January 1, 2014

Is this good for cricket?

Michael Jeh
Why was Corey Anderson receiving balls short enough to cut?  © AFP

For those who may have had a few too many drinks last night and switched on the TV to ease into a New Year's Day hangover, they may be mistaken for thinking that someone spiked their drink or that they're watching a highlights package. This cannot possibly be live cricket. In fact, it is almost not cricket, full stop. Perhaps this is an exhibition baseball game - some of the West Indian bowlers may have more of a career in that sport than in cricket, judging by the number of deliveries that didn't bounce, and by the bowlers' inability to use the cut surface, despite its true nature.

Corey Anderson's world-record innings looks like it will stand forever, but the way cricket is going, it probably won't last that long. Boundaries that have been brought in, heavy bats, and bowling attacks that clearly do not have the skills to bowl yorkers regularly will see Anderson's record beaten again sometime soon.

There was a time when world records were so rare that they were special, but the speed at which they are being eclipsed now cheapens them somewhat. It's hard to know whether to be in awe of Anderson and Jesse Ryder's power hitting or whether this was like shooting fish in a barrel. Fastest ODI hundred, most sixes by a team in an innings (despite this innings being just 21 overs long), 150-run partnership in 58 balls, the highest run-rate target in an ODI, possibly an unofficial record for the most full tosses bowled (including junior cricket!)… the list goes on.

Is this good for cricket? I'm not convinced it is, though I salute the mighty efforts of the batsmen involved. A combination of factors has contributed to this situation, but one of the undeniable factors has been a rapid decline in the standard of bowling. It is a topic that I have written on recently, and it appears that a few months later, the problem continues for all bowlers throughout the world. You can think of all the excuses - bigger bats, smaller grounds, more shot innovation (scoops, for instance) - but a bowler at this level should be able to land a decent yorker just about anytime he wants. Really, he should.

I played in a match at the MCG yesterday (Melbourne CC v Marylebone CC - MCC v MCC) and despite not having bowled at all for more than 13 months, I was able to land my blockhole choker every single time, even when bowling near the death when the slog was well and truly on. Now if I can do that at age 45 with no practice and with a massive talent shortfall compared to full-time professional international cricketers, I refuse to accept that it cannot be done more often at this level. Yes, I was bowling to 1st and 2nd grade cricketers of district-level standard, and there was clearly less pressure than bowling to Anderson and Ryder, but even allowing for all of those factors, I'm here to tell you that it's not that hard! If I can do that at my age with no practice, an ageing body, and an obvious lack of natural talent, is it too hard to expect international cricketers to execute a simple skill at least four balls out of six?

It's a different story if the bowlers were executing yorkers that were then being scooped over fine leg for six. There's not much any bowler can do to combat that except to keep landing them in the same spot, drop fine leg back and wait for a mistake. You might go for the odd boundary but you won't keep getting swatted over midwicket and extra cover for six. Even the spinners were dishing up waist-high full tosses and looking rueful when they disappeared into the crowd.

Is this entertainment? One team scores 284 for 4 at 13.5 runs per over and the other team ends up at less than half that total, at 5.9 runs an over. Watching Ryder bowl his innocuous offspin is proof that even non-regular bowlers can pay the groundsman a compliment by landing the ball on the pitch that he has so lovingly prepared. Perhaps that anomaly puts both the New Zealand batting and the West Indian bowling into perspective.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and is a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Keywords: Records

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by class9ryan on (January 3, 2014, 3:56 GMT)

This is where cricket is different from many games in the world. Absolute bowling friendly conditions in game 1 and on another day boundaries being bashed all over the place on a match situation where you just have to go for the kill. West batted pretty much on the same surface but didn't get as many. So, I believe its just a part and parcel of the game.

Posted by   on (January 2, 2014, 20:17 GMT)

A well thought out analysis. While I admired Corey Anderson for battering the West Indies clueless bowling, I wonder if this should qualify as an official ODI. One would expect at minimum half of the legitimate 50 overs must be bowled to qualify as an official game. I wonder what are the rules. I guess cricket is now purely entertainment even when the reputation of the game is battered.

Posted by wrenx on (January 2, 2014, 9:01 GMT)

@4dee Have you not watched any ODI cricket in the last 2 years? Batting records have fallen thick and fast, stop pretending that it isn't true

Posted by Nuxxy on (January 1, 2014, 18:18 GMT)

@wiki8: If being "pretty good at cricket" is simply landing only 8 overs of leg spin on the pitch, I'm the next Shane Warne. Which just paints Tahir's first innings effort as exactly what it was: pretty pathetic. Even Smith thought so, which is why he took Tahir off, because last time he persisted in Oz, Tahir set a world record for crap bowling.

