Archive for the ‘Cricket’ Category

RIP: RIchie Benaud

April 10, 2015

What to say?

Such a terrible day for folks who have grown up to the great commentary by Benaud. I for did not get the privilege to see him tweak leg spinners but it did not matter. He was  so good behind the mike that one thought he was just a commentator.

Great tribute by Tony Cozier and another one by Daniel Brettig. I was also reading just a week ago on good cricket commentators. Benaud crossed most ts and dotted is..

 

 

Indian cricket fan’s new low..

March 27, 2015

Indian cricket fan keeps hitting a new low. The swings in the mood go from over-optimism to over-pessimism and outright shamelessness. Both the heights and lows of the fan are way over the top.

Ever since India lost the semi-final in the world cup 2015, we have moved to a new low. All kinds of jokes about personal lives of players are being blamed for the loss. Humour is fine but it has become too crass. And this one on beefing security at Indian captain’s house is just too much to handle.

I mean India played really well through out the tournament and there is no reason for this kind of behavior. Even if the team does badly, one should not get into all kinds of abuses and personal targeting. People do not really play to lose and you can’t win all the time. Sometimes you have a bad day in the office and that is it.

The fans have forgotten how amazingly India won all its previous matches with such aplomb. No one gave us any chance to move beyond quarters and that too because of the format (though England showed the way). To get into such theatrics, speaks really badly about the tolerance levels of Indian cricket fan.

All this points to several lessons for Indian cricketers as well. There are some current crop of cricketers who love all this fan and media attention. They love to make their personal lives public and love all that hype. One should learn from the earlier players who just played cricket and kept all this hype away. They protected their private lives fiercely and did not allow any such talks. Even then they were not spared if we remember the 2007 World cup..

One should be weary of Indian fan’s over the top attitude all the time. There is no scope for tolerance here…

How has One Day cricket changed?

March 27, 2015

Kumar Sangakkara is not just about exceptional batting but also really good with expressing his views.

In this detailed interview he points what all has changed in one day cricket:

How have demands on one-day batsmen changed since you began?
Roles of batsmen have changed. When I started, for a long time they told me my job was to bat 40 overs and let everyone else bat around me. It was a case of just holding the fort and playing, playing, playing. That was basically my job at No. 3. But when the sides changed, when your role changed from being a guy who bats 40 overs to someone who could score quickly and bat for only 20 overs, and that’s still good enough for the side. Everyone is thinking about making an impact with their run-making.

Now when I go in to bat, if the situation calls for it, I’ve tried to keep my strike rate at around 100. I know that if I’m anywhere between 85 to 100 when the Powerplay comes, I know I can kick that up to 120-130 or even further. The mindsets have all changed. You don’t hold the fort for the rest of the guys anymore. The rest of the guys are capable of doing that.

How is your technique and mindset different now, compared to the start of your career?
With technique, I bat differently each game, probably. Sometimes I don’t tap the bat. Other times I change my set-up. What I realised is that in one-day cricket you can do all of that and sometimes need to do all of that to get yourself momentum, create pressure or get a better rhythm, depending on the stage of the innings. For example, I’d tap the bat and I’d keep it up if there’s a bit of pace around, and look for other areas to score singles.

“I admired the way Mahela Jayawardene manipulates spin, or the way Tillakaratne Dilshan hits the short ball, but I had to figure out what works for me”

More importantly, if there’s a weak link in a bowling attack, you’ve got to take advantage of it. If they are bowling a part-timer and you’ve had a good start, you take them on because that creates a lot of pressure. That attitude has been there for a long time from other sides, but for us it’s been a case where now, consciously, we’ve made the change to go after them.

Spinners also now have the extra fielder up because of the new rules. So you try and create pressure on the spinner by taking the boundaries on. It’s just a case of trying to reverse pressure. More often than not, it works.

If we see history of cricket from the different forms played, test matches have remained more or less the same. Test matches are only about the sport and hence players know its true value.

