(I have given up on reading cricket articles or watching them regularly. My sincerest gratitude to Ted Corbett and Peter Roebuck of “The Hindu”, Our CC for blocking cricinfo and the lousy series like India tour of Srilanka, India tour of Zimbabwe etc.)

Cricket has been always a batsman’s game. Always the rules and the popularity were biased towards batsmen. The bowlers were/are just another ancillary on the way to fame for a batsman. This is particularly true off late, as the duty of the bowler has been redefined as getting batsman out by exploiting his weakness than the bowler’s strength. As a result, I should say a bowler has lost his identity as many a times, he is successful only to a particular set of batsmen or batsman, and he struggles against all others. Of course there are a few exceptions here like McGrath, Muralitharan, Pollock, Akram etc (I am listing only contemporary players). With the advent of technology, the focus has shifted to picking up a batsman’s weakness. Never we see, some commentator saying the team has picked up on the bowler (yeah exceptions like Saqlain Mushtaq still exist). This I feel is partly because bowlers have been underestimated. Also as the bowlers are more customized, it calls for great difficulty and strategy to pick him if needed. The batsman always enjoys the freedom to use his free thought and implement them.

A few batsmen who have been picked up recently:

Ganguly: Of course, even a school kid knows his agony in playing short pitch balls. If we go back in time, we can see that almost all batsmen had the same problem. It’s just that no one noticed it then owing to the lack of live media and technology. Amongst the contemporary players who have struggled against short pitch balls, Steve Waugh is the most famous. But he was picked up for that only late in his career, by then, he had acquired the maturity and experience to tackle it. When he is attacked by a short pitch delivery, he takes the ball on to his body, and there is nothing more he does. Probably, in course of time, Ganguly has to tackle this problem as it is posing a serious threat to his career.
Sachin: This guy has been, so far, evolving faster than the technology does. This is what makes him one of the all time greats in cricket. Earlier he was famous for getting out in wide outside the off stump, which he has successfully countered, by becoming more selective in playing the shots. The critics who are dumb enough not to realize this evolution now says his era is over. May God help them to come up with at least one correct prediction.
Dravid: Another evolving batsman, who has problem facing the deliveries pitching just on off stump and swinging. If it’s an out swinger, our man used to give catch to the wicket keeper (I believe he gets out more often caught by the keeper than the slip cordon). If it’s an in swinger, he will be stuck in front of the wicket. Now he has somewhat countered it by shortening his otherwise long stride to play those balls, and hence he plays the shot late on such balls recently. But he is yet to master this tactic.
Sehwag: His aggression is good enough for the bowlers to get him. Bowl straight to him and frustrate him. He will either try cross bat shots or square cut.. Cross bat will see him bowled. A catch at gully or third man can be anticipated. I feel, this will be tackled by him in course of time just like Sachin.
Laxman: So far I believe has not been picked up. He gets 99% out by his own fault, so why bother about picking him up? That’s why he plays either a big innings or get out cheaply. Only thing noticeable about him is his lack of footwork. But his hand-eye coordination is good enough to compensate for that.

(To be continued….)