Archive for the ‘Cricket’ Category

Plugging old piece: Auction and IPL cricket

October 21, 2020

As I was hearing Amit Varma’s fab webinar, a participant asked about auction theory and IPL.

I remembered writing a piece for Mint way back when IPL just started. Replugging the piece titled as Go Dutch for Dhoni..

Conversation with Amit Varma: Using The Discipline Of Economics To Rewire Cricketing Strategy and IPL

October 20, 2020

Next up at Ahmedabad University is none other than Amit Varma of SeenandUnseen podcast. He is going to speak on using economics to rewire cricket strategy and IPL.  Those interested can register here.

Cricket is a fascinating, frustrating, and complex game. Over its history, the game has witnessed many changes. New forms of playing have emerged, but we are stuck in old ways of thinking about it.

The Test format, the 50-over format, and the 20-over format of cricket need completely different strategies. Each resource and constraint the team has – time, wickets, dot balls, run rate, partnerships – takes on a unique significance depending on the format. Teams need to manage resources and constraints in line with the format. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy.

The economics of cricket, the strategies needed, and the business of cricket will be the focus of this webinar – particularly topical in these IPL times. This webinar will change the way you watch IPL.

Our speaker, Amit Varma, is a deep thinker of cricket strategy. A former managing editor of Cricinfo, Amit will talk about how he uses the tools of economics to arrive at a new strategic understanding of the game.

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The lessons of IPL for economic transformation

October 16, 2020

Anantha Nageswaran in this blogpost:

What economic transformation entails is replicating what the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the me-too mini leagues it has spawned at the state level have done for Indian cricket. Indian cricket team is now facing the good problem of accommodating many talents that the IPL is throwing up.

What did Lalit Modi do? He did not do this for boosting Indian cricket. But, the lesson there is hidden for us to uncover and absorb into public policy.

IPL was the eco-system origin and it spawned many mini state level leagues. Once the eco-system was thus established and it took the first 3-5 years for it to be established, the results began flowing. We have a bunch of talent – all in their late teens or early twenties – that is waiting to take over from the current Indian test cricket or ODI team.

So, all that the government should focus on doing is in creating the ecosystem, through good primary and secondary education. The government’s role thus becomes one of being an enabler, seeding the ground and nurturing it. It also withdraws from areas where it does not have to be present. Then, with luck/divine blessing (that is needed to ensure that we also get a propitious external environment), the results will start to come.

The IPL and the Indian cricket talent is a good example of what sound public policy on economic transformation should be about. It has transformed Indian cricket from third-world to first-world status. It is ‘economic development’ equivalent in cricket.

Who would be Lalit Modi of Indian economy?

Rahul Dravid inspiring central bankers

October 7, 2020

Amit Varma in his brilliant Seen and Unseen Podcast series speaks to Dr Viral Acharya. Dr Acharya speaks about “why we should all join him in the battle against Fiscal Dominance”.

In the initial part of the conversation, Dr Acharya reflects on what happened when he was appointed as a Deputy Governor at RBI.

In a meeting with friends in NY, he is asked what kind of a central banker he wishes to become? Bernanke, Yellen and so on.

Acharya’s reply was “No, I want to be Rahul Dravid”! He goes onto explain how Indian batting in numerous test matches revolved around Dravid.

The Dravid aura continues to grow and inspire central bankers as well. What a player and how he held the fort or the wall for so many years without any publicity or hype.

Transformative Power of Cricket in India: Its potential and limits (Remembering Baloo Palwankar..)

January 3, 2020

Prashant Kidambi has written a book – Cricket Country  – which chronicles first tour by a representative Indian side to the British Isles, in 1911.

Priyansh, a doctoral student at Univ of Toronto reviews the book in The India Forum:

Prashant Kidambi’s Cricket Country has a conversation with this question of caste, among other things, and helps us to think in productive ways.

