Archive for the ‘Cricket’ Category

Who is the best cricket commentator on TV?

February 2, 2016

Cricket Monthly’s latest edition (Feb-2016) asks this question to a panel of experts.

The answers range from Richie Benaud (but obvious) to Naseer Hussain (who expresses himself rather freely).


How lack of self-regulation made BCCI a mismanaged organisation..

February 1, 2016

Sharda Ugra has another notable column on how Lodha report is trying to fix the BCCI led misgovernance of Indian cricket. I mean how many sports journalists can write for EPW and do a great job.

The Lodha Committee report has been cataclysmic for the Board of Control for Cricket in India because of the precedent it has set. The highest court in the country has wrenched the BCCI’s door off its hinges and from now on, it cannot be fixed in the way the board would want it to be. The report has the power to become the lodestone through which India’s substandard sports governance can be reined in. It is also a case study of how a lack of self-regulation can lead to an independent, autonomous sports organisation mismanaging itself to within the reach of the law.

Her comments which I have emphasised are really interesting from economics point of view as well. After all, much of the discussion post 2008 crisis has been around these issues of regulation, self-regulation, mismanagement etc. It also tells you how there is no easy answer while trying to design organisations.


Why South African test team did not get its laurels?

January 28, 2016

What a piece by Jarrod Kimber of In these days when all kinds of journalism is getting mediocre and flashy one wonders what keeps the writers going. I  mean one piece after the other. This one by Kimber is couple of notches above their usual good standards as well.

This one is on the South African test team. This is a team which despite a terrific test record between 2006-15 (till India and recent Englad series which they lost badly) does not get any the same laurels. Leave laurels, they are not even mention anywhere. The One Day choker ghost sticks to them despite they performing much better in the gold standards of cricket – test matches. Even better is their performance away from home.

So what is special about the period 2006-15? Well, the team did not lose a single test series away from home in the same period:


Fly Lara fly — The method behind the genius, the early-morning vision behind the epics

January 20, 2016

This is a brilliant piece by Rahul Bhattacharya on cricket writing and on the batsmanship of Brian Charles Lara.

It takes you to the mind games played by Lara while playing some pivotal knocks. Most of these knocks were played with West Indies in a slide which make them even more special. More than mind games it was more about conquering the mind.

Lara is a beautiful name. Rhythmic, small and epic. It is a classic film theme, an animated heroine, and in cricket it is a poem that sings like a song. Like in Jean “Binta” Breeze’s “Song for Lara”:

if de bowler fine a reason
ah will answer wid a rhyme
any kine a riddim
in mi own time

The answers in any kind of riddim, the innings orchestral. They beat about the body, stay in the system. Like steel band resonation, like the Renegades doing “Pan in a Rage”, or “Four Lara Four” for that matter, batting that vibrates long after it is over, slowing perhaps but never coming to a stop.

That is one way (though only one) of thinking about the results of the Cricket Monthly exercise. It’s a list tingling with the Larasensation. Consider his rough contemporaries who have no entries in the 50: Sanga, Jayawardene, Inzamam, Chanderpaul, Hayden, Kirsten, Ponting, Kallis, Tendulkar. Lara? Four. For the 50 years in consideration, nobody has as many, batsman, bowler or allrounder. Four Lara Four! All four in the top 30, three in the top 20, one of those in the top five: 153 not out in Barbados.

This is an article about remembering Lara and what I remembered is something that he remembered when I interviewed him in 2002 and which I had been curious about ever since.

Does a lot of justice remembering the West Indian batting legend..

The top 50 test match performances in last 50 years..

January 4, 2016

Cricket Monthly has been running this series for a couple of weeks. It is ranking the top 50 test match performances in the last 50 years. There was a panel of 25 cricket experts who sat through ranking these performances.

As they started in the descending order with 41-50 and so on, I was pretty sure VVS Laxman’s Calcutta knock would top the list. And for a change, my one forecast has been right. VVS it is:


Decline of West Indian cricket: A case of too much government intervention?

December 28, 2015

The West Indian cricket in many ways is like Japanese economy. Both peaked in mid-1980s and have just struggled ever since. Just that Japan has somehow maintained its stagnation levels but West Incies cricket keep finding new ways to decline further. One is waiting for a recovery which has become a perennial issue.

