The Makeover of Cricket

It was somewhere in the middle of the 19th century that a new sport was born. Conceptualized and introduced by the Englishmen, cricket came to the forefront of sports amid other important things in the world at that time.

That was the first “makeover of cricket”, properly put, the foundation design of it. The Britishers laid the stone, of what today is among the most famous games in the world. The norms were those of high principles. There used to be well-suited elite populations thronging the stadiums. Hats used to be a common accessory for both male and female spectators. Whenever wickets fell or batsmen reached landmarks, the field was filled with loud cheers from supporters of both teams. Such was the sportsmanship embedded in the game, that supporters did not feel bad about other team’s success. Every moment got the credit it deserved in the truest sense.

Since then it went through a number of revolutions, transformations and modifications that corresponded to the changing demands of the viewers. With time, grew the audience size and cricket crossed geographical borders. It came in vogue in many countries. Then came the historic transaction between England and Australia when a series of test matches were to be played every 4 years and the series is famously called the Ashes. There were several other editions of the game. Towards the 20th century it got participation from many countries. India too chipped in and has contributed significantly.

Matches now began to be aired on T.V. and viewers were treated to a LIVE telecast of the proceedings. People away from the stadiums also got a taste of the game and started relishing it. As the world got busy, it had less time to devote to the game that sprawled for 5 successive days. At those times, the 3rd day of the test used to be a rest day for the players. But now it had to be put into action to hold on to viewer ship. But gradually the world got even busier.

The came the greatest renaissance. The five day format was reduced to one day format and limited overs came. It used to be called the one-day’s. That caught everone’s attention and again increased audiences by huge quantums. 60 overs were allocated for each team’s innings. When that became a common place, a new concept was born. The world cup was introduced in 1975 and scheduled with a gap of every 4 years since then. It comprised a well- chalked out tournament that put into competition all the cricket playing countries. It ensured a gripping series and the result culminated through a series of intensifying quarter final, semi-final and final. The tension of the game was supplied to the consumers and they took it gleefully. It was an instant hit.

Somewhere in the late 1980s the one dayers were reduced to 50 overs per innings. The world cup of 1987 was the first one to implement it; another change was the introduction of colored dressed for the players instead of the white robes. The red ball was replaced with the white balls. This also featured in this edition. The color and variations were a welcome change to the monotony. It also climbed the charts of popularity and cricket became a huge success globally.

The 1996 world cup offered another change in the format. The first 15 overs were meant for limited field setting with only two players permissible outside the new 30 yards region. That gave a new dimension to the game as batsmen scurried to take advantage in the field to score surplus runs. They began talking risks to lift the ball above the infield to get some runs. Now runs began to be scored at hefty pace and large scale. The way the game was being handled was entirely different from the way it had in its initial stages. The trend continued for more than a decade and cricket meant just runs in the era of the new millennium.

Another change came by when power plays were introduced into the one day format and changed the way the field was arranged for the 50 overs. There came a set of 3 power plays to be implemented in each match. The 1st 10 overs meant a mandatory field restriction similar to the 15-overs style. And there were two more power play’s as set of 5 overs that could be exercised at any time of the match at the discretion of the balling captain. That meant a flexible 10+10 over restricted fielding. This changed the nature of the game from a predominantly batsman’s game to an evenly balanced bat-ball game. Now the bowlers had the chance to resurrect any damage caused to their plan of attack due to ruthless batting. And it yielded results in the form of better games of cricket that displayed a genuine participation of both sides.

Even that was not enough, changes had still to manifest. Another apparition was the 20-20, which became the most exotic variant. If cricket meant action, then 20-20 ensured it. The batsmen had implicit directions to blast through the whole match. They played their part and the sport gained new realms. Taking advantage of the excitement inherent in the format, recently businessman and visionaries launched the IPL as a domestic 20-20 series. And very soon it became the most famous and popular tournaments.

Though the golden rule still holds that too many changes corrupt the original structure, but cricket has gone through a number of transformations. What these changes behold for the future of the game is still to be seen. The latest addition already seems like a nail in the coffin of the already withering Test Cricket.

Arindam Chakraborty

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