Sir Curtly - Revisit 2-bouncers per over
Evening Standard article.
London, England - As England prepare to do battle with India in one of their most important Test series of modern times, one of the greats of international cricket has warned the game’s rulers they risk driving the fans away.
Sir Curtly Ambrose is one of the finest, most menacing fast bowlers in the history of cricket, who terrified batsmen during his 98 Tests for West Indies between 1988 and 2000.
When Ambrose was bowling, there was as much chance of spectators heading for the bars as there was of the batsmen removing their helmets. Yet today, attendances around the world are dwindling, with some Tests played against a backdrop of empty seats.
There are many theories about this trend but Ambrose believes the authorities need to make the game more exciting. They should start, he says, by ordering the preparation of quicker pitches and removing the restrictions on short-pitched bowling.
This might seem a predictable point to make for a cricketer for whom pace and bounce were key weapons, yet Ambrose’s case is persuasive.
He told Standard Sport: “There is no better sight in international cricket than a great quick bowler taking on a batsman who will meet the challenge. A couple of short balls, get him hopping and skipping a bit, and then maybe he hits the next one out of the park.
“But the pitches have changed so much over the years and I believe they need to be better. I am not just saying that as a fast bowler.
“Today things are very one-sided. It is all about the batsmen, while some of the wickets are so slow and low that it is difficult to play well. If you go to a Test match and there is no excitement, it is going to turn people off. If there is a good fast bowler who can rattle the batsman, people enjoy that. When a batsman takes on a fast bowler, people love that competition, regardless of which teams are playing. That is certainly the case in the Caribbean.
“The two-bouncers-per-over rule [restricting the number of short-pitched balls a fast bowler can deliver] has also taken away a lot of the flair from cricket and the International Cricket Council need to look at it again.
“If a fast bowler can bowl only a limited number of short balls, you’re taking away a weapon from him.
“If a batsman is playing the hook shot, the fast bowler needs to be able to see whether that was a fluke, or whether he is serious.
“Of course, the umpire should step in if the bowler is overdoing it but don’t take away the excitement. It’s so difficult for a fast bowler today. In the past, you saw lots of fast bowlers in teams and maybe one spinner but now that trend is reversing because of the nature of the pitches.
“If you’re a good enough bowler, you should be able to generate pace and take wickets. If you’re a good enough batsman, you can score runs. To me, that is a proper cricket pitch.”
Ambrose, 50, is now part of the West Indies coaching team and his influence was praised by quick bowler Jerome Taylor after he returned recently to international cricket against New Zealand in the three-match Test series last month.
During the forthcoming series between England and India, Liam Plunkett is the only bowler on either side capable of intimidating batsmen with speed alone. As proficient as they are, neither Stuart Broad nor Jimmy Anderson is capable of terrifying a high-quality opponent through pace, while India’s most potent threat this summer is likely to be posed by their spin bowlers.
Ambrose prefers not to specify which quick bowlers around the world he admires but he has been shocked by England’s sudden decline as a Test side.
He added: “Every team has to go through some good times and some difficult times. England were the best team in the world for a year and they played some fantastic cricket leading up to that period, winning in Australia and beating them at home.
“But I was very surprised by how badly they lost the last Ashes series. I thought it would have been far closer than it was, a real tough competition.”
Sir Curtly Ambrose will mentor the Guyana Amazon Warriors in the 2014 Caribbean Premier League. The Biggest Party in Sport begins in Grenada on 11th July - for more info visit CPLT20.com.