As a work of history, Cricket Country seeks to question the accepted narrative about cricket in India before Test status became a reality in 1932. The years before then are generally described as a period of antique curiosities when the princely states, in their desire to mirror the colonial royalty, took to cricket as a pastime. However, as Kidambi notes, cricket also turned out to be a site for political negotiations among religious communities, and its popularity spread deep and wide.

Many histories animate Cricket Country. From the life story of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala—the de facto captain on the tour— to the situating of the Indian tour within an English summer that was in the throes of cultural and political ferment, Kidambi draws disparate threads together. But it is his account of the Palwankars, four Dalit brothers (Baloo, Shivram, Vithal and Ganpat) who excelled at cricket and hockey alike that evokes the popular fascination with cricket and recovers “the small voice of history”3. The story of the lives of the Palwankar brothers, two of whom (Baloo and Shivram) made the team for the 1911 tour, is a stirring highlight of Cricket Country.

Palwankar Baloo and his brothers were afforded long overdue prominence in an English-language work of history by Ramachandra Guha in his much-celebrated A Corner of a Foreign Field. Yet the name of Baloo and his riveting career in cricket remains consigned to the backburner of Indian cricket memory. It is an account that is barely invoked in the popular imagination; rather it remains a trivial concern.

The story of the Palwankars is relevant as it allows us a glimpse into the history of Dalits in Indian cricket. When set against the remarkably low presence of Dalits in organised men’s cricket in independent India, it is worth noting that the historic tour over a century ago had two cricketers from the Chambhar (Chamar) community: Baloo and Shivram. The duo’s brother Vithal could have been a part of the tour as well, but he was unlucky to miss out as communal quotas were strictly enforced to keep all parties happy, namely, the Parsis, the Hindus, and the Muslims.

As Kidambi describes it, the tour was the result of a historic compromise that was reached following past failures to undertake a tour to the colonial metropole. But it is the ever-shifting compromise with the status of Baloo within the Hindu cricketing fraternity that suggests why we still have very few Dalit men in organised cricket. In fact, this may be the final frontier for what is the most popular game for the Indian masses. Post-Independence, it has not been unusual to see cricketers from different religious dimensions. But caste lines remain firmly entrenched.

Baloo’s inclusion, as noted by Kidambi, was motivated by a collective self-interest of the Hindus. Such were his exploits with left-arm spin bowling that the desire for communal supremacy in the Bombay Quadrangular4 ensured his selection. Anecdotes and accounts about Baloo’s talent travelled far and wide, helped in no small measure by his success on the 1911 tour where he was the leading wicket-taker. Nor was he a mug with the bat, playing a few crucial knocks over the course of the English summer.

Baloo’s indefatigable displays were a highlight in a side that had been considerably affected by late withdrawals of key figures and riven with disagreements. The Parsis and the Brahmins experienced continuing friction that had its roots in animosity bred on the cricket fields of Bombay. The tension was borne out particularly in the matter of dietary preferences. As recalled in Cricket Country, one of the Parsi cricketers explained the fragile fitness of a Brahmin cricketer by asserting, “He is a vegetarian and in Great Britain meat must be eaten if one is to keep fit.” What the Parsis thought of Baloo, beyond his cricketing abilites, is unknown.

Much more in the review…

The art and science of reverse swing

November 1, 2019

Greg Baum wrote this interesting piece on 30-July-2019 on the art and science of reverse swing.

Reverse swing, as the name suggests, moves in the opposite direction to conventional swing. Instead of the ball drifting towards its rougher side, it veers towards the smooth. Typically, a ball needs to be older, and thoroughly knocked about, before it arrives in “the zone” to reverse; and it takes a faster bowler to inject enough velocity that the effect will take hold.

In Simon Jones and Andrew Flintoff, England possessed two fast bowlers with the speed and skill to exploit reverse swing. But all the bowlers, spinner Ashley Giles included, bought into the plan to care for the ball as it aged, polishing one “slightly rough” side while allowing the other to become, as Cooley puts it, “super rough” from being hit or bowled into the abrasive pitch. The idea was to create a marked contrast between the rough and super-rough sides of the ball – one that primed the ball for reverse. As for the seam, Cooley says Jones held it bolt upright for reverse swing while Matthew Hoggard, also of 2005 Ashes fame, held it at a slight angle, as he also would for conventional swing, for which he was better known.

