T20 cricket, the way it has developed, is unbalanced in favour of batsmen. Hitting the ball excitingly is the game’s signature. Batsmen are the stars, bowlers are the bit-players. The fact that a batsman is not limited in the number of overs he can bat, while no bowler can bowl more than 4, is just one indication of how the wind blows. The greatest attraction in the game is by far the batsmen.
This batting bias will always be there in the T20 game. Boundaries, and particularly sixes, will be hailed, wickets and dot balls will remain obscure incidentals. Indeed, spectacular fielding and catching also take precedence over bowling performances. Only the most vivid of fast Yorkers spread-eagling all three stumps will bring the dancers out on their platforms. The crack and high trajectory of a mighty six is what sets a tumult in the crowd. It is one of the chief things they come to watch. I cannot see this changing. T20 will always be a batting-biased game. Indeed, any too ambitious attempt to change this bias runs the risk of upsetting what is working well at the turnstiles – removing, God forbid, some popular flavour from the fast-food feast.
However, perhaps too much of a good thing is in danger of becoming a bad thing. Those McDonald big meal combos eventually became unprofitably monstrous. I cannot help feeling that the batting-bias in T20 is too biased and that some re-balancing would add a degree more competitiveness which would sharpen interest in the game whilst not detracting from the main attraction.
Here are a few ideas for consideration – adjustments in favour of giving the bowler a (slightly) better deal.
- Let a bowler bowl up to 5 overs, instead of 4. Great bowlers would then have marginally more room to make an impact. This is bound to be good for the game.
- Or, more controversially, limit any one batsman to, say, 30 balls after which he is retired. Imagine the urgency and excitement as the best batsmen try to maximize their score from the 30 balls! On the other hand, I can’t imagine it would go down very well with the hero – worshipping crowd to see Gayle/Kohli/de Villiers/etc retiring just when in full flow. So scratch that suggestion – dead on arrival.
- Put limits on the weight of bat and “size of the edge”. Cleanly hit sixes are a joyful and popular feature of the game, yes, but mis-hit sixes horrify the purist and jar even the ordinary spectator and should be ruled out as far as possible. Time for technology – “implements on steroids” – to be reined in.
- An interesting aside concerns the width of the bat. This has been constrained since the incident of the “Monster Bat” in 1771 when a player used a bat big enough to cover the width of the wicket. A complaint to the match officials at the time failed but a subsequent letter to the MCC produced a permissible maximum width of 4.25 inches which remains the law to this day. I wonder what would happen if the maximum permissible width was reduced to, say, 4 inches or even 3.75 inches? After 245 years surely some experimentation is in order!
- Perhaps it is also time to experiment with cricket ball technology – adapting leather, seam, weight to obtain more advantage for the bowler in swing, drift, dip and break. Why so much innovation put into bat and not ball?
- Consider abolishing the power-play in T20 matches.
- In respect of no-balls, I think the front crease should be given to the bowler. He should only be no-balled if he clearly over-steps, not steps anywhere on, the crease. The poor bowler, any slight additional edge such as this would be welcome to him.
- Wides should certainly not be called in T20 matches, as they are now, for the slightest drift down the leg-side. A good spin bowler can expertly confuse a batsman with a googly which just passes to leg and he is penalised a run. There should be a marker on the leg side nearer than on the off but allowing some deviation from the current complete prohibition.
- An important point for the good of the game, applying not just to T20 but to all cricket, is the need to prepare good pitches. Good, of course, is hard to pin down exactly but cricketers know perfectly well – and grounds men should know perfectly well – what is involved and it is certainly not the slow, low pitches we tend to produce in the West Indies.
Batsmen are being over-cossetted. Let us find at least a few tweaks in favour of the bowler. In cricketing terms, is he not also human, does he not also bleed?