Posted by Stark62 on (January 1, 2014, 12:47 GMT)

I agree whole-heartdly with your points in this article!

I will also echo what the Indian pacers said after the Ind-Aus series "It's better to have bowling machines" or something along those lines, which may become a reality.

Posted by Lakpj on (January 1, 2014, 12:47 GMT)

Agree in a way to the writer, i watched highlights and the bowling was terrible no way this much of runs be scored if the bowling was a bit decent than what it was. But take nothing away from Anderson, Most of his sixers landed well out side the boundary and some of them out of the grass banks even. so most of those would have been sixers on any ground. Then again Afridi hit his century in Nairobi, a ground on high altitude and the balls travels a more. So I think things balance out.

Posted by Pradeepmani007 on (January 1, 2014, 12:24 GMT)

Records are always records,but consistency always speak. Many record holders struggle to retain their place in team.One day & T-20 records are hit & win ones.Test records require good techniques to reach.

Posted by wik8 on (January 1, 2014, 12:23 GMT)

@nuxxy you sound like you're pretty good at cricket, why aren't you in the test team?

Posted by   on (January 1, 2014, 12:13 GMT)

agress completely with iceaxe (Posted by iceaxe on (January 1, 2014, 9:12 GMT)). These are wonderful accomplishments, and achieved well within the rules of the game. Whether the rules are fair are not is a different issue. We must learn to accept changes and enjoy the game.

Posted by IPSY on (January 1, 2014, 11:54 GMT)

Cont'd: So Michael, added to this poor bowling scenario, is the fact that the bats are being manufactured just to score runs; the perimeter of playing field altered; and the rules adjusted to give the batsmen every advantage. Hence, since 2008, all kinds of batting records are being broken, in all formats of the game. And, what is amazing is to see how the guys from the old school, who knows much better, are so overly excited when some of these OBVIOUS OUTCOMES take place; and worse, they keep rating these comparable mediocre performances with GREAT BATSMAN-SHIP OF THE PAST! I've been calling them out over this ever since, but as an unknown critic, with absolutely no name in any aspect of world cricket, my assessment seems to be continuously rubbished by the experts. Hence, I'm very glad to see you, as an expert with an internationally acceptable opinion bringing the problem to the fore. So, congrats Mr Jeh for penning such important observation in the game that we all love so much!

Posted by IPSY on (January 1, 2014, 11:39 GMT)

"A combination of factors has contributed to [all these records being broken], but one of the undeniable factors has been a rapid decline in the standard of bowling..and..the problem continues for all bowlers throughout the world"! Michael, no one can sum it up better! I've been reminding the whole world, that since after the last pair of bowlers of a genuine world class bowling attack (as we knew from the Body-line series right up to 2007) retired, that is, since Glen Mc Grath and Shane Warne retired simultaneously in 2007, no country has ever really had a real world class bowling attack to date - in no format of the game, especially in test cricket! What has happened since is that you may find a single bowler now and then in a series who looks good for that series (eg Mitchell Johnson); but the next series a batsman just playing his third test match would hammer one who looked good in the previous series for the record highest number of runs in an over (eg James Anderson)! Cont'd:

Posted by cyou on (January 1, 2014, 11:36 GMT)

@"possibly an unofficial record for the most full tosses bowled (including junior cricket!)"

While I agree that the bowling attacks in world cricket today do not have the skill to bowl yorkers regularly, the author has grossly exaggerated the number of full tosses bowled by the West Indian bowlers today. Most of the sixes hit by Anderson and Ryder came off length deliveries or balls that were full (but bouncing) wide outside off. Go back and look at the highlights reel - I recall only two sixes being hit off full tosses - off Miller when Anderson was on 101 and off Bravo when he was on about 125 (i.e. after he had reached his century anyway).