While conventional swing involves air hugging the surface for longer on the rough side of the ball, something peculiar happens in reverse. When a reverse-ready ball is delivered at a high enough speed, the layers of air that form on either side transition from what scientists call “laminar” to “turbulent” on both sides, but at different times. On the super-rough side, the air layer becomes particularly turbulent and thickens to the point that it separates from the ball much earlier.

On the relatively smooth side, the air layer is turbulent to a degree that means it will now stick for longer before separating. The uneven points of separation create an uneven wake behind the ball and a side force, as in conventional swing – only in the opposite direction. Jones confused Clarke by bowling a succession of reverse swing balls that swerved away, then surreptitiously turning the shiny side towards the batsman to produce a reversing inswinger.

 

The inning of Ben Stokes: The art of batting with the tail

August 29, 2019

Ben Stokes once again came to the party merely a month after his feat at the WC Final. Once again he never gave up and continued to battle with the tailenders. With last wicket to go, he broke loose and scored 75 of the required 76 runs including 8 sixes.

However, this was not the first time that someone batted so well with the tail. Just a few months ago, Kusal Perera of Sri Lanka played a similar inning against South Africa in South Africa making it even more special as Stokes made the runs in his home England (though he is from NZ). ESPNcricinfo ran a poll of best such innings and not surprisingly, Perera tops the list.

Howindialives.com in a piece on Mint analyses what it means to bat will the tail.

There was history on one side, and Ben Stokes and Jack Leach on the other. History said the average tenth-wicket partnership for England in test cricket was an anaemic 14 runs. History said of the 123 times that England was dismissed while chasing a target, on 77 of those occasions, the last-wicket pair had failed to even reach 10 runs. Stokes and Leach wrote their own history, adding an undefeated 76 runs in last week’s humdinger in Headingley.

In a summer that has belonged to him like no other cricketer, Stokes also burnished his credentials of batting with the tail. Coming in usually at the fall of the third or fourth wicket, Stokes’ approach was to take his time and take matches deep. Stokes, 28, is still early in his career, and he will have many outings batting with the bowlers: wickets 7 to 10. It’s an art that few among the top order have mastered.

Ironically, two of the foremost exponents of batting with the tail were from the side that Stokes was putting in the shade that afternoon in Headingley: Australia. In the history of the game, no top-order batsman (coming in at number 6 or before) has scored as many runs with the tail (batsmen coming in at 7 to 10) as Steve Waugh.

The doughty Waugh, who batted at three or four down for much of his Test career, added 4,102 runs for wickets 7 to 10. Close behind him is another prolific, but low-profile, batsman, Shivnarine Chanderpaul of the West Indies. He is followed by Allan Border, who is the only one in the list of top 10 batsmen batting with the tail who stopped playing test cricket before the turn of this century.

There are three Indians in that list, led by VVS Laxman. The other two are Sachin Tendulkar and Ravi Shastri, whose presence here reflects a distinct characteristic about their batting craft and the circumstances surrounding it. For Shastri, it reflected his ability to put a great price to his wicket.

For Tendulkar, who batted at number four for nearly his entire career, that characteristic is last man standing. As many as 85% of Tendulkar’s innings and 92% of runs with the tail came outside India, which is also the highest percentage in away runs among this list of 10. While part of this showcases his colossal appetite for runs, part of this also reflects India’s frailties overseas in the top half of Tendulkar’s career: in 23 of the 62 away innings where Tendulkar batted with the tail, he started doing so before India had crossed 200 runs.

Availability of data has made cricket so interesting.

Zimbabwe’s inflation and economic mismanagement impacts its cricket..

July 19, 2019

International Cricket Council has suspended Zimbabwe as its member:

Zimbabwe have been suspended from the ICC with immediate effect. ICC funding to Zimbabwe Cricket has been frozen, and representative teams from Zimbabwe will not be allowed to participate in any ICC events while under suspension, making Zimbabwe’s participation in the Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in August and Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in October highly unlikely.

