Batsmen have taken center stage in the ongoing ODI World Cup, unleashing a barrage of runs that has left cricket enthusiasts divided over the controversial move implemented by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2011.
The use of two balls per innings, intended to aid bowlers struggling to extract movement from a worn white ball, has come under scrutiny as it appears to have shifted the balance heavily in favor of the batsmen.
The Two-Ball Rule:
Initially, the ICC’s decision to introduce two balls in each innings was rooted in the difficulty bowlers faced in maintaining control and extracting movement from a deteriorating white ball after the 20-over mark.
The move aimed to address this challenge by allowing one ball to be bowled from each end of the ground.
However, as the ongoing ODI World Cup has unfolded, it has become evident that the change has significantly favored the batsmen.
Batsmen’s Delight in 2023:
The 2023 edition of the ODI World Cup has witnessed a record-breaking spree of runs, with batsmen capitalizing on the two-ball rule.
The four highest team run totals in ODI World Cup history have occurred post-2011, showcasing the dominance of the willow over the leather.
The inning average in 2023 has surged by a staggering 40 runs, with teams averaging totals of 257 as compared to 217 in the 2007 and 2011 tournaments.
Australian seamer Mitchell Starc was among the first to voice concerns about the two-ball rule.
Starc emphasized that the flatter wickets and smaller grounds have further tilted the game in favor of the batsmen.
He advocated for a return to a single ball, citing the increased prominence of reverse swing as a potential advantage for bowlers.
Alyssa Healy, a prominent figure in Australian women’s cricket, echoed Starc’s sentiments, emphasizing the need for a balance between bat and ball.
Healy acknowledged the entertainment value for viewers but suggested that the pendulum might have swung too far in favor of the batsmen.
Calls for Change:
Several cricketing personalities have joined the chorus to abolish the two-ball system.
Former Australian all-rounder Simon O’Donnell emphasized the necessity to bring bowlers back into the game, urging a shake-up to restore equilibrium between bat and ball.
Waqar Younis, the former Pakistani fast bowler, proposed a modification to the current system. He suggested using a new ball at the start, replacing one after 30 overs, and continuing with the other to introduce the possibility of reverse swing.
Steve Finn, a former English seamer, advocated for a return to a single ball for the entirety of an innings. Finn emphasized the allure of reverse swing, stating that some of the most captivating passages of play in cricket history have come when the ball is reversing.