Posted by   on (January 1, 2014, 11:02 GMT)

Yes, the cricket rules need to quit being tweaked every 10 ODIs, but at the end of day, sixes will be sixes. If there was a match tomorrow with a bowler taking all 10 wickets, no one will say if that is good or bad for the game. Fact is players mindsets have changed and players have gotten stronger to hit the balls farther. But the ODI rules need to go back to the olden days of 50 overs, field restrictions in first 15 overs with 2 men outside the inner circle, and thats it! From super-sub to power plays, 2 new balls, added field restrictions ODI cricket has been made a complete mockery and joke on a public stage. Can anyone imagine FIFA implementing one year of 5 substitutes, next year change from 90 minute games to 60 minutes, next year bigger goal dimensions, next only 3 players can remain in the defending half to promote more goals - IT JUST WONT HAPPEN TO PLEASE THE AUDIENCE. Stick to the correct format, and deal with it. Thats the way its always worked.

Posted by andrew-schulz on (January 1, 2014, 10:42 GMT)

I reckon one of the worst sayings in the history of the game is 'it's better to be full than short.'. During October I watched a dozen 50 over games in a couple weeks which were lost by the inability of bowlers to hit the pitch. It's great to see full tosses get punished. Call 'em all no-balls I say, not just those over waist height. Having said that, it's neither Anderson's nor Ryder's fault that they were facing such tripe.

Posted by Attacking on (January 1, 2014, 10:16 GMT)

The new rules over the last few years will significantly impact statistics in the one day game.

There has obviously been many moves to make batting easier by having shorter boundaries, bigger bats, flat pitches, powerplays, 2 balls and now the fielding restrictions.

High scoring games are wonderful to watch once in a while but too many of these games deflates the value of scoring runs. They should go back to 1 ball per innings, this will bring back the spinners and reverse swing for the fast bowlers. The softer ball makes it more of a challenge for the batsmen.

They should revert the fielding restrictions back too. There has to be some balance, otherwise the sport is no longer an even contest between bat and ball.

Posted by Nuxxy on (January 1, 2014, 9:36 GMT)

The increased number of full tosses is shocking. Part of wonders if it's batsmen who have become better at using the crease: two balls on the same spot can be a full toss and then short enough to 'get under'. But then I look at the shocker Tahir has in the first test against India; and even Adam Zampa's bowling in the Big Bash recently. I bowl leg spin casually, and the only time I bowl a ball that doesn't land is when it's tactical, aiming for a miss-hit off the top half of the bat. How can someone at top level not land 6 balls on the pitch? I could do it blindfolded.

Posted by   on (January 1, 2014, 9:25 GMT)

i didnot see the match, just saw this news in cricinfo. but the way, author wrote underlines something more, westindian bowlers bowled wrong deliveries themselves? is it like this? yes, the nz grounds are smaller, yes, jesse and corey have big bats, and they are good strikers, but yes too that a bowler can ball yorkers at will!! batsman if transfer the yorker into a fulltoss or CHEAKY leg glance, whatever, that is clever batsmenship, but "spinners balling rank full tosses and then moaning is clearly un-imaginable. God knows what comes next. afrid record is gone, no problem, but nothing is for ever, except God.

Posted by ReverseSweepRhino on (January 1, 2014, 9:23 GMT)

Sure... Let's just remove this from cricketing records. And since we are picking and choosing what else we want to remove, how about erasing all scores of 400+ and all individual double centuries in ODIs.

Or we can do what is appropriate--delight in the fact that someone played a blinder of an innings. Regardless of the quality of the opposition bowling or the playing field, the records have been broken within the rules of the game and are valid as ever.

If you think it devalues the game, fine. But then you have to concede that just maybe Sir Don Bradman's 309* on the first day of a test match was detrimental to cricket as well...

Posted by iceaxe on (January 1, 2014, 9:12 GMT)

Everyone was amazed when Chris Gayle's 175* broke Brendan McCullum's long standing 158* which had stood for a few years in the IPL. Both were spectacular and crowd pleasing. I'm going to wear my orange outfit so I can get my share of glory when the ball comes my way...

Posted by   on (January 1, 2014, 9:11 GMT)

lol @ "possibly an unofficial record for the most full tosses bowled (including junior cricket!)"

Posted by blogossip on (January 1, 2014, 9:09 GMT)

@david baloch very true. Australia won 07 WC in 38 ovr contest, and tht dsnt take gloss out of tht performance. ppl who cry foul at 21 ovrs shd remember matches are decided at 2o over mark. so overs issue is irrelevant!

Posted by kasifdotinfo on (January 1, 2014, 9:03 GMT)

The boundaries in Queenstown probably weren't that much shorter than those in Nairobi or elsewhere, and all of Anderson's sixes (that I saw) cleared the rope by a good distance.