After several rounds of meetings in London this week, the ICC Board unanimously decided that Zimbabwe Cricket was in breach of Article 2.4 (c) and (d) of the ICC Constitution, and that the actions of the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) in suspending the board in June constituted government interference in Zimbabwe Cricket’s affairs.

“We do not take the decision to suspend a Member lightly, but we must keep our sport free from political interference,” ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar said. “What has happened in Zimbabwe is a serious breach of the ICC Constitution and we cannot allow it to continue unchecked.”

Reason? ICC knows that the funds released to Zimbabwe cricket will be used by the Government for its own expenditure:

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Rules in cricket and economics are fallible

July 19, 2019

My new piece in Business Standard

Cannot get over the WC final match! 🙂

Kane and Eoin: Could Jeffry Archer script a better World Cup Final match?

July 15, 2019

It is just quite unbelievable to run your mind through the scenes of last night. I mean what a match! It seemed to have taken inspiration from the semi-final of 1999 played between Aus and South Africa and take it couple of levels higher.

Hearts weep for NZ which fought and fought despite not being most people’s favorites. Before the match, most experts said heart says NZ but mind says England as latter is a better team. And what a shame that they lost in such a fashion despite being a better team on the day with limited resources and challenging England on all fronts which had superior resources.

In a way NZ did not lose to England but to ICC whose stupid rule that in case of a tie in Super over, the team that scores more boundaries wins?! One can say, no one imagined that any match could be stretched this far, but you cannot have a more stupid rule than this. It is like these two tennis players who tie the scores in the last set, and the rulebook says in such a case the player who hit more aces will win. Or two sprinters with same timing seperated based on someone taking less steps than the other. Incidentally, if tennis had such a rule, Federer would have won yesterday’s iconic match against Djokovic.

The rule was so unjust that is difficult to digest. Loss and win is part of sports and one always sulks for the team which loses despite playing like a champion. Think about South Africa all these years whoch loses as somehow it chokes when it comes to crunch matches. But there is no injustice there. So, if NZ had lost either in terms of runs or wickets one would be fine. This is how all cricket matches are won or lost.

But NZ lost because they scored 17 boundaries compared to England’s 25. I mean what kind of a rule is this? Is ICC saying that those who run all these runs did a worse job than those who just hit fours? How unfair is that for a rule?

I mean football, hockey, tennis etc all have tie-breakers to sort out the winner in such even matches. Cricket has a super-over but just like tie-breakers it should continue till we do not have a winner.

In the end, all one can say is NZ fought against all odds and even Gods. It is as if Gods had decided that come what may, England will win. NZ challenged this saying how can you decide this without playing and challenged this in all possible ways. So many things went against them: Ross Taylor given out when he was not, Jason Roy was out first ball but was not, Stokes was caught but Boult stepped on the line and finally that last over throw which deflected from Stokes bat to give additional four runs to England! In all of these, they could not do anything but just move on with the game.

In Super over, they were given a steep target of 16 runs. Even then, NZ did not give up, surprised by sending Neesham who almost pulled off scoring 14 of those (including 1 wide) runs.

If there was one thing ICC got right it was awarding NZ captain Kane Williamson, the player of the tournament. I mean what a player. To be he is the best captain I have seen, as he just marshaled his limited resources like no one else could. He scored most runs as a captain in all World Cups, he scored 30% of team totals which was again highest and never complained. His press conferences are a delight and he is such an amazing ambassador for both NZ and the game.

Kane defies the usual thing that captains should be aggressive and show it on the field. He always does things quietly but with lots of mental aggression and strategy. He made both India and England which had top batters earn ever run. Those who thought Semi Final was a fluke, Williamson made them chew their words.

Kane is even an economist’s delight as he shows how one can optimally utilise the limited resources, the definition most commonly used by economists to define economics.

