If T20 cricket is the dumb man’s Cricket (one can’t call it the poor man’s cricket can one?), then Ambati Rayudu is the dumb man’s Javed Miandad. Both Cricinfo and the Times of India have alluded to the Miandad comparison. An accomplished batsman, once the brightest star in India’s age group batting firmament, Rayudu should be embarassed. The similarity between the two events is limited to where the ball was hit – square on the leg side, what type of ball it was – a full toss, and the number of runs needed off the last ball – 4. Beyond that, those two events are as different as chalk and cheese.
It does not suit the IPL or Cricinfo or any media organization, to write headlines in negative terms. “Mindless Final Over Madness Ends In Indians Victory” or “Bala Bombed, Indians Win” or “Franklin Edges Indians past Knight Riders”, would have all been more accurate headlines, but there are no heroes or villains in those stories. There is a suggestion of incompetence in the second one, accident in the third. This type of headline making is not limited to India’s shamelessly forward news outlets. TV New Zealand has run the headline “Franklin Powers Mumbai into playoffs”.
Miandad’s century (he made 116 in 114 balls) came in a run chase in a final. Pakistan were chasing 246 which in 1986 was akin to a 275 chase today. Miandad batted for over 200 runs in Pakistan’s chase and saw Pakistan lose 7 wickets at the other end. That six off Chetan Sharma’s full toss was prefaced by a long and grueling battle in a high pressure situation. Every time someone hits a six to win a limited overs game, it can’t possibly be called a Miandad Moment. This has nothing to do with the deep wound Javed Miandad caused on that April day on the psyche of the Indian cricket fan, but simply to do with seriously watching cricket.
Here is something that seems to happen with remarkable regularity in T20 cricket. A serious reading of the game leaves one with the conclusion that the losing side did not deserve to lose and the winning side did not deserve to win. Batsmen take chances, and more often than not, with only 9 fielders and a wicket keeper available, miscues go to the boundary. And given how short the contest is, a few miscues are usually enough.
Yet, these things have to be papered over in the reporting. The language of T20 Cricket is borrowed wholly from the language of Test Cricket or even ODI Cricket – both games in which chance plays a much lesser role in the outcome – both contests which have to be affirmatively won and which are never won by accident. This use of language serves the purpose of legitimizing T20, undeservedly in my view, and also allows news reporters to get away with being lazy. For example Cricinfo’s “Plays of the Day” makes no mention of the fact that off the 21 required in the final over, Franklin scored 12 off the edge of the bat, or that 4 of the six balls were full tosses.
In the 2011 IPL, a boundary (4 or 6) has been hit once every over on average, while a six has been hit once every 26 balls, if you look at all the 199 batsmen who have faced at least one ball. In the 1985-86 ODI season, a six was hit once every 209 balls, while a boundary was hit once every 20 balls.
Whatever it may have been, Rayudu’s slog was definitely not a Miandad Moment. It was to Miandad’s effort what a bad spoof of Sholay would be to that film genre. The same can be said of T20s relationship to Cricket. But you wouldn’t know that if you read the coverage of the IPL. There are no glorious uncertainties in the IPL, not even inglorious ones, only accidents.