Archive for the ‘Cricket’ Category

‘Batsmen win you games, bowlers win you tournaments’

June 19, 2017

Pakistan victory over India is all over the physical and internet media. Open any paper/website today and you cant help but get carried away in discussions.

One just hopes the victory springs Pakistan cricket to action in shorter format of the game. Their test performances are not all the bad by the way but post retirement of Misbah and Younis they will be tested once again. There is not a better sign than Pakistan bowlers testing batsmen across the world with their guile and pace.

So this interview by Azhar Mahmood, former Pakistan player and now the bowling coach is an interesting one. In this age of batters where all rules are being designed to glorify them even more, one just forgets the role of bowlers.

In this interview, Mahmood makes the statement that ‘Batsmen win you games, bowlers win you tournaments’. He talks one through what it takes to create a bowling unit, right length to bowl, conditions and so on:


Indian cricket’s Minsky moment…

June 2, 2017

Just so much happening in Indian cricket against all odds. They were winning so much with all kinds of amazing camaraderie stories/photos reported by media. Who would have imagined that there would be simmering tension between coach and captain? We all thought that Indian cricket was onto professional ways after a committee was appointed to look into affairs. And how all these have come crumbling down?

I can’t help but connect all this fallout with Minsky moment. Minsky said the chances of a financial crisis are highest when all things are going fine and the cycle is on an upswing. Thus both Great Depression and 2008 crisis came when all things were going fine just a while ago. Not many anticipated a crisis and those that did not anticipate the depth.

We have a near similar Minsky moment in cricket as well. Just unbelievable to see how the house of cards is just collapsing. Ram Guha’s outgoing letter has opened a can of worms with no holes barred. Here are 8 takeaways from the letter.

In case you think, India is the only one. Australia had its Minsky moment a while ago and has still not recovered.

Plenty happening.

World Cricket’s harsh reality: No India, no cricket…

May 5, 2017

Governance of International cricket is a really interesting topic.

Indian cricket team for Champions Trophy is not yet announced due to tiffs between International Cricket Council and BCCI. BCCI was recently snubbed in the ICC meeting leading to this delay. Champions Trophy was announced by ICC as the Council wanted to have a seperate competition under its own name apart from World Cup which started much earlier.

But without India, there are no takers for Champions Trophy. Star TV the sponsor is obviously worried:

With the ongoing tussle between the ICC and the BCCI making India’s participation in the Champions League doubtful, Star Sports has made it clear to the international body that the mega event will have few takers as far as advertisers are concerned if Virat Kohli and his boys are not a part of the event.

Speaking to Cricketnext, a source in Star India said that the host broadcasters were forced to write to the ICC after major multinationals started sending feelers to the broadcasters that they weren’t willing to buy inventories unless India’s participation was confirmed.

“It is unethical and so I won’t take names, but one of the major multinationals wrote a mail to us asking about whether India would indeed participate in the tournament or pullout because they would decide accordingly on investing money in buying ad time in the tournament,” he said.

He went on to further explain that it was a clear case of demand and supply and there was nothing wrong on part of the advertisers to feel the heat because very few people in India would have interest in the tournament if India is not a part of it.

“See, the companies will buy inventories because they want to reach the consumers through Star. But then, the reality is that the Indian market and the Indian viewers will be interested in the tournament only when you have the Indian boys in action.

“Hypothetically speaking, if a company like Maruti wants to buy inventories for the Champions Trophy, they will only do so if India is playing. Otherwise, their quarterly target will not be completed and in such a scenario, they will want to invest in other companies. So the concern on whether their investment is secure is normal,” he said.

And the source says that the broadcasters were forced to write to Star as investors want clarity on the issue.

This takes you back to the time when few good men decided to bring World Cup to India and changed the location of global cricket forever. It will be interesting to see how ICC coaxes India to send its team. Eventually it will be sent but not after the usual drama of ego battles..

Are batting collapses becoming so common in test cricket?

April 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

The third discovery was perhaps the most curious of all.

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

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

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

Why is this happening?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Superb stuff from Eaton.

