Archive for the ‘Cricket’ Category

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:

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

July 6, 2015

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

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

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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:

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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):

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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:

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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:

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Deregulate One day cricket?

May 5, 2015

An interesting piece on state of cricket – http://www.epw.in/web-exclusives/bash-bowlers.html

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:

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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:

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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.


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