Some cricketing points to ponder

Within the realms of modern day cricket it is very difficult to see where you have to fix your focus. On the one hand Test cricket brings you all the accolades where the statistics are concerned and put you among the immortals. On the other the shorter vrsions bring you the unimaginable riches that Test cricket may not be able to give you if you are engaged only in that discipline which may span for about ten to fifteen years in the international arena.

Just the other day AFP news agency came out with a very interesting news item where the England cricket authorities had understood this phenomenon and taken an interesting step that should be taken very seriously even by the rest of the flock.

“England's Test players have seen their win bonuses increased to two million pounds (4 million dollars) a year as cricket chiefs react to the cash bonanza caused by the growth of Twenty20. This represents an impressive three-fold increase on what they could have earned had they won every Test series last year. Administrators are worried by the potential for a rift caused by a difference in earnings between one-day players and Test specialists. For example, England's one-day side can expect to get approximately 250,000 pounds (500,000 dollars) each if they win a match organised by Texan billionaire Allen Stanford against a West Indies all-stars side in Antigua.

Further riches are on offer from a lucrative domestic Twenty20 competition in India. England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Giles Clarke previously downplayed talk of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff playing in next year's edition on the grounds they might injure themselves ahead of the showpiece Ashes series at home to Australia.

But ECB chief executive David Collier has announced a 10-day window in which England players could take part in India after the tour of the West Indies. However the likes of England Test captain Michael Vaughan and opening batsman Andrew Strauss have missed out on these one-day riches, something officials have tried to counteract with their bonus scheme.

It comes hot on the heels of Saturday's announcement of a new Twenty20 tournament with two domestic teams each from England, Australia, South Africa and India due to take place later this year.
The winners of the inaugural Champions League are set to take home 2.5 million pounds (five million dollars), a huge amount by English county standards.”

While going through that we saw the real weight of that statement. It was evident while the Indian Premiere League tournament had some of the Indian cricketers who were in the more classical module of the calibre of three illustrious Indian captains – the present Test one Anil Kumble (2007- ) Sourav Ganguly (2000-06), Rahul Dravid (2003-07) hardly could transform their styles of play to suit the twenty20 demands, in spite of them being very expensive purchases.

Then on our own soil we have the likes of Michael Vandort and Thilan Samaraweera who have been branded and knotted as pure Test material. I wonder whether they too would try to change their focus? If not they are surely running the risk of being left behind.

Intrigued by this modern day pose we had a little chat with the respected veteran cricketer Jayantha Seneviratne as to how he feels about the newly laid winding roads in cricket.

Seneviratne who is also an incumbent national selector said “Initially, it must be said when you are an international cricketer in the present context, you must be ready to play the game on any surface and on any given format. But, in some instances some cricketers do find it difficult to transform their game from the broader view of Test cricket which is the generally accepted norm of the game to the shorter versions, especially the now trendy twenty20 version.”

Elaborating on the point Seneviratne continued “The best example that I can bring forth is that famous opening stand between our own Sanath Jayasuriya and Sachin Tendulkar. Both are living legends of the game. However Jayasuriya in his own inimitable style is more daring and is willing to take more risks than a normal batsman.

When he plays the slash the ball may sail over the slips if it is not properly connected or find the point or the cover boundary depending on the meet of the bat. While a batsman of the calibre of Tendulkar who is no less a personality in cricketing terms and exploits may choose to play a more conventional stroke which may not be effective as Jayasuriya’s. During that innings when Jayasuriya stroked his century Tendulkar scored less than twenty runs.” Seneviratne feels just as the batsmen the bowlers also may lose their focus in Test cricket in the long term.

He said “Unlike in both Test cricket and even the 50 overs version of it, bowlers may lose on the long run. The batsmen are focussed in playing their shots by any means because there are only twenty overs on offer and ten other players to follow you if you are an opener. In the bowler’s part to counter the focus and the mood of the batsman you have only four overs. So you have to shift your operation into a very frugal one that the marauding batsmen cannot exploit within a very short period. This means the bowler has to be more on a negative note. This means wicket taking becomes a secondary issue and the main item in the menu is a dot ball. This trend is surely going to have a huge impact in the long run.”

That was one side of the coin. The Sri Lanka ‘A’ team coach Chandika Haturusinghe takes this pose more as an opportunity. He feels that now the game has taken a very positive stance. He said “I do not see the development of twenty20 cricket as a problem at all. I only see this as a curve of opportunity. For instance unlike in the past now with the development of this shorter version of the game, the cricketers have lost their fear of expressing themselves. “In the past a batsman would take time to dig himself in and build an innings. At the same time a bowler would want to see how the mood of the batsman on that day is and try to outsmart in the meantime.

Now it is not so. Now they have narrowed down their focus and are more determined and there is an urge to score off every ball. At the same time the bowlers have no time to toy with the batsman’s skills. From the word go it is a matter of bowling a dot ball or getting a wicket. The margin for error is very little. You have to be properly focussed at all times.”

Haturusinghe feels this trend must filter into Test cricket too. He expressed “I do not see why a Test match should go on for five days just because the days are allocated. It can be a more entertaining game of cricket where 400 or more runs are scored in an innings and wickets are taken at the same time and a test match ends with a result rather than a drab draw. I feel the game is going through a changing process and it is becoming more focussed”.

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