This happens to be a week when ICC’s chief executive committee will approve the playing conditions for the next two years. A mundane round of meetings with a routine agenda, one may presume. Not quite, since the coming days will see the game’s administrators take an important cricketing call that can have a long-term impact on the game. As has been the trend at most cricketing congresses in recent times, the all-powerful sharp suits will be divided by geography: It is Asia vs the Rest once again.
Among the several playing conditions that will be reviewed, the one concerning the use of two new balls in ODIs will see the most intense debate. The Asian countries feel that the contentious rule, introduced months after India’s World Cup win in 2011, undervalues their spinners and gives an extra edge to the ‘non sub-continent teams’. Those team, they say, have pacers who are used to bowling on lively tracks. With the rules passed this week to stay in effect till the 2015 World Cup — hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand — several Boards, including India’s, feel that the use of two new balls will see cricket’s all-important silverware getting pinched from Asia. The spinner, and the batsmen, from the sub-continent might not come to grips with balls that don’t lose their shine.
But those fears are unreasonable. Cricket’s narrative has changed in the last few years. Pitches around the world have become slower, Asian pacers have become faster and spinners from the sub-continent have become smarter. The top three bowlers in the ODI rankings are Ravinda Jadeja, Sunil Narine and Saeed Ajmal while Mohammad Hafeez is 9th and Abdul Razzak 10th. Five Asian batsmen, who learned their cricket on slow and low tracks, have shown amazing adaptability around the world to enter the top 10 in the ICC rankings. Sangakkara, Kohli, Dilshan, Dhoni and Misbah don’t get sweaty palms facing pacers from Australia, New Zealand, England or South Africa.
India’s success at the recent Champions Trophy in England seals the point. The emergence of a bowler like Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a throwback to the days when the sub-continent produced sultans of swing, should see them get over old fears. And remember who won the last World Cup Down Under? India’s under-19 team. The senior World Cup was won by Pakistan in 1992. Incidentally, that too was played with two new balls.