It is one dayers and T-20s which have posed questions as they try and balance entertainment with sport. Earlier it was ODIS which brought spectators to grounds and now T-20s. As T-20s have mushroomed and become popular, ODIs are struggling to fight for relevance. Infact, what ODIs did to test matches, T20s are doing to ODIs.

End result has been to make ODIs like T20s with flatter pitches, smaller boundaries, 4 fielder restriction and so on. The whole thing has been to make the game more and more batter friendly. To hell with bowlers who have to keep looking at ways to control batters with latter having all licences to kill. The shorter boundaries, flatter pitches have followed with broader bats, powerful bats and so on.

Any game balance is important. Just to draw more crowds, one cannot just make the game so one sided as cricket has become. The game is not just about hitting 4s and 6s but should test the overall skill level. I mean the thrill you get to see Wahab Riasz type spells has become such a rare thing..

What a match … Another heartbreak for South Africa..Who is Elliott?

March 24, 2015

It will be a while to get off this match. I mean one usually has this feeling post an India match. But this was nothing of the kind still was quite an emotional experience.

This World cup has had two unforgettable moments – first being Wahab Riaz’s terrific spell and second the first semi-final between New Zealand and South Africa.

Rarely does a cricket match exceed the expectations set by media and experts.  This one did by a big margin.  Youn usually see big build ups only for the final match to be just a one sided formality. This one was special in every aspect and will be in memories for a while.

Both the teams have never moved beyond semis and this was a real chance for atleast one to move in to the next stage. On one side was the perennial pre-tournament favorite SA only to choke at key moments. On other side was NZ  which has been like a happy go lucky team but this NZ team was really different. Never seen  them this good.

And what a match. It had everything in it. Emotion, Drama, Tragedy, Nerves. You name it and it was there. Best of Bollywood directors could not have matched the entertainment masala generated in this match.

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One recession proof sector in India and how politics dominates much of it..

March 20, 2015

The sector is of course cricket. Interestingly, politics  plays a huge role in the sector.

Cricketers come and go, but politicians control over the game remains constant:

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Will South Africa do away with the chokers tag? (lessons from Jana Novotna..)

March 18, 2015

Today could be another heartbreak day or a day of relief. South Africa vs Sri Lanka in a World Cup knock out game. SA are favorites to win but we know they have not won a single such knock out game in World Cup. They are always pre tournament favorites but have never gotten beyond a single knock out match.

The chokers tag has been theres and have not been able to do anything about it.  SL is a different side in such tournaments.  They may never look good before tournaments but somehow do really well.

So will it be another heartbreak or a relief for SA fans? In case it is relief it will obviously be a heartbreak for SL’s giants playing their last world cup-  Sanga, Mahela and Dilshan.

I came across this interesting article by Simon Barnes on lessons SA can take from the tennis champion Jana Novotna. She choked in a famous Wimbledon final. But she learnt the lessons and came back strongly:

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Both turnarounds of Indian economy and Indian cricket are quite unbelievable..

March 10, 2015

In January no one gave Indian cricket team any chance in the World Cup. After yet another disastrous tour overseas, at best people expected a quarter final berth. And that too because the format is such that it is really difficult to eliminate top teams (unless you are England). After the WC 2007 debacle, ICC ensured India is not knocked out of tournaments early and moved to just a two group format where one could somehow managed the next stage.

Same stands for Indian economy. Till Jan, most forecasts were hovering around 6-6.5% growth. And then suddenly came the magic wand from CSO which revised the base year and numbers in a big way. The fortunes turned around suddenly and the forecasts moved to 7.5% – 8% range. From a sour spot of low growth high inflation, we overnight moved to sweet spot of high growth-low inflation (as CSO revised the inflation numbers lower as well based on new series) numbers.

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There is Kumar Sangakarra and there are just rest of them…

March 10, 2015

No words can summarise what Kumar Sangakarra has been doing these days. Ever since he said he will retire by August, people are finally beginning to take note of this .

