Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lillywhite England upset with KP

Geoff Miller England's chief selector is very upset that Kevin Pietersen didn't like being dropped from the England Limited Overs side. Pretty much everything Pietersen said in his twitter post was either true, or it was KP's opinion. I mean, what did Geoff Miller expect Kevin Pietersen to say? Thank You?

England seem to be very touchy about propriety and incorruptibility. The slightest hint of what they would consider "taint" is something worth going to town about. Shahid Afridi is "tainted" because of ball tampering. But Stuart Broad and James Anderson are not, England's entire team in the 2005 Ashes series is not (see Murray Mints). Now England's Chief Selector thinks KP's used of the f word is out of line. On twitter. This is a ridiculous proposition for all sorts of reasons, not least because KP is free to voice his opinion about things that directly affect his life. Instead, we're going to see England's best batsman in 30 years treated like a naughty schoolboy.

This has nothing to do with standards of conduct, this has to do with not being sanctimonious. England's attitude (the attitude of a lot of commentators in England, and players) to the whole spot-fixing thing has been equally sanctimonious - we are to believe that it has to do with things in the East. This reeks of occidentalism and is quite laughable, because there exist well documented events where England have cheated, brought the game to disrepute, or completely misunderstood the whole idea of the game being brought to disrepute (this particular player went on to become an England captain in the 2000s). Hard nosed, cynical tactics are another English specialty (and one that I actually admire quite a bit, even if i don't like what it does to the game in general).

This kind of incredulous behavior produces a largely fraudulent veneer of exceptional propriety, and ought to be exposed for what it actually is - a hypocritical joke. This is best done in my view, by continually reminding England of some of their most egregious, and least talked about episodes of underhandedness. They cheat at least as much as, if not more than any other side.

Exhibit A would be the 2005 Ashes. A tainted Murray Mint embellished victory which takes away any moral right England might have to complain about any other side engaging in anything remotely resembling ball-tampering.

Monday, August 30, 2010

On Cricket's wonder years

Rahul Bhattacharya has a wonderful essay in Mint. Very timely. (h/t sfx)

My father played Cricket as a student in England, having played and won the Harris Shield as a schoolboy in the 60s. His club in England once played against Cambridge University. Majid Khan used to play for them. As my father loves to tell me over and over again, Majid Khan opened the batting, hammered his club for 196 by tea time, and left! Why? Because he had to play a Test Match the next day! :)

Leave the Donkeys alone

Given the performance in India after the 2007 World Cup, I have a fairly good idea as to what is happening in Pakistan right now. The flames of righteousness are probably being fanned by Cable News and people who can't tell mid-wicket from extra cover are probably out in those streets, fueling some unrelated agenda.

The abuse of innocent Donkeys however is unforgivable. Even the idiots who vandalized the construction site of M S Dhoni's house, or poured Oil on Mohammad Kaif's house, or made mock dead bodies of Indian Cricketers for the benefit of television cameras, did not stoop to abusing other animals. Where are society's bans and fines for this kind of behavior? What have those donkeys done, other than to provide many of these wretched souls with a means of livelihood? Slapping donkeys with shoes and pelting them with tomatoes? At a time when there are flood victims whose only hope in remote areas is a mule train?

People should protest by all means, but why do they do the same unimaginative destructive nonsense time and again? Like those so called "fans" in London who came armed with eggs and tomatoes. How contrived is that? Who here believes that these guys (almost exclusively men) do anything with eggs and tomatoes ordinarily, that they have then handy for times like these? Most of these guys have probably never cooked a meal for their family in their whole life! And what is the upshot? We have the ridiculous spectacle of the London policemen confiscating eggs from people.

The response from Mohammad Amir's home town, as reported by the Guardian seems to make far more interesting. Even the bit about the whole thing being "Indian Propoganda"!

On the whole this seems to have brought out the worst in people. On the one hand we have these people abusing donkey's in the name of cricket, while on the other, we have pompous, grandiose narratives about how match fixing is the result of a corrupt society, by experienced old hands like Scyld Berry, no less! Would it then be fair to say that Stuart Broad and his serial entitlement fuelled bouts of cheating and excess are emblematic of British society? Well, Ok, English society (Sorry Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the few still imagined outposts of the Empire). Isn't England the land of the jelly beans and the murray mints? These are lesser crimes because England have decided that they are lesser crimes. Weren't Danish Kaneria and Merwyn Westfield arrested for spot-fixing at Essex earlier this season? Was that unquestionably Kaneria's bad influence on Westfield? Or could it have been Westfield (from upright English society) who could have influenced the Hindu Kaneria? But what am I thinking, Westfield is not white.

It's hard to tell what's more disgusting. The stupidity of the Pakistan players or the attempts to malign an entire country based on the actions of an 18 year old, a 27 year old and a 26 year old. Meanwhile some geniuses in that country seem to want to abuse donkeys!

The absurdity of it all is strangely comforting. I look forward to India's next Test Match

Mohammad Amir

A modest home in a small village, life in a hostel, away from home early in his teenage years, life threatening dengue fever from which he nearly died at age 15, persistent career threatening back injuries, outrageous talent as a fast bowler, a place in the Pakistan Test team at 18.

This is not an ordinary life. What a miserable tragedy it would be if this guy were to be kicked out of Cricket for life? Can you bring yourself to believe that an 18 year old could do something so stupid unprompted? I hope Ramiz Raja is wrong, and Cricket will act with some maturity. This time, unlike in the case of the hapless Suraj Randiv, I hope the senior guys who failed to protect the young bowler and led him astray will get the harsh sentence, while the youngster will get the break he deserves. His coach Asif Bajwa has vouched for him for what it is worth.

Justice has to be seen to be done in this specific instance.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spot-Fixing: Grand Conspiracy or Rank Stupidity?

In the scandal that currently plagues the Pakistan new ball pair and captain (and the wicket keeper and three other unnamed players, if a totally unscrupulous but apparently reliable middle man is to be believed), the evidence is clear enough to produce a fine distinction - one between outright match-fixing, and the newly coined "spot-fixing". The inherently episodic nature of cricket makes it possible for bets to be placed of millions of things in the course of a 5 day game (or even a 40 over game). What bowling changes will a captain make? What field will be set? Will a batsman on 42 overnight reach his 50? Will he reach his hundred? He's hit 10 fours in his 42, will he reach his 50 with a boundary? Will he do it with a three? The possibilities are endless. It is no surprise to hear Paul Condon, the former Chief of the ICC's anti-corruption unit say that no other sport sees as much betting as cricket.

BCCI continues to resist UDRS

Thankfully, it won't be used in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. It does nothing to improve the quality of the game. Any system which involves players in Umpiring decisions cannot improve the quality of the game.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Betting, yet again, but not match fixing

Update: Here is a more considered article from the tabloid

It is unimaginably sad. Here was a captain, a young captain saying brave and romantic things about trying to win a game for all the unfortunate people in his country savaged by destructive flooding. Here was a young, inexperienced team, decimated by a myopic Cricket Board, yet, gifted enough to beat Australia in a Test Match in England, and England in a Test Match in England. Here were two fine opening bowlers, the finest in a long time, bowling better than English bowlers in English conditions.

My Man of the Match - Jayawardene

He made this Sri Lankan win possible. Yes Dilshan made a century, but then, Dilshan is that sort of a player. Hit or Miss. On his day, if everything runs his way, he's going to make runs. It was the former Sri Lankan captain who made Dilshan's innings possible, for I doubt whether Dilshan could have continued in this way had Sri Lanka lost an early wicket.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

For those who think Test Cricket doesn't require fitness

Read this wonderful article by the former Indian opening batsman Akash Chopra. Consider the number of things batsmen watch for every single ball. Then consider the consequences of not watching carefully for even one delivery (a loss of concentration). Then consider the requirement of watching 200+ deliveries from Test Match quality bowling, if you want to score a century.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sharda Ugra moans about punctuality

The former India Today (and now Cricinfo, by the looks of it) reporter, who used to also write a blog, and some thoughtful opinion essays, seems to be making a show of solidarity, speaking for an apparently unloved press corps which follows the Indian Cricket team around. These articles keep popping up from time to time and I'm somewhat surprised as to why a serious reporter like Sharda Ugra has written this.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Golden Year in a Golden Age

There are plenty of doomsday predictions about Test Cricket doing the rounds these days, especially after a drawn Test. Some perspective usually helps. Of the 26 Tests played this year, only three have been drawn. We've seen great comebacks, great run chases, small totals defended and even contests in a large number of series. This richness in Test Cricket comes from the fact that there are about six teams in the Test world right that now that are very close together as far as quality goes. I add Pakistan as the sixth, purely because of their bowling attack. New Zealand and West Indies are struggling.

Out-batted, Out-bowled

In England. By Pakistan. Here was a side that has been bowled out for 182, 80, 72 and 296 in four innings before this Test. A side which couldn't hold even every second catch that came their way. You might say the usual line - there's Pakistan for you, but that's neither here nor there in my view.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pietersen bowled Ajmal 23

Saeed Ajmal, an off-spinner in the Saqlain Mushtaq mould, deceived Kevin Pietersen a few minutes ago, and both Michael Holding and Ian Botham surprisingly did not point out the most important fact about that dismissal. I don't know why this is the case, but spin bowling is not watched as carefully as seam bowling is in England. The dismissal was a function of the fact that Pietersen was not picking Ajmal from the hand. He played the full over from the pitch, off the backfoot, and kept blocking some fairly short deliveries off the back foot, which he would have normally hit for runs had they come from a leg spinner. The one time that Ajmal drew Pietersen forward, Pietersen was playing to cover, as if he was playing for the doosra instead of the off-break.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

SLC's questionable Overkill

Sri Lanka Cricket, after an investigation by a six member committee (in itself odd, committees are usually made up of an odd number of members, to avoid deadlocks), reached the following conclusion: Both Suraj Randiv and Tillekratne Dilshan would lose their match fee for the India v Sri Lanka game, and Randiv would face a one match suspension in addition to the fine.

England's use of the Review

UDRS has been available in the ongoing England-Pakistan Test series, and England have batted five times in this series. Of the seven batsmen who have been dismissed LBW while reviews were available, England have used reviews 4 times, each time unsuccessfully. Pakistan have used the review once when they were bowling for LBWs, when Danish Kaneria was bowling, with success.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On Imran and Javed

A superb essay on one of the most under-reported relationships in Cricket.

If you think Randiv was unsportsmanlike, here's Broad...

It should not come as news. Suraj Randiv is the arch villain of cricketainia today for apparently deliberately bowling a no ball with Sehwag on 99 and India one run away from victory, thereby denying Virender Sehwag a century.

It turns out that Zulqarnain Haider, the young Pakistan wicketkeeper who replaced the experienced Kamran Akmal behind the stumps for Pakistan at Edgbaston with such aplomb will miss the Oval Test on account of a broken finger. Why did he break his finger?

SLC desperate to protect Sri Lanka's bowlers

Straight Point has the damning image

I can think of no other reason for this multi-pronged apology, which Virender Sehwag apparently reported on twitter. I think the price of going into a game against India with Virender Sehwag unhappy with you in some way is considered too risky.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The patriotic Sri Lankan curator

It looks like Sri Lanka's national curator Anurudda Polonowita is playing up his Home credentials. Polonowita was in the news a few weeks ago after the pitch for the second Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground came under a lot of fire. At the time, I found myself in agreement with him. But in this instance, the Sri Lankan head curator is playing to gallery in my view. The Indian Captain M S Dhoni was unhappy with the practice wickets available at Dambulla, which, as the story reveals were damp, had not been mown, and had balls rearing up from a length.

What have you done Sri Lanka?

Update: Sehwag says the no-ball was deliberate, Sangakkara hopes it was not.

I'm not actually convinced they did anything, because I'm not convinced about the interpretation of the rule which denied Sehwag the century. But the size of the no-ball suggests that at least some of the Sri Lankans knew what was up (or Randiv had uncharacteristically thrown in the towel, which i doubt). The obvious question that would come to mind would be, why, if India reached the target the moment Randiv over-stepped, did the ball count in Sehwag's batting statistics? That last delivery, albeit illegal, still counts as being faced by Virender Sehwag, just like any other no ball or wide.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pakistan can't catch a break

Their two day game at Worcester was washed out after only 28.1 overs of play. They managed to lose two wickets in that time, but Mohammad Yousuf reached 40 not out. In those 28 overs, they faced three bowlers - one, with no first class experience at all, the second with 11 first class games, and a bowling average of 33, and the third, Gareth Andrew, who has the improbable nickname "Sobers" (i hope it's a comment on his (possibly limited) capacity for sobriety, rather than a refers to the great Sir Garfield), averages 23 with the bat, and 36 with the ball.

Not ideal preparation for a side whose batsmen are unable to bat two sessions in a Test innings.

Dengue

The poor man has caught Dengue. Arun Lal had it during the second Test according to commentary. If my own experience with Dengue (or so everybody thinks, I had all the symptoms, but a negative test throughout) is anything to go by, the Indian middle order man is in for a prolonged, miserable wait while the virus passes through his system. Still, Yuvraj is lucky that he's out of danger. There's one form of Dengue thats particularly deadly, and depending on which source you believe, has a 10-30% fatality rate.

Judging by some of the comments below that report, some of those commenters know very little about Dengue (why it might happen),  Yuvraj Singh, or even the simple human capacity for some perspective. Oh well....

Best wishes to Yuvraj Singh and everyone else struck down with Dengue - apparently there are a lot of people in subcontinent this monsoon. You just have to wait it out, let someone keep a professional eye on you, and hope you don't get any complications.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jayawardene on Tests

The former Sri Lankan captain stakes out a position about Tests that I wholeheartedly agree with.
Having played the kind of Test we did at the P Sara Oval, I wonder why people want to change Test cricket. It's sort of like the way, not only with cricket, but in day-to-day life, people start talking about something and then forget it four or five days later. You have to know that people are going to talk about the feasibility of Test cricket and then also look forward to the next Test match.
Some Tests might not seem result-oriented, but people put hard work into those games as well. To score 600 runs is not easy, even on batting tracks. A lot of hard work and concentration is needed. Sometimes batsmen get it easy, sometimes it is tough. You have to appreciate everything, not just one aspect. Pure Test cricket lovers will enjoy whatever is on offer, and it is just some who don't have the patience to watch the long game who start talking about the need for Twenty20 and one-dayers. Real cricket fans enjoy Test cricket because they know how much hard work goes into it, even when there is no result.
We often get swayed by commentators (who are former Test players themselves) using pithy language about Tests played on batsman friendly wickets, calling these wickets "roads" or "featherbeds", but it is worth remembering how difficult it is to concentrate for a session of two hours, let alone a full day - 6 hours, quite apart from the purely physical toll that this takes on the body.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Is this reporting?

The world's most widely read Cricket portal, Cricinfo, has a fluff article on Hawkeye. It presents the position of Paul Hawkins and of the Indian players who don't particularly like UDRS. But for a professional report, it contains zero third party views about Hawkeye. Paul Hawkins of Hawkeye Innovations says quite a bit about Hawkeye, all of which is available in a pdf document on the Hawkeye Innovations website.

The margins of error have not been reported accurately in the story. The document linked about makes a distinction between normal and extreme LBWs, a distinction which is not reported at all. Further, the company that produces Virtual Eye (a competitor of Hawkeye), hasn't been represented at all in the story. After reading the story, is it also not puzzling as to why the makers of Hawkeye are used in response to M S Dhoni's problems with UDRS based on the 2008 series in Sri Lanka in which Virtual Eye was used? Further there is no discussion about the Indian team's problems with UDRS in 2008. Whatever I have read about this over the past two years suggests that much of the team's trouble came with the referral aspect of the process, not just the simulation technology.

No 7 for India

Competitive World Cup sides are made in the lower middle order. In the tournament format, more so than in the bilateral series, the wide variety of opposition means that it is depth, rather than quality concentrated in three or four key positions thats wins ODI games. India have quality players in most positions, especially in the batting. They lack, in the ODI format, an all-rounder at number 7, a second spinner, and a new ball partner for Zaheer Khan.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

India undone by "spongy" bounce

This is the headline from yesterdays opening game between India and New Zealand, which New Zealand won by 200 runs. M S Dhoni patiently explained what he meant by spongy bounce. But I was struck by the opening argument in the story. It yet another one of these pseudo-arguments that I put in the guts, spine (lack of) category. As arguments which can be addressed, these are impenetrable, because they are basically a non sequitur. Take this report in the Times of India. "Dhoni left facing uncomfortable questions". Really? The same old questions that lazy reporters ask after every defeat are uncomfortable questions? The same irritatingly unanswerable questions (such as those pertaining to selection) - these are different from difficult, penetrating question which require serious thinking on the part of the interviewee, are "uncomfortable"? Boring would be a better term.


More on Stu

Andrew Hughes has read Stuart Broad perfectly. Comedy and Parody often get to the nub of the matter, and this captures Broad and England perfectly in my view:
It has emerged that during the tea interval yesterday, England’s prettiest fast bowler approached the ECB’s head nutritionist to ask whether it might be okay if he had some sweeties. Upon being refused on the grounds that f had some sweeties, he wouldn’t want his tea, Sulky Stuart stuck out his bottom lip, stamped his foot and stormed out of the dressing room, insisting that it wasn’t fair, and furthermore that he hated everyone. Broad was later fined half his pocket money and grounded for the rest of the week; punishment that his captain Andrew Strauss feels was over the top. “As everyone knows, it’s the summer holidays and forcing a young lad like Stuey to stay indoors when all his mates are hanging around outside the chip shop is harsh. Adolescent petulance has always been part of his game and if we made him behave like a grown-up, he wouldn’t be able to bowl as fast.”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

David Saker on Bowling and England's Bowlers

Cricinfo has an amazing article by Andrew Miller based on interviewing David Saker, the Australian bowler who is now England's bowling coach. It is revealing in the extreme and every bowler around the world should read this, not because it reveals any secrets, but because it makes it clear how bad a lot of the fast bowling (especially from India) is and why. It is also revealing in terms of what Saker has to say about Stuart Broad. It appears that it requires every ounce of Saker's loyalty to his employers to not throw Broad under the bus.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Can we safely label Stuart Broad a cheat now?

I don't particularly care if readers think I'm piling on as far as Stuart Broad is concerned. There was an incident at Birmingham involving Stuart Broad. He bowled an outswinger at Pakistan's number three batsman Azhar Ali. Ali played inside the line and his bat hit his pad in the process. England thought he had edged it, and soon after Prior caught the ball, the slip cordon went up in appeal. Broad didn't appeal, instead, he continued into a celebration, as if it was obvious that it was out. When the Umpire said Not Out, England did not even bother to use a review.

This is not the first instance when something Broad has done begs to be read as a blatant act of cheating on his part. There was this incident in South Africa (at Johannesburg). To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to be caught cheating once might be misfortune; to be caught twice looks like carelessness.

Exemplary Refereeing from Madugalle

Ranjan Madugalle fined Stuart Broad 50% of his match fee, but that's not the important part. Given the way the Code of Conduct is framed, whenever a Referee fines a player, he makes a comment on the player's character. Here's what Madugalle said when he announced Broad's fine to the press:
"The actions of Stuart Broad were unacceptable," Ranjan Madugalle, the match referee who imposed the fine, said. "I understand the frustrations of a bowler in the heat of the moment but as an international sportsman one needs to control these emotions whatever may be the situation and always respect the opponent. Stuart, by pleading guilty, realised his mistake and I'm sure he will not repeat the same again."

