As sometimes with the stage, cricket makes a spectator pass through a spectrum of emotions finally leading to a calm of the mind. But sheer amusement can kick in when expert speak claims the limelight, given that it is never easy to be profoundly path-finding with every clause of the sentences that anyone utters in a day’s space.
Which is why a boys-will-be-boys attitude of tolerance is required to be summoned when A-list pundits suggest changes in the way Twenty20 is played but hasten, in order not to sound exaggeratedly independent, to add that the format has been doing so well that it could do without much tinkering. Why, then, should its boundaries be longer, as has been recommended, and why should there be a prize, extra over for a bowler who takes a wicket with any of his first 18 legitimate deliveries?
The central problem – when you leave money out of the reckoning – is that the game’s evolutionary clock was turned rudely back when, nearly a century after it had found its apogee in Test matches, a World Cup of 60-over games was begun in 1975.
Officialdom has since then been shortening it to suit commercial interests, fitting square pegs into round holes. Fast and brief encounters are a gamble where the better team’s quality may not be reflected in the result they attain.
Outclassed in a conventional game, lesser rivals can and do catch superior combinations on the wrong foot in overs-specific matches when even one big partnership can prove decisive. And the bat-versus-ball imbalance, so typical of Twenty20s, will keep getting worse as bowlers find themselves increasingly marginalised.
No amount of bully pulpit rhetoric to the contrary can mask a steep fall in cricket’s quality as bowlers, fast or spin, aim more at containment than dismissal. It is the imbalance that draws the A-listers out, always bat and pad close together though, as the nettlesome question could never really be got out of the way.
Cricket’s in-house dissentient voices are, of course, stifled by the money that makes the grotesque distortion eminently acceptable. No one is encouraged to rock the boat. “Make your pile and be happy” is the mantra of the age.
The toxic ideology has made for a scene which has cricketers of the highest class – AB de Villiers, for one – playing in the Indian Premier League for Bangalore rather than for South Africa in Tests.
Alongside them are those unlikely to make the senior Indian team but worth around Rs 14 crore each in the IPL. With 2020 proving that it can be like this even when spectators are not required to be seated around the field, the abnormal is what has been passing for the new normal. It subverts what gives it