Is cricket a batsman’s game?

Can the bowler dictate terms on the field?

The bowler’s job will be a lot easier if they have control of their line and length, making the batsman’s job of scoring runs that much more difficult. The line is the direction of the ball in accordance with the batsman’s stumps, while the length is the area of the pitch where the ball bounces. The batsman does not need to hit every single ball they face. So it is the bowler who must attempt the batsman into playing a stroke, increasing the chances of taking a wicket. Does this make good to our query of “Is cricket a batsman’s game?”

The  “corridor of uncertainty” is the ideal area to bowl at a batsman. So what is the corridor of uncertainty? This is an imaginary channel around and just outside the off-stump where batsmen are unsure whether to play or leave the ball. Bowling consistently around this area will increase the bowler’s chances of taking a wicket. A bowler’s line will also depend on whether the ball is swinging in the air or seaming off the pitch. The art of creating an illusion in the minds of a batsman while bowling is the key. Most batsmen like the ball wide outside off stump or on or around leg stump, so avoid bowling in those areas too much.

The length of delivery is how far down the pitch towards the batsman the ball bounces. It will determine whether the batsman will play on the front or back foot. There are five areas the bowler can aim for: Long bouncer, Short of a length, Good length, Full length or half volley, Full toss. The length depends on the type of bowler – fast bowlers will tend to aim for a shorter length to utilize pace and bounce, while spinners need to bowl a good length to deceive the batsman in the air and off the pitch. The ideal length for a bowler is one where the batsman is unsure whether to play forward or back. Different pitches will also have an influence on length. Hard and bouncy pitches favor a shorter length, while slower pitches require a fuller length.

Batsmen around the world are brought up playing bowlers with high-arm actions and hence their minds are tuned to trying to ascertain the length by looking at the point of release. The length of a ball controls how high the ball rises from the pitch as it reaches the batsman’s position. A ball pitched too short may rise high and lose some of its pace, making it easy for the batsman to hit. A ball pitched too full does not necessarily deviate horizontally in its flight, also making it easy for the batsman to hit.

A bowler can use variation in length to upset the rhythm of a batsman. A typical sequence would be a series of slightly short balls to force the batsman into playing shots with his weight on the back foot, to allow him more time to hit the ball, followed by a full ball bouncing near the batsman’s legs. If the batsman does not react to the change in length quickly enough, he can be left with his weight on the back foot and, if he misses the ball with his bat, in danger of being out either bowled or leg before wicket.

Flatter pitches, fatter bats, shorter boundaries, fielding restrictions, free hits, and power plays have all resulted in higher batting averages and faster scoring rates. Two hundred and fifty used to be a highly competitive one-day total; nowadays totals approaching four hundred are not uncommon. In baseball, often referred to as “unhittable” because of its unpredictable movement, the knuckleball also presents a challenge to catchers, and to umpires determining balls and strikes. Football fans might have witnessed a few spectacular “knuckleball” goals. Usually scored from a distance, the ball appears to change direction randomly, leaving the goalkeeper with little chance. Kicked with very little spin, the unpredictable movement is the result of what is usually labeled the “knuckle effect.” This was most evident in the 2010 World Cup when the players constantly complained about the excessive knuckling of the Jabulani ball. 

The highest electronically measured speed for a ball bowled by any bowler is 161.3 km/h (100.23 mph) by Shoaib Akhtar (Pakistan) against England on 22 February 2003 in a World Cup match at Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa. A bowler will typically bowl a variety of different deliveries with different combinations of pace and movement. A tactically astute bowler may be able to spot a potential weakness in a batsman that a particular delivery may be able to exploit.

Bowlers will often also bowl deliveries in preplanned sets, with the intention of dismissing the batsman with the final delivery in the set. This is known as “setting a trap” for the batsman. Batsmen and bowlers will often also engage in a game of “cat and mouse”, in which the bowler varies his tactics to try and trap and dismiss the batsman, but the batsman also keeps adjusting his tactics in response.

The dearth of good quality spinners is a good reason which has paved the way for the batsmen to put forward the aggressive brand of cricket against the slower bowlers. One of the key factors why the present-day batsmen have resorted to the hitting mindset is the popularity of the premier leagues. The compressed form of the game is the shortest of all three. Hence, batters have to get as many runs as possible in a matter of twenty overs. The flat and dropping pitches also contribute to the dominance of batsmen over the bowlers. Compared to older times, there is assistance in the pitches for the bowlers these days. Even pitches that traditionally favored bowlers don’t seem to assist them any longer.

So, It is the day on which either a batsman or a bowler can make a destiny. Cricket is surely a gentleman’s game, not a batsman or a bowler.

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