How many know he has a text average of 58.66 highest among his contemporaries who hog all the limelight? Infact most people whom I have shared this stats with are in disbelief. And this highest is only third behind Great Don and Ken Barrinngton who have scored more than 5000 runs. Both combined also did not play 130 tests which Sanga has played over the years. As Harsha Bhogle tweeted on Sanga’s retirement – the retirement is too much of a decision to be left to Sanga..

I was looking to dig into cricinfo stats and generate stats on Sanga. But ToI has done some numbers which are astonishing to say the least:

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Should World Cup cricket be just called a Commonwealth cup..

February 24, 2015

ICC has been around for years now but has hardly managed to expand cricket to other countries. So much so, the sport remains pretty much in the commonwealth country club.

This is even more in case of cricket World Cup. Barring Afghanistan, Netherlands and UAE, all countries which have played the world cup are just commonwealth countries. I was looking at the list of countries which have played the WC so far and one can see that the game has hardly gone any far. The same set of teams which played in 1975 remain relevant today as well.  Countries which have been added since 1975 like South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were also commonwealth countries. SouthA frica would have entered earlier if not banned under the apartheid regime:

1  West Indies  West Indies  India  Australia  Pakistan  Sri Lanka
2  Australia  England  West Indies  England  England  Australia
3 East Africa  Australia  Australia  West Indies  Australia  Pakistan
4  India  India  Sri Lanka  Sri Lanka  West Indies  England
5  Pakistan  Sri Lanka  New Zealand  New Zealand  Sri Lanka  New Zealand
6  Sri Lanka  Canada  Zimbabwe  Zimbabwe  Zimbabwe  South Africa
7  England  Pakistan  England  India  India  Kenya
8  New Zealand  New Zealand  Pakistan  Pakistan  New Zealand  Zimbabwe
9  South Africa  Netherlands
10 UAE
11  West Indies
12  India
13

 

1999 2003 2007 2011 2015
1  Australia  Australia  Australia  India  India
2  Pakistan  India  Sri Lanka  Sri Lanka  Sri Lanka
3  England  Pakistan  India  Australia  Australia
4  West Indies  England  Pakistan  England  England
5  Sri Lanka  South Africa  Netherlands  West Indies  West Indies
6  Bangladesh  Netherlands  Canada  South Africa  South Africa
7  Kenya  West Indies  Zimbabwe  Netherlands  Zimbabwe
8  Scotland  Bangladesh  Kenya  Canada  Bangladesh
9  Zimbabwe  Canada  Bermuda  Zimbabwe  Ireland
10  India  Namibia  England  Kenya  Pakistan
11  New Zealand  New Zealand  West Indies  Bangladesh  New Zealand
12  South Africa  Zimbabwe  Bangladesh  Ireland  United Arab Emirates
13  Sri Lanka  Ireland  Pakistan  Scotland
14  Kenya  South Africa  New Zealand  Afghanistan
15  New Zealand

If India had somehow failed to compete in cricket, this game could easily have been lost in oblivion. It is India’s large numbers and craze  for the game which keeps it alive. Ever since Indian won the WC in 1983, the country has only gone crazier for the game. This also explains how careful the authorities are to keep India always in the game. All the recent ads are around Indian cricket team.

But then to call it a World cup is just no right. And then decline in certain teams like West Indies, Zimbabwe and Pakistan with Bangladesh never really picking up, the game keeps getting narrower in terms of participation. Certain teams like Kenya showed promise to be lost out. Afghanistan has emerged as a new exciting team and ICC should do its best to keep the country interested for a long time.

I am a cricket fan and hate to say this, the game has to really expand before calling it a world cup..

Are batsmen selfish? Do they slowdown scoring nearing personal milestones?

February 12, 2015

As WC 2015 is about to start, it is interesting to read this kind of research.

