Cricket(especially World Cup) then and now has evolved as wine getting better with age.At least I would like to think so.With the advent of T20 and the success of popular tournaments like IPL and Big Bash League,cricket over the years has changed rapidly.Sure enough,batsman have a slight upper hand than the bowlers but with time,bowlers are getting smarter too.
In 90s and until early next decade,240-270 was a challenging score but not anymore.300 is a norm these days.But it’s great to see that in this WC edition,bowlers have a say on par with the batsman though changing of rules like 5 fielders always inside the circle is bit harsh on them.On a positive note,captain would play his 5 attacking bowlers rather than depending too much on part timers.Along with the likes of Mitchell Starc,Trent Boult,Imran Tahir,Tim Southee,Morne Morkel who are doing well clinching wickets consistently in this WC,it feels proud to see our bowlers with the likes of Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma,Mohd Shami (strong contender for highest wickets) and Ravi Ashwin bowling equally good.
Let’s look back at India’s performances in world cups over the years. I started getting to know and watch cricket in 96 and have fond memories of India beating Pakistan and clearly remember the confrontation of Aamer Sohail and Venkatesh Prasad.The best part was Venky didn’t say a word when Sohail provoked him but at the very next ball when he bowled Sohail, the reaction he gave showing him the way to pavilion,was just awesome to see being an Indian fan.In death over, Ajay Jadeja’s hitting Waqar Younis for boundary and sixes consistently was a rare sight to see then which is quite regular these days where batsman takes on the bowlers at will. And then the infamous chase against Srilanka in semis in Eden Gardens where the match was stalled and awarded to Srilanka.Tendulkar gave us an excellent start but once he got out, everyone else got out like a pack of cards.In 99 world cup in England,India were expected not to perform as much we would want them to as they had lost couple of tournament finals consistently just before the world cup and clearly lacked some firepower in latter half of tournaments.India did well going into the Super Six stage but had to bow down after loosing too many matches.The highlight for me was the rise of what I call the holy trinity of Indian cricket- Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid (highest run getter in 99 world cup,including 2 massive partnership with Ganguly and Tendulkar).There was a ad campaign by Brittania-Brittania Khao WorldCup Jao in 99. In that one month, I along with my family and friends had eaten as much biscuits as we had eaten in our combined entire life.Such was the craze then-Anything for worldcup. In 2003,we played very well and were looking to win the world cup given our form when Ricky Ponting spoiled our plans in the finals.I think we lost the match by our poor bowling and our batsman couldn’t do much chasing a massive score.But still there was slight chance as it was raining in patches and D/L came into play.I had my SSC board exams the very next day and had to peep in and out to see the scores.But most of the times,it didn’t look good and it was a shock to loose after doing so well until the finals.2007 world cup was a forgetful affair as India were out in the first round,felt really sorry for Dravid who was leading the side then.Who knows,he would have been an exceptional captain had he continued to lead the side.And then came 2011,when we lived our dream to lift the world cup 28 years after Kapil Dev and his team had made us proud in 83.So far,2015 looks promising too to defend the title.By the way,Mauka mauka ad campaign has won hearts of everyone with its brilliant script and creativity.Over the years,cricket on a whole has gone through so many changes,it has got richer with new technology used,new shots being invented to score runs,new tricks being employed by bowlers to deceive the batsman and new techniques adopted by fielders especially on the boundary line to convert a certain six to a wicket.
Let’s analyze some specific players and how it has impacted our psyche and the game.Take for instance AB De Villiers-the most innovative contemporary batsman who is literally changing the rules of the game.Some of the shots he has played are beyond imagination.More importantly he makes the bowlers bowl the way he want him to,even though they don’t want to. When the bowl coming from bowler by the time it reaches him he has all the time in the world to choose and perfectly execute 2 or 3 scoring shots.And very little can the bowler and fielding side do to stop him when he is in zone.Players like Chris Gayle and lot many batsmen of this generation can score a double and more importantly even think of it unlike last decade.In short, the approach to a game has changed completely,a batsman can chase 100 runs or may be more than that easily in last 10 overs. Sunil Narine who has a great impact especially in IPL can stun and deceive the batsman quite consistently by his mystery deliveries which is difficult to read.He is one of the few spinners who captain turns to during death overs as along with taking wickets,he can choke runs too.Unfortunately he is not playing in this WC.Dale Steyn needs a special mention here as he is the best bowler in an era dominated by batsman.When he is in rhythm bowling fiery,clinching wickets consistently,it is a beautiful sight to watch.Ever so magnificent bowlers like Mitchell Johnson, Daniel Vettori,Morne Morkel,Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ravi Rampaul have only got smarter with power hitters like Chris Gayle, Glen Maxwell, Keiron Pollard, David Miller, Brendon McCullum,David Warner, our very own MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli becoming ever so powerful with the bat.Fielding standard over the years have only improved.Jonty Rhodes who made people recognise that fielding can also be a art and who changed the facet of a match though his fantastic catches,brillant save and crucial runouts would be very proud to see some exceptional fielders like ABD, Raina, Warner,Dilshan,Kohli,Steven Smith, Rahane and many others in this generation.The other day,in quarter finals against Bangladesh,Shikhar Dhawan took a excellent juggling catch at the boundary which we would not have imagined say 10 years ago.So overall,the game is changing and changing for good.
Having followed cricket over the years and being a ardent fan,it feels great to see the game evolving and getting better.
P.S : This blog post is written for a blogging contest by Harsha Bhogle, one of the few cricket commentators I admire and look up to.Hope this blog post and being his namesake gives me a slight edge to be a part in his Bloggers Dream Team 🙂