Jeremy Wells

Jeremy Wells on cricket

Jeremy Wells: Bent arm bowling a good thing but batting time sucks

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Bent-arm bowling a good thing. Photo / Glenn Taylor
Bent-arm bowling a good thing. Photo / Glenn Taylor

My GM Turner-like rant about New Zealand Cricket's lack of bent-arm talent identification was greeted with a confused array of responses.

Many readers believed it was a cleverly worded satire skewering the ICC's tolerance of throwing.

Others thought it was a dig at the "Australianisation" of our high-performance unit in Lincoln.

Strangely, one person felt it was an allegory about the pitfalls of loosening our monetary policy by printing more dollars.

Firstly let me clarify my position by stating quite definitely that none of the above is true - although for the record, I would've voted for Bruce Beetham's monetary-loosening Social Credit Party in 1981 if I had been eligible to vote. Luckily I wasn't.

Believe it or not, I was seriously saying that we should be coaching kids to bowl the ball with a bent arm. I was shocked at how many people didn't seem to understand.

I'm aware there are puritans out there who think what I'm saying borders on bowling blasphemy but to me cricket has become more interesting with the widespread acceptance of acute arm.

The doorsa has had the same effect on cricket as the Kardashians have had on our televisual landscape. Both are unseemly, but they do provide colour and interest.

And cricket has evolved significantly in the past 20 years.

Teams can challenge umpire's decisions, we have girls who dance to the Venga Boys when someone hits a boundary and people are actually prepared to pay Danny Morrison to commentate (sadly my petition to Parliament to divert our SAS troops from Afghanistan to an IPL game in Chennai to covertly bring Danny home before he did any more damage to our national credibility was treated as a joke by John Key).

But surely the best thing to happen to cricket over the past 20 years is the massive increase in scoring rates. Not that it's an innovation; more a phenomenon.

It's rare to see a drawn test match now - unless rain has intervened. Modern batsmen get bored and flash at something wide. Most test innings are completed in four days with run rates in excess of 3.5 per over. Games are being advanced. Test cricket has never been more entertaining.

But why have modern batsmen lost the ability to bore the fielding side to death? What became of the supreme Clayton's cricketing virtue, batting time?

I'm not sure, but it's gone and good riddance.

You hear it on talkback every season when we predictably succumb to a team ranked higher than us. Occasionally Glenn Turner mutters it from behind a machine that grinds axes in Otago: "We need to learn how to bat time." It's often followed by an unprovoked attacked on Brendan McCullum's technique.

Let me say, in the pages of the Herald no less, that batting time sucks. As a ploy to win test matches, it's rubbish.

It may have had some merit in the'80s but nowadays any batsman batting time is just a sitting duck.

To succeed against world-class bowling, both pace and spin, batsmen today need to attack. Particularly opening batsmen. Clearly there are exceptions - and you have to play every ball on its merits - but as a batsman you have to do what your opponent least wants you to - and bowlers hate getting hit to or over the boundary. When they get annoyed they start doing stuff they shouldn't, like bowling short or too straight.

In contrast to that, there's no better feeling as a bowler than getting away with a short wide one outside off stump. Sure the batsman's still at the crease but the pressure is off the bowler.

Now I know what you're saying: it's easy to write drivel sitting on your suburban deck sipping your pinot chardonnay; that deadline pressure doesn't compare to the pressure of facing a 145km/h Dale Steyn delivery.

You're right, but so am I.

- NZ Herald

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