How to be a stock markets expert (or sound like you are)

March 20, 2017

Dhirendra Kumar of Valueresearch just nails it with this piece.

He says like cricket commentators who try and show their expertise with empty talk, same applies to stock market commentator as well:

On social media, there is an entire subgenre of jokes about the cliche-heavy commentary that a certain well-known cricket commentator delivers. There are lists of some ten to fifteen phrases, which are said to make up almost everything that he says. There is even a downloadable sheet of the Bingo game, with each of his favourite phrases in a square. Presumably, his fans print these out and as he says something like ‘that went like a tracer bullet’ or ‘all three results are possible’, they cross out the square of that phrase.

However, cricket and cricket commentators are far from being the only guilty parties when it comes to creating commentary out of a stream of cliched phrases. When a cricket commentator says something like ‘the batting side will be looking to make runs and the opposition will be looking to take wickets’, then the statement is at least factually correct.

However, no such limitation appears to hold back the stream of cliches that makes up news and views about the financial markets. The other day, I came across a list of such cliches that are incessantly used by everyone who talks or writes in the media about stocks in the US. I realised that while some of those were universal and also used in India, there was some more that were unique to India.

So here’s my list of meaningless cliches that are used by investment analysts when they are talking about the equities. But first, an obvious mea culpa–I find that I have either used, or accepted as meaningful almost all of them.

The list is:

  • There’s a x per cent probability of the markets rising
  • The easy money has been made
  • I’m a bottom up investor / I’m a stock picker
  • Markets are down because of profit taking
  • More buyers than sellers

The last one just nails it. 🙂

There has been an explosion in cricket commentary and analysis. In earlier cricket matches, you were lucky to have one commentator. This grew to two and now there are three. There is pre-match analysis, toss analysis, pitch analysis,  lunch break analysis, tea time analysis and post match obviously. Then there is late evening entire day analysis. This is followed by entire match analysis followed by series analysis. If India in involved the series always are billed as some revenge series and there is this feeling of a war around the corner.

Similarly, we have for stocks. There is analysis every second, then at the middle of the day, followed by a wrapping in the evening. Late night sums up what went up and down. Then there is monthly data, quarterly results, mid-year review and then the annual one.

In both cricket and stocks, one has to appear as intelligent and keep coming out with newer ways/adjectives to dissect the game. Much of it is over the top and most of the time people go wrong. But despite that craze for expert views keeps going and becoming larger with each cricket series and new financial year.

Remembering Martin Crowe on his first death anniversary

March 3, 2017

One thought it was not too long ago that we got the news of Martin Crowe passing away after his long battle with cancer. But it has been one year. How time flies.

Sambit Bal in this piece pays a tribute to the iconic cricketer from NZ. It is as poignant as any such tribute can be.

Where would you find a man who accepted cancer as his teacher, as the path to enlightenment? An intense, complex, conflicted and emotional person for a large part of his life, he finally found lasting peace in simplicity. Illness cured him, he often said, because it made him grasp the futility of the battles that raged inside. His playing career had been a struggle to win love and respect with runs and hundreds, and it had brought torment, bitterness and loneliness. As he battled for life, all of that seemed trivial.

He came to cherish friendship, companionship and love. He repaired his frayed relationship with his brother Jeff, sought out a few of his old team-mates, built a stronger bond with his daughter Emma, his only biological child, but most of all, he found his greatest love, Lorraine. And he discovered that, unlike with cricket, pain wasn’t part of the package. The process renewed him and healed him.

Marty could now look at his younger self with remarkable objectivity and detachment. “He was not a man you’d have liked,” he would often say. “I don’t like him.” But it was part of the healing process that he was able to forgive, including that man he didn’t like. It liberated him.

I will forever count among my great blessings that this is a man I was friends with.

It is full of anecdotes and memories. Must read for Cricket fans..

Is it reverse swing or contrast swing? Spotting the differences..

January 30, 2017

Ever since Pakistan bowlers showed the potential of Reverse swing, it has been a huge area of interest with cricketers and commentators alike.