The ending of the drama made me recall a novel written by Jeffry Archer: Kane and Abel. In the book, the two protagonists named Kane and Abel fight for the supremacy in the corporate world. Abel always thought Kane as a villain whose bank denied the early funds to Abel’s hotel leading to bitter frictions between the two. Abel was saved by an anonymous benefactor. In the end, Abel learns that Kane was that anonymous benefactor who seeing passion of Abel decided to fund the hotel from his own pockets. Abel wins the corporate battle at the end yet ends like a loser.

I had a similar feeling watching yesterday’s matches. Infact, the name of Kane in the novel was Kane Lovell Williams not very different from Kane Williamson of NZ. The WC Final mattered to both the captains but perhaps a bit more to Eoin Morgan, the English captain.

After being humiliated in 2015, English under Morgan completely changed plans and became the number one side. They wanted to play a game which brings English pride back in the game and inspire the nextgen of English cricketers. They started the World Cup as favorites only to come to a stage where they could be knocked off before semis, fought back like champions and thrashed Australia in a semi-final. Only to meet NZ in a final which just competed and competed and gave nothing.

Just like the novel, the gracious Kane Williamson like the gracious Kane Lovell William, was like an anonymous benefactor of the prized trophy to Eoin Morgan.

He saw how Eoin Morgan and his team have fought all kinds of demons to emerge as number one team. NZ will still pick up from here but England would have been more devastated with the loss given how much they have wanted this result. But then just like Abel, Eoin will know and remember the gracious Kane who saw life beyond cricket and gave Eion a chance without telling him about it! He owes as much to Kane as to anybody.

How else does one explain this result?

 

England and NZ: trying to be best in ODI cricket and central banking

July 12, 2019

Reflecting on my recent piece in Business Standard where I argued how England is trying to revive fortunes in One Day International Cricket and Central banking.

I wrote the piece when England was struggling to make it to semi-finals having lost to Pakistan, Australia and Sri Lanka. Somehow, England figured a way out and won the next matches against India and NZ to qualify for Semifinals.They also beat their arch rivals Australia in semis, in a manner Australia will always remember. It was as if firtunes had reversed as Aussies gave that kind of treatment to Englisy be it Test matches or ODIs. England were tested and proved critics wrong and showed their reign to top was not a fluke but years of preparation.

It is interesting that they will be playing the final against NZ which somehow puffed into semis and beat favorites India to enter the final. It has to be seen whether NZ which were favorites to win in 1992 and 2015 but lost both, win the cup without being favorites at all. They will take lot of inspiration from India’s own win against WI in 1983 final against all odds.

In the BS piece, I also argued how Bank of England is trying to regain its top position as well. For long, it was seen as a role model for central banks but stopped being one. Now it is trying to pick the tempo by ushering in several policy changes and innovations.

What is interesting is that Bank of England is also competing with its counterpart in NZ for becoming this “role model for other central banks” title. RBNZ was the first to start inflation targeting in 1989 and has pioneered quite a few things since 1989. I wrote about RBNZ here.

RBNZ no intends to become the best central bank. Its Governor Adrian Orr in a speech highlighted this statement of intent:

Over the recent period we have committed to our vision to be ‘a great team and the best central bank’, and we have embedded our new Monetary Policy Committee and policy mandate. In addition, we have reorganised our operating structure, and have been investing in our people, our stakeholder relationships home and abroad, our supervision capability and activities, our digital capability, and our payment systems and the future of cash.

Change is now business as usual for the Reserve Bank and I sincerely thank my colleagues for managing through this period of renewal. There is of course more change to come.

Just over two weeks ago, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance made some important announcements about progress with the government’s review of our statutory framework for financial system regulation. They announced some in-principle decisions – including introducing a deposit insurance scheme – and set out further questions for a consultation, which is going on now.

So this is a good time discuss the future of the Reserve Bank, and how the changes under consideration might promote the prosperity and wellbeing of New Zealanders and contribute to a sustainable and productive economy. Those phrases, by the way, are not my own. They come from the Reserve Bank Act and express the overarching purpose of the Reserve Bank’s many functions.

