ICC’s rule change makes it a whole new ball game

Having scored a defiant yet fluent 73,Ravi Bopara,the only English batsman to have made an impression in the practice game

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Hyderabad | Published: October 10, 2011 3:00 am

Having scored a defiant yet fluent 73,Ravi Bopara,the only English batsman to have made an impression in the practice game on Saturday,had a few tips up his sleeve for his teammates. The Essex right-hander,however,is believed to have left the entire dressing-room quite baffled with one particular observation: he had been seeing the ball more clearly than ever before. That is,before it was brought to Bopara’s notice that the enhanced clarity in his vision might have been a result of new balls being used from each end for the contest,thanks to the new ICC rule for the 50-over format.

“I didn’t notice the difference at all while I was batting. I didn’t even realise that we were playing with two new balls. But you definitely do notice it more while you are bowling,” the all-rounder says.

And though Steven Finn & Co ran through the Hyderabad XI batting line-up quite convincingly in a match where England got a taste of the new rule,there were certain oddities on view with their bowling performance. The English seamers looked doubly more penetrative while bowling from the pavilion end.

Explains Bopara: “You had one ball which was swinging a lot and the other which wasn’t. I tried to bowl the same way as I was with the swinging ball from the other end and nothing was happening. It was a totally different ball game from that end,and it seemed like the wicket was totally flat and difficult to bowl on.”

It’s too early to predict the influence that the new rules will have on the 50-over format,but with fewer balls getting replaced during the course of a match,it’s likely to help the bowlers maintain their rhythm. The ball will obviously remain harder and keep shape for longer,and with it not having to be changed at the end,the bowlers will also have a good feel of it through the innings,says English pacer Chris Woakes.

Impacting reverse swing

But one apprehension that most experts expressed when the new rule was announced was the effect it might have on reverse-swing. “The ball did start to reverse towards the end,but that was due to the outfield,” Woakes adds.

While the conditions will have a say,how well the fielding teams maintain the balls may also prove to be a key factor. It might,however,throw open the option of maintaining the two balls differently — probably work hard to maintain the shine on one,and allow the other one to get scuffed up for the sake of the spinners and reverse-swing exponents. But will it mean certain bowlers will prefer bowling their full quota of overs from particular ends,like Bopara did at Uppal?

Former Indian spinner Venkatpathy Raju,who experienced the two-ball regulation during the 1992 World Cup,says: “Teams will definitely try everything within the rules to make the two balls work in their favour. Back then Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar both swung the ball and didn’t mind changing ends.”

Though most believe the rule will hamper the slower bowlers,Raju thinks otherwise. “The Kookaburra ball in particular has the best seam and allows a great grip for a spinner. But it wears off very soon. But with two balls,the spinners will be in the game a lot more,” he says.

It may even reduce the effect of dew on the spinners’ efficiency. “It’s difficult bowling with a heavy ball,which is tough to grip. This way at least the balls will have some extra time to dry up between overs.”

Ballpark

* Balls will remain harder and in shape for longer period of time.

* Reverse swing will depend on conditions and maintenance of the balls.

* Seam will last longer,bringing the spinners into play.

* Dew might have lesser effect.

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