after the grueling three-month non-stop cricket, is it possible for the boys to go and perform in Pakistan? Is there a right ambience for the players to perform under such tight security? And finally, are the players really willing to go Pakistan?????????

Previous column: Another consolidated effort needed

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