Hmm..

Interesting how the competition between the two is in both the fields, cricket and central banking!

How NZ just upset India..

July 11, 2019

It is something about World Cup (WC) Semi Finals and NZ (or Black Caps) that we get such matches. Whether it was 92 against Pak (which NZ lost) or 2015 against South Africa (NZ won) or the 2019 against India (NZ won), all these matches have been absolute classics. Though the one between Aus and  South Africa in 1999 is going to take something to beat.

NZ comes across as an interesting team, a team which usually punches above its weight. It had played 758 matches on the even of the 2019 World Cup and won 343 and lost 370 of them (6 ties and 40 no result). It has a win-loss ratio of 0.924 which is 9th in the list of countries that have played ODI cricket since 1971. Infact, it has lower Win/Loss ratio than Afghanistan! Even Nepal which has played 6 ODIs, has a better W/L ratio of 1 (3 won and 3 lost).

But come to WC, NZ is a different ball game.

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English Comeback: How England are trying to reclaim earlier status in ODI cricket and central banking

July 1, 2019

My new article in last Saturday’s Business Standard.

I look at how England is trying to reclaim their earlier status in ODI cricket and central banking.

A table (not in the article) which shows how English ODI team has done in recent years:

Record of English Cricket Team in ODIs
Total Won Lost Tied W/L Ave RPO HS LS
1971-92 World Cup 203 107 88 8 1.22 28.61 4.27 334 (60 overs) 93
1992 World Cup – 2015 457 210 226 6 0.93 30.32 4.97 408 86
2016 onwards 78 54 18 1 3 43.41 6.34 481 113
Source: ESPNcricinfo.com

They have nearly won 75% of the matches from 2016 onwards which is crazy. One never associates English ODI team doing this well. Even India which captures all limelight has a Win/Loss ratio of 2.27 (75 matches).

Apart from ODI cricket, English are also trying to capture the numero uno status in central banking. Bank of England was a pioneer in central banking activity but lost its way in the 20th century. Post-2008 crisis it is trying to reclaim the glorious past.

The article compares these two institutions which English created…

When did India first host the Cricket World Cup? Not in 1987 but 1978..

June 28, 2019

Well, India hosted the first Cricket World Cup in 1978 and not 1987 as most of us believe. How? Well, it was the World Cup for Women cricket!

Benita Fernando writes this wonderful poignant story in Mint newspaper:

It would be nearly a decade after 1978 before the country would host its first men’s Cricket World Cup. In many ways, the 1978 Women’s World Cup was ahead of its time, paving the way for better performances in international championships. In 1997, the next time that India hosted the Women’s World Cup, the team would make the semi-finals for the first time. They repeated this feat in the next edition, hosted by New Zealand. In South Africa, in 2005, they reached the final. It is worth remembering that the first cricket World Cup ever held was for the women’s teams. England inaugurated it in 1973 with seven teams—two years before the first edition of the men’s Cricket World Cup would be organized.

Senior sports writer Sharda Ugra says that because India hosted its first men’s World Cup in 1987, people don’t always remember that the Women’s World Cup was held earlier. “They were ahead of what the men were going to do. Women’s achievements in sports, like we see with female scientists, haven’t been recognized enough. There certainly needs to be a formal recognition, not financially alone, but an inclusion of their names in the history of the game. The men’s game has celebrated its oldest players, but the conversations around the women’s game are like this: Who are they to earn so much money?”

Phew.

It also tells us about the long struggle of women cricketers in India (and even other countries).

One of the best articles of the year and one of the all time best on cricket..

 

 

Sarfaraz Ahmed can turn around world economy!

June 4, 2019

Being supporter of Pakistan cricket team is not for faint hearted. It requires strong hearts as one is never sure what the team can do and not do. It can lose easiest of matches from a winnable position and win the toughest of them against mightier oppositions.