However, there is a difference between reverse swing(when ball moves differently in the air) and contrast swing (when it moves differently due to surface differences).

Rabi Mehta and Garfield Robinson explain the differences:


Which players would make it to an all-time XI of Bombay/Mumbai cricket team?

January 5, 2017

Sankaran Krishna, professor of political science at the University of Hawaii chips in with his best Bombay eleven.


India’s best cricket players who never featured in the National Test team…

January 2, 2017

Ram Guha has an interesting piece on the topic.

…..a cricket fan in his thirties asked me; “Who was the best cricketer never to play for India?” He himself thought it must be Amol Muzumdar, the fine Mumbai batsman who was coached by Ramkant Achrekar, as were Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, Pravin Amre and Anil Agarkar, all of whom were capped often for India. However, despite an outstanding Ranji Trophy record, Muzumdar never played for the country himself.

While conceding that Muzumdar was unlucky, I told my questioner that his preference betrayed a twin bias: On behalf of his own generation, and on behalf of batsmen. I have now been watching first-class cricket for close to 50 years. Based on this experience, my own candidate for the best player never to play for India would be a bowler. Among the cricketers I have myself watched, I would pick either Rajinder Goel or Padmakar Shivalkar.


A short history of cricket in Hindi cinema

October 17, 2016

There are three things which Indians are usually mad about- politics, cricket and movies.

Baradwaj Rangan a film critic and an associate editor with the Hindu in this piece mixes cricket with movies.

He tell you about several Hindi films which have had cricket as a plot. There is also a review of cricketers who tried the celluloid. He actually covers a lot of ground in this piece and hardly misses any movies:


Bank of England trying to draw parallels between finance and cricket..

September 14, 2016

Wow! Bank of England’s One Bank Seminar series has invited former West Indian ace Michael Holding to give a talk.

Michael Holding, former West Indies cricketer and current Sky Sports commentator, will join us for the next One Bank Flagship seminar on 14 September.  

The Bank’s Chief Economist, Andy Haldane, will join Michael to draw parallels between the world of cricket and finance – discussing issues of leadership, diversity and team-building.

Michael, nicknamed Whispering Death due to his silent yet fast bowling prowess, starred on the West Indies team from 1975-1987. During this time he earned 249 wickets in 60 tests, and played a further 102 one day internationals. Michael was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1977, and is also credited with bowling “the greatest over in Test history”, against English batsman Geoff Boycott in 1981. 

Since retiring from his sterling international career, Michael has released two books ‘Whispering Death’ and ‘No Holding Back’ and has moved on to become a popular TV commentator, working with Sky Sports in the UK since 1995.

The seminar starts in a little above 1 hr from the time of posting.

Will be interesting to see this for sure..

What cricket can learn from poker?

August 29, 2016

The just concluded weekend was full of cricket. It makes sense to start the week by posting something on cricket.

This is a wonderful article by Amit Varma. He moved from being a cricket writer to a poker player (wow, though wonder how I managed). Now he is trying to link cricket decisions on the field using lenses from game of Poker:


Pakistan rise to No. 1 in Cricket Test rankings is nothing short of a miracle..

August 23, 2016

It just happened as India could not win against the hapless West Indies due to rain and poor ground management. Pakistan edged India by 1 point to top the Test match rankings first time since these rankings were made in 2003.

I mean to see Pakistan top the rankings is just crazy and a miracle. The country does not anymore host test matches at home and the entire cricket structure is just reduced to a royal mess. Despite this they have been producing is a few talented individuals who spice the contest once a while. And now they have surged to top position drawing with England in England against all odds. They have done this with lot of discipline and dignity which makes it a super plus. These two attributes have missed Pakistan cricket for a long time.

Here is a wonderful tribute by Kamran Abbasi who shows how high these odds have been making the achievement even more amazing. (He also highlights that Hockey World Cup was actually an idea from Pakistan).


Learning/thinking about statistics using examples from cricket…

July 13, 2016

Anantha Narayanan of cricinfo is helping me think through statistics like very few have. His previous two articles trying to figure consistent batsmen and consistent bowlers were superb. The main idea behind both was to look for  measures other than the popularly used  average to measure performances of batsmen and bowlers.

