Imagine Bapu Nadkarni bowling to Kieron Pollard. Bapu Nadkarni, Indian left-arm spinner of the '60s, returned figures of 32-27-5-0 in a test match against England at Madras in 1964. These figures included, and yes, this is no exaggeration, 21 consecutive maiden overs.
Tough to believe in these times when strike rates of 115-120 % are considered just decent, and the 300 percent strike rate Kieron Pollard returned with during the Champions League game for Trinidad and Tobago against New South Wales isn't any longer seen as a flash in the pan, a once in century event, or something that places the man amongst the all-time greats. It would have, just a few years ago.
I began following cricket in 1971, the time when one-day cricket had just been accidentally discovered, and some of the ODIs played in '70s and '80s could embarrass many who today sit in the commentary boxes and bring us the shortest version of the game.
Were the bowlers of those days more lethal, more aggressive? Did they have greater capability? Were the batsmen less capable? Ask Bishen Bedi and he will say that the bowlers of today can't hold a candle to the greats of those days, but that would be a simplistic argument. To me at least.
The game has changed because the world has. There is greater experimentation in every area of life, and the winds of global market forces have touched the game of cricket beyond the more obvious fact of greater money for everyone involved in the game.
Consider this. Asif Iqbal, the former captain of Pakistan, invented the reverse sweep sometime in the late '70s. The other purveyor of the stroke, those days, was Ian Botham. Both of them mavericks in their own right, and the stroke was acceptable from their marauding blades, somewhat.
What if a Gavaskar or a Boycott had played the stroke? What if these stonewallers had invented it? Well, its very likely that they would have played it only in the nets, just to amuse themselves. After all, it was Sunny Gavaskar who called the unorthodox pull shot from Kapil Dev the Nataraj stroke!
I guess it all boils down to the conservative, less open to tinkering times then, and the no-holds-barred philosophy of today. Copybook was respected then, and it is being rewritten now.
The slash for six over third man and point, the Dilscoop that Dilshan plays and one for which we don't yet have a fielding position, and the Switch-hit from Pietersen; innovations that I believe will benefit cricket, make it more popular. The purist of the '70s and '80s may scoff at them, but the world has moved on.
Bowlers and captains are inventing new deliveries and fielding positions. Warne has bowled with a mid-on staring at the batsmen in test cricket, and has also not refrained from bowling bouncers, if only to unsettle the rare batsmen who would get his measure. The Doosra, the slower delivery, the slow bouncer: just the beginning of innovations that bowlers will come back with, and the game would be richer for them.
Brings me back to what I began with: how about Bapu Nadkarni squaring up against Pollard. Will he bowl even one maiden over? Will he bowl two? More? Even in a test match? If he does, it will be most amusing, even entertaining; many spectators of today might disagree, but I believe it would be.
The key to making the game more popular is experimentation and innovation. Its only this facet of human mind that can put to rest all arguments and speculation over the impending death of test cricket and the 50-over game.
So, do you think a 500 percent strike rate is likely to happen soon?
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!