Centuries against weak opposition count too

2010 May 31 by

It is harder in terms of skill and temperament when playing the better bowlers in the world and more satisfying when registering a century or more against them but make no mistake it is not easy to get runs against weak opposition too.

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By Sunil Gavaskar

The test series between England and Bangladesh is underway and Jonathan Trott has given a fine start to England by scoring double century in the first test at Lords. Kevin Pietersen missed out once again falling early and so did England skipper Andrew Strauss who got to 83 before succumbing to Mahmudullah. What it shows is that however easy it is for people to say "oh it’s only against Bangladesh" in actual fact it is harder to score against lower ranked teams.

Firstly with the challenge not being there in the mental space about the bowling a batsman tends to take it easy and as history has shown all it takes is a mistake for the batsman to be back in the pavilion. It therefore takes something special to be able to concentrate and focus on the bowling than take it for granted that all that is needed is or the player to go on to the field and the century will be there for the asking.

That is not how it works and all those who therefore decry runs scored against so called ordinary opposition have no idea how hard it is to get even one run at the international level. It is of course harder in terms of skill and temperament when playing the better bowlers in the world  and more satisfying when registering a century or more against them but make no mistake it is not easy to get runs against weak opposition too.

In four tests versus Bangladesh now Pietersen who is one of the best batsmen in the world has not yet scored a century and while that doesn’t take anything away from his standing as one of the greats in the game it still is something that he will want in his book of centuries. They all count and nobody after 25 years is going to be too bothered if the century was scored against Bangladesh or Australia. As the old saying goes 'they all count'.

Matthew Hayden is a prime example of a top player who hasn’t got a century against the so called weakest bowling attack in the world, Bangladesh, so does that make him a lesser player?  No, it does not but it will still be a bit of a regret for him that he was not able to score a century against all the test playing nations in the game.

Trott has got his ton and he may rub it in for Pietersen if in the next test too he fails to get a century. It does take a special skill and mindset to get past fifty and go on to score a century. There are so many who get good looking thirties and forties but are unable to get to a fifty and there are many more who get to  seventy or eighty but are unable to get to a hundred. It is how you learn to go from fifty to sixty and from there to seventy and then to eighty and then to ninety and travel from the pulsating heartbeats of the nineties to the coveted century. It is not easy as it looks for if it was then there would be more with centuries than fifties in the game.

It is not just a question of physical endurance but mental strength too and only those who have a combination of both are able to reel off tons regularly..â?Trott is a South African born player who like Pietersen has opted to qualify and play for England. Andrew Strauss also is a South African born player and England for the last two decades and more has looked like a united nations team with players of different origins representing them. It is indeed laudable that England has allowed them to play for them and not put any conditions as long as they fulfill the criteria laid down by the International Cricket Council.  However the ICC needs to have a relook at the way the qualification criterion is being used by some players to fulfill their ambitions of being an international player.

In last year’s ICC World Twenty-20 in England Dirk Nannes played for Holland since he was born there. In a few months after that he was representing Australia where he lives and which country’s passport he has. He had the same passport the previous year too when he played for Holland and so really shouldn’t have been allowed to play for Holland. It is not known how much cricket he had played in Holland and how long he had stayed there to be able to qualify to play for that country but if he did that in that calendar year then how could he represent another country in the same calendar year. It is something that needs to be looked at seriously. The ICC rules are that to play for another country if one has represented another country at the under 19 level the player should qualify by residence for four years. That is a fair rule and that should also apply for those who represent an associate member country and then want to play for a test country. Eoin Morgan is another player who having played for Ireland played for England soon thereafter. It is palpably unfair on the associate teams who give a place to such players who abandon them at the first opportunity to play for a test country.

There should be a gap of at least a couple of years if a player who has played for an associate member team to represent a test country. At the moment it certainly is being taken advantage of by some players who have no real interest in the associate member country team’s cricket and are only looking to further their own cause and not really make any lasting contribution to the associate member country’s cricket.
It is hard to  believe that a couple of test countries can take advantage of this while the majority cannot and that is why the earlier the ICC lays down new rules the better it is for world cricket.