Evolution – for good or bad ?

I hereby attempt to compare the changing face of two popular sports (at least for many Indians) – Cricket and Soccer. I tend to compare the current state of matters in the respective World Cups with the versions that I watched in the late 80’s and try to conclude whether the evolution of the game has become exciting for the new generation or has taken a step back.

First comes Cricket, of course – how can go for anything else being an Indian :-)

The current rules and regulations have made the game ‘exciting’ for a generation who did not have the chance to watch the same version in the late 80’s. The field restrictions, introduction of power-plays, the restriction of one-bouncer-per-over, etc etc have forced teams to become more aggressive in batting. The bowlers may cry their voice hoarse – but net-net, the game has turned over to more exciting times. In the late 80’s, if a team used to score at a rate of 3.5 without losing any wicket, we used to say “wow”. Nowadays, anything less than 6.0 runs per over in the initial 10-12 overs is looked upon as a crime. Earlier, a score of 230-240 in 50 overs was looked upon as a fighting and even winning total. But if you think that by making the same total in today’s game, you will win a match, then I would suggest to take a walk ! Earlier, we had to count how many Indian’s could actually hit a sixer – we were left with limited names like Srikkanth, Shastri, Kapil. Now-a-days, we have to count how many cannot hit a six – and the number would be limited to only 2 – 3 players. Hence, the game has taken a step forward making it more exciting.

Now comes Soccer …….

We grew up with the mesmerisation of Samba football by Brazil, the great flow of Kempes, Ardilles and Maradona’s, the clinical striking by the Rossi’s, Linekar’s of the world. The music called soccer was very much visible when we saw the Socrates, Zico’s, Platini’s of the world gliding through the football pitch and either scoring goals or making way for others to score. The football was great – a typical end-to-end stuff with lots of attacking moves, great skills and overall a fantastic flow to watch from basically any team in the world cups. But if you see the general nature of the game in current world cups – it’s more strategy, more ‘defense-first’ approach and coaches think how you can stop the flow of the opponents instead of concentrating on generating the flow themselves. Gone are the days when you could see personal flair and grace, gone are the days when even you could see fantastic free-kicks – that itself has become almost extinct (and of course, the players, coaches blame the ball for that !!). If you see the last 2-3 world cups, the quality of soccer has changed to more defense, more stress on counter-attacks (rather than normal attacks), more crowding of the midfield, more players of the definition “defensive mid-field” or “blockers” have come to the arena. Apart from perhaps Barcelona Football Club, rarely I have seen flowing, passing football at an international arena – be it from Brazil, Argentina or from Holland, Germany, Italy. To me, I think football has evolved (rightfully or wrong-fully) in a “negative” direction wherein the game have not increased its excitement, but gained more in the tactics of “stop the opponents at any cost” instead of “lets outplay our opponents”. That is why even the current Copa America 2011 (which is currently in its group league stages) have 17 goals in 11-12 matches (if I remember correctly). This itself reflects in which direction football is moving forward …..

I know many of you will not like the above analysis, but as always, I am ready for a healthy, passionate debate :-)

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