Thursday, September 28, 2006

Pyrrhic Victory...... no clinching evidence against Pakistan, Inzamam banned... The Pakistan Baazigars claim victory......

It is my thesis, that in the modern world Pyrrhic Victories are celebrated with much more gusto than clean, flawless, super efficient victories, in most walks of life.

Ranjan Madugalle, the ICC's Chief Referee found Inzamam Ul Haq not guilty of ball tampering. His statement is a model of correctness. It is precise, to the point and is agreeably a report on the situation, more than a judgement. On the ball tampering charge he says:

"I
n my judgment, the marks are as consistent with normal wear and tear of a match ball after 56 overs as they are with deliberate human intervention."

He hasn't found anything to suggest that Pakistan did not tamper the ball. He's merely said, its equally likely that the ball was tampered or was naturally worn. And so, if you actually think about it, Darrell Hair acted correctly in changing the ball, because everybody seems to agree that it was indeed damaged. Not changing the ball at that point, would have been unfair to England.

So ends (hopefully), one of the saddest cricketing episodes in the modern era. If you look at all the issues, as they stand at this moment:

1. Inzamam has been cleared of ball tampering.
2. Pakistans forfeiture stands (i don't think that was considered in the hearing).
3. Inzamam won't play the Champions Trophy.
4. Darrell Hair, thanks to his letter, finds himself out of the Champions Trophy.

Basically, all this could have been achieved 1 month ago, immediatly after the Test Match, had Mike Procter got his act together and taken charge of the situation at the Oval. Instead, Pakistan played to the gallery, walked out, and created what might be charitably described as a mess. It was left to Ranjan Madugalle and the ICC to clean up the mess 1 month later. Look who's complaining about the cost though. Shahryar Khan - in my opinion the chief villain of the piece (when it comes to expenses occuring due to bungled leadership) in his position as the PCB boss, says:

"All this we are seeing - the expense, lawyers, coming all the way from Pakistan - who is responsible?"

Now, had Pakistan not walked out, lets consider what might have happened...

1. They would have won the Oval Test (which is the whole point of playing, and expecting fairness)
2. Inzamam would have played Champions Trophy.
3. The Pakistan Captain would not have been guilty of bringing the game to disrepute.
4. They would still have been acquitted of the ball tampering charge, because the only evidence available - the ball, and the written statements, could have been easily made available on the 4th evening of the Oval Test.
5. There would have been no expensive lawyers involved.

So the answer to the PCB Chief's question is obvious. Pakistan are squarely responsible for all the extra expense incurred.


All in all, its about as amusing as the greatest tragedies are....

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Challenger challenges..... What of Sehwag?

The three challenger trophy teams have been selected, and Kiran More signs off on a typically consistent note to his tenure as the national selection committee chairman. The challenger squads include every player included in the World Cup probables, and a few others, because more than 30 players needed to be selected.

Typically, the press is unable to accept that Kiran More had no personal vendetta against anybody, let alone Sourav Ganguly.

The big story of this selection for me, which typically everyone seems to have missed, is that Virendra Sehwag has not been named captain of any of the sides. Sehwag has been the Indian vice captain to Rahul Dravid ever since the Chappell-Dravid management took over. Instead, Venugopal Rao, captain of India A, and Mohammad Kaif, who many have predicted will become India captain one day have been named captains along with Rahul Dravid. It would be very interesting to know what prompted Sehwag's "demotion". Did he request this himself, or is this a selectorial and team management decision?

Given Sehwags poor ODI form in the past year, this is particularly interesting. It will be even more interesting to see Sehwags reaction to this decision. I expect some fireworks from the Sehwag blade in the Challenger. Hopefully, the fire will last through the Champions Trophy, for Sehwag in good and happy form is crucial to Indias chances in South Africa later this year - a tour which is atleast as important to the Test side as the world cup is to the ODI side.

All in all, Kiran More can look back to a terrific year as chairman of the selection committee - the most successful Indian ODI season ever, and a Test series win in the West Indies after 36 years. The Karachi and Mumbai defeats will rankle though..

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

What constitutes solid proof?

Thanks to Hiren for his comment... It gives me the opportunity to question the basic assumption made against Darrell Hair - that he didn't have absolute proof.

In his opinion, he probably did - and that is all that counts. Whether he actually did, is something that would be decided by the Match Referee when the Umpires brought the charge on the Pakistan side.

