Sachin Tendulkar has stimulated a debate in the cricketing world on the batball imbalance that the two new-balls rule in ODI cricket is causing to the bowlers. In conversation with Mirror, he elaborated on the point and explained why he could not speak while he was playing. Excerpts:

♦ What exactly did you mean when you said it’s a perfect recipe for disaster?
The point I am trying to make is the rule was introduced to help the bowlers upfront and also prevent discolouring of the ball. I felt the surfaces we’re playing on are not helping the bowlers to swing. Neither have I seen swing up front nor have I seen reverse swing later. It’s kind of, we’re caught in-between. The ball doesn’t get old enough to reverse. The bowlers’ hands are tied in the death overs. Earlier, the bowlers heavily relied on reverse swing; they had something to look forward to once the ball started getting scuffed up. Right now, with two new balls, that is not happening. Reverse swing has always been an integral part of cricket, both in Tests and ODIs. Since the introduction of two new balls, one has not seen the ball reverse. That element has been taken away from the game. It’s not healthy.

♦ Have you not played in both 34-16 and 25-25 ball conditions?
I don’t think I have played much under the 25-25 rules. It was more or less at a time I had kind of retired from ODIs. I have not played much in two new balls. In fact, I have never played under new field restrictions. India were playing Pakistan when that rule was introduced. I played with two new balls in the 1992 World Cup and in the preceding tri-series in Australia in 1991. Since then I played with one new ball. We played in Sharjah with Duke and from Hero Cup in India (in 1993), Kookaburra ball was introduced. Before that we played either SG (in India) and if it was Sharjah or other places, we would play with Duke balls; both in white. Those balls would reverse.

♦ Your comments are certain to make more impact than others’. But why are you saying this now? Any particular reason?
Look, I don’t think there are going to be instant changes. One has to look at many factors, particularly the surfaces. One has to weigh in the factors that how much two new balls have benefited the batsmen and how much they have benefited the bowlers. Compare the two new balls with one new ball and look at the difference. When the ball is not moving and field restrictions are in place, one should weigh in those factors too.

♦ You never spoke of these things when you were playing…
How could have I commented on any rule? When I started against Pakistan, it was a six-day Test, including a rest day. I have seen many different rules, in ODIs and Tests. I never commented. Rules applied to me were applied to others also. When you play, you obviously don’t comment.

♦ So, you say the Eng-Aus series, where runs were scored in plenty, has not had an impact on you?
No, no, no. Not just this series. This series reiterates my point. If you see, the amount of swing the bowlers get off the surface has not been adequate, considering that they are playing with two new balls.
When there is no help from the surfaces, even four new balls will not help the bowlers. If you want to have two new balls, then the surface provided must help the bowlers up front. The grounds over a period of time have become greener. As a result, the ball doesn’t get scuffed up. The ball retains its lacquer.

♦ Almost at the same time you spoke about this, Mike Atherton wrote about it too. Was there a discussion between you two?
No, not at all. I have not spoken to him. It is a sheer coincidence.

♦ What about the spinners? Does your heart beat for them too?
Ifelt for the spinners when the field restrictions were there. With the advent of Twenty20, the batsmen have also started, along with sweep, reverse-sweeping regularly. With only four fielders outside the ring, it was a tough challenge for the spinners.

♦ Cricket has always been a batsmen’s game and you were a batting great. How come you are taking up the bowlers’ cause?
Because I believe in T20, the wickets mostly are in batsmen’s favour. In the ODIs also, even a 320-run target is not safe.
One obviously starts to think if there is balance at all. I feel the balance between ball and bat must be maintained for the game’s benefit.


Courtesy : Mumbai Mirror