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The build up to the cricket World Cup, which gets under way on February 14th, is proving to be anything but romantic in some quarters. In previous incarnations of the competition the battle between bat and ball, or as we would see it in more practical terms - between batters and bowlers - has been at the heart of the contest. It is that old-fashioned equation which, after all, is the defining character of the game.

But as the ICC’s flagship tournament gears up for its 11th incarnation that relationship has been disturbed. As outlined by Mike Selvey, a former professional and current Guardian cricket correspondent in the UK, bigger bats and more ambitious batsmen have combined with shorter boundaries and meaner fielding and bowling restrictions to tip the balance in the favour of the run-getters.

Competitively there remains a vibrant contest, but now it is more a test of the respective batting line-up’s ability to make hay at the expense of bowlers whose input is all-too-often becoming an irrelevance.

In the process, different aspects of the cricketing contest are emerging as key to success. England, for example, are showing all too painfully that having a clearly defined strategy in place - or not having one in their case - is fundamental.

Allied to that, as all the criticism that David Warner has copped for his in-your-face approach to competitive engagement, it matters how you keep your cool under pressure. Not everyone blinks.

There is a sense that the sort of poker-minded calculus that Shane Warne brought to the game is more important now than it has ever been. Irrespective of the magnificent technical proficiency that he was able to achieve, it was Warne’s ability to impose a pace and a pattern on the game, whether he was batting or bowling, that made him such a fearsome opponent.

It is hardly surprising that he is proving to be a card player of some distinction. Warne’s ability to marry the details of the game unfolding around him to an overarching strategy are precisely what it now takes to balance the odds and to engineer a winning position in poker.

In reducing the potency of the bowlers, cricket’s administrators have put the batsmen in control. It is their strategy, their ability to dictate the rhythm and the pace of a match that is now key to success on the pitch. Knowing when to go all in and when to pass is meat and drink to Warne in his guise as a poker player. But that same judgement now matters to batters in a way that is more pointed than it has ever been.

 

by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer

It goes without saying that there will be bowlers who make a difference. It is in the margins that sport is won and lost, and that same marginal logic applies in what we are describing here. Great bowlers will still have their say. But for the rest, the challenge all too often will be to put the brakes on the roll out of yet another premeditated onslaught. As a batsman it is a scenario that Warne might have relished. But thinking beyond the World Cup itself, one cannot help wondering what someone as sharp and ambitious as Warne might think of starting out on a bowling career in 2015. Odds are, he would conclude fairly quickly that the deck was loaded in favour of the guys with those big bats in their hands.

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