So where were you on Sunday evening ? Match dekha ki nahi ? These were the queries doing the rounds in my office on Monday morning as a cricket-crazy country woke up after an extra-ordinary day. It was most definitely, cricket's 'I-was-there' moment. If you are a bowler, you must probably have wished that the earth would have swallowed you up that day. In any case, I caught only the last 12 overs of the match and settled down to watch the highlights on Monday night. And what I saw disturbed me so much that I actually switched off. Even after discounting that highlights show only the 4s/6s and the wickets (there was not much of those), it was really disheartening to see bowlers being slaughtered the way they were. Good length balls, perfectly acceptable on any other day, were being routinely sent over the fence and not just in one direction. Sixes were hit to all parts of a ground (and this is not some village ground with 50 yard boundaries, it was a significantly big arena we are talking about).
Ayaz Memon has pointed out in today's DNA that after Sunday's match, one-day cricket will never be the same again. I tend to agree with him. I remember during the break, when the TV channels flashed their standard 'breaking news' lines that the Aussies had scored 434, I remember telling my Dad "These guys have broken the previous record of highest team score (395) not by 3-4 runs, but by 39 runs !!!! That is awesome !!". If that was awesome, then the South Africans bettered the record for the highest successful run chase** by a mind-boggling 103 runs !!!!!!! It is when such records occur that the game is changed forever. There is always a sense of achievement about successful run chases. India's two most-recalled wins are the Natwest trophy truimph in 2002 and before that, the Independence Cup win against Pakistan at Dhaka. Both 310+ run chases. Commentators and experts are usually asked at the start of the match 'What you do think is a safe score on this wicket ??'. After March 13, 2006 I am afraid there is no longer a thing as a 'safe' score. Ten years ago, 300 was thought as a safe score on any wicket, about 3-4 yrs back, 300 was replaced by 350. But what now ? What this might do is dissuade teams from batting first especially on a flat track (as most pitches are now). Teams might routinely opt to bat second. And if they have to bat second, they must play to their strengths. So what do they do ? Well, your guess is good as mine. They will pack their side with batsman to give themselves the best chance of chasing and winning. After all, 435 was chased, so surely scores of 350, 370 should be gettable now. So we might have an Indian line up with a decently good bat like Agarkar at No 11 !!!! Have some part-timers who can send down 50 overs somehow and then back yourself to chase any target !!!!. And what if they lose the toss ? then they bat first and try and bat the other side out of the game !!. This would result in a vicious circle where the bowling is weakened which gives rise to even bigger scores, which 3 times out of 10 are chased successfully, thereby inducing teams to further strengthen their batting and so on.... Sounds far fetched ????? Well, I sincerely hope so. But chasing 435 sounded more than far-fetched as well on Sunday !!
To round off, I do hope that Sunday's match be best remembered as a classic, but a one-off classic nevertheless !!! and that South Africa's successful run-chase record is not broken atleast in my lifetime. Or else you might see the death of the bowler in one-day cricket... :(
** Incidentally, the previous best chase was, I think, 332 by New Zealand just a few months ago against the same Aussie side. This tells you that the second rung of the Aussie bowling attack cannot even hold a candle to McGrath and Warne and also, you know what to do while playing the Aussies.