Tony Cosier has a piece on decline of WI cricket. He says that it was the govt which led to decline of the WI cricket and is also not allowing to recover (how often we hear and see that in economics too):

It is known that each of the three committees to review the board’s governance over the past eight years advised urgent change. The reports of the committees headed by former Jamaica prime minister PJ Patterson and St Kitts and Nevis Queen’s Counsel Charles Wilkin called for the reduction in the number of directors and the introduction of independents. The Barriteau report, the most recent, was presented in early November. It went further with its demand for the WICB’s dissolution and its eventual replacement by a significantly restructured board.

The WICB’s resistance was as predictable as Nanthan’s charge that the report was by “some CARICOM governments and their academic functionaries”, as he put it is his press interview. He accused governments of not supporting cricket in schools, ignoring the fact that the greats of West Indies cricket, from Headley to Sobers to Lara, needed no government funding to make them the players they became. The development of their vast talent came mainly through grounding at clubs. Since the 1960s, this has been augmented by the several state-appointed sports councils that provide coaches for schools.

Instead, Nanthan sought to place the WICB’s shortcomings at the feet of governments. In other words, the fall from glory to irrelevance was theirs, not the WICB’s.

He claimed it cost the WICB US$1 million to train a player from Under-15 to international level. If so, the question must be asked why so few have reached that standard over the past two decades while there has been a stream out of other countries, most recently Joe Root of England, Steve Smith of Australia, Virat Kohli of India and Kane Williamson of New Zealand.

Compare this to Aus and NZ openness to changing things:

The WICB’s approach is in direct contrast to the openness of Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket when confronted by comparable proposals for changes to their constitutions and their structures.

Australia, perennially a powerhouse of the international game, commissioned two independent assessors four years ago to review its board’s governance. It put the advice of the Crawford-Carter report into use, replacing state delegates with independent directors, who did not necessarily have strong cricket connections. It was a radical change, now generally regarded as a success.

Two years later New Zealand’s provincial associations unanimously approved a change to theirboard’s constitution, reducing its number of directors to eight, all independent. Since then, they have shot up from among the also-rans in the ICC rankings to mid-table. They are now a genuinely competitive force.

The difference is that Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket didn’t need governments to prompt them into action. They recognised the deficiencies of an outdated system and took action to change it. In spite of all the evidence, the WICB remains satisfied with the way it governs the game in a region of ten separate, independent governments, united only by a game that brought international recognition for excellence to the mini-states of the cricket Caribbean.

All this reads so similar to economics discussions..We see many simple economics ideas not moving as people are trying to protect their turfs and are hesitant to change..

What began as a technical tweak for one Aussie batsman is now a nationwide fad..

November 18, 2015

Superb article by Sb Tang in Cricket Monthly. He looks at this habit of Aussie batsmen’s stance while facing the bowlers. Some batters tap the pitch as bowler steams in whereas others keep their bats up showing their stumps. The tapping bit is how it has been traditionally done. But recently the option to keep bats up has picked up leading to technical deficiency in batsmen.

And who was behind this bat-up stance? Ironically, Mr. Cricket Michael Hussey:


Is cricket the greatest of all sports?

November 4, 2015

Ian McDonald (a poet, novelist and columnist who lives in Guyana) has a romantic piece in (what will one do without this site, what terrific pieces one after the other!). He does not ask the question as posed in the post title but says it is the best game:


Why Gandhi would have been appalled by the Gandhi-Mandela Trophy?

November 2, 2015

A nice historical piece by Ram Guha on the topic. He says given Gandhi’s dislike for sports, he would have been amazed by his name being given to a cricket series between India and South Africa.


A brief profile of Javed Miandad..

September 22, 2015

Rajdeep Sardesai has a piece on Javed Miandad. He obviously starts with the match and the moment which causes so much anger amidst Indian cricket fans.

No matter how much we Indians like to hate him, nothing can take away from the cricketer he was particularly playing against India. Till he was around, no match could be considered as won. And what running between the wickets. You would not even realise when he has moved to 30s and 40s as most runs were made via running between the wickets.

Nostalgic stuff.


Are fast/greentop pitches in India the reason for poor spin show?

August 19, 2015

India’s recent losses in test matches has led to two stark revelations. One – our batters seem to be struggling big time against spin. Two – our spin cupboard is almost empty barring Ashwin whose performance outside sub-continent is still to be seen. Not too long ago, India seemed to be in surplus on both these factors and has suddenly become a deficit. I mean this is much like an economy which appears a tiger till the crisis exposes leads to all kinds of issues.

