Cricket: Traditionalists vc Moderns
As we welcome 2010 in a few days, purists and experts have started reflecting back at how the game changed in current decade, as to what went off (Sharjah and ODIs in whites) and what emerged (20-20 and 400 runs in an ODI innings). A few are there on cricinfo; by Sambit Bal at (http://www.cricinfo.com/decadereview2009/content/story/440411.html), and by Sidharth Monga here at (http://www.cricinfo.com/decadereview2009/content/story/440362.html). We recall loss of pure fast bowling by stalwarts like Ambrose, Donald, Akram and McGrath. And more of how we let Sharjah go, or how Aussie dominance started fading, or how all-rounders in test cricket are becoming a rarity and how Murli and Warne exchanged test cricket record for most wickets… it would only mean re-reliving the words and pictures in these two articles on cricinfo.
It is also the time to reflect at how drastically the test cricket has changed. The pace of game, the fearlessness among opening batsmen, the batsmen’s front-foot-bent leave and shouldering arms while playing fast men is gone, teams’ reluctance to enforce the follow-on even with lead of 350-400 runs, the tendency to produce a result, and so on.
We have seen how Sehwag and Gayle Butchered the bowlers while in whites, in last few weeks. It excites fans as well as commentators who shuffle their posters than ever before, to see the score at lunch time as 117 for 2 in 26 overs, rather than 61 for 1 in 28 overs. Not only for batters, the shift is seen in bowlers as well. I don’t see bowlers playing with batsmen’s patience, la Ambrose or McGrath. Blame it on pitches, or decreased quality of fast men around, or 20-20; the approach is here to stay. It has been injected as IV in current and possibly in next generation too who are brought on staple diet of 20-20. However, no credit taken away from test cricket as the Centurion match between SA and Eng, last two WI-AUS tests and the Pak-NZ test series has reaffirmed that test cricket is safe, at least for the moment. And then there are people like me, who like the traditional approach, watching Andy Flower, Dravid, Atherton, or Steve Waugh grinding the bowlers for hours on a wearing pitch.
While the comparison or debate goes on, on the merits and pleasure of traditionalists vs the modern, the Atherton vs Sehwag, I wonder how a team of Traditional players would fare against a Modern, Aggressive bunch of players. Realizing my fantasy, I could not stop myself but compiling two teams, each with a different character and philosophy. I am sure that the dressing rooms of these two teams bear a completely different look in team meetings before the day’s play. Before you see the teams, a few points:
- It was difficult for me to draw the timeline as to which players I should select. So, I picked up only those players who have played at least one test match in the current decade, that is after 01 January 2000. (So, Walsh is eligible but Mark Taylor is not.)
- I was not too tempted to select an all-rounder. If Kallis is there in a team, it is not with an intention to have an all-rounder but he is there purely as a batsman.
- Among all important factors while selecting a player (such as performance in/against different countries, different bowling attacks, adaptability, records and reputation), I have also considered Longevity.
- I used the standard team model of 6 batsmen, 1 wk and 4 bowlers.
- Important: It would have been tricky to let conservative bowlers face aggressive batsmen and attacking bowlers going all over traditional batters. So, teams are structured in such a way that Traditional batters’ team has aggressive/attacking bowlers and Modern batters’ team has traditional/conservative bowlers.
- Sehwag over Gayle because of his ability to play long innings (he got 10-11 successive 150 in tests whenever he scored a hundred, amazing!)
- Tendulkar was suitable for both the teams, but has been placed in Moderns, almost arbitrarily.
- A few names that closely missed out are: Mark Waugh, M. Jayawardene, A DeSilva, M. Yousuf, VVS Laxman, D. Martyn, K. Sangakaara, Mark Taylor, G. Thorpe, A. Stewart, C. Walsh, W. Younis, A. Kumble, M. Ntini, D. Vettori, M. Boucher, A. Flintoff, M. Vaughan. While leaving these out, it was my own judgment; no statistics, no preferences.
- Players who missed out on longevity (including lack of opportunities of playing in different countries) are: D. Steyn, S. Bond, S. Akhtar, T. Taibu, Gambhir, and few others.
- Selecting players who have at least played one test match in current decade does not mean that player must have played well in the current decade. It is just to define the timeline, and player’s overall career and his impact and contribution (beyond stats) are considered.
Now the real thrill is to imagine if these two teams take on each other, at lords, in 3rd week of July. Trust me, it was mouthwatering experience for me, and the joy of loving the game so much.
Traditionalists vs Moderns Played at: Lords cricket ground, England
Traditionalists win the toss and they decide to bat JULY (Wednesday to Sunday)
Being in the Traditional camp myself, hence the result.
I will appreciate readers’ comments.