Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Batsman's Game?

Sport, like life, has its fair share of sheep.

Not of the literal kind (although sheep were used for the upkeep of grounds before the advent of modern groundsman's tools), but more of the metaphorical kind. Opinions that were fresh a few weeks ago get regurgitated to the point where you feel like you're a baby bird eating mushy opinion soup (Okay, a bad metaphor, but you get my drift).
What a load of rubbish

These sweeping generalisations are an easy way out in a world in which most journalists are there based on their ability on the pitch, rather than their ability to analyse. With millions buying into analysis which can, very often, contain nothing but clich├ęd drivel, common perception can be completely changed due to lazy research by people who are getting paid large amounts to do what they do. This is the same across many different kinds of sport; in football (Sky so far in denial about the Premier League 'being the best league in the world', they're next live broadcast will be from Egypt), in Rugby (#JusticeforBOD quite possibly the shortest sporting trend ever) and this worldwide agreement that Cricket is a 'batsman's game'

As I sit here having watched England wobble on the first day of the Ashes, I find myself wondering if it really is a batsman's game after all. Regularly we see capitulations in batting lineups during test games (most recently New Zealand's pathetic 68 in the first test against England at Lord's), and with a few inches separating the edge and middle of the bat and one miscue ending your game, it can never be considered that batting is too easy.

Yes advances in technology have made bats better, but they've also made balls swing and grip more, wicket keeping gloves more effective, and training equipment that allows every kind of fielding practice possible. Add to that tactics progressing and the use of video technology at the highest level to scrutinise every batsman's moves and idiosyncrasies, it can easily be argued that 'getting in' is harder than ever before.

Passing out from exhaustion on another flat pitch
The problem with batting dominance in many parts of the world, is the evaluation of pitches based on their aesthetics rather than playability. Unless a cricket pitch is picture postcard perfect it is seen as a failure by the groundsman, outside of England and some pitches in New Zealand, there is very little in the way of swing or seam for opening bowlers (Yes, I know overcast conditions only usually occur in these regions during the season, but with irrigation it's surely possible to leave some green on the pitches?) which means the first day is usually a boring batting fest, with scoring and wickets low as the batting side build a base.

Nobody goes to a match to see a draw, and with many recent series, particularly in the sub-continent, finishing in a deadlock as a result can't be reached in any of the games, test cricket is beginning to fall foul of its Limited-Overs younger brothers. What's supposed to be a true test of skill, is fast becoming simply a test of stamina, as teams field for two days at a time under blistering conditions.

So perhaps in certain regions cricket is most certainly in favour of the man with the bat, but when the conditions are even and the playing field is level, the gulf between bat and ball can be truly viewed. With England's performance today, along with the fact that the biggest score in the country so far this year has been 354, a little more analysis shows you that cricket is most certainly not a 'batsman's game'.

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