That, whether anybody likes it or not is the Law. No video evidence is mandated, neither is the individual identification of one or more culprit required. Indeed, it is for this exact reason - that it may not be possible for the individual to be identified, that the written provision for the charge to be made against the captain in such an instance exists. The ball is sufficient as clinching evidence.

Its quite amazing that everyone is obsessed with what Hair did, even though hes acted absolutely within the letter of the Law, while condoning Pakistan's actions, even though they show absolute disregard for England, English Cricket, English spectators and Cricket itself.

As Waqar Younis said - it was bad for cricket. If that is the case, then it cannot possibly have been anything other than damaging for anybody associated with cricket - especially Pakistan.

I can clearly see practiced sledges when a Pakistan batsman comes to the wicket - "Don't upset him, he might walk out, and then we'll have to play amongst ourselves" .... followed by periodic queries to the batsman "Are you all right?"...... "Have we done anything to upset you?"......

Besides, Shoaib being magnanimously let off by the Umpires inspite of being caught embarassingly on the wrong side of Law 42 (the same law under which Inzamam has been charged for ball tampering in the Oval Test), doesn't help Pakistans already dwindling credibility.....

Its a mistake to view this along racist lines - because unlike in previous instances, the ICC has fairly detailed mechanisms in place to ensure that fair hearings are held and decisions are made.

If you look at most of the sporting controversies in which race related allegation are insinuated or explicitly made, you will find that most can be explained in terms of

1. Procedural incompetence (in this case Mike Procter sitting on his heels and not completing the hearing that same evening).
2. A poor understanding of procedure and law on the part of one of the sides. (Inzamam being unaware of the law, expecting to be shown the ball and expecting its change to be negotiated with him)
3. A poorly framed, incomplete procedure on the books. (The Mike Denness situation - which allowed no avenue for appeal within the ICC framework once Denness had made his decision, and further more, no mechanism by the Denness could explain the procedures he followed and came to his judgement).

I hope the 27th September hearing finds in favour of Cricket. Whats been bad for cricket, cannot stand.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Malaysian TriSeries, the upcoming ball tampering hearing.... and the champions trophy

At the end of March this year, when it seemed as though all India had to do to win a One Day International was to participate in it, i wrote about Indias success and the peculiarity of it. It was in hindsight, a serendipitous combination of similar conditions, long series and top performances across the board from the Indians. Since then, they travelled to the West Indies, and since Dwayne Bravo delivered that fateful slower ball to beat an advancing Yuvraj Singh to give West Indies victory by 1 run in the second ODI of that series, Indias successful sequence has snapped. We still see glimpses of that successful run - traces shine through as they did during that wonderful innings in the field which ensured that India defended 162 against a West Indies side with 8 specialist batsmen, a wicketkeeper, an allrounder and the sole specialist bowler.

But in the end, it seems apparent that there is one peak which India have not yet been able to scale. Australia has become an Indian bogie - they havent beaten Australia batting second since that famous day at Sharjah, when Sachin Tendulkar was the 25 year old King of the Cricketing world, and India chased the 273 set by Australia in the final. Since that day - April 24th 1998 (it was Sachin Tendulkar's birthday as well), they have not beaten Australia batting second. Even with the current reputation of being successful run chasers, India have not been able to chase down runs against Australia.

This obviously begs the question - one which cricketers must hate more than anything else - Does India have a mental block when it comes to Australia? I will not attempt to answer this. All i will say is that the question will persist until India beat Australia chasing runs.


Inzamam Ul Haq's hearing is scheduled for the 27th and 28th of September. Im glad that Darrell Hair is more than likely to stand in the Champions Trophy. The ICC would be absolutely right to field him, because
1. He is not on trial with regard to the Oval Test
2. He hasnt done anything wrong.

The view in Pakistan seems muddled about this. Everything they have been saying through out this month seems to suggest, that in their view, it is Darrell Hair who is the accused in that hearing!

Lets hope sanity prevails there - and the damage to cricket is corrected as far as possible. Waqar Younis made the following comment about the Oval Test:

"It was bad for cricket, but if you ask me, it was good for our country and our reputation,"

Thats a bizarre viewpoint if there ever was one. How can a country's reputation be forged by Test Cricket? And how can something thats bad for Cricket, be good for its participants? Theres a contradiction there. And it pretty much summarizes the whole Pakistani attitude and position on this whole issue in my view -

ignorant, confused, angry, insecure, really eager to lash out at somebody.