The authors look at ODIs from 1971 onwards and say yes batters do slowdown approaching personal milestones:

Professor Lionel Page and PhD researcher Romain Gauriot, from QUT Business School, examined the behaviour of batsmen reaching landmark scores in One Day International (ODI) matches.  The research, to be published in the American Economic Review, found players were likely to bat more conservatively as they approached a half-century or century to maximise their chances of reaching it.

“We found clear evidence that the behaviour of batsmen is affected by their personal rewards in the game,” said Professor Page, who collected data on more than 3,500 ODI matches between 1971 and 2014. “We found players react to individual-specific incentives in ways which can be detrimental to the team as a whole. For example, if a batsman is close to making 50 or 100, he will play more conservatively and hence score at a slower rate.

“This increases his chances of reaching the landmark score, but at the cost of the team’s winning chances. That is because in ODIs batsmen should adopt a relatively high strike rate, taking the risk of losing their wicket to score more quickly.”  Contrary to the belief batsmen reach the “nervous nineties” – the idea they are more likely to be dismissed as they approach a century – the QUT researchers found adopting a conservative style at that stage reduced their chances of dismissal.

“We observed that while batsmen are conservative on their way to a milestone, they switch to a more aggressive strategy straight after reaching it, possibly to catch up with lost time,” Professor Page said. “Our data showed a batsmen’s strike rate jumped more than 40 per cent after reaching a century compared to the period leading up to it. “This leads to a sharp increase in the rate of dismissals.”

This is seen a lot of times. AS they complete their landmark score (usually a century), the tendency is to hit out and get out. It will be interesting to see those who have patience and continue to bat, does it become a winning cause?

But in test matches, this strategy works sometimes:

Analysing more than 2,000 Test matches from 1880-2014, Professor Page found captains are far more likely to declare an innings when a batsman has reached a landmark rather than when he is just below one. “One of the most interesting finding from this study shows that team captains also react to individual-specific incentives by accommodating them,” he said.

“Our evidence suggests that team captains are willing to trade a cost to the team in favour of a substantial reward to a particular player – for example eating up valuable time and delaying a declaration so a batsman can reach his individual milestone.”

But Professor Page said a captain waiting for one of his players to reach a personal milestone could be worth the risk. “For the captain it’s about trying to balance the individuals’ incentives with the team’s collective goal,” he said. “The captain hopes the risk in allowing a player to reach a strictly personal goal is repaid by a higher level of overall performance by not only that player, but other players in the who appreciate the captain’s gesture.”

Hmm..

What about bowlers? DO we see the strive harder while nearning milestones like 5 wickets and so on? That would benefit the team whether in ODI or Tests..

How did World Cup cricket start in 1975?

February 3, 2015

Great pieces on WC history:

  • Rob Steen writes on how no one in Aus wanted to captain the team for WC. One dayers was such an unwanted thing
  • Martin Williamson on how the momentum built up slowly
  • Javed Miandad reflects on making his debut as a 18 yr old in World Cup

Great stuff to read on WC cricket history.

Munaf Patel: A fast bowler and the slow life

January 12, 2015

Really good pieces coming on unsung cricketers these days. This one on Munaf Patel is as good as it can get. It is written by Sriram Veera.

For those who have forgotten, Patel was part of WC winning squad in 2011. The way he has retreated to his humble roots is quite something.

How about this for a start:

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Ajinkya (Rahane) who?

January 7, 2015

A brilliant piece by Abhishek Purohit of Cricinfo. It requires a subscription (which is free) and for all cricket fans is worth reading even for the subscription hurdle.

When the world cricket is all gung-ho about India’s new test captain there are players like Ajinkya Rahane who are making their own silent contribution. Infact likes of Rahane are really special as they give you that old time feeling of cricket being a gentleman’s game. They remain so humble despite getting some success at international level. He does not take anything for granted and wants to just improve on his batting.