The recent loss to SL was outright shocking. SL which despite producing smashing cricketers hardly gets the attention. If Indian cricketers had done such a daylight heist, there would have been huge media coverage. It was all so shocking. The problem was not as much the second factor (as Ashwin bowled well) but the first one where we just could not chase a paltry 170 odd runs.

There are two articles which suggest it is the recent convert from spin pitches to fast pitches which is leading to the problem. First by the always briiliant Sharda Ugra and second by Karthik Krishnswamy.

India was losing regularly and badly to swinging and grassy pitches outside sub-continent. This led BCCI to make a rule in 2011 to leave 4 inch grass on the pitches which after an inning was always rolled. The result was spinners did not have a say in the game at all. As a result, even batters lost the patience etc needed to play spin.

First Ugra:


Guess who offers Greece a bailout? International Cricket Council!!

July 6, 2015

James Marsh has a great piece in on this proposed bailout package.

It is both funny and nasty. Mixes the Greece and ICC politics really well:


The reasons for Bangladesh team’s recent success (and some history) in cricket…

June 22, 2015

Boria Majumdar, a cricket historian has an article on what explains Bangladesh’s surge in ODI cricket. This was written before the country registered its second emphatic win against India y’day:


How English ODI Cricket has transformed itself overnight and why England pitches are becoming so flat?

June 18, 2015

One could watch any match in cricket but not a One Day International involving England. I don’t know but the team has never been exciting to watch. Infact why just the audience even the players seem to be disinterested. However, the team was different while playing in whites where atleast there was some intensity to fight. It was difficult to figure why Eng was so poor in shorter formats. They had a decent county cricket setup where ODIs were played as well. It may not have been test level quality but should not have been this poor in ODIs.

But boy, how things have changed. And that too in overnight. There were talks of English Cricket Board building a new team for ODI but those talks have been on for ages. Just that this time, they have  actually walked the talk. More than them, it is the players who have for a change delivered and that too with such gusto. It has surprised one and all.

The recent ongoing series between NZ and Eng is easily one of the most exciting series ever to be played. More so, coming from a team like England. We all thought NZ has set the bar really high in terms of attacking cricket. But this Eng team wants to prove a point and they are doing it really well. It has been one superlative performance after the other. It is one thing that admin gives you licence to kill (and thrill), completely another that the team actually takes the licence seriously and goes on a spree.

In the first ODI they fired a 400 plus total first time for England.  They followed this will three 300 plus scores in all the following three matches, another record. Y’day they chased 350 with such ease in just 44 overs. In the 3rd ODI they made 302 in 45 overs and were all out. If they batted all 50, they could have set NZ a much higher score to chase and perhaps won the match.

And guess what the Eng captain Eoin Morgan said post match yday (he was man of the match as well):


Has BCCI changed its game? Appointing Sachin, Sourav and Laxman as advisers mustn’t be for appearance’s sake

June 8, 2015

Ayaz Memon, has a nice column  in ToI.

He talks about the recent decision of BCCI to appoint India’s retired stalwart cricketers as advisers. He says one must be careful before making it as a gamechanger of a move. It has happened in the past as well with little results:


How gully cricket is pushing back against football and urbanisation

May 18, 2015

Superb article by Subhash Jayaraman in Cricket Monthly. It takes most of us to those amazing childhood times where we played gully cricket and invented our own rules to play the game.

Growing cult of football in India and shrinking space due to urbanisation, one would imagine gully cricket is being threatened. Not at all. Jayaraman goes across quite a few places and discovers gully cricket continues to thrive in India:


Deregulate One day cricket?

May 5, 2015

An interesting piece on state of cricket –

The author says WC 2015 team is patting itself on the back for nothing. True it was a commercial success but quality of cricket was a problem. This is much like the debate we see in economics. Quantity of growth rates vs quality of the growth. The pressure was most felt on ODI cricket which got a challenge from a younger and exciting cousin – T20s. In a way, T20 did to ODI what ODI did to tests.

So how to revive ODISs? One can bring some analogy from economics here. Either we go the state way where the ICC (read BCCI) sets a committee and brings some new rules. Or we go the market way where you just deregulate and let markets (teams/players) decide how to play:


How unchecked success leads to corruption/greed/failures – a case of Sri Lankan cricket

April 30, 2015

This piece in Cricket monthly magazine (requires free subscription) is on the famous number in cricket. One expert says it is 99.94, another says it 0 (duck), another points to 365 by Clive Lloyd and so on.