Yesterday’s WC match was no different as Pakistan defeated the English cricket team, which is not just the No.1  team but also tournament favorites. Givent eh tournament is being played in England, the case for home team is even stronger. Moreover, the previous match Pakistan lost to West Indies was like club cricket with all batters falling miserably to short pitch bowling.

The win got interesting comments but one by Ian Bishop, former WI fast bowler caught my eye:

Sarfraz Ahmed could turn around the World economy of you allow him, surely. What confidence, character and inner strength he must possess.

Haha. Interesting to see cricketers following world economy trends.

Given how quickly the turnaround has been, Sarfaraz surely makes a case for leading world economy. But then, we all know Pakistan’s next match (against Sri Lanka) could be just the reverse.

Infact, one may not go to world economy stage. How about reviving Pakistan’s economy to begin with which is doing even worse than world economy? They already have former Pakistan cricket captain, Imran Khan who as Prime Minister is trying to resolve the crisis.

Some lessons from cricket to tackle development constraints

May 15, 2019

Niranjan in Mint writes on how fast bowling has emerged and risen in India.

He compares the rise to development economics:

The dominant view in India during our long decades of fast bowling drought was that it was a lost battle. All sorts of pessimistic explanations were bandied about. The Indian weather is too hot for fast bowling. A country where meat eating is uncommon will be unable to produce the muscular young men needed to hurl the ball at opposing batsmen. A culture rooted in the principle of non-violence does not have the attitude needed to bowl a bouncer aimed at the head. Indian soil is too loose to have pitches that support fast bowling.

Many of these cultural or geographical explanations may have seemed convincing back then, very similar to how experts were pessimistic about Asia’s development prospects after World War II. A couple of American academics even wrote in 1967 that the US should send food aid only to countries that could be saved; it was prudent to let overpopulated countries such as India starve. This was just years before India broke the hunger barrier with the Green Revolution.

The Indian fast bowling renaissance in recent years would have been impossible if the cultural or geographical explanations had indeed been so potent. An editorial published in this newspaper in May 2018 rightly pointed out that the turning point was the emergence of Kapil Dev—the sort of historical accident that economists write about when thinking about economic development. He proved that it was possible to match the best in the world.

Then policy took over. One important milestone was reached when the MRF Foundation got Lillee to coach young fast bowlers after 1987. Think of this as technology transfer. Many of the best Indian fast bowlers after 1990 came from within this system. Suddenly, you had Indian opening bowlers who could make good batsmen duck in a hurry. More youngsters followed the path as they saw Indian quickies getting their due. The pitches in some recent Ranji Trophy seasons got greener. The IPL opened another window of opportunity for young fast bowlers in India.

An entire ecosystem is now in place to nurture Indian fast bowlers. The role of cultural or geographical factors are indeed important—but they can be overcome if there is effective policy support, the spread of new ways of doing things and an initial big push to overcome the older path dependence. The broader lessons of development economics are actually not very different from the broader lessons from the Indian fast bowling renaissance.

Just hoping we don’t lose sight over our potent weapon of spin bowling…

The 10 greatest cricket world cup matches….

March 19, 2019

ESPNcricnfo.com has been running a series of 10 best world cup matches. Here they go:

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20 years of Indo-Pak classic at Chennai

February 8, 2019

This column by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan takes one back to the classic test match between India and Pakistan at Chennai (28-31 Jan 1999). What a match it was and what quality of players on both sides.

Siddharth manages to get views of few special people who watched the test match.

Absolutely fascinating walk down the memory lane….

Does India Need a Caste-based Quota in Cricket? Drawing Parallels from South Africa

