Christian Ryan
Writer based in Melbourne. Author of Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the Bad Old Days of Australian Cricket

The ball's too big

Bats have steadily gotten bigger over the years; why has the ball stayed the same size for close to a century?

Christian Ryan

December 1, 2009

Comments: 42 | Text size: A | A

Sachin Tendulkar hits the ball at a practice session, Eden Park, Auckland, March 24, 2009
If batsmen are seeing it like a football, there may be a reason for it Phil Walter / © Getty Images
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Last summer I enjoyed three Fifth XI outings on sun-blasted suburban fields with not much grass on them. One of them I enjoyed more than the other two, because this one Sunday afternoon I felt like Victor Trumper. I went in about number seven. And I thumped - and no other word, excepting maybe "butchered", which verges on immodest, sums up the cleanness of the contact so precisely as "thumped" - five fours. A wristy flick off middle stump was my quietly-get-my-eye-in shot. There was a swat off my sneakers, a coruscating late cut, a… I forget. The point is, 20 years earlier, when I was an earnest young cricketer, those five blows would not have squashed a single thirsty tuft on that dishevelled oval. Twenty years ago my five blows wouldn't have made it past the infield. Deep down I knew this, and deeper down it was all a bit of an anti-climax.

It feels sort of hollow, hitting a four you haven't earned. As with anything handed to you in cellophane and a crimson bow when it is not your birthday, you get instantly suspicious. You think, can this really be any good?

Every long-time player and observer at every club of every cricket-playing city knows this: the bats are better. No more is it rock up early and breathe in the soothing scent of raw linseed while discussing the wonders of rubbing an ox's shinbone up and down willow. No. Now it's all carbon and titanium and, here, try some of this Kevlar up your bat handle.

So yes, unquestionably, the bats are better. But does better mean good - good for the game's sake? The answer to that is less straightforward.

While bats have all but sprouted wings and propeller blades, the ball has been busy too. Busy. Ignoring. The world. The cricket ball shrank three-sixteenths of one inch, by law, in 1927. Then never again. This would be well and good if batsmen still batted with 1927 bats. They do not. Bats are fatter along the edges. What was once called the sweet "spot" is closer to a 38-inch-long sweet rectangle. Yet the ball has not, to even things up, gotten smaller or bouncier. And so the delicate balance has been upset. The game's oldest understanding - that batting is hard - no longer rings quite true.

Not that batting is a cinch now. Knowing one mistake will put you out of the match, potentially out of the team and maybe out of a job is still a heavy load in a batsman's head. But when your Kookaburra Kahuna Blitz sends your nervous defensive nudge clanking into the advertising board, that lifts a bit of fear. Then when you attempt a cautious dab outside off stump and the ball sails screeching over the top of gully, any lingering tension soon dissolves. And without fear and tension, what's left that's worth savouring? Nostalgia, certainly, although even nostalgia - seldom as fine as it used to be - might soon acquire a bitter aftertaste. For when cricket people hark back to olden times and stirring deeds they invariably mean batting ones, usually involving heroic triumph over frightening odds. And if bat technology loads all the odds in the batsman's corner, rendering triumph predictable and heroism surplus to requirements, what then?

The solution must by now be blinkingly obvious: make batting hard again. The sensible thing would be for the International Cricket Council to hit rewind and insist that cricket be played with the bats of 20 years ago. Alas, that would involve our august custodians weighing up the game's greatest good against a few companies' maximum profits and deciding that the former matters more. So forget it. Instead we must turn to a less sensible-sounding alternative: make the ball smaller.

The idea rouses a certain gut squeamishness when you see it written down like that, even though the notion that the bat can be any unlicensed woodworker's plaything yet the ball must stay a museum piece is piffle. No law in cricket is more stuffily drafted nor wraps a deadening hand round the modern game's neck so surely as Law 5:

"The ball, when new, shall weigh not less than 5 1/2oz [five and a half ounces]/155.9g , nor more than 5 3/4oz [five and three-fourths]/163g, and shall measure not less than 8 13/16in [eight and thirteen-sixteenths]/22.4cm, nor more than 9in/22.9 cm in circumference."

One long-winded sentence. Two little measurements - the third and fourth ones - that need scribbling out and smaller numbers inserted. It should not be beyond the wit of cricket to fix this.