Vithushan Ehantharajah says it is 1996 when SL won the World Cup against all odds:

A “World Cup legacy” is a strange thing. It is a magnanimous yet malleable entity that can be forced into any shape to fit a particular narrative, often one of an everlasting love brought about through the healing power of sport.

It is, ultimately, nonsense.

The sight of Aravinda de Silva, sleeves billowing in the Lahore evening air for an unbeaten 107, taking Sri Lanka through to their maiden World Cup win, even now takes me back to 1996. I was crouched, battling with a cousin for floor space next to the radio, which was doing its darnedest to spit out what it could of this faint, long-wave broadcast. This isn’t a side-street cobbler in Jaffna, by the way – this is St Stephen’s Road, Ealing. “It really changed the fortunes for Sri Lanka cricket,” said de Silva, in an interview in 2013. By that point, he had taken on a number of roles within Sri Lanka Cricket, including chairman of selectors, in a period that saw the relationship between the country’s players and administrators at an all-time low.

The reason? Greed and corruption stemming from that World Cup victory. It was Sri Lankan cricket’s tipping point. The team members became marketable assets and there was money to be made. The board, run by volunteers up to this point, was suddenly part of a multi-million dollar organisation. Gradually the well-intentioned were eased out and the politically savvy, self-motivated moved in. They have yet to be displaced.

Almost 20 years on, there has been little drive or consistency from those on the countless selection panels and interim committees. They simply line their pockets, boost their profile and move on. Voting was often rigged for the highest bidders, and AGMs could be violent affairs, with intimidation frequently the strongest currency.

Financial impropriety meant the government had to step in and dissolve its own appointed interim committee, as the board found itself saddled with US$23 million of debt after the 2011 World Cup.

Prior to that competition, which Sri Lanka co-hosted, just as they had done in 1996, Kumar Sangakkara had offered his resignation as captain, having become disillusioned with tasks that included negotiating the contracts of other players and battling constant political interference. He eventually relinquished the role after Sri Lanka’s defeat in the final to India, but his gripes featured prominently in his MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s, delivered later that year.

In 2012, Arjuna Ranatunga, the captain in ’96, condemned the state of the SLC after their first elections in seven years ended in controversy, with one of the two groups contesting withdrawing because of political interference in the process. During Ranatunga’s brief tenure as SLC chairman in 2008, he felt the effect of that interference when he was sacked by then sports minister Gamini Lokuge without any hearing.

Perhaps most galling of all is the transformation of Sanath Jayasuriya, Player of the Tournament in ’96. In 2010 he became an MP, representing the party of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the United People’s Freedom Alliance – the same government suspected of serious war crimes within Sri Lanka by UN and human rights organisations. Jayasuriya was then appointed as national selector by sports minister and fellow UPFA member Mahindananda Aluthgamage. Since then he has been embroiled in countless disagreements with players, ranging from contract disputes to quarrels with Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, who have used their profiles to aid the team over their national board.

The glory of that March evening at the Gaddafi Stadium inspired a nation. Unfortunately, it also created an administrative monster that shows no sign of changing its ways.

Legacies aren’t all they are cracked up to be.

Superb. We keep talking about similar things in most walks of life. Don’t let success get to your head.

Also, it reflects on the quality of cricket institutions in Asia and other countries. Asian countries which won the World Cups like India, Pakistan and SL all have seen mountains of corruption rising. Whereas countries like Australia have prospered with no such signs. Whereas it is mostly professional in Aus cricket governance., it is mostly corruption in Asian counterparts.

India has still managed to surge ahead given the huge population and craze for the game. They are bale to play the players and so on. Same isn’t the case with SL and with Pakistan it is a different story altogether..


How Irish cricket is trying to adopt the New Zealand model of cricket..

April 30, 2015

We usually see countries trying to adopt successful examples from other countries in all walks of life. In economics particularly, there is always so called best practices (which becomes s laundry list eventually) which leads to a great economy.

Same thing is seen in sport too. NZ cricket was the talk of the town this World Cup. In last few years, NZ played a brand of cricket  based on highly aggressive and attacking cricket. To see seven slips is such a rarity even in test matches but NZ had it in recent ODI world cup. They were expected to be finalists and they did become one without losing a match only to be overplayed by the awesome Aussies.

In cricket, we usually see teams adopting the highly successful Australian model. But here is this interesting article by Tim Wagmore on how Irish cricket is taking lessons from NZ cricket:


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..




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