In his third piece, he digs deeper to evaluate bowlers. There is always this criticism that some bowlers top averages by taking most wickets against weak opposition. This is usually targeted against Murali in particular . This is biased in many ways as even Warne took most wickets against English sides whose record against spin was always poor.

So, he tries to figure quality of wickets and even quotes economics:


Is Murali the Bradman of test match bowling?

June 13, 2016

Anantha Narayan has a second post looking at the bowlers this time. The first one was on batsman where the great Don obviously ruled.

Again he used Wickets per test as an alternative measure to averages (where again Murali tops) and comes up with following:


How does Karachi produce its jugaadu batters?

June 3, 2016

Superb piece by Ahmer Naqvi in June 2016 Cricket Monthly.

Jugaadu basically means Cheeky, tough and masters of improvisation. The question is how does Karachi produce the batsmen it does?

This type of batsman isn’t unique to Pakistan, but the Pakistanis who fit it are most likely to be from Karachi. Think of Moin Khan and, to some extent, Rashid Latif. Before them, Asif Mujtaba, and well before them Mushtaq Mohammad and Asif Iqbal, and between them the man who fleshed out the prototype himself, Javed Miandad.

What they had in common was a non-traditional, lateral approach to finding solutions. They looked to generate new ideas. The question was whether this capacity was in some way linked to the city they all hailed from – was there something about growing up in Karachi that conditioned their response? Perhaps this was romanticism – trying to find a reflection of the city I was born in within the game that I loved. But it seemed relevant that when one thought of, for example, the reverse sweep, the advent of proactive running, or counterintuitive strategies, there was always a someone from Karachi involved.

The key to all this is thinking about survival all the time whether in real life or on the pitch. Appeals especially to those fans who have seen their teams (mostly India of course) being outplayed by jugadus..

Great read..

Using runs per Test to measure consistency in Test matches?

June 2, 2016

It is a constant debate in cricket – who is the best batsman of all time/1990s/2000s etc? Similarly for bowlers as well. Given the question and the interest it generates, how do we measure performance> The standard measure is averages which experts believe is unfair as people sho stay not out tend to have higher averages. This measure is unfair especially to openers who face the most hostile bowling conditions and have much greater possibilities of getting out.  For an economics student, similarity to discussions on GDP is too obvious.

Anantha Narayana looks at the measures and suggests runs per test is a pretty useful indicator as well.


What is in a batsman’s stance? Perhaps everything..

May 30, 2016

Some people are not just gifted speakers but writers as well. It is a rare thing to have,

Mark Nicholas is one such person who does great cricket commentary and writes equally well. Here he writes about stance of current English top order batsmen. One can apply the different ways to other batters as well:


Cricket should become more responsible towards waste and environment..

May 25, 2016

A good article by Tanya Aldred. How much should a person consume is not just limited to daily life but extending to other aspects as well like sports matches.

The whole idea behind anything in modern economy is buy, buy, buy and consume, consume, consume. If you get tired doing these two, start all over again. Cricket hasn’t escapes this curse.

The author looks at how cricket matches have changed with simple things available to everything available.


Pakistan are built to fail in T20..

April 1, 2016

Nice analysis of Pakistan Cricket’s recent exit from World T20 by Hassan Cheema. For an Indian cricket fan growing up in 1980s and 1990s one was always awed by might of Pakistan cricket team. The way they regularly beat India was something which frustrated and angered most. But one could also not help but admire the craft especially of swing bowling.

Now most of it is just getting disintegrated. Pakistan is barely a threat to India now in either ODIs or T20s. The media can keep creating the hype over the contest but in reality there is none. The odds of a Pakistan win against India is the same as an Indian win against Pakistan in the past.  This obviously means really low odds.

Cheema says we should not be surprised by the recent exit. Pakistan is completely clueless about the various forms of cricket matches being played today. They think all three – Tests, One dayers and T20 can be played with similar players/teams:


%d bloggers like this: