Archive for April 17th, 2017

Are batting collapses becoming so common in test cricket?

April 17, 2017

Superb analytical piece via Tom Eaton (HT Gulzar). There is one argument one keeps having with younger followers in cricket. We argue that batting collapses are becoming way too common and one does not anymore see fights from batters. The younger lot does not agree and says test cricket is becoming more result oriented. As a result we are seeing both sides going for wins/losses than mere draws. We argue saying it is more due to lack of skill/application which is leading to lack of well fought draws and rise in one sided results. And the debate goes on.

Eaton points to statistics showing batting collapses have indeed risen. Also test scores are rising:

Confused, I went to the record books, where I discovered three peculiar facts.

The first was that I wasn’t wrong about batting pile-ons. Test teams are scoring huge totals much more often than they used to. Between 1960 (more or less the start of the current era of covered pitches) and the end of 1999, one in 18 innings would see a team rack up 500 or more. Since the start of 2000, that rate has almost doubled to one in ten. Last year, teams amassed 500 or more on 19 occasions: one in nine.

The second discovery seemed sharply at odds with the first. It was, startlingly, that sub-100 totals have also become much more frequent. From 1960 until 1999, the dreaded double-figures dig happened roughly once every 70 innings. Since 2000, that figure has jumped to one in 47.

The third discovery was perhaps the most curious of all.

For most of Test history, sub-100 debacles have been a sign of technical inadequacy and inexperience. Here and there, a top team has had a bad day, but the teams most regularly rolled for less than 100 have overwhelmingly been those that have not yet grown up and built a solid batting culture. Not surprisingly, the worst offenders in the 2000s were Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, and the wildly erratic Pakistan.

But here’s where it gets very peculiar; because since the start of 2010, it’s not the minnows that have been the most prone to collapse. Yes, Zimbabwe were rolled for 51 by New Zealand in Napier in 2012, and yes, they might have had a few more debacles had they played more Tests; but their 51 is the only blot by a “bottom three” team this decade. The last time Bangladesh were dismissed for double figures was 2007. West Indies? Back in 2004.

Instead, the repeat offenders are startlingly pedigreed. It won’t surprise anyone to learn that Pakistan – part enigma, part flake – lead the field of failure, helped largely by their abject summer in 2010, during which England dismissed them for 80, 72 and 74 inside a month. But the next two most collapse-prone teams? Wobbly Sri Lanka or understaffed New Zealand? Neither. Since 2010, the two most frequently catastrophic teams after Pakistan have been giants: Australia and South Africa.

Why is this happening?

I could have guessed Australia seeing its so many collapses in recent memory. But not SAF for sure.

The main reason is lack of a good 4 down batsman:

The historical averages paint a telling picture. In all sub-100 innings since 1960, the specialist batsmen contributing the smallest proportion of runs are the openers and the No. 5. This makes sense: the openers have been snuffed out by the new ball, and the No. 5, selected to play shots and without the defensive nous of a No. 3 or No. 4, has found himself in a world of pain at 10 for 3, facing a new, spitting ball.

Enter the fail-safe: the backup opener, No. 6. Between 1960 and 1999, this lynchpin made 13.5% of his team’s runs during a collapse – by far the highest proportion. For 40 years he tried to dig in and stem the tide, at least for a few minutes. Sometimes he stonewalled. Dravid’s 27 not out in Durban in 1996 was as heroic as any back-to-the-wall hundred I’ve seen. In 1973 at Trent Bridge, as John Snow and Tony Greig ran through New Zealand for 97, the No. 6, Vic Pollard, a Baptist lay preacher, put aside childish things and hung around for over an hour and a half for his unbeaten 16.


What they revealed was this: in sub-100 collapses since 2010, South African and Australian number sixes have plumbed depths so low that they are possibly unrivalled in the entire history of Test cricket. Not only have they contributed only 6% of their respective teams’ runs (less than half the historic average) they have contributed less than any other batting position, No. 11 included. Ramparts have been outscored by rabbits.

A gaping hole at No. 6 seems to be a compelling explanation for why Australia and South Africa have become so prone to implosions. But then, how to account for the increase in huge scores at the same time? Since 2010, South Africa have passed 500 once every eight innings; Australia, once every seven. How can batsmen be getting simultaneously more dominant and more fragile?

