Records galore but cricket suffers in SRH-MI game

Abhishek Sharma won the player of the match vs MI (Photo: IPL/X)

History was made in Hyderabad on Wednesday. Forget about the IPL, Sunrisers Hyderabad’s 277-3 against Mumbai Indians was the highest-ever total in any major T20 league in the world. As for the IPL, it surpassed Royal Challengers Bangalore’s 263-5 against Pune Warriors in 2013 to be comfortably on top of the tree.

Mumbai Indians responded with almost equal venom and posted 246-5 to go down by 31 runs. Over the two innings, 523 were scored, and the fans danced in the aisles. When MI reached 193 (in 16.2 overs) in their run chase, another record was set – the highest aggregate in an IPL match, beating the 469 between Chennai Super Kings (246-5) and Rajasthan Royals (223-5) at Chepauk in 2010.

So far so good, but spare a thought for the bowlers. Cricket, irrespective of formats, thrives on an equal contest between bat and ball. Of course, T20 cricket is mainly a batsman’s game, but there has to be some semblance of parity. The pitch that was laid out in Hyderabad saw the world’s best fast bowler, Jasprit Bumrah, concede 36 runs in his four overs, and his spell was called economical.

Apart from Bumrah, the MI bowling attack had two other reputed international performers in Hardik Pandya and Gerald Coetzee. The former returned with 1-46 in four overs, while Coetzee gave away 57 runs in his four overs for a wicket. For Sunrisers, Pat Cummins accounted for two wickets while conceding 35 in his four overs, Bhuvneshwar Kumar had figures of 0-53 in four overs and Jaydev Unadkat leaked 47 runs in his four, although he claimed two wickets. The spinners from both sides were never in the game. At times, it felt like maybe it was better to put out the bowling machines and enjoy the rocket launches.

The common excuse for playing T20 matches on such ‘highways’ is that the spectators want to watch only fours and sixes. Wrong. This is condescension of the worst kind, especially in a country that’s home to millions of knowledgable cricket fans. Some low-scoring matches can be a lot more exciting than the high-scoring ones and the fans lap up that as well. Rewind to the India versus Bangladesh T20 World Cup game in Bangalore in 2016 that the hosts won by a solitary run.

Batting first, India posted 146-7. Bangladesh finished on 145-9, with MS Dhoni outsprinting Mustafizur Rahman to pull off a victory from the jaws of defeat in the final ball of the match. It was arguably the greatest T20 game played in India over the past 10 years.

There’s a tendency from the organisers to take the fans for granted, a reason why the curators are told to prepare pitches that take bowlers out of the equation. On Wednesday in Hyderabad, batting looked to be the easiest job in the world. It was just about plonking the front foot forward and hitting through the line of the ball or swinging across the line. It was bad for cricket.

During the match, a netizen asked Ravichandran Ashwin on X: “What’s your template for today’s match”? “Sick leave,” replied the great off-spinner with a couple of laughing emojis.

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