Sunday, October 31, 2010

These questions need to be amplified

I think these are very very good questions from Arundhati Roy. Whether or not we agree with her positions about Kashmir or Naxalism or anything else is irrelevant. They are worth raising. I encourage you to raise them on your blog.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The bowler who troubled Tendulkar the most - II

The man himself says, as I suggested he might, that it was Hansie Cronje who troubled him most. In comments and chats, Abdul Razzaq, Pedro Collins, Glenn McGrath and Dion Nash came up. A few years ago, there was a theory doing the rounds that Tendulkar was bothered by orthodox left-arm spinners, especially Raymond Price of Zimbabwe. Yet, we are presented with Hansie Cronje.

This choice is far from innocent on Tendulkar's part. This is not to say that it is a sly choice. It is true that Cronje had as much success against Tendulkar as Donald did. But then, by that count, Muttiah Muralitharan has dismissed Tendulkar more times than any other bowler - 8 in 19 Tests. Tendulkar also average 48.9 in these Tests and took 5 Test hundreds off Murali. Against Warne and McGrath, Tendulkar has played 2 major series - a 0-3 defeat in Australia in 1999-2000, and a 2-1 win in India in 2000-01. In 12 innings, he reached at least 50 6 times in those series. The mammoth innings eluded him - 126 at Chennai and 116 at Melbourne being his three figure innings. By contrast, Brian Lara played 47 innings against McGrath and reached at least 50 13 times. One of those, was his best ever Test innings in my view - 213 at Sabina Park.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The bowler who troubled Tendulkar the most

If you can get hold of saturday's Guardian, do buy it and save this interview which is previewed here (h/t Soulberry). Tendulkar, surprisingly enough favors England over Australia in the Ashes an names Eoin Morgan as the key man. This is enough reason for me to revisit my own impression of the Ashes - I think Australia will win with reasonable ease, though I don't see either side winning more than 2 out of the 5 Tests. If the wickets are sporting (i.e. they favor bowlers at least in some way), then this might change.

As for the bowler who has troubled him most in Tests. I'm going to stick my neck out here and suggest that he's going to name Hansie Cronje. Note that I write this on Friday evening, before the interview is published. He has said before that he hates facing part time bowlers more than anything else, and Cronje has dismissed him 5 times in Tests.

I will update this post with a link to the interview as and when it becomes available at the Guardian's website.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On Cricinfo's World XIs

Ranking Cricketers from different eras, writes Gideon Haigh is a little like ranking inventions from history. In his essay, the Australian writer tries to explain why producing World XIs is worthwhile. For Haigh, apart from being fun, it is precisely because such an exercise forces us to re-examine history - there is no escaping the contingencies that are being ignored in the process of selecting World XIs, that it is worthwhile. In this post, I attempt just that.

Monday, October 25, 2010

India doesn't have a second fast bowler

Ishant Sharma returned to India's Test squad against New Zealand. He joins S Sreesanth in the squad and these two will compete for the privilege of partnering Zaheer Khan with the new ball.

Was it impossible to bowl well with the new ball in the two Tests that India played against Australia? Zaheer Khan took 12 wickets at 21.83. Why have the selectors persisted with proven failures in the Test Match game? I have more sympathy for Sreesanth than I have for Ishant Sharma in this, as Sreesanth has played only one game, unlike Ishant who has had a string of bad Test Matches. Both of them are talented and both bring something special to the team. Ishant Sharma is tall and his high arm action brings with it the ability to get steep lift from a good length, at least when everything is going right. By everything going right, I mean when Ishant is getting close to the stumps, not running on the wicket and not bowling no balls. Sreesanth has a fine outswinger and the ability to bowl a fine attacking length.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Bradman of Bowlers makes a list

Mutthiah Muralitharan has offered a wickedly brilliant list of 10 batsman, whom he rates as the best batsmen he played against.

