Micheal Atherton writing in The Sunday Times and other newspapers, says that technology is to be blamed for short matches like the ones at Chennai and Ahmedabad. He said Cricket is a fascinating game that can be confusing. Above all, people probably want to understand why the third Test finished in such a short time – the quickest since 1935. Was it a bad pitch, bad batting, good bowling, the pink ball, or something else? Among a generation of older batsmen, there are some who would encourage you to believe that the past two tests have finished so quickly partly because of the degradation of the modern batsman’s technique against spin.
As many as 28 of the 30 wickets fell to spin in the third test between India and England in Ahmedabad which lasted less than two days. Spinners had a field day with India left-arm spinner Axar Patel and off-spinner Ashwin running through the England batting order and bowling them out for 112 and 81 in the two innings. England captain Joe Root couldn’t do much with the bat but tangled a web around the Indian batsmen to claim his maiden first-class five-wicket haul.
While there has been plenty of talk about the nature of the pitch, Atherton reckons it’s not the pitch alone that has troubled the batsmen but a combination of certain elements put together.
“The other point that we struggle to appreciate sometimes is DRS. I think DRS makes it a much more difficult game now for batsmen, on these kinds of surfaces where some are spinning and some are not. You’ve got to keep your pads out of the way. Umpires give many more LBWs now. You throw all these factors in the mix, the pitch, the lacquer of the ball, DRS, and life becomes very difficult for batsmen,” Atherton points out.
He adds: Two generations ago, these games would have been low-scoring, but would have lasted much longer. To blame the pitch alone is to ignore the critical factor. Ball tracking technology has had the most profound influence on how the game is played. DRS has made it doubly tricky for batsmen on this type of pitch.
Before ball tracking technology, if a batsman was unsure which way the ball was spinning, or how it would turn and bounce off the pitch, he could simply thrust his pad at the ball, with his bat alongside. He could thus ensure that he would’nt be bowled, and umpires generally did not give LBW decisions on the front foot.
A look at the stats for LBW decisions over the years proves this point. In the past, spinners got about 12% of wickets leg before. However, after the introduction of ball tracking technology and DRS, this has changed dramatically. Now the figure of LBW victims has increased to 21%.
This means that instead of being the batsman’s friend, the pad has become his enemy. The batsman has to play the line of the ball with his bat, not pad. Thus, the spinner has to turn it less for the ball to take the edge, and also, that the stumps are more in play – the batsman is out bowled more often.
It also means that any misjudgement in line (and this is more likely at the start of a batsman’s innings) can be costly. Even if the umpire rules in favour of the batsman, the fielding captain can refer the appeal to DRS and get the decision overturned.
The introduction of DRS has changed the way spin bowlers operate. They no longer flight the ball in the manner of the great artist Bishan Singh Bedi, but bowl quicker and at the stumps. They look less to get the batsman caught through flight and guile and more for LBW and bowled victims. On pitches like the one at Ahmedabad, this strategy works perfectly, as Axar Patel and Ravi Ashwin demonstrated.
By Paramdeep Rathee