 
 
The delicate balance has been upset. The game's oldest understanding - that batting is hard - no longer rings quite true
 

The tricky bit is calculating what the two new measurements should be. Logic suggests that the smaller the ball's circumference, the harder it will be to see and hit, and the more onerous batting becomes. But once you start shrinking the ball, might there also arise a point - scientifically traceable - at which the ball becomes impractical to grip and bowl? Common sense is our only guide here - common sense and a handful of far-fetched yet apparently factual tales from cricket folklore.

We know, for instance, that the boy Arthur Mailey fine-tuned his googly in the family home by repeatedly bowling an orange. Once, with his orange, Mailey spun a googly past Neville Cardus' defences on a footpath in Piccadilly. Oranges are sometimes bigger and sometimes smaller than a cricket ball, like apples. It was with an apple, a green apple, that Doug Ring on the train to Bristol gave Richie Benaud an impromptu masterclass in how to bowl a skidding top-spinner.

Let's suppose this particular apple was smaller, and conclude, safely enough, that a cricket ball the size of a small apple would pose new challenges to batsmen without affecting the bowler's ability to grasp the ball and make it deviate. Or how about a tennis ball, 10% smaller than a cricket ball, like the one young BJT Bosanquet persuaded to twist left when it should have twisted right and so changed the course of bowling history? Or a ping-pong ball, capable of dazzling gyrations under the influence of Jack Iverson's bent-back middle finger? Iverson could curl it round walls and make it fizz back to himself; he could bounce a tennis ball one way then the other in a single overarm motion.

Probably a hard, red, six-stitch, ping-pong ball might make batting too perilous. Probably is as precise as we can be. For the ICC, ever oblivious to the real crisis, is more interested - an altogether more useless endeavour, this one - in devising a durable day-night ball that lasts longer than an orange or apple, and has so far not noticed that modern bats are wrecking cricket as entertainment. The game's rulers are in thrall to the idiot's philosophy of the more boundaries the merrier, even if sixes - no longer a feat of breathtaking might - are these days worth about 412, and fours off your sneakers are the prerogative of pluckless journos, and we can replay in our minds brave 35s from the mid-'80s yet are hard-pressed recalling a single distinctive characteristic of the hundred we saw three weeks ago.

The 80s, golden days if only we'd realised it, were a time when Steve Waugh could score 39% of his runs in boundaries and be considered a scintillating strokemaker. In the 90s he cranked that up to 41%. By the noughties - the decade batmakers went batty - Waugh's boundary rate skyrocketed to 52%, even though he was by then a shuffling, crab-like figure who was averse to taking risks. Now, Phillip Hughes has a boundaries-runs rate of 59%. Shane Watson's is 61, Mitchell Johnson's too. This is not because Hughes, Watson and Johnson are seat-of-their-pants specialists beyond all precedent. It is because of the bats.

Tell you one thing I miss: the hard-run three. A Test match went for five days in Ahmedabad last fortnight and consisted of 436 overs, 1598 runs, 179 boundaries and 12 threes. "That's entertainment," the bosses would say, and maybe they really do know best. No point, though, in pretending we are still watching the old, finely balanced, beautiful game.

Christian Ryan is a writer based in Melbourne. He is the author of Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the Bad Old Days of Australian Cricket

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Posted by tfjones1978 on (December 3, 2009, 18:03 GMT)

I think the ball is the right size. I believe the pitches are poor quality. Test Cricket need to be moving pitches to make getting runs difficult. ODI&T20I should favor batsmen, wheres Test pitches should favor bowlers. In Test cricket, a flat pitch is a dead pitch Other things to improve test cricket: * 3 format Competition - 2 or 4 year Championship that includes all 3 formats with higher points for tests then ODI & more for ODI then T20I * Split Day - 4 sessions (25,25,20,20) a day with teams alternating each sessions (continuing from their previous batting session) * Night Tests - 2 sessions in Day, 2 at Night each day. Thus each team gets 1 day & 1 night session * Multi-Tiers relegated - This exists with ICup & IShield, but 3 tiers arent relegated. Expand 4-5day Internationals to be 5 tiers relegated, being 2 tiers of 6 tests, 2 tiers of 6 associate (ICup&IShield) & 5th tier any other team that applies (in groups of 5 or 6) * 3rd Umpire - All wickets can be challenged by batsmen

Posted by bazzr on (December 3, 2009, 10:03 GMT)

once again,in the name of spin why not resin powder?(it was allowed before 1927),just read and research some of arthur maily's(australian leg spinner) comment's on this..exactly what are batsmen scared of

Posted by NashRambler on (December 3, 2009, 1:24 GMT)

Why not change the laws to allow deliveries to be thrown? Wouldn't this bring back the balance between bat and ball? Considering how much better the bats are now and how batsmen are able to cover themselves in protection from head to toe, why not give the bowlers the freedom to deliver the ball without the straight arm restriction?