May 30, 2018
Gaurav Bhawnani and Shubham Jain students at National Law School Bangalore in this paper look at caste representation in Indian cricket.
In India’s 85-year-long Test history, only four of the 289 male Test cricketers have reportedly been Dalits. While concrete steps have been taken to address a similar under-representation of non-white players in South Africa, Dalit under-representation in Indian cricket has received scant attention. There is a need to understand this as a function of systemic barriers arising from corporate patronage post-independence and the urban stranglehold of the game, instead of attributing it to choice, inherent inability or upper caste “tastes.” The grass-roots development approach of Cricket South Africa can serve as an example to address this anomaly.
The authors are aware that this proposal will invite huge criticism:
Before we conclude, we would like to note our own hesitation in authoring this piece. As cricket fans, we worried that a quota would lead to a deterioration in the quality of the Indian team. However, our own hesitation made us realise how ingrained the idea of merit has become today. Without going into the value of the idea of merit—and there are several arguments against it—objective merit has often been extremely flimsy in the context of cricket. There have been as many as 41 players (Lynch 2017), Hardik Pandya being the most recent example, who scored their maiden first class century in a Test match. While first class statistics often form the primary basis of selection, these players show that quite often quality cannot be measured “objectively” by numbers. Players such as Marcus Trescothick were selected despite very ordinary domestic performances and went on to lead great Test careers. Such players are picked for their “grit,” “potential,” “spark:” any number of qualities which ensure that selections are not carried out solely on the basis of statistics. If our argument results in the selection of a Dalit batsman with a slightly lower batting average, he might, in fact, go on to become the next Trescothick. Even if he does not, and merely scores a single century, that century may inspire millions, as Temba Bavuma’s first, and only, century by a black South African did.
The paper is quite a read and covers many aspects of Indian cricket which are barely known and have been forgotten.

CSK win proves instincts still alive in the age of analysis..

May 29, 2018

The win of Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2018 is the talking point of the season. The squad with most players in their 30s was consistent throughout the tournament with several match winners. It is not just the win but the manner in which they won which also surprised one and all.

This piece by Siddharth Monga deconstructs the strategies deployed by the Chennai franchise. Their win was more about mental games and human behavior than laptop based data crunching:

Chennai Super Kings’ latest triumph was reinforcement that T20 is still a sport played out in the middle, by humans who react differently to pressure. That when all is said and done, a human being has to rock up and bowl a final over to him or Dwayne Bravo. That at these times it is not enough to know that the wide yorker is the ball to bowl to Dhoni; you have to actually execute it. That when you respect and play out one or two bowlers, you are at the same time letting the others – inexperienced Indian bowlers in the case of the IPL – know that you are coming after them, which brings pressure on them.

The whole campaign of Super Kings was in effect a reminder that while analysis is instructive, it is not set in stone. That the numbers we have for analysis come from what these players do, and not the other way around. Dhoni left alone 25 balls in this IPL, way more than any other batsman. In a format that starting quickly is fast becoming the holy grail, especially for those who bat in the second half of the innings, Dhoni had the fourth-worst strike rate in the first five balls and ninth-worst over the first 10 balls this season. Yet he was just outside the top 10 smart strike rates for the season.

In a chase of over 200 against Kolkata Knight Riders, Dhoni ends up with 25 off 28, slowest innings of 15 balls or more. Super Kings win. In a chase of 198 against Kings XI Punjab, he is 23 off 22. Super Kings come within a blow of winning with Dhoni unbeaten on 79 off 44. In the high-pressure qualifier against Sunrisers Hyderabad, he takes nine balls to get off the mark, scores 9 off 18, and tells his partner Faf du Plessis, who is himself going at a strike rate of 50, to just play out Rashid Khan. Du Plessis wins them the match with time to spare. In the final, against the same opponents, Shane Watson takes 11 balls to score his first run before scoring a match-winning century. These are the times when cameras pan to the dugout for anxious faces. Not with Super Kings because they don’t have anxious faces; they have taken after their captain.

More than analysis, what is important for Dhoni is to realise in that moment what the opposition is trying to achieve and look to deny them. If Bhuvneshwar Kumar is bowling an extra over at the top, Dhoni wants his side to show knowledge that the opposition is desperate for a wicket. If you feel the scoreboard pressure and try a silly shot in this extra over of Bhuvneshwar, that annoys Dhoni more than any slow strike rate. Ride the storm, minimise the damage when things are not going for you, take the game deep, make the opposition close it out. And when your time comes – and it does come – take full toll.

Hmm..

Nice bit of writing.


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