How Much Balance Is Left Between The Bat and The Ball In The Modern Era?

Modern cricket is characterized by batsmen dominating and bowlers praying that they can save some face before their spell is finished. A common complaint leveled at modern day cricket is that there is little balance between bat and ball. The reasoning being, bowlers are going for more runs than ever before, batsmen are piling on records, pitches are becoming flatter, and all the tools bowlers used to use are being taken away from them. But just how true are these claims? In test cricket, we are seeing a definite shift towards what could be considered a greater balance than before. What wins test matches isn’t the bat, it’s the ball. If more games are getting results, it’s reasonable to assume that bowlers are taking more wickets faster, signaling what might be considered a greater balance. In the 1980s, 45.9% of games were drawn, and bowlers took 29.1 wickets per match on average. In the 1990s, those numbers were 35.7% and 30.4. In the 2000s, 24.6% and 30.9. In the 2010s so far, 21.9% and 31.8. More and more games are getting results, and the worst possible result in cricket, the dull draw, has been almost eliminated as long as there isn’t significant rain. Regardless of what the romantics might say, bowlers are becoming more potent at test level than ever before. This is about as balanced as you can get. But what about the shorter formats, where the criticism is at its highest. This is where the balance starts to skew a lot. Of the 6 years with the highest average run rate in ODIs, 5 of them are the last 5 years (2015, 2016, 2017, 2014, 2013). In years where a significant amount of ODIs have been played, the mean batting average is the highest in each of the last 4 years (2015, 2017, 2016, 2014). Certain rules have been changed, seemingly to the bowlers’ detriment, and can be considered responsible for the rise in scores in ODIs. The main ones are the field restrictions, which only allow a maximum of 4 fielders outside the circle for most of the innings, and the use of a new ball from each end, which severely hinders reverse swing. Add to that the, on the whole, flatter pitches and you do have higher scores piled up with frightening frequency. This is a sign of imbalance, no doubt, but how exactly did we get here? The fact of the matter is, the rule changes are not what caused the imbalance to grow, rather, it’s just cricket evolving once again, as it has done numerous times. When batsmen got on top, bowlers developed overarm bowling. When bowlers got on top, batsmen developed equipment to use. This is nothing new, and one day, probably not far from now, the bowlers will hit back once again.


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