Posted by shishirg on (December 2, 2009, 19:15 GMT)

While what Christian Ryan is suggesting here is extremely radical there is merit to the suggestion. Do true cricket lovers prefer a slug fest to a intriguing battle between the bat and the ball. Is this generation of batsmen really better than their predecessors? What has the ICC done to address the balance which is increasingly in the batman's favor? I think it would be a good idea to reintroduce (this was an idea used before if i am not mistaken) the idea of using 2 sets of balls for one innings of an ODI (one from each end) and this would probably give budding cricketers incentive to also bowl also. Also the ICC probably needs to do something about the bats that are being used these days and probably put in some restrictions on it as well.

PS: I really am not sure how fielders would feel about a smaller ball...not very enthused is my thought ;)

Posted by jimmy23_hatches on (December 2, 2009, 14:59 GMT)

I think it's rather a case of mindsets rather then bat sizes. Bats still have to be wood and cane (kevlar, graphite etc been banned recently) and still weigh between 2 and 3 pounds, just like they did 10 years ago. I appreciate edges have grown and sweet spots are larger, but all bat makers have ultimately realised is that you can take useless wood from some areas and add it to others and then learnt a few things about balancing. The way to even the balance is with pitch preparation...simpel as that. No more 2000 run test matches I say!!!

Posted by 9ST9 on (December 2, 2009, 6:12 GMT)

Changing the ball is impractical, the balance between bat and ball has changed not only due to the external factors such as bats and balls, and of course the batsman-friendly wickets. There's simply a lack of quality in cricketers themselves. Look at the 90's and the number of great bowlers - Ambrose,Donald,Walsh,Akram,Younis, Kumble, McGrath,Warne,Muttiah, can the same be said of today? do the names today strike fear in the hearts as those bowlers did even when they were new to the game? Look at 2 of the most promising bowlers from last year -Ishant Sharma and Ajantha Mendis These 2 were considered as huge future prospects but they cant make it to the test XI now. Wayne Parnell demolished the aussies earlier this year but he got Belted in the Champions trophy. The problem is bowling today is very toothless and lacks the class of the past.

Posted by 93462 on (December 2, 2009, 3:33 GMT)

i completely agree with atulcricket. if DON has played as much test as Sachine and faced great bowlers of different countries like Wasim, Waqar, Imran, Ambrose, Donald, Murali, he would have much less average than what he has now. remember Don only played against England and perhaps South Africa if i m correct. i would not consider him as a greatest, though he was a good batsman.

Posted by Alxndr_2 on (December 2, 2009, 2:36 GMT)

The rule for the maximum bend in a bowlers arm was changed recently to allow an additional 5 degrees of bend. This change has been beneficial to bowlers ability to bowl with extreme spin or speed. Murali's action would previously have been considered illegal. You could argue that this is more fundamentally against the spirit of cricket then any advancement in bat technology.

Posted by kp22 on (December 2, 2009, 2:24 GMT)

See the interesting thing about this is what is a bowlers opinion and i mean a survey of both quicks and spin bowlers. will the change in the size be it bigger or smaller or heavier make easier to swing/spin the ball, can they can get more pace on the ball or will it be harder and will they be able to produce as much bounce? All in all its a good question to put up to see if perhaps some science can get behind it to see what gives the advantage back to the bowlers. I'd imagine if the ball is too large or too small bowlers would struggle with grip, so what is the optimal size, and again this comes back to individual genetics of how big your hand is. love to see some research go into it.

Posted by pietrojackson on (December 1, 2009, 23:28 GMT)

Why not increase size of of wickets [believe they were reduced in the '30s] and/or change the LBW rule to help bowlers ?