Brian Lara, Mohammad Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar, Navjot Siddhu, Salim Malik, Inzamam-Ul-Haq, Andy Flower, Graham Thorpe, Jon Crawley, Hansie Cronje

Don Bradman proposed his playing XI which had a few odd names. Barry Richards played only 4 Test matches, averaged 72 and never played in the Indian sub-continent. Just to put that in perspective, Sunil Gavaskar, against an attack of similar quality (and higher quality spin bowling in Gibbs and Sobers) averaged 154.8 in his first 4 Tests. In a particularly touching gesture, the great Don named the second best batsman of his playing days 12th man!

Bradman's team:
Barry Richards (South Africa), Arthur Morris (Australia), Don Bradman (Australia), Sachin Tendulkar (India), Garry Sobers (West Indies), Don Tallon (Australia), Ray Lindwall (Australia), Dennis Lillee (Australia), Alec Bedser (England), Bill O'Reilly (Australia), Clarrie Grimmett (Australia) and Wally Hammond (England)(12th man).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

India confirm their mastery

This is probably Ricky Ponting's last visit to India as Australia's captain. Ponting is the most successful Test Captain in Test Match history. His team was beaten despite crossing 400 in the first innings in both Tests, despite having won the toss in both Tests. In the first Test, Australia were beaten even though they took the first innings lead. In the second, India won after conceding more runs in the first innings than any team ever had in a victory in India before this game. These were two hard fought games, and very few people predicted an Indian victory with such ease on the 5th day at the KSCA.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Standards - II

I have received plenty of incisive and sometimes even confrontational comments on my exceptionally (compared to the usual fare on this blog) pointed discussion about the persistent commentary on India's supposedly mediocre fielding on the one hand, and the pass given to some of India's bowlers on the other. I encourage this, as I feel that a blog is the one medium which makes this possible. Disagreement is almost always more valuable than agreement. I felt it would be better to respond in a new post.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hawkeye and Virtual Eye

Today I received a comment from Ian Taylor, who signed off as the CEO of Virtual Eye on an old post about Hawkeye. Virtual Eye is developed by Animation Research Ltd., a Dunedin based software technology firm which develops animations as broadcasting aids for various sports broadcasters. I quote Ian's comment in full below. It should be noted that Virtual Eye is a competitor to Hawkeye, which is produced by UK based Hawkeye Innovations Ltd.. Based on what little I know, it is interesting that the two firms seem to approach technology in sport quite differently. Based on Ian Taylor's comment, Virtual Eye is focused on assisting broadcasters, while Hawkeye has been less shy about being a decision making tool. I have not had any email communication with Mr. Taylor. In the case of Mr. Hawkins of Hawkeye Innovations, I was referred to him by the ICC's communications manager, and I reported the relevant portions of my email communication with him here.

Discussions about technology have yielded much interesting debate on this blog, and I am increasingly of the view that if technology is to be used effectively, fairly and thoughtfully in Cricket, then the management of the various conflicts of interests - between umpires and players, between cricket administrators, the ICC and broadcasters, between entertainment and judgment, is at least as important, if not more so, than the quality of the technical tools (hawkeye, virtual eye, snickometer, hotspot etc) employment in any such technology.

Ian Taylor's comment follows.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Standards

We hear plenty of nonsense from lots of people about how India's fielding is rubbish. This is usually based on Zaheer Khan's unwillingness to put in a full length dive on the boundary to save one extra run off a long hop from one of the other bowlers, of his inability to pick a lofted ball out of the crowd on occasion. It could also be based on Rahul Dravid chasing after a delivery from first slip and conceding three instead of two. This type of fielding is somehow reflective of a "typical" attitude (whatever that means) - of a "chalta hai" mindset (anything goes).