The piece by Purohit goes into detail on how Rahane became a cricketer after much struggle. There were many times people felt Rahane will not be able to go to the big league. He slipped on key occasions. He was someone who needed more time which was not there given how competitive the Indian batting line up has been. The team needed instant performers.

Though I think Rahane had one big advantage of playing for Mumbai. Yes, it is super competitive but at the same time the chances of getting noted are far higher for Mumbai cricketer than other regions. This does not take anything away from the humble man though.

Cricinfo should feature more such articles on cricketers from lesser know regions to show the making of a sportsperson (am sure there must be few already, those who know of them please send)..

Goodbye MSD…your calmness off and on the field shall be missed..

December 31, 2014

What a difference time makes and how thongs turn around. There was a time when media and experts could not get enough praising MS Dhoni and called him captain with the Midas touch. And why not. Ever since he took over captaincy, India won T-20 world cup, got no.1 rankings in Tests and then the World Cup in 2011. This was followed by Champions trophy in 2013 and couple of more IPL titles.

And come to 2014 and experts have been criticising MSD for nearly every ill in Indian cricket team. The Aussie experts which have harsh words for most Indian players called him a product which is pass his date and so on. I so wish MSD had hung around and answered them the way Sachin Tendulkar did when similar words were said to him after 2007 WC debacle.

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Are home umpires biased in cricket?

December 24, 2014

Ian Gregory-Smith, David Paton, Abhinav Sacheti have this terrific research on the topic.

They say stats does show that home umpires are indeed biased:

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The birth of the chokers tag for South African cricket team…

December 1, 2014

Cricket World cup is a few days away and cricinfo.com has wonderful articles on cricket history etc once in a while. One such piece was by Daryl Cullinan, former SA cricketer who reflects on how the word chokers tagged onto the SA team. As per him, it started in the classic 1999 Semi final clash against Australia.The word has hung like a Sword of Damocles for the team ever since.

There are certain tragedies which keep repeating in some select areas. In economics, we have Argentina which keeps getting into one tragedy after the other and just fails to get its economics right.

One such instance in cricket is South African cricket team’s inability to win a major cup despite being a strong contender ahead of each competition. Actually they have won just one major competition – ICC Champions Trophy in 1998, which was the inaugural edition of the once in two year event. The word chokers has remained with them for such a long time that it has become a sad part of SA cricket history. So much so, most cricket lovers (or some) would genuinely wish the team wins given its performance off these events.

So what does Cullinan say?

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RIP: Phil Hughes

November 27, 2014

Ever since Phil Hughes’s freak accident, cricket fans have been praying for his life. But it was not to be. He just passed away at the age of just 25 years, ahead of a promising cricket career.

A pretty emotional tribute by Daniel Brettig of Cricinfo.

What can one say? All condolences to his family and may you rest in peace mate..

Tragic story of Amol Muzumdar (and several other talented cricketers) who just faded due to lack of opportunities

September 17, 2014

A really nice tragic piece by Santosh Antony on Amol Muzumdar, the batsman who was slated to be the next Tendulkar. Leave being the next Tendulkar, he could not even get anywhere close to his level.

For cricket fans, his name was much talked about in 1990s and was really frustrating to not see him in Indian team.

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What do Indian PM and Indian cricket captain have in common?

September 11, 2014

Superb question from Gyanendra Keshri and equally superb answer — Both have the most important jobs in India. :-)

It is often said that the two most important jobs in India, respectively, are that of two champions: the prime minister and the captain of the national cricket team (number one and two position depends on the individual and perception). Politics and cricket dominate the average Indians psyche. Wherever you go, be it an elite socialite gathering or people sitting at a roadside dhaba or traveling in train or bus, the most common topic of discussion is either politics or cricket.

Then he goes onto compare the two jobs. He points to one lesson but misses an equally important one:

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Cricket’s corridor of uncertainty and monetary policymaking…case of interesting similarities..

July 14, 2014

A fascinating speech by Andy Haldance of BoE.