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (December 1, 2009, 23:28 GMT)

Interesting points are made here. Is the game tilted too far in favour of the batsmen, or is this just a natural phenomenon of the time we live in and suddenly without warning the good bowlers are about to reach 18 having been born after all the latest good batsmen? Or are youngsters not fed properly, and allowed too many McDonald's etc to provide proper nutrition? Or is it a conspiracy by the money men in conjunction with groundsmen to churn out the hapless spinless paceless waste of 22yds which is making appearances everywhere? Generally regarding balls, those with prominent seams and/or maroon in colour make better balls for bowling, those with flat seams and crimson for batsmen. Generally though it seems that bowlers are always the ones with a problem and will always be irritable lot cursing fate. The fact is that in spite of trying pull the wool over everyone's eyes, the batsmen gets ONE chance and ONE chance only. The 'poor' bowler gets 6 in a four minute space. Violins please...

Posted by karma12345 on (December 1, 2009, 22:42 GMT)

If the ball became smaller, wouldn't it be harder for it to take the outside edge, which would make it harder to get the top batsmen out, since they usually don't get clean bowled.

Posted by karim_s on (December 1, 2009, 22:34 GMT)

making the ball smaller is a bad idea. first there is an entire generation of bowlers used to this size. for an average sized hand, the cricket ball actually provides a pretty comfortable grip (unlike a baseball). so any long-term benefit will be far outweighed by the near-term run fest that insues as bowlers get used to this size.

second, elementry physics tells you that the amount of swing a baller achieves is going to be proportional to its surface area -- so a slightly smaller ball may just be easier to bat with when facing quality bowlers.

the solution is two give other things to the bowlers. allow them to use fingernails on the ball (i'm not going to use the 't' word, since historically it was never considered that). allow bowlers multiple bouncers. increase the margin for wides. and don't allow batsman to ask for a change of ball every time a piece of dust comes on it and it becomes "decoloured".

Posted by Boonys_army on (December 1, 2009, 22:30 GMT)

Change the size of the ball? surely you are joking.

How about getting curators to make a pitch that isnt guaranteed a 5 day match... all for the TV $$$ of course.

Write a real article next time.

Posted by Avery_Mann on (December 1, 2009, 22:25 GMT)

Just introduce restrictions to the shape, size and weight of bats for test cricket. No need to change the ball; bring the bat back to where it was. (The bat restrictions need not apply to ODIs or 20/20s)

Posted by gcubed on (December 1, 2009, 21:29 GMT)

The ball has to get a lot smaller before it starts affecting the batsman's chances of hitting it. Most of us who play with both cricket ball and hard tennis ball can vouch for this. Also I have played with some cheap cricket balls sold in India that were smaller than regulation but it did not make batting that much harder.

Posted by kriskini on (December 1, 2009, 20:24 GMT)

Instead of changing size of the ball increase the wicket size. Currently its 9 inches wide and 30 inches in height. There will be more opportunity for the bowlers to clean bowled and LBW wickets if this dimesion can be changed.

Posted by SameerK on (December 1, 2009, 18:54 GMT)

Wellll you know what,

we the cricketers of Pakistan already have changed the ball to balance the game.

We play with Tapeball....

The bowls velocity increases and the bowl swings a lot more easily.

Its the best and easy way of playing informal cricket.

Batting against a tapeball is not that easy because bowl flies past you faster than a cork ball.

Thats where shoaib akhtar came from.

Posted by sasken on (December 1, 2009, 18:39 GMT)

Fielding is going to be very hard with a smaller ball. I think that the solution is not to make the ball smaller, but to make the ball softer, so that it takes a lot more effort to get it to the boundary. Also, if the coating on the ball could be modified, or maybe even the stitch, it will swing a lot easier, or turn more. Improvements on those lines can be seen in footballs (soccer) tournaments. In the World Cup etc, the footballs take prodigious curves.

Posted by Anneeq on (December 1, 2009, 18:26 GMT)

The ball isnt the problem, there are 2 probs, the BAT and the PITCHES. The bats have changed remarkably, the bat that Viv Richards made all his centuries with is much different to the bat Yuvraj Uses to whack his sixes.

The bats in my opinion should have stayed exactly the same as when world cup cricket first started in the 60's. Now its as if the bats have springs on them, the ball comes off it too well and even technically unsound batsmen are getting too many boundaries from slogs.

