On the Front Foot: Heavy roller makes light work of out-of-form Englishmen

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The Independent Online

Always was a batsman's game, always will be. Quite right, too, because without runs, preferably coming at a lick, the game would flounder. But there is a growing understanding that the poor bowler cannot simply be treated as cannon fodder. To that end, the prohibition of heavy rollers after the start of County Championship matches this summer has worked a treat. It goes some way to explaining the poor form of the likes of Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, top-order thoroughbreds who might have benefited from the benignity brought to pitches by heavy rollers at the start of innings. In explaining his struggles for Middlesex for much of the early season, Strauss said the other day: "It's meant 200, 250 being a good score and tight, compelling games, but batting has been harder than in the past." Poor lamb, you thought. On the international stage as well, keeping the balance in check (if not exactly redressing it) is concentrating minds. The International Cricket Council's cricket committee met at Lord's last week. There was no formal recommendation but one of the topics addressed, and which may well be revisited, was the notion of raising the restriction on bowlers' overs in limited-overs matches. So that instead of being limited to 10 in a one-day international, two bowlers might be allowed, say, 15 overs. Or in a Twenty20 match, two might be permitted to bowl six rather than four. Serious consideration is also being given to preventing batsmen at the non-striker's end stealing ground as the bowler runs up. The practice is prevalent, particularly when the heat is on towards the end of a one-day innings. It is not beyond the bounds that the old law, in place until 1980, which allowed the batsman at the non-striker's end to be run out if he was stealing ground, would be reinstated. What fun that would be in a tight match.

It's Lalit's modus operandi

Lalit Modi, the suspended commissioner of the Indian Premier League, was in Cannes yesterday. "Beautiful" according to his tweet. But he had been in London earlier in the week, addressing the Google Zeitgeist conference where he touched on his troubles. "I guess I became the focus of so many charges because we got 149 million viewers to watch the IPL final," he said. "Everybody wondered how we got there. We grew too fast. We blew every number on the table; we blew everything that anybody said can't be done. We surpassed every plan that we put on the table. We pissed off a lot of people." Not going quietly then, Lalit.

Schedule still sucks

The England and Wales Cricket Board would do well to study the politely termed "contribution to the discussion on the structure of the domestic season" issued by the Professional Cricketers' Association. It details what the players think, and here is a sample of the madness of the 2010 season according to one of them. "The schedule for April is the most challenging thing I've experienced as a professional. I've been explained the thinking behind why this happened but the people writing the schedule cannot understand what it requires." Quite.

Miller's tale on offer

A hospitality company is selling packages at The Oval which include a question-and-answer session with the chairman of selectors, Geoff Miller. He is billed as "the key decision-maker outside the England dressing room" and is open to be quizzed on selection issues ahead of the Ashes Test. Should be fascinating, since the phrase "tight-lipped" could have been manufactured with the amiable but resolutely non-revelatory Miller in mind.