Trust Sunil Gavaskar to come up with ideas that will make the sport a level playing field rather than what it is today – loaded heavily in favour of the batsmen. It is 34 years since he played his last Test match but one was aware that Gavaskar would always be in touch with the game he loves so much. And thanks to his presence as a prominent media personality, he has kept abreast with the various trends and is thus aware of what cricket needs to keep it in tune with changing times.
It is but fitting that Gavaskar suggested the reforms while delivering the inaugural ML Jaisimha memorial lecture in Hyderabad recently. It is well known that Jai was his mentor, his “guru” which he acknowledged while addressing the gathering. The former Indian batsman who played 39 Tests in the period 1959 – 1971 was a gentleman cricketer who always upheld the traditional values and the spirit of the game. Jaisimha would have been pleased with Gavaskar’s suggestions for he was a keen student of the game and a shrewd leader – the best captain never have to led India as it has been said.
Every one of Gavaskar’s suggestions should be adopted by those in authority for they are for the good for the game. For example, shorter boundaries have seen that even mis-hits carry the ball over the fence and while this may be good for short term entertainment it does not augur well for the long-term skills involved with cricket. As he himself pointed out he had seen big hitters like Clive Lloyd, Vivian Richards and Gordon Greenidge caught on the edge of the boundary line in Sharjah where there were lengthier boundaries.
Gavaskar’s views on the bouncer rule too are also practical. He backed one of the bowler’s main weapons by saying that the rule – giving an extra run and an extra ball if it goes above the batsmen’s head when he is in a standing position – is too harsh. Many a time a bowler has suffered through an umpire’s wayward interpretation of the rules. As regards abolishing leg byes this is not a new suggestion. This has been echoed by numerous cricketers over the years but unfortunately it has remained in the rule book and the scorebook under extras. But Gavaskar again raised the valid point as to why the fielding team should be penalized when runs have not been scored off the bat.
From a purely personal viewpoint I hold very dear his view that once a fielder dislodges the stumps with a direct hit in his attempt to run a batsman out the ball should be declared dead and no runs should be given even if the batsman is not out. Even as a young cricket enthusiast I found it hard to digest that the bowling side should be penalized for a fielder’s brilliance as the batsmen could scamper for additional runs because the ball got deflected.
On the face of it Gavaskar’s view that fielding sides should be penalized not in terms of fines but by way of giving penalty runs which could have a direct bearing on the result of the match may seem radical. But with fines not working and bowling rates continuing to be slovenly this seemingly drastic step could well be the only solution in speeding up the game.
(Partab Ramchand is a veteran sports journalist, the views expressed here are personal)