The pitches are also awful!! Sub continent ones especially. the only decent pitches are in New Zealand, where there is something for both ball and bat. The pitches have also shrunk, especially in the 2020 format. They need to be brought back to at least a reasonable size.

Once we have proper pitches with equality between bat and ball, and reasonable size. And we also decide on ONE type of bat to use, then all will be good, God willing.

Posted by Innocent_Abroad on (December 1, 2009, 17:46 GMT)

What's the problem? So, scores are higher and intergenerational comparison on the basis of averages is degraded. The statto's will soon deal with that so that The Don, instead of being 99.97 will be a percentage of all runs scored in the innings he batted in - and so on.

I'm trying to remember when boundaries were valorised at 4/6 - it used to be 3/4 a very long time ago. And if you want the return of the "run three" just award a free hit for it (but not for a boundary!).

Posted by dmudge on (December 1, 2009, 17:42 GMT)

The solution for dealing with the changes in one piece of equipment (the bat) is not to change another piece of equipment (the ball) - everyone know two wrongs do not make a right! Just do like baseball does - in the Major Leagues players have to use an all-wood bat. No fancy kevlar, etc. In the lower leagues they can do what they like but once in the big time, you'd better know how to bat the old fashioned way. It works fine, players still hit home runs (lets not talk about steroids though!) and bat manufacturers still sell the new technology to millions of amateurs who still want to hit the ball further.

Posted by PppSss on (December 1, 2009, 16:47 GMT)

In all ball games, like cricket is, the ball is king. The entire game depends on where the ball goes or does. It is all abut keeping the ball going to where you want it. Thus, having a standardized ball, and then letting atheletes come with REASONABLE solutions to defeat the one fixed invariable item makes sense. Don't touch the ball - it is the game; just control what is really UNREASONABLE about what cricketer's do to overcome this little object. When an athlete's skills come second to his equipment then it is UNREASONABLE. So it is mind-boggling why athelets can hide behind so much technology nowadays.

Posted by IlMagnifico on (December 1, 2009, 16:18 GMT)

Make it smaller? Make it lighter? Are you guys serious? Laws of physics dictate that the ball must get **heavier** to combat a bigger/stronger bat. Smaller and/or lighter ball will be very difficult to control, for the swing and the spin both. It will introduce a factor of uncertainty, but the bowler will not benefit from it. Unable to control, he will just feed the heavier/stronger bat, whose mere snick will send it flying towards the boundary.

Increase the weight by 10%, keep size the same. Then watch ma'man Bond* hurl it towards the batter at 150+ kph. Faster ball = only the quick will survive.

*Mr. Akhtar and other assorted chuckers notwithstanding

Posted by exiledtyke on (December 1, 2009, 15:25 GMT)

I agree that the balance between bat and ball has tilted in favour of the batsmen.

we have seen bat technology evolve rapidly. we have the body armour that gives even poor batsman the confidence to get in line. we have less bowler friendly wickets and bowlers are increasingly shackled on the use of bouncers, etc.

So in the spirit of the article some of hauled ourselves down to the indoor nets with a selection of regular balls and ones used by lad's U12 team.

The conclusion of this unscientific experiment? The spinners didn't get any great benefit and the batsman had no problem hitting them.

On the other hand I've always been able to get the regular balls to swing. The lighter U12 balls swang even more and I found by small changes of grip and wrist position I could change the degree of swing making it harder to play.

So I'd be in favour of smaller balls!

Posted by atulcricket on (December 1, 2009, 15:21 GMT)

All the people keep on telling that Don Bradman is the greatest batsman ever and sometime people tell that Sachin is greatest. It is very difficult to compare two as what if Don had played for so long like sachin played, could he still have same average? what if he had played Ambrose, Walsh, Wasim Akram, Waqar, Mcgrath, Donald, Shane warne, murlidharan (at least 5 of them are the greatest bowlers ever)? Don was obviously greatest Untill Sachin came to that level and now it has become Don and Sachin two greatest batsmen ever (for me obviously Sachin is the greatetst ever been or ever be but i have considered Don as equal to Sachin based on statements of few greatest cricketers).

Posted by allblue on (December 1, 2009, 15:20 GMT)

Interesting idea, although I'm not sure a smaller ball is the answer, but I do think that there needs to be tighter regulations on bats. I was listening to a Middlesex county match last season when the commentator described the batsman "edging a drive over backward point for six"! Ridiculous! The edge of the bat should being to the bowler, 'six off an edge' is a travesty.

Posted by GokulChov on (December 1, 2009, 15:09 GMT)

Designing a new type of ball with a greater potential to swing, and with seams that enhance turn, so that even on slow flat wickets the bowlers will still be a threat would be the way to go.

Posted by rtnarayanan on (December 1, 2009, 14:34 GMT)

Cognitive psychologists have discovered that baseball skills correlate with how a player sees the ball: Athletes who see the ball bigger than it is tend to perform better.

full article is here

http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2006/0804-better_at_bat.htm

Posted by mani86 on (December 1, 2009, 14:01 GMT)

flawed concept. a smaller (lighter) ball would travel to the boundary even faster, and Mr. Ryan's plan would backfire. additionally the ball would be also harder for fielders to catch or stop esp at the boundary. the only way around the problem of improved bats is to worsen the pitches! leave them uncovered for 2 days before a game!

Posted by devinpremasiri on (December 1, 2009, 13:37 GMT)

I don't see any problem with the bal they use.I don't see a problem with the bats either.The problem I see is with the cricket grounds and pitches.Can't we still see batsmen getting out without doing any mistakes because of the talent of bowlers.The thing is with the pitches and when there are smaller grounds there can be a lot of boundries and less threes and twos.So what we could do to overcome this is have pitch and ground restrictions.If the ball gets different the batsmen will never get a chance even in batting pitches.If they are playing in subcontinent where fast bowers normally has no support at all should have a little grass or something to give a fair play.If batsmen are playing well in bowling pitches,we cannot blame the bat or the ball.It is poor bowing

Posted by Gazzypops on (December 1, 2009, 10:37 GMT)

Some good points made here and in the comments section already. Amazing that the laws haven't been changed for the bowler's sake since 1927! But wouldn't the batsmen missing the ball (because it's smaller) be a false pat on the back for the bowler, though? Surely giving the bowler more scope for extracting swing and movement would be a more positive move to make. Not sure how the two-piece balls compare with the four-piece ones but ball movement is the single biggest issue for bowlers in Tests currently, if the commentators' comments are anything to go by. There should be a regulated allowance for ball-tampering - roughing up one side with dirt or similar. It still takes quite a skill to get this right so it wouldn't suddenly make bowling easy. But I think this has already been discussed - and dismissed - by the powers-that-be. Ho hum. Poor bowlers.

Posted by Ihatemunafpatel on (December 1, 2009, 10:08 GMT)

I definitely agree that we need to implement changes to the game in order to restore the balance between bat and ball, but the idea of reducing the size of the ball is ridiculous. There is a simple solution to this problem and I am really surprised no one has mentioned it; change from the 4-piece ball to the 2-piece ball used in junior cricket! The 2-piece balls swings much more and swings for longer periods of time. It is also more durable. I can't believe no one has brought this idea up! Can someone from cricinfo please write an article relating to this? This needs to catch the attention of the game's administrators. GET RID OF THE 4-PIECE BALL!!!!

Posted by klempie on (December 1, 2009, 10:03 GMT)

Before changing the size of the ball, why not let bowlers pick their own balls like batsmen can? Let the game start with bowlers bringing their own balls to the game at ages to their liking. So for example, the spinners can take balls from the nets that have been sufficiently roughed up while swing bowlers can prepare their balls prior to the game. This would lead to the potentially interesting scenario where current 1st change bowlers might open instead. Obviously, balls would have to go through some kind of approval process by the umpires.

Posted by Dhimu on (December 1, 2009, 10:02 GMT)

I agree with Mr. Ryan, In fact this is my point whenever I say Sir Don is far greater than Sachin or anyone. If he had these bats he would have scored thrice the number of runs. But if we go on shrinking the ball, physics will stop us at some point or another. Rather we should change the award for hitting it. How about a boundary fetching 2 runs and an over boundary 3 in a situation when you can dab it well and run 3. Just a thought.

