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Cricket - From Art To Adventure

Tillakaratne Dilshan's 'Dilscoop' is just one of a number of ways players have developed new strategies as the game evolves
Tillakaratne Dilshan's 'Dilscoop' is just one of a number of ways players have developed new strategies as the game evolves
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In Geoff Boycott and Sunil Gavaskar’s worlds, hitting the ball over six inches from the ground was a crime.

Cricket then, was classical, where batsmen distinguished themselves as surgeons, piercing the fields, finding the gaps, picking the right shots for the right deliveries, playing on the bowlers’ minds, not by being adventurous but by being skilled.

Then came ODIs and then T20s and the definition of skill with the bat changed very quickly. The game adapted itself and so did batsmen. Strength became as important as precision, wristwork and footwork. Forearms became as important as an impeccable eye. Timing and bludgeoning had a huge difference but that had narrowed down substantially.

Gradually, over four decades, cricket turned from art to adventure. There are still elegant touch players like Mahela Jayawardene and Hashim Amla, but the paradigm shift meant newer players came laced with the heavy-handed shots.

Cricket is a very interesting game. It has changed more in the last 10 years than most games have changed since their inception. This level of dynamics is largely because of the possibilities that lay embedded in this game. There is always someone pushing the boundaries.

Sachin Tendulkar learnt from a mishit and turned into a productive, counter-attacking shot against fast bowlers bowling short. The upper cut came into vogue.

Kevin Pietersen made a mockery of a batsman’s stance with the switch hit, turning from right to left-handed and smashing the ball with equal disdain. Unlike the reverse sweep, switch hit actually involves a change in the way the bat is held and is hence much tougher to pull, even though it created a controversy.

MS Dhoni’s helicopter shot, which he executes against fast, otherwise unplayable yorkers, digging the ball out and scooping them over the outfield is a shot so amazing, you could watch it any number of times.

The Dil-Scoop, hit over the helmet and over the keeper is as effective as it looks ridiculous. There are a series of other innovative shots that push the boundaries of the game each day, every day, challenging the bowlers to come up with something equally special.

From slow bouncers to back of the hand cutters, doosras to carrom balls, bowlers are up to the task as well, fighting a tough battle against shorter boundaries and bigger bat edges - the balance swinging in the favour of batsmen and yet managing to fill the stadiums with crowds.

Interestingly, the innovation in the cricket world seeps through even on the field. Slip fielders trying to move the other way for reverse sweeps and outfield catchers practicing mid-air catch-throw-catch relay near the rope are classy examples.

The speed at which the game has been evolving, it would be hard to tell where or how it will hit a plateau, like it might eventually. And then, there is always the case of a Sehwag or a Murali who will change everything about it in one sparkling match.

As long as the viewer is thrilled and sportsmanship is alive, like Australia’s age-old rivals, the Black Caps showed by playing in jerseys that had P.H. written on them, innovation is not really such a bad thing.

© Cricket World 2014