The breach of a barrier in sports usually calls for triumphant celebrations. But when Rohit Sharma became the first batsman in world cricket to cross 250 in a one-day international (ODI), the eruptions of joy were clouded by a sense of foreboding about the future of the 50-over game in particular and cricket in general. Certainly, the milestone provokes awe. Sharma’s 264 isn’t a score to be sneezed at, in any form of the game. But it has also triggered uncomfortable questions.
The run-fests consistently witnessed in ODIs these days suggest that the cricketing establishment is intent on killing the golden goose. The pitches are so flat and loaded against bowlers that there is no real difference left between an ODI and a T20 game. Given that mindless scheduling has already robbed several cricketing series of any context, the lack of contest between bat and ball has further eroded the charm of the sport. Cricket is supposed to be a game of skill and character, but its administrators seem determined to strip it of all nuance.
The 50-over format, in particular, is caught in an identity crisis for it has been reduced to an extended form of T20. No wonder, the audiences are getting bored.
For Sharma, however, it’s a moment to savour. Just when it seemed people were tired of seeing him wasting his talent, he appears to have pulled himself together. Bigger tests lie ahead of him in the coming months in Australia, where the pitches won’t be as benign as those in Kolkata on Thursday. Late last year, after he had hit his first double hundred in Indian conditions, he struggled against pace and movement in a series in South Africa. How will the script play out this time?