How else do you explain the Pakistani obsession with singling out Darrell Hair as the villain of the piece, when anyone who was actually interested in clearing their name and proving their innocence would actually take the help of written law, maintain that the Umpires (meaning both umpires) acted in error and prove their innocence. Doesn't the obsession with Hair weaken Pakistans case? Wouldn't someone who is genuinely interested in clearing his or her name, press for a hearing at the earliest possible date? It appears that this delayed hearing is the result of Pakistani insistence on Madugalle!

Their motives and their desired outcome in this whole issue is not clear to me.

So its on to the Champions Trophy - we don't know yet how that will pan out, given the uncertainty over Pakistan's participation, should the ICC hearing find Inzamam guilty on one or both counts.

All in all it makes for a tedious mix of big money, big egos, tradition, rules - basically everything you find coming into play in disagreements and committees.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Remains of the Day .......

My friend sent me this. A picture they says, is worth a thousand words. These pictures cannot be measured in words.

Derelict, abandoned God, washed ashore the day after. Society's most erudite response is through environmentalists and others who claim that Idols need to be made using environmentally friendly paints, and through experienced elders who insist that the immersion needs to be completed in as deep water as possible. The reality is that the sea rejects these offerings - and they are then reserved for bulldozers. It is a strange contradiction. The same people who on the previous 10 days have attended aarti's 3 times a day, get into their bull dozers and trucks and clear the debris - debris that they worshipped for 10 days.

It is hard to reason when it comes to matters of faith, but can you really ignore the remains of the day?

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Gideon Haigh's Odd Men In.....

Gideon Haigh, the Australian cricket writer has just finished writing a series of Odd Men In columns on Cricinfo. I was very disappointed to learn that he will not be writing this column for a while now. Odd Men In was one column which i always enjoyed reading.

In a sport dominated by individual personalities, Haigh wrote about several cricketers who are outside the normal discourse about cricketers. There was not the statistical brilliance of Bradman or the magnetism of Sobers...... Haigh wrote instead about Roy Marshall, Dilip Doshi, Ajit Wadekar, Vincent Van der Bijl, Dennis Amiss, Wasim Raja and others... In Haighs own words -

Tendulkar. Lara. Botham. Richards. The Waughs. This is a fortnightly column in which they, and other eminences of the game, will be studiously ignored. I mean, enough already! Stars get enough kudos and cash, not all of which they deserve. Remember the ICC Super Series? (Malcolm Speed, of course, would prefer you didn't)

Odd Men In - a title shamelessly borrowed from AA Thomson's fantastic book - concerns cricketers who have caught my attention over the years in different ways - personally, historically, technically, stylistically - and about whom I have never previously found a pretext to write. Perhaps you saw them too, or have heard or read of them; perhaps they are simply a name in a table of statistics. Whatever the case, they're cricketers who didn't fit into the Great Man Theory of Cricket History, but who to my mind are overdue a few words.


I eagerly await the next Odd Men In series. I can think of lots of cricket who are overdue a few words - Padmakar Shivalkar, Salim Durrani, Mansoor Ali Khan of Pataudi, Vinoo Mankad, Conrad Hunte, Jeffrey Stollmeyer, Clairmonte DePieza (i hope i spelt that right), Christiani, Shackleton and many other figures from all those scorecards i used to read when i was younger. Then, they were merely names from a bygone era. It would be interesting to know of the people behind the names. Some players like Farokh Engineer - the last Parsi cricketer to play for India, Salim Durrani - whose name still causes Pataudi Jr. to look back in regret at the cricket of one her thought would be the Indian Sobers. And what of Andy Sandham, whose wife stitched him a vest made of foam to provide a rudimentary chest guard for him during the 1929-30 English visit to the West Indies? Sandham was Test crickets first triple centurion.

Cricket probably has the richest literature amongst all sports, as almost all cricketers write about their time in the game. However, these are out of reach of the average reader, because most cricket fans are unlikely to buy too many cricket books, and because a lot of these cricket books are now out of print. Haigh's series has broadened the world of journalism in cricket. Stats pieces, match reports, news reports, opinions etc. all have their place, but as a contribution to crickets literature, Haigh's articles are quite priceless...

I would encourage everyone to read Odd Men In

I also wait eagerly for Mr. Haigh to resume this series....

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Indias weakness in shortened contests - its become a unhappy habit.........

India lost to the West Indies by Duckworth Lewis in their first game of the DLF Cup in Malaysia yesterday. They have a very poor record in shortened games this decade. Since the year 2000, India have won 54% of the their ODI games. As against this, they have won only 36% of their shortened games in this period.

Invariably, in shortened games, the side batting second seems to lose. Of these 14 games, when India have batted second, they have won 4/7. In the other 7 games they have 1 solitary win. Even so, other sides have managed good records in shortened games - as it turns out, at the cost of India and New Zealand.

The following list summarizes the success rate of sides in reduced overs contests in this decade:

India 36%
Pakistan 62%
Sri Lanka 63%
England 62%
Australia 80%
South Africa 68%
New Zealand 45%

All sides have played a similar number of reduced over contests in this decade - between 11 and 20. This seems to suggest that India have a particular weakness in this type of contest.

This is no surprise if you think about it. The weakest bowling attack usually bowling on the flattest wickets is usually vulnerable to assaults from batting sides in shortened games. India concede 5.8 runs per over in these contests as against their decadal average of 5.04.

This came to the fore yesterday as well. In ODI cricket, as in Tests, the strength and weakness of the attack is determined not by how many great bowlers are available, but by how many average to sub par international bowlers constitute this attack. Indias ODI attack has consisted of mercurial mainstays, green rookies and ordinary trundlers who wouldn't make most Test teams.

I was also quite surprised to see India play 5 specialist bowlers in an ODI contest.

A word on Tendulkar - this was his comeback match remember? Yet, he churned out 141 not out against a competent pace attack on an iffy wicket. Call it luck, call it whatever else you may want, the runs are on the board. That has been Tendulkars greatest forte (i call it his greatest forte, because he is one batsman with many different arrows in his quiver) - the runs are invariably on the board.

When they dry up occasionally, in all these years, all that has meant has been that they are around the corner. It reminds me of something i read about Australian batting philosophy once - Australian batsmen are either hitting them well out in the middle, or hitting them well in the nets!

India have unfortunately not hit the same high notes in shortened games.


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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mind the windows Tino....

A classic effort from Andrew Flintoff....
Watch it on
Youtube

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Spectacular Defeat.....

At 172/1 in 23.2 overs, the West Indies needed 108 runs to win in 26.4 overs, with 9 wickets in hand - including Brian Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan, and with Shivnaraine Chanderpaul still at the wicket. Yet, they lost the game in the end by 78 runs.

I mapped this spectacular collapse using my
ratings method. The results look quite interesting -


The graph shows the fortunes of each side in terms of performance per ball bowled (Y Axis). The data points are the points where a wicket fell. So we have both teams starting at Zero, with the West Indies enjoying the early success with the wicket of Jacques. Then we see Australia in the ascendant thru Ponting and Katich. Through out the Australian innings however, the West Indies stayed competitive and even inched up on the Australian performance worm (if you will) towards the end of the innings. The West Indies innings saw a spectacular spike at the beginning, and they were way ahead of the Australians at 136/1. Then came the slide - 9/29 in about 10 overs of play. The final bends in the graphs are a function of adding the win bonus in Australias case, and making the West Indies innings to show 201 all out in 50 overs (when a side is all out, it is assumed to have used up all its 50 overs for the purpose of runrate calculation).

What this game does suggest though, is that the West Indies on their day can beat anybody. All they would need to do is to keep doing what they showed today for the first 73 overs of the match, for another 20 overs. They will end up winning more times then not.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Rankings Update - September 10th 2006

The northern summer of 2006 has ended and the next great cricketing event is the ICC Champions Trophy, which begins on October 7 in India. India, Australia and West Indies will play a tri-series in Malaysia, while South Africa play Zimbabwe, in short build up series for the main event. Heres a ranking of the ODI teams at this time:

One Day Matches, 10th September, 2006

Australia 0.617
South Africa 0.601
New Zealand 0.546
India 0.515
West Indies 0.503
Sri Lanka 0.494
Pakistan 0.475
England 0.436
Zimbabwe 0.312

This is at odd's with the ICC rankings, especially from position 3 onwards.

Australia 131
South Africa 123
India 113
Pakistan 111
New Zealand 111
Sri Lanka 107
West Indies 99
England 99
Zimbabwe 35
Bangladesh 33

It will be interesting to see how the teams fare. New Zealand are ranked third in my ratings because they have 4-1 records (in the last 5 matches played) against Sri Lanka, West Indies, Pakistan and England, in addition to a 3-2 record against India. They are at 25-15 in their last 40 matches (5 each against each of the other sides). In the ICC's rankings, many of those results do not count, because they fall outside the ICC's cut off period.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Indian Team for Malaysia and Champions Trophy....

The Indian squad for the Malaysian TriSeries and the Champions Trophy was announced by the BCCI today. RP Singh replaced Santhakumaran Sreesanth for the Champions trophy, however, Sreesanth continues in the Malaysian triseries. One would question the wisdom of selecting both squads together. However, i suspect there was an ICC deadline to be met for the Champions Trophy, while the Malaysian tournament is just around the corner. The selectors were also deprived of the Sri Lankan games to make their judgements about form.

The selection of RP ahead of Sreesanth is an interesting one. The only reason which seems to support this selection is the fact that so far, out of Sreesanth, RP or VRV, no one has really convinced the selectors that hes a cut above the rest. Sreesanth has been expensive in ODI's. RP Singh played a series of high scoring ODI's in Pakistan and was subsequently left out of the squad. Over his career, RP has a superior ODI record to that of Sreesanth. Thats actually an interesting stat:

Looking at the graphs above the Sreesanth and RP Singh (18 and 15 ODI's for India respectively), it is possible to categorize Sreesanth as some one who struggled in ODI cricket his is first few games before slowly improving, without ever becoming a real mainstream contributor to the bowling attack. RP Singh on the other hand has had a lot of early success before tapering off in his last 4 games, after which he was dropped and Sreesanth preferred ahead of him.

Now, the selectors have chosen to bring back RP for the Champions Trophy.

I think there are two targets that the selectors are aiming at. One is to find the best possible fast bowling squad for the South African test tour, and the other of course is to find out who they will send to the World Cup.

One word on Zonal quotas... (which is bound to come up).

The selection stacks up as follows

(Malaysia tri-series, 15 member squad):
South Zone(2): Rahul Dravid, Sreesanth

West Zone(5): Sachin Tendulkar, Ramesh Powar, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Munaf Patel
North Zone(5): Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Harbhajan Singh, RP Singh
Central Zone(2): Mohammad Kaif, Suresh Raina
East Zone(1): MS Dhoni

(For Champions trophy, 14 member squad) :
South Zone(1): Rahul Dravid,

West Zone(5): Sachin Tendulkar, Ramesh Powar, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Munaf Patel
North Zone(5): Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Harbhajan Singh, RP Singh
Central Zone(2): Mohammad Kaif, Suresh Raina
East Zone(1): MS Dhoni

Once again, there is no evidence what so ever of Zonal "quotas" being applied to selection.

The batting line up shows very few changes.

All in all, this is the sort of selection one would expect in a successful period for Indias ODI side, the 1-4 defeat in the West Indies notwithstanding.


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Friday, September 01, 2006

Rang de Basanti.....

Warning to the Readers: If you have not watched Rang de Basanti, then you may want to think twice about reading this post. If you read it anyways, i hope it will tell you which film to watch and which one to avoid.

I saw Rang de Basanti about 10 days ago, and have been meaning to write about it for a while. Believe it or not, the inspiration for this post came from this delightfully earnest bit of rambling about that disgusting, patronising commentary about relationships by the perennially single Karan Johar.

There was something about Rang de Basanti which struck me, apart from it being the best Hindi film ive ever seen. It was for me a film which made some pertinent comments about being grown up. The most telling events in the story came from grown ups. Every Peter Keatingesque character in the film - from the politician Mishra, to the defense minister (Mohan Agashe), to the new defense minister (who orders that none of the "terrorists" should be kept alive) was a grown up. Even DJ and his friends, even though of varying vintage, were students a long time ago. The only grown up character who was not Keatingesque was DJ's mother, who played no significant part in the story.

It was not then the story of an exasperated youth - young revolutionaries in the image of Bhagat Singh, Ashfaqullah Khan, Ramprasad Bismil, Chandrashekhar Azad, but of the defeat of the spirit that is passed off for being grown up.

Roark after all, was Roark all his life.....

Life must lie somewhere in between the Roarkness of DJ and the Keatingness of Defense.

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