When a batting team scores 400 plus in an innings, it is but obvious that the side has enjoyed itself out in the middle, and the team has had a run feast. However, does that also mean that the crowd and audience watching at home have enjoyed themselves to the hilt? After all, one-day has always been promoted as a batsman's game, and the viewers have been expected to soak in the excitement. If one goes according to that logic, the fourth one-dayer between India and Sri Lanka at Kolkata in which the hosts crossed 400 should have produced phenomenal cricket. But, we need to ask ourselves was that really the case?
Thebasic concept of sport, be it individual or a team game, is competition between two opponents, and that too a fierce one. The idea of having a match is also to test the skills of different people under versatile circumstances. However, this is definitely not what is taking place in one-dayers at present. The format of the sport is so heavily loaded in favour of the batsmen that things have actually become embarrassingly easy for them. There is actually very little scope for competition. As a result, more and more matches are being decided on the basis of which side has a stronger batting line-up.
There was a time in one-day cricket when 300 was considered a match-winning target, and reaching the mark was actually a massive achievement. This was the case a decade or so ago. Teams had a tough time reaching 300 because the opponents had high-quality bowlers, who could stop them from getting there. But, now 300 is nowhere near a safe score. In every other game, teams post and chase down numbers in excess of six runs an over. In fact, 400 is more like the new 300 now. India, in fact, have crossed 400 as many as five times -- phenomenal and shocking at the same time.
Fielding restrictions is one of the main reasons why batsmen are finding it extremely easy to score runs. There are power plays in existence, and even when not, some other kinds of restrictions exist. Add to that the quality of bats, which are as heavy as they can get, as well as the shortening of the boundary ropes to get in as many advertising hoardings as possible, and the one-day format pretty much becomes a graveyard for bowlers. There have been numerous instances in the recent past where bowlers have conceded defeat midway through a game, and are pretty much making up the numbers.
The Kolkata ODI was another classic example of an match in which the bat was completely dominant. And, the worrying aspect is that the format is producing so many of such contests. Call it the T20 effect or a sign of changing times, the fact is that one-day cricket is losing its vitality. And, this is not a great sign, with the World Cup only a couple of months away. This is all the more reason why Rohit Sharma's double hundred is no cause to celebrate.
--By A Cricket Analyst