Bats have probably improved, but there isn't any greater allowance on weight now than before, and I know of no study that definitively shows that a modern bat of a certain weight can hit a ball significantly farther than a bat 20 years older can.

This was essentially a T20 match, and the West Indies have one of the best T20 teams. Narine and Rampaul, two of the best T20 bowlers around, got smashed. Of course, bowlers can't be at their best every day.

Yorkers are difficult to bowl. They easily become full tosses or half-volleys. Batsmen aren't static targets, remember; they move around more than ever, meaning that bowlers can't be too predictable and stick to only one length on the pitch. Bowlers who have been able to bowl yorkers at will and at sufficient pace have been few and far between down the years.

Posted by Mushtanda on (January 1, 2014, 9:02 GMT)

I doubt if the writer actually watched the game. Very few of Anderson and Ryder's shot were actually in the slog category. They were mostly cricketing shots.

Posted by   on (January 1, 2014, 8:48 GMT)

Wow this is such a negative view of an amazing innings. People don't say "Brian Lara's record 400 test innings isn't good for cricket because west indies didn't win". The west indies bowling was pretty terrible but Shahid Afridi's record century lasted for quite some time. So go back to watching the true Ashes farce of one team that won at home and doesn't care to compete when they go to Aussie.. Trumpet Australian cricket as soon to be number 1 in the world after they win against a sub-par England.

Posted by   on (January 1, 2014, 8:48 GMT)

ps.. Lets see you bowl against Ryder and Anderson at any ground you want and see if they don't hit you for a fair few sixes too.

Posted by   on (January 1, 2014, 8:41 GMT)

This makes me laugh, ultimately because a New Zealander that very few of you has heard of has gone out and smashed the record, you want to cry farce. It's interesting that the Windies in the same conditions couldn't manage a run a ball huh? This is Jesse Ryder, same guy who flailed India all over the park for a well made 200 and Corey Anderson, a guy who has had a first class contract since the age of 16 who has recently come into international cricket, having a List A average of 30 at 116 strike rate. This record is great for cricket, because it shows the perils of not executing properly against two batsmen who were in rampant form. No difference to these innings than Shahid Afridi coming in and swinging as hard as he could either. This would have broken International T20 records as well as ODI records, deal with it.

Posted by   on (January 1, 2014, 8:29 GMT)

Anderson's 100 SMASHED the previous fastest 100 in T20 cricket (Levi's 45 ball hundred in 2012) by 9 balls, so either way it's a record breaker.

Afridi was slogging the whole way through, same as Anderson not pacing his innings because he had to bat 50 overs. That said though, Afridi's innings was and still is remarkable.

Posted by 4dee on (January 1, 2014, 8:20 GMT)

So "the speed at which they [records] are being eclipsed now cheapens them somewhat". Afridi's amazing record was set 17 years ago - it's not exactly being broken every week is it?

Posted by   on (January 1, 2014, 8:19 GMT)

stop your moaning, harden up and deal with it.

Posted by   on (January 1, 2014, 8:17 GMT)

very well written .. batting records at the cost of poor bowling dont mean any thing

Posted by blogossip on (January 1, 2014, 8:14 GMT)

record is a record irrespective of background factors. Afridi's record is broken altho i do agreed bowling standards have detriorated. whthr its good or bad, i would simply say whn T20 became part of cricket, you have to accept hitting to improve. Author has to understand its primarily about spectators rather tah connsieurs like us. On cricinfo lack of empty stands at last day of durban test was lamented. People like short formats, just like they do fast food !

Posted by Mekkayel on (January 1, 2014, 8:09 GMT)

Is it that they were playing with a wet ball that is hard to grip? hmm i wonder...

Posted by hayjay on (January 1, 2014, 8:01 GMT)

Wow you're incredible!! Congrats to you & shame on Anderson & Ryder for some extraordinary ball striking.

If it were an Asian player getting this record in the same circumstances you'd all be in raptures but because it's little old NZ it's simply not acceptable! Well i'll tell you what, we may never have the most talented cricketing sides but we've always been right up there in terms of big hitting ball strikers.

Posted by AltafPatel on (January 1, 2014, 7:45 GMT)

It can not be called an ODI. Seems T20 record injected in ODIs. Afridi's record still the best.

Posted by iceaxe on (January 1, 2014, 7:30 GMT)

It was entertaining for me. The game should go down as a 20/20 match though.

Comments have now been closed for this article


Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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