He connects cricket with monetary policymaking. The predicament facing today’s policymakers is similar to the batsman in cricket who face balls in corridor of uncertainty:

It is wonderful to be back in Scarborough. I say back because many of my earliest and fondest childhood memories were of summer holidays spent here. Being a cricket fan, the Scarborough Festival – the cricketing jamboree held at the end of August each year since 1876 – has always held a place in my imagination. Alas I have never been, but am hoping one day to break my duck.

I want to discuss the economy and the role of monetary policy in supporting it. And with apologies to the non-cricketers in the audience, to do so I will borrow a cricketing metaphor – the “corridor of uncertainty”. The corridor of uncertainty is every bowler’s dream and every batter’s nightmare. It refers to a ball which pitches in such a position – the corridor – that the batter does not know whether to be playing off the back foot or the front foot.

This, I will argue, is similar to the dilemma facing monetary policymakers on the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) today. Should monetary policy hold back until key sources of uncertainty about the economy have been resolved? Or instead push forward to prevent leaving it too late?

He reviews the econ situation across globe and UK. For both an econ and cricket follower one can easily connect the two.

He says depending on how the batter/policymaker reacts, one dubs him/her a dove or hawk:

Faced with these uncertainties, what would be a prudent course for monetary policy in the period ahead? The first thing to say is that there is consensus across the MPC on three key elements of our monetary strategy: that any rate rise need not be immediate, that when rate rises come they are intended to be gradual and that interest rates in the medium-term are likely to be somewhat lower than their historical average.

This message appears to have largely been understood by financial markets. Despite the upwards revision to growth, financial markets’ best guess of how rapidly the first percentage point of tightening will take place is essentially unchanged over the past year – around 20 basis points per quarter. So too is their best guess of where interest rates may settle in the medium run – around 2-3%. Views may in time differ across the MPC on the preferred lift-off date for interest rates, as you would expect at a difficult-to-predict turning point in the cycle. These will reflect individual members’ different reading of the runes, not their individual preferences. That is a real benefit of the MPC’s committee-based structure, with individual member accountability.

It is not difficult to see why this choice over timing is a difficult one. The policymaker in this situation faces the self-same dilemma as the batsmen facing a ball pitching in the corridor of uncertainty. In that situation, the coaching manual no longer offers a clear guide. Two strategies are equally justifiable.

The first is to stay on the back foot and play late. This has the advantage of giving the batsmen more time to get a read on the trajectory of the ball as it swings and darts around. It avoids the risk of lurching forward and then needing hurriedly to reverse course if the first movement is misjudged. This is the way, Joe Root, the Yorkshire and England batsmen, plays his cricket. If he were on the MPC, he’d be called a dove.

But this strategy is not riskless. Playing late relies on having an uncannily good eye and strong nerve. It runs the risk of having to react fast and furiously to avoid missing the ball entirely. An earlier front foot movement would avoid that risk, allowing a more gradual movement forward. This is the way Ian Bell, the Warwickshire and England batsman, plays his cricket. If he were on the MPC, he’d be called a hawk.

What about owls? Night watchmen?

Which is better? Hawk or Dove?

So which is the better strategy? Benjamin Disraeli told us there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Here my analogy between cricket and the economy breaks down. Economic statistics, as we know, do sometimes lie. Cricket statistics, typically, do not. They tell us that Joe Root averages 43 in test matches to Ian Bell’s 45. In other words, it is a close run thing with the odds at present slightly favouring the front foot. But a good run of scores from either player could easily tilt the balance. That, in a nutshell, is where the MPC finds itself today

A superb analogy.

Though, Haldane misses the other side of the cricket pitch – the bowlers. In this case the bowlers are financial markets/players. They keep putting the batters into difficulty with their persistent attack on the batters. In the swinging UK conditions, they pose even more difficulty to the batters.

And then all this happens cyclically. During tough times, the central bankers become the batters and are made to face tough batting conditions. And when the times turn good, the markets become the batters and thrash the bowlers all around…

 


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