I believe that this phenomenon can be explained by new selection criteria.

Now that openers and number sixes have become attacking weapons rather than defensive insurance, they are much better equipped to take advantage of helpful conditions and to rattle up vast scores; but when things get hairy, they simply don’t have the technique or the grim bloody-mindedness to hang around. This isn’t just a curmudgeonly generalisation about the spineless youth of today. Unfortunately, the numbers back it up.

Cricket is increasingly becoming a basher batsman’s game. Increasingly, we see players succeeding in one days and T-20s now being pushed in test league with questionable technique.

Superb stuff from Eaton.

After a long pause, Market Stabilisation Scheme is back…

April 17, 2017

I think the last time, government mopped up liquidity via MSS was Sep 2, 2008. That week, RBI notified issuance of  91 day T-Bills worth Rs 5000 cr out of which Rs 2000 cr was for MSS. There was also another issuance same day of 182 day Tbills as well worth Rs 2500 cr of which Rs 2000 cr was under MSS. The government also used to issue bonds for MSS but not sure when was the last time they were used.

After Sep 2 2008,  came Sep 16 2008 and all things reversed. Of course Sep 16 2008 was when Lehman happened changing things from a surplus liquidity to a deficit liquidity position. It also led to a serious rise in fiscal deficit with government using the bonds issued under MSS as part of its borrowings to meet fiscal deficit. Until then MSS bonds were parked seperately with RBI (under liabilities of RBI Balance sheet) and could not be used by government. They were just used for liquidity purposes but soon began to be used for deficit purposes as well.

Since then each year there is a MSS limit prescribed in the budget but is not used.

Now, with things again under surplus liquidity RBI/Government have announced usage of MSS scheme. There is a weekly calendar with one issuance per week of Rs 25000 cr which is huge given previously around Rs 3000-5000 crore were used as MSS. The government will issue T-bills and not bonds (which suck liquidity for a longer period).

The results for the first auction (17 Apr 2017) have already come up. The markets have sold the 329 day Tbill for Rs 94.56 at a yield of 6.38%. Just a few days ago on 12 Apr 2017, the markets bought 364 day Tbills from government at 94.16 at a yield of 6.21%.

Interesting times are back again.. Appreciating rupee, MSS bonds being used to absorb liquidity and so on…

The puzzle of Indian urbanisation: Why rural-urban migration decelerated at 25% levels when global average is 50%?

April 17, 2017

Pronab Sen of IGC India Central looks at this urbanisation puzzle in India:

The global experience has been that as countries develop, rural-to-urban migration accelerates, and decelerates only when the urbanisation level is very high – usually well over 50%. In contrast, migration in India began decelerating when urbanisation was below 25%. In the article, Pronab Sen deconstructs this puzzle.

The main reason? India’s political system. Any rapid migration movement makes it difficult for the political masters to understand their bases. Thus, they try and slow it down:

The reason may lie in the imperatives of gaining and retaining political power. In a country where political success is driven by managing the 3 Cs of Indian society – caste, community, and class – no incumbent political leader would like to see any uncontrolled change in the social configuration of the constituency, and therefore of the winning coalition. Migration causes this both in the originating villages and destination towns. Initially these effects may be relatively small, but can snowball over time since much of migration is driven by social networks.
The political system seems to have succeeded: 80% of Indian urban growth is organic in that it arises from three predominant sources: (a) natural population growth; (b) absorption of neighbouring villages; and (c) designating existing villages as “census towns”. None of these involve spatial movement of people and hence, do not alter the social composition of constituencies. Migration accounts for the remaining 20%, most of which is for marriage. This too may not upset the political calculus.
India is just so so interesting. Contrasts everywhere..

Lessons from 2017 Clark economics prize: Encourage more studies on Indian railways and economic history..

April 17, 2017

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha of Mint has this piece on the 2017 Clark prize given to Donald Daveson of Stanford.

One of Daveson papers is othe controversial topic: Development history of Indian railways. Those for railways say it connected India mainlands to hinterlands enabling development. Those against say railways was another source of colonial exploitation (perhaps the most successful one) where rich resources from hinterlands were brought first to ports and then shipped to London.

Daveson looks at historical data and falls in the first camp: