This week's "Beyond the Boundary" asks how a cricket fan should react as players move across various formats
By Saaib Uppal (4th March, 2013)
Being a cricket fan these days is almost too good to be true. We have access to multiple forms of media, whether its online forums, analysis on television, or social media outlets. The action on the field is becoming faster and more innovative with tweaks to the rules and the Twenty20 format of the game. The cricket available for us to watch has even spoiled us to a point to where there is essentially no break in the international calendar. It has become the standard now for each bilateral series to extend across Tests, One Day Internationals, and Twenty20 Internationals. As a fan, however, where do you draw the line between these formats? Does one simply wipe the slate clean and start afresh with the change in number of overs?
There is no example that is more appropriate than the current tour of South Africa by the Pakistan national cricket team. They arrived to face the Proteas and whether you want to blame lack of preparation, inferior talent, or injuries, they failed to impress. Fans were left with a 0-3 whitewash in front of them as the players switched out of the whites. “Here come the T20Is and ODIs!” the commercials started telling us. As a fan, what do you carry over now? Do you throw everything you just viewed out the window and convince yourself that the change in format will bring a corresponding change in format? Even if it does, what are you left reflecting with when the tour is over? Is the 0-3 whitewash in the rear-view window as you celebrate your team holding up a limited overs trophy?
Does your opinion on the ability of certain players change as you seem them show up re-energized in colored clothing? Case in point, we watched Pakistan Test vice-captain Mohammad Hafeez score a paltry 43 runs in six test innings. Along come the T20Is, in which his previous three scores are 42, 61, and 55. As always, there will be two arguments. One cricket fan can argue that he is out of form and is not able to adjust to South African conditions as was evident on the tour so far. Another can point to the latter scores mentioned and defend his place in the T20I team at least. The result? After scoring 43 runs in six test innings, Hafeez doubled that total with 86 in yesterday’s T20I. Looking at the other side of the ball, and the leader of Pakistan’s pace attack, Umar Gul disappointed many with his showing in the test series with 5 wickets in the two matches he played. When it comes to T20Is, however, there aren’t many that have put up better performances in the past than the ones they call “Guldozer”. If you’re a fan, do you judge the fast bowler on the form he has shown on the current tour and prefer to field a new face such as Wahab Riaz? If you did and you allowed your memory be too short, you would have missed out on eye-boggling figures of 5-6 by Gul.
Not recognizing that the different formats each require their own skill sets can be disastrous. If your memory span as a cricket fan isn’t exactly right, you could end up picking players for limited overs based on their test performances or worse, dropping players in the shorter formats based on the same reason, not taking into account the records they’ve broken or matches they’ve won you in the past. This twist to the game has brought out headaches for selectors and coaches, but luckily for fans, we can sit back, kick our feet up and simply watch the action, regardless of format.