Dhimant Chovatia

Posted by Sussie on (December 1, 2009, 9:09 GMT)

Great article full of very pertinent points here Christian. Shame that the game has become so commercial and that administrators have more business cred than cricket cred. I'm not sure that the 'smaller ball' idea is the solution...it may make it harder to bat...but it won't solve the lack of the 'hard run 3s'...the smaller ball would ping off these monster bats like nothing else. What might be a better idea is to allow ball tampering, or to restrict the bats again. It's been done before - Ponting's graphite bat was disallowed, so it's not IMpossible for a change of bat regulations to happen. Trouble is, how to do it. The other idea we did one day on the tennis court during our school's break time...playing tennis court cricket with a tennis ball hehe....that is, eliminate 4s from the game. If you hit it to the fence, you still have to run. Only 6s counted. I guess we'd certainly see more fitter batsmen anyway!

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (December 1, 2009, 8:42 GMT)

Christian, you're absolutely right. Long gone are the days when runs were made almost by accident as even the best batsmen set-in out in the middle struggled to biff the ball off the crease, nevermind to a boundary. That's all very well for entertainment's sake... but already we're seeing how difficult it is to get 20 wickets in a test match and the best bowlers in the world are struggling. Most new-age batsmen aren't getting better and more skillfull, their bats are! I'd love to see the Indian team up against Murali and Mendis using nothing but bats from 20+ years ago! There's no way either bowler would go for over 100 runs again even on tarmac-Ahmedabad.

Posted by bazzr on (December 1, 2009, 8:33 GMT)

Before 1927,bowlers like baseball pitchers were allowed to use rosin powder(think monty noble,george hirst fast spin swerve).Other than that two piece balls any one??

Posted by chandau on (December 1, 2009, 7:40 GMT)

NEAT! Rather than making the ball smaller, bats need to be regulated. There is only specs for width now. Maybe the weight the edge and depth need to be specified as well. So many batters hit 6s with the edge and some non-batters hit it further just slogging. The shape has "evolved" over time to what we have today; lot of wood in the sweet spot (chk out woodworm) and the edge is like 2 inches! Also interesting is that they break easily the toe end mostly. Is this due to the imbalance of weight from handle to toe? When i was small we used 2/3 grips to make the bat lighter and the handle more wider to fit the hands. all that is now taken care of by the makers. remember the Gray Nicholls 4 scoop? they dont scoop it no more, rather pack it with more wood. It is a crime together with the ever shortening boundaries. what if the wonders of last century like 3W, bradmans polloks and the rest had these conditions to play?

Posted by Longmemory on (December 1, 2009, 6:40 GMT)

Not having lifted a cricket bat in two decades, I had not realized things had gone this far. But then, as a weekend warrior who blasts an ace every now and then on the tennis court (something I could not even have dreamt of doing with a wooden racket), I understand what technology can do. I am with Ryan on the need to equalize things between bat and ball, but not with him on the solutions. Firstly, a smaller ball will travel even faster to (or over) the boundary: if you think 3s are rare these days, even 2s will become rare with a smaller ball. Secondly, all you really need to do is to remove the silly one-bouncer-an-over rule and have fast, greentop pitches. For all their prowess, even today with a fast pitch and a mean set of fast bowlers, a lot of batters find themselves all at sea.

Posted by ElectronSmoke on (December 1, 2009, 6:09 GMT)

So true. Not to say the batsmen of today aren't good or skilled enough. In fact given the emphasis on fitness standards the likes of Shahid Afridi, Dhoni or Symonds might've anyway muscle the ball to the stands. But the imbalance is noticeable ... gone are the genuine quicks, with craft to match - replaced by fewer skilled ones and more of those whose egos are inflated by the speed guns. Holding's 85-90mph pace had breached Boycott's defences, Imran's 92 mph thunderbolts crushed Gavaskar's fingers and when Thommo bowled a 'heavy ball' which could rattle Clive Lloyd you knew it was just that. Gone too are the bats which needed balls to be timed. Graeme Pollock's 'railway sleeper' bat is almost half the width of Dhoni's mace; and Andrew Flintoff's heavy ball doesn't jar even Brett Lee's bat.

Posted by sacricketlegend on (December 1, 2009, 5:21 GMT)

Brilliant idea! You can use the 135g balls that u/13 boys use!

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Christian RyanClose
Christian Ryan Christian Ryan lives in Melbourne, writes and edits, was once the editor of The Monthly magazine and Wisden Australia, and now bowls low-grade, high-bouncing legbreaks with renewed zeal in recognition of Stuart MacGill's retirement and the selection opportunities this presents. He is the author of Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the Bad Old Days of Australian Cricket and Australia: Story of a Cricket Country

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