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Galacticos win it for India again

The last time Sri Lanka lost a Test at the P Saravanamuttu Oval in Colombo was in 1994. They have won six out of their last seven Tests at this ground. The last time Sri Lanka lost a Test Match in Sri Lanka after winning the toss was at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground in Colombo against England in March 2001. In 20 Home Tests in which the Sri Lankan captain has won the toss since that game, Sri Lanka have won 15 times and drawn 5 times. Sri Lanka have lost only twice in 37 Tests in which they made at least 400 in their first innings (batting first or second) in Sri Lanka before this game. This is the third. These were the odds. And yet, without meaning in anyway to gloat, I will revisit my observation at the end of play on Day 4. My reading of this match was different from that of a lot of other observers, including Sanath Jayasurya.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Third Test, Day 4

Given the limitations of the Indian bowling, which were fully on display on Day 4 of the final Test at the P Saravanamuttu Oval in Colombo, I think the Indian team would have taken a Sri Lankan score of 267 all out in their second innings at the start of that innings. After 87/7, it's about 100 runs too many if not more.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Third Test, Day 3

Sri Lanka are still favorites to win the Colombo Test at the end of day 3. That seems to be the consensus. Sri Lanka ended the day at 45/2, an over all lead of 34. The first overs of the Sri Lankan innings and the last overs of the Indian innings provided contradictory accounts of the behavior of the wicket. I think Sri Lanka's openers played into India's hands a bit. Dilshan more so than Paranavitana. The approach of the Sri Lankan batsmen suggested that Sri Lanka were more than a little bit stunned that they didn't come away from that second innings with a lead of 60-70 runs after reducing India to 6/321 and then 7/350.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Third Test, Day 3, Morning Session

We have had close to 25 minutes of play, and what an eventful 25 minutes they have been! Both Sehwag and Tendulkar have been dismissed to lapses of concentration, although in Sehwag's case he was beaten in the flight after being troubled by a very threatening leg-trap set by Suraj Randiv for about two overs. We have also had two episodes which bring technology into question again.

Galacticos trying to rescue India again

Given the way Test Matches have gone recently at the P Saravanamuttu Oval, Sri Lanka would feel securely on top against any batting line up in the world currently, even without Muralitharan. With Mendis and Malinga in their ranks, and the wicket offering turn and some bounce, most sides would be happy to play for safety. Not India. In 35 rollicking overs of extremely attacking cricket (by both sides), India reached 180/2 thanks to an 88 run stand between Tendulkar and Sehwag (Tendulkar 40, Sehwag 48), 245 behind the Sri Lankan first innings score.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

More rubbish from India - III

Why are India about to lose this Test Match and this series? Because one of their new ball bowlers bowled so poorly in a crucial phase of the game, that he had to be taken out of the attack, even though the ball was new. It's worth asking a few questions of the tour selectors (Dhoni, Kirsten and company) here. Having had a look at Mithun for two Tests, should they have reverted back to the tried and tested Munaf Patel for the 3rd Test, given that India had to win? What did they expect Mithun would do at P Savaranamattu that he didn't do at Galle and SSC?

Monday, August 02, 2010

Rubbish bowling from India again - II

India's opening bowlers have produced total rubbish again on the first morning of the Third Test against Sri Lanka at the P Saravanamuttu Oval in Colombo. There's no other way to describe it. To understand why, we ought to start with what a high quality fast bowling performance would be, on what is a reasonably easy paced first day wicket in a Test Match. For this is what India's bowlers ought to be compared to. As I write, Sri Lanka are 1/101.

Tendulkar 169

El Maestro begins a Test Match for the 169th time today. It's worth considering the odds against which this record has been achieved. Tendulkar's 169 Tests took him into his 21st year as an international cricket (1989-2010), Rahul Dravid's 141 Tests took him 14 years (1996-2010). Allan Border' 156 Tests took him 16 years (1978-1994), Ponting's 146 Tests have taken him into his 15th year (1995-2010), while Shane Warne and Steve Waugh played 15 and 19 years respectively for their 145 and 168 Tests. There was a time in the early 1990s when India did not play too much Test Cricket.