As the World Cup starts I realize I’m liking ODI cricket more now than I used to in the last couple of years. The key thing for me, I think, is the second coming of classical batsmen to One Day Cricket.

The problem with ODIs in the mid 2000s was that it had become a slambang game. Too many slambang players, with dodgy techniques were dominating the scenes. Boundaries got pulled in and pitches became flat (these two are still a problem I must say) and it just degenerated into slugfests. It was, to use a famous phrase, just not cricket.

In a way, I think the coming of T20 has actually helped make the ODIs a more classical game. What it has done is to make the slambang guys specialize in the even more slambang version (it has helped that there is a lot of money to be made by being good at T20).

Suddenly the slambang guys have figured that they’ve lost the skill of building an innings, which is something crucial for the one day game. If your team has to score 300, it is very likely that at least one batsman has to get something like a 100, and scoring 100s is out of the skill-set of the slambangers.

So you see the likes of “holding players” like Hashim Amla and Jonathan Trott coming good at ODIs, while in the mid-to-late noughties they would’ve never been selected for what was then the “shorter form of the game”.

Also, the quality of cricket in some recent ODI series (RSA-Ind, RSA-Pak, etc.) has been encouraging, and if not for the idiotic format I would’ve been really looking forward to the World Cup.

Fighter Batsmen and Stud Bowlers

Insight of the day: Batting is inherently fighter and bowling is inherently stud. Of course there are severral stud batsmen (eg. Sehwag) and fighter bowlers (eg. Giles) but if you look at it broadly – a batsman needs to get it right every ball, while a bowler needs only one ball to succeed.

The fundamental idea is that bowling success can be more lumpy than batting success – for example the maximum that a batsman can do if he has one great over is to score 36 runs – whcih in the context of the average game won’t amount to much. However, if a bowler has one great over and picks up six wickets, the impact is tremendous.

The bowler can afford to be much more inconsistent than the batsman. He might get a few balls wrong, but he can suddenly make an impact on the game. For a batsman to have a significant impact, however, he should be able to carry it on for a significant amount of time. An “impulse”¬† (a large force acting for a small time period) will do the batting team no good, while it can be a tremendous boost for the bowling team. On the other hand, steady unimaginative play by the batsman is good enough, while a bowler needs to necessarily show patches of spectacularity to have an impact.

Hence, batting is fighter and bowling is stud.

However, what the advent of one day cricket has done is to invert this. By limiting the number of overs, and creating conditions where a team need not be bowled out, it has turned things upside down. Of course, a stud performance by a bowler (say a hat-trick) can have a significant impact on the game, but inconsistent and wayward bowling is likely to cost the bowling team significantly more than it does in Test cricket.

Similarly, with the game getting shorter, an impulse by the batsman (say a quick 40 by Sehwag) has a much larger impact on the game than it does in Test cricket. And on the other hand, dour batting  Рwhich is so useful in Tests Рmay actually be a liability in ODIs. Similarly the mantra for bowlers has become containment, and thus fighterness in bowlers has a greater impact Рand so people now do respect bowlers who can bowl long spells without taking wickets, but just containing.

Remember that even now, to succeed in Test cricket, you need to have the correct characteristic – Sehwag’s batting might appear stud and risky, but he has the ability to play really long innings which is why he is a really good Test batsman. If he didn’t have the “longevity gene”, he would’ve still remained a one-day wonder. Yes – now teams do pick a fourth bowler to do the “holding role” – keeping one end tight while others attack. Still, the holding guy needs to have some ability to pick up wickets by himself.

Preliminary reading on studs and fighters theory:

Studs and Fighters

Extending the studs and fighters theory