Australia in India 2013-14 November 4, 2013

A run glut like never before

With 3596 runs scored in 11 innings over six India-Australia ODIs, the time has come to revisit the imbalance between bat and ball

"Welcome to F50. It's like a normal T20 game, only it's played over seven hours instead of three. And to compensate for biting a bigger chunk out of your day, there will be one less deep fielder to prevent boundaries. The entertainment doesn't stop, all day long." In a few years, one-day international cricket might well be sold like that, along with visuals from the ODI series between India and Australia to make for irresistible advertising.

For a series written off as meaningless even before it began, India and Australia may just have provided a glimpse of the future. Of what one-day cricket might become, especially on the subcontinent, with dead pitches, fast outfields, moderately sized boundaries and dew.

Australia and India scored 3596 runs in 11 innings over six games. Had the Ranchi ODI not been washed out halfway, and the Cuttack ODI been played, this series would have comfortably breached the 4000 mark, which has never happened before.

Fours. Sixes. Hundreds. A double-hundred. Take your pick. Feel like it's becoming stick cricket? Well, you asked for it when you started feeling "bored" during an ODI. There used to be something loosely called the middle overs, when batting teams tried to build by taking singles and twos and fielding sides tried to contain by restricting boundaries. Fans apparently found the middle overs too tedious, especially with the rise of T20 cricket.

To make ODIs interesting, administrators injected more "excitement". Now, with only four men allowed in the deep, a boundary is never too hard to hit and there are no middle overs. There are only boundaries. There is only excitement. The assumption, of course, is that more excitement will make ODIs more interesting.

An ESPNcricinfo correspondent who covered the Bangalore ODI did not come across anyone who appeared to negate that assumption, as India racked up 383 in 50 overs. People screamed and danced at each of the 30 fours and 19 sixes India hit. Most will remember it as the time they watched Rohit Sharma hit only the third double-hundred in an ODI. For many, it was an unforgettable evening, one of the best they have ever had. Stick cricket? Not for them. Reminiscent of an IPL evening's entertainment? Yes, with nationalistic fervour thrown in.

This is to take nothing away from Rohit's achievement, or Virat Kohli's or George Bailey's. Rohit, or any of the other batsmen, did not ask for the game to discriminate further against bowlers. Like some batsmen, he can't even be accused of slogging wildly. He largely played smooth, orthodox cricket strokes. Which is what is scary. The fact that he did not seem to take too many risks, and yet managed to compile 209 off 158, leaves one with plenty to ponder about the future of the game.

The fact that India did not seem to take too many risks, and yet chased 350-plus totals twice in the series, and that in one of them they sealed the match inside 44 overs for the loss of just one wicket, just adds to the horror. Australia were 211 for 8 in Bangalore, and still scored so rapidly that for some time, there was a realistic chance of 384 being overtaken.

A line of argument is that the bowling in the series was so bad even five deep fielders would not have made a difference. An example is Ishant Sharma's 30-run over to James Faulkner in Mohali. MS Dhoni put three of the permissible four men on the leg-side boundary, but Faulkner's sixes cleared them comfortably. Was it just plain bad bowling and good batting?

The fear of getting hit, of having reduced protection on the boundary, and of having no margin for error, could well have led bowlers to lose lines and lengths more frequently. You can try bowling outside off stump to a packed off-side field, but what if the batsman takes the ball from there and hits it to deep midwicket? The new restrictions mean the captain might not be able to place anyone in that region at that moment.

The batsman now knows one of either mid-off or mid-on will be in the circle. If not, then both third man and fine leg will be. On quick Indian outfields, a healthy edge will get you four more often than not. There is a smaller risk of being caught in the deep. With the kind of monster bats in use, an attempt to clear mid-off could easily go for six. An attempt to hit a six might clear the ground.

The one-day format has suffered so many tweaks it has become a hideous degenerate in some conditions, almost an extended form of T20. This series has shown us the kind of excesses the latest mutation can cause. Australia in India 2013-14 may well be remembered for introducing the world to F50 unless something is done about it.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Michael on November 6, 2013, 23:00 GMT

    As a non-Indian fan, I was often unable to watch the majority of the second innings of any of these matches because I had to go to bed. However, as the series went on I found myself less and less inclined to stay up to watch the match at all. When I knew that a team scoring at 7 an over could (and in Australia's case, would) be chased down I lost interest. 4s and 6s are interesting because they are difficult - they show the batsman has done well to pierce the field or clear it. Why is it interesting when it happens every second ball? It's like having dessert for every meal - after a while, you lose the taste for it. Of course, for a country obsessed with the shorter formats (and batting in particular) it will take longer than in other places, but gradually we will see the fan's appetite become sated and they will switch off.

