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To save bowlers, give the Bumrahs an extra over

The balance between bat and ball has been disturbed by the Impact Players rule this season

Alarmed by the carnage they had to endure; the IPL Bowler’s Association called an emergency meeting to find a way out. The Chairman (the person who conceded the highest runs in 4 overs) stepped up to set the ball rolling.

PREMIUM Jasprit Bumrah has been the standout bowler in IPL 2024.(ANI)

His lament set the context. In the IPL, bowlers were junior artists whose role was to get thrashed and make batters look good. The format was unfair and cruel, no different from the spectacles in ancient Rome where spectators packed the Colosseum to witness a one-sided slaughter. Only difference was (this from Mitchell Starc) bowlers in the IPL are handsomely rewarded for participating in the fun.

Fast forwarding to the present, members observed that as the IPL evolved the bat/ ball balance got increasingly skewed. When batters upped their game by developing new skills (switch-hit, reverse, paddle, scoop) bowlers struggled to keep them in check.

Fast bowlers retaliated with pace off deliveries, back of hand stuff, slow bouncers, yorkers, wide yorkers, off cutters bowled into the pitch. Bhuvi and Boult relied on swing for getting wickets , Jadeja once unleashed a 120 k bouncer that surprised the batsman and the wicket keeper.Sunil Narine asked tough questions, Ashwin bowled carrom balls and leg cutters and Rashid Khan’s googly/leg break cocktail baffled batters.

The bowlers survived this phase but this season they went for a massive toss as batsmen ( as though on steroids) blazed away with incredible power hitting. Their mantra was to swing hard from ball one, and it seemed teams had eight finishers and no anchors. Result? Absolute massacre.

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To appreciate the grim situation, consider stats: Sunrisers slammed 125 in the powerplay against DC, went past LSG’s 167 in less than 10 overs and made 287 in 20 against RCB. Kings chased 261 losing only 2 wickets. Travis Head reached hundred in 40 balls. Others too joined the picnic, including the relatively unknown Shashank Singh.

When bowlers cited instances of merciless assault, some examples touched a raw nerve. Accusing looks were directed at fellow bowler Sunil Narine who made a hundred and had a strike rate touching 200. Narine has a batting past but more shocking was leggie Karn Sharma’s outrageous feat when he took down Mitchell Starc, hitting him for three sixes in the last over.

Getting down to serious business, senior bowlers felt the impact player rule was a game changer. With fear of failure removed, the top order came hard at bowlers and this led to record scores. Just as the mercury rose to record levels in Bangalore and Kolkata, IPL team scores (and gold) are now at an all-time high.

When someone pointed out that bowlers were gifted a lifeline – of two bouncers per over- the argument was quickly shot down. It is an unequal situation: bowlers got a pistol, batters received an AK 47.

The unanimous sentiment was the impact rule ought to be scrapped. The justification that it helped fearless batting, what fans want, and provides additional opportunities for Indian players was promptly junked. Cricket is a 11 versus 11 sport and the challenge before captains is to pick a team at the toss by judging conditions and team requirement.

The argument that extra batsmen create extra excitement didn’t find support. The bat- ball balance is key to cricket and when batters become too strong the contest loses its appeal. What’s better, asked one member: a Djokovic- Alcaraz 5 setter or a 3-0 demolition? The former, everyone agreed.

After a lively discussion, suggestions were sought to remedy the situation. It was acknowledged that the game has moved on. Batters, for instance, are physically stronger, they use better quality bats and practise range hitting- that won’t change. Ground with quick outfields and small boundaries will remain what they are – that won’t change.

So, the options for bowlers are limited. Powerplay reduced to 5 overs? Perhaps. Another fielder outside the circle in the Powerplay? Maybe. A ball with a pronounced seam that swings more than the Kookaburra? Possibly.

What then, is the way out? To prevent batsmen from running away with the game one practical solution emerged. Everything remains as it is but allow the fielding captain the option of giving an extra over to any one bowler. Imagine the impact – Jasprit Bumrah steaming in for a fifth!

The suggestion has several merits. Bumrah (current economy 6.2) with ball in hand is a nightmare for batters and when he bowls one more, they will be forced to rethink their strategy. Batters, denied the opportunity of feasting on a weak bowler towards the end, will have to discover new ways to score. Also, the suspense of who will come at them at what stage will be an additional challenge.

One bowler bowling one extra over changes the script and, as happens in an exam, a student is stumped by the out-of-syllabus question. The fielding captain can pull the handbrake when batters have their foot on the accelerator.

The Bowlers Association meeting ended after adopting this resolution: To create a level playing field and restore the bat- ball balance, the house proposes that the Bumrahs be allowed to bowl one extra over.


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