Former Australian pacer Shaun Tait has not held himself back while making his displeasure absolutely clear over the two-ball rule in one-day cricket. According to Tait, once Australia’s new ball sensation, using two balls in one-day cricket is ridiculous since it takes away whatever little advantage the bowlers have in terms of swing. And, Tait is spot on in his observation. Having played cricket at the top level, and having been a tearaway paceman himself at his peak, Tait would understand exactly how the fast bowlers are being handicapped having to use two different balls.
To understand the significance of what the two-ball rule is taking away from the game, we need to go back slightly in time, when using only one ball was allowed as a rule. In such a scenario, the bowlers can swing the ball and move it around using the seam, but this depends mostly on the conditions, and to a lesser extent on skill of the pacers. In places like South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and England, the ball traditionally aids the bowlers in the early part of the innings. But what about other countries, especially the sub-continent?
If we take the case of India for example, the fast bowlers come into play only when the conditions are overcast otherwise they mostly are easy fodder for the batsmen. This explains the number of 300 plus scores on Indian grounds. The one ray of hope for the bowlers though was that the ball reverse swung by the mid 30 overs owing to the abrasive surfaces. Thus the bowlers worked hard on one side of the ball to try and make it move the other way as soon as possible. In short, they had an incentive and an objective in mind.
With two new balls being used, the reverse swing effect is completely thrown out of the window, as explained aptly by Tait. 25 overs are too little for any team to get the ball to reverse swing in any part of the world, leave alone India. As the story is being written, news has filtered in that South Africa have been penalised five runs for ball tampering during their ongoing Test at Pakistan at Abu Dhabi. While the incident does not have any direct relation with the story, frustration of the bowlers would increase the chances of them taking such drastic steps if things don’t go their way.
Apart from the pacers, even the spinners are at a disadvantage owing to the two-ball rule in place in one-dayers. Although spinners have learnt to bowl with the new ball, most can get a better grip on the ball only when it gets older. And, in a spinner’s case, a ball which has been used for 25 overs cannot be termed as an old ball. Also, the newer the ball, the lesser the chances of it gripping on the surface and giving help to spinners.
As mentioned in an earlier article, ODIs are heavily loaded in favour of batsmen. The two-ball rule is turning the format into a no-contest.
--By A Cricket Analyst