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Protective Gears – Then and Now

by Bored Guest

Let us transport ourselves to the days of Jardine`s bodyline series made famous by the sheer speed and accuracy of Harold Larwood and Bill Voce. It is reported that the fastest ball by Larwood was recorded at 96 mph (remember miles not kilometers) with only the not so precise electrical instruments of the thirties, but players of his time vouched him to be even faster.

The essence of the bodyline theory was to attack the batsman with short rising deliveries rather than aim at the wickets. The purpose was to intimidate the indomitable Don and prevent him from scoring as many at such furious rate. It succeeded to a large extent, because Bradman failed in the series, but only by his lofty standards. His average in the series stood at 53 point something as against his grand average of 100 minus fraction. But his average of 54 for the bloodiest series is as good as, if not better than the average of all the modern gladiators- Lara and Sachin included.


Bradman played in only four of the five match series and scored a century, a fifty plus (73, I Believe) and two near fifties in the eight innings he played in the series. Not a bad job for a man facing missiles hurled at him in excess of 150 kmph constantly by the deadliest combination of Larwood and Voce.

Of course he did take quite a few body blows, so did the old Bill Ford and the versatile Macabe. But they scored runs, not enough to win the ashes (they lost the series 1-4), But enough to show some fight and determination.

Let us consider the protective armor that Don and his contemporaries had.

The pads that protected the longest single bone of the body that carries the frame on it.

The pair of gloves that protected the maximum number of bone joints in our body.

Then the abdomen guard that protected the human race.

Some preferred to have a cap to protect against the sun-glare.

A pair of buck-skin boots to protect the toes and they had spikes to give a good grip.

Contrast this with the gladiatorial gears of the modern day professional. A helmet to protect the skull. A chest pad to protect the chest. The arm guard to protect the fore arm. The conventional box to protect the vitals. Then a thigh pad that covered the part of the leg above the knee. The conventional pad to protect the legs.

With a donkey’s load of protective gear the best average of all the greats of the fully armored men of modern times just about matches the scantily protected Bradman and the co exposed to the ‘bodyline attack’ of the bowlers hurling down constantly in excess of 150 kmph.

Perhaps the pre-gladiatorial men are driven by fear. How else can we explain the craze for more and more of protective gears? Added to the satiety of the protective gears is the senseless law (added quite recently) restricting the fast bowler to bowl no more than one short rising delivery aimed at the batsman.

The fast bowler has become near irrelevant. A few McGrath’s still command respect, but these are the men of Gubby Allen pace, not the express pace of Larwood.

If KP’s switch hit and the now more often used reverse-sweep are legitimate , why should the bowler be obliged to inform the umpire and the batsman if the is going to bowl over around the wicket. Let the bowler run up and deliver the ball from whatever angle he wants.

Why should law prevent a bowler from wearing some rough plaster around the fingers of his bowling arm to get better grip of the ball. Why should law prevent a bowler (or a quiet captain like Atherton) from applying some foreign matter to one surface of the ball or lift the seam (a la Tendulkar) with the nail.

If law could be silent about new arrivals in a batsman’s protective gear, it has to go silent about what adds to the advantage of a bowler. Or it is not cricket. (Both in the literal and in the figurative sense)

by M Rajagopalan


Krish said...

I agree with your general premise, but I don't think we should go to the extent of allowing ball tampering. Some things we can do:

1. Avoid the need to see which hand will be used for bowling (as you suggested).
2. Get rid of fielding restrictions. No more Powerplays.
3. Using better technology to allow umpires to make correct decisions. (This may also benefit batsmen)
4. Allow option to take newer ball earlier if the bowling team wishes.
5. Make more sporting pitches and have standard boundary lengths.

Thiru Cumaran said...

The only solution to all bowlers' problems would be to get a bowler to head the ICC Cricket committee...that way, the balance could be redressed. Much as I hate to say it, it was the foolish Sunil Gavaskar who put the final nail in the coffin for bowlers in ODI cricket when he introduced the mandatory ball change after 34 negated the advantages of reverse swing that could be obtained during the death overs.

and, btw, I want to make a small correction to your explanation of Bodyline.

Bodyline was also known as fast leg theory and involved bowling the ball short and fast to the batsman's body and packing the leg side with close-in fielders. Since it was bowled at the body, the batsman had no choice but to fend it to the leg-side, where one of the many fielders pounced on the catch!

straight point said...

i have even better suggestion...fill the team with batsmen and use bowling machine for bowlers...

why use human for this dirtiest job in world...?

Bhaskar Khaund said...

to me the golden age for genuine fast bolwing was between mid-1970s and mid-90' began with thommo , lillee , imran and the endless WI brigade n probably ended with wasim , waqar and ambrose.(walsh and mcgrath were in a different category).steyn and malinga are prolly the only ones in that fast-AND-effective league today (maybe morkel in a good spell).others are either one or the other.Someone like Mhd. Aamir would have made a diff. But the joy of watching a devastating quick spell - think we'll get less n less of that . . .Pity

Bhaskar Khaund said...

I guess overall bowling quality per se was so much better then , whether quick or spin,(also helped by livelier wickets ,less protective gear , etc) - which is why u can so easily add a few points to the batting averages of that era ... people like Sunny G. - think what u will of him as a TV guys but his batting greatness is undeniable . . .

knowledge_eater said...

I agree with the sentiments about rise of protective gears and if may add, the rise of better bats, but they are required for sure.

I would also like to know how has balls evolved from that time to today's. If I can just make an assumption, I will say modern balls are tightly coiled, more layered may be, but lighter, lather is more polished, which means they can swing for longer time, but requires more input from bowler to generate pace. In very Old times, I will assume, balls might have been like rocks, heavier, more likely to produce lots of pace, but loses swing very early.

These are just my assumptions and guesses but I would love to know about the truth. Though, may be weight may not have changed, but longevity of a ball for whole day at least 90 overs must have been worked on.

Saying that, I think we don't need to allow bowlers anything special or deduct anything from batter's gears, all they need to do is make fruity pitches, that's all.

Let home team makes fruitful pitches according to their bowling strength, that's all. You will see very good contests. But, ICC is super doped and acting like idiot big time, run by egoist rule makers, full of whiners. I am still hopeful all is still not lost, TV ratings for Test matches, media covering aren't bad either.

E.g. We just witnessed how terrible Pak batters bat against simple decent seaming bowling, and how WI batted badly against Spin, how many country batters can bat good on pitches like this? Not many, no?