  • Harmon on November 6, 2013, 20:26 GMT

    @Abhishek.2626: I did not say there are no small stadiums in India. My main point was that why were ppl saying that India chased 360 in Nagpur in a small stadium when it was in fact almost as big as the MCG?

    Having established that Indian chase took place in a large stadium & in the backdrop of India chasing 321 in 37 overs in Hobart, which is in Aus & not in India, + the fact that more than 10 yrs back India chased a (then) huge total of 325 in a final, it follows that the big scores India made in this series were not necessarily due to the small grounds but because of high quality batting. To talk about the grounds being small is to miss the point altogether.

    Ok so Kotla is a small stadium. Does that demean the victory SL had over India in WC96 when India made 271? Do we talk like that or do we say SL batted well?

    Aus scored 326 to India's 383. Do we say well tried Aus or do we say aus were batting on a flat track?

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2013, 23:03 GMT

    It's not all doom and gloom. In India, we saw two powerful batting sides tee off against weak bowling units. In UAE, we are seeing the opposite. I am all for a balance between bat and ball - and that is a product of skills more than conditions.

  • Suman on November 5, 2013, 20:20 GMT

    It may be a combination of different factors. The fact that the pitches had nothing for any bowler coupled with two largely lousy bowling attacks, the new rule of only 4 fielders on the ropes and mostly good hitters from both batting line up all put together results in this bonanza of runs. The UAE series seems to be the other extreme where both teams have a pretty good bowling but not enough power in batting. The difference is there for everyone to see. In essence, the new rules are not the only reason for this run fest.

  • varsha on November 5, 2013, 20:17 GMT

    I have lost faith in the credibility of ODIs for a while now, but even considering that, this series was a joke. I'll take a fair contest between bat and ball any day over these slogfests. The only positive is that it serves to really inflate batsman averages, especially players from those countries who traditionally make dead pitches. Their averages need to be adjusted down about 10 runs at least, to compensate because the wickets and the rules are flattering them to make them look better than they actually are.

  • Satish on November 5, 2013, 15:52 GMT

    This is not the death for ODIs, cricinfo and some fans don't really get it. Each country prepares pitches that favor its home team's strengths. In India's case, it is batting. There will always be low scoring matches at venues where the home team advantage is in their bowling (relative to their opposition). Also bowlers from both these teams were ordinary (other than Johnson who fared decently). You would have a different result (i.e. more competitive matches) with Pakistan, England, and SA in India due to their superior bowling. I do hope to see bowling pitches used in domestic season, as that will give Indians the ability to play abroad also.

  • Amit on November 5, 2013, 14:45 GMT

    Most teams struggle to beat India at home. More so in ODIs where we have an absolutely powerful batting line up that makes up for a lousy attack. Bowlers struggle here. Period. Sachin scored his 200 against South Africans and no one would say they can't bowl. England usually fail to win any ODI games here and they too have a good attack. Lanka gets hammered. Almost all the time. They've not beaten India in a bilateral series for many years. And now they can't get past virat. Pakistan probably have the attack best suited for these pitches and so, they manage to hold their own. Size of the ground is same for both sides and so are the rules. So while these run gluts are not always exciting let's expect them anyways. Why?

    Because, In a nutshell, all things being equal, batting strength wins you games in India and we've got plenty.

  • Jackie on November 5, 2013, 14:00 GMT

    The Indian cricket captain and Indian commentators are fighting back to save ODI cricket and we should support them otherwise the future does look bleak for the one day game. People talk about football being 'fast', well if you go to an actual match instead of just looking at highlights you might get a different impression. There are times in a game when nothing much seems to be happening as players are trying to find an opening. The point is football is played defensively as well as aggressively and no team can cope otherwise. The structure of the game requires defensive players, mid field and strikers. No one just thinks the 'strikers' should be raining goals. That is where cricket has gone down the wrong route with t20. It should be a game to win or lose not be judged by how many sixes are hit. That should indicate that the balance between bat and ball is wrong. ODIs have full houses in England and we have games that are contests but this could change if the rules favour the bat.

  • Shiva on November 5, 2013, 13:59 GMT

    Had India remove the last two wickets of Australia i.e, soon after 211 in the final ODI wud everyone say India has produced good dna for bowlers? NO we'd still stick to Ishant sharma over :D Batting has evolved from shot from book to deliberate cut to slog to scoop then switch hit.. now lets see bowling line n length stick to basics rarely seam will see reverse swing and spin will have a googly laugh. Its high time for bowlers to do something. When talking about 4 fielders outside ring, I join the rest it must be reset to 5.

  • Jay on November 5, 2013, 13:31 GMT

    Aren't the Pak vs SA ODIs being played with the same rules? Yet 3 times out of 4 the teams struggled to pass 200 run mark. Its not the rules, it is just the useless pitches that were used in India v Aus games.