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Anil Kumble - Insight Edge

Shouldn't ODIs be more equal contest than run riots, asks Kumble

Friday, December 18, 2021
Run-ways or sporting tracks?

What is a perfect pitch? Is it one that allows for either team to make 400 runs from their respective 50-over stint or is it one that allows for a challenge between bat and ball, batsman and bowler? I am not sure if pitches that allow the batsmen to simply plonk their foot forward and have a go at the ball are good for cricket. Where is the competition in such a scenario and if there is no competition where is the fun?

Sri Lanka's nearly chasing down a total in excess of 400 at Rajkot is not the real story here, even if it did provide for some thrilling moments towards the end. Either team may do so again in the second ODI at Nagpur. This is so because T20 has changed the mindset of the players and almost anything is achievable these days. But the fact that the bowlers had hardly any part to play in the proceedings is the actual cause for concern.

Any challenge has to be two-way as once it is loaded in favour of one side the fun simply goes missing. For there to be competition, which is what sport is all about, there has to be a level playing field to start with. And just like bowlers don't expect minefields to bowl on, however much they would relish the prospect, the batsmen need not be provided such shirtfronts.

The saddest part is that I am sure the groundsman at Rajkot would have been lauded for his 'perfect' pitch. On the other hand, had he made one where the ball darted around or spun across the batsman, he would have been blasted even if the game may have got a lot more interesting as batting skills would then have come into play.

Instead what is happening these days is where the batsmen used to take 6-7 overs to gauge the surface and the conditions, they now take 6-7 deliveries for the same. As for Virender Sehwag, one six is all it takes for him to settle down and go after the bowling. That said, due credit must be given to the batsmen for the show they put on in Rajkot, as some of the stroke-making was outstanding.

I don't see anything different happening in Nagpur where as it is the Lankans made over 200 in the T20 match. Bowlers will have to resort to prayers more than any acumen and just hope against hope that some things will go their way despite them not being meant to.

Here the Lankans will miss the wily Muralitharan as well as Dilharo Fernando. Murali, as we all know, with his experience, can be tough to handle in any condition and Fernando is one of those bowlers who uses the change of pace well, one of the only remaining weapons in the bowler's armoury. They will be hoping to regain the services of Lasith Malinga at least.

As for the Indians, they were without Yuvraj, arguably their best batsman in the ODI format, and yet they made merry. It had a lot to do with the somewhat changed approach of Sehwag, who seems to be determined to get in some big knocks in ODIs too.

The near chase down at Rajkot though will have set the team batting first thinking as to what is a good total to set and in the process they may attempt a little too much too early and pay the price. The bowlers on either side will just have to try and exploit that even as the teams will be required to hold their nerve, something the Indians did very well at Rajkot. Nagpur being a day-night game, the dew factor too will have to be taken into account.