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

On the Man of the Match

VVS Laxman came close to playing a "match-winning" innings on the 5th day at Mohali. He was largely responsible for taking India to 216 since his arrival at the wicket with the score on 76/5. He made 73 of the 140 runs scored by India while he was at the wicket, and he met nearly every one of the 79 deliveries he faced with aplomb, in some instances with such breathtaking skill, that it transcended all else. This post offers a justification of choice of Man of the Match. VVS didn't get the award, Zaheer Khan did.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

On the UDRS debate

The BCCI is the last line of defense that the game of cricket has to protect it from being saddled with a very bad technology solution to the problem of improving umpiring decisions. The reasons for BCCI's opposition to the use of Umpires Decision Review System (UDRS) probably do not form a coherent whole - they range from contractual problems with TV Broadcasters, to the discomfort of a few players (mainly Tendulkar) with the idea of players having to ask for a review. But nevertheless they reveal a discomfort that ought to be taken seriously in my view. Everytime there is a situation where an Umpiring decision is seen to be mistaken in a series where UDRS is not in use (Mohali being the obvious case in point), it is automatically seen as a case which make the necessity of the UDRS blindingly obvious.

The Miracle at Mohali

If Ishant Sharma could judge the batsman's off stump as well as he judges his own, he would be a worthy successor to Glenn McGrath. But this is not really about Ishant Sharma. It is about the World Number 1 Test team. For two Test Matches in a row they have overcome the hardest possible obstacle - a crippled bowling attack, to win Test Matches against two very good teams. The run chase at Colombo was not as hairy as this one at Mohali, but it was just as tricky. Australia had better means at their disposal to defend these runs than Sri Lanka did. They possibly also had a more helpful wicket.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Australia on the verge

Australia, underdogs in a Test series for the first time in living memory, are well placed to eke out a close victory against India in the first Test at Mohali on the 5th day. They have made full use of every break they have had and in spite of the few errors they made in the field during India's first innings, are potentially one wicket away from winning. That wicket need not be Sachin Tendulkar's.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Bowden demonstrates redundancy of UDRS

Umpire Billy Bowden used some initiative and involved the third umpire in a decision about a doubtful no ball, in a situation where Michael Clarke was dismissed first ball. The players were not involved, but the right decision was made. This underlines the sheer stupidity of the UDRS, which involves players and sets up an economy of the correct decision by controlling the player's incentive to appeal a decision against him by limiting a team to 2 unsuccessful reviews per innings.

All it will require is for the Umpire at the bowling end to avail of the TV Umpire's assistance if he has a doubt, or for the TV Umpire to advice the umpire on the field that something is wrong. It will not involve a massive waste of time, because Test Umpires don't make obvious errors that often. It will lead to very limited numbers of referrals, because Umpires don't have to consider the match situation or the tactical aspects of asking for a referral. Most importantly, it will eliminate the use of Hawkeye for the LBW decision, because between the on field umpire and the TV Umpire armed with a replay, there will be enough expertise to make a reasonable LBW decision whenever there is a doubt.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Mahendra Singh Dhoni works harder than you

Of the 274 days (39 weeks) in the year 2010 so far, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has had 79 match days, counting his appearances for India and Chennai Super Kings. Consider 1 travel day and 1 training day on average for each match day (this is a conservative estimate), and Dhoni has been working 237 out of 274 days. That amounts to 39 straight 6 day weeks in which he has travelled to South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh in addition to playing in Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Mohali, Ahmedabad and Nagpur in India. I'm not even considering all his other commitments for endorsements, charities and other things. Add to this the fact that he's captain of India and has additional commitments and worries on account of this that someone like Virender Sehwag doesn't.

Oh, and he also got married this year.

He's been carrying injuries, some of which are probably not reported in the public record because they interest nobody and don't occur during a game. Is it any surprise that he's not looking as sharp as he used to behind the stumps?

It's not much of a life if you ask me. Especially when a bad day brings abuse and questions about his integrity and commitment.

Friday, October 01, 2010

A roaring start to the Cricket Season

It looked hopeless for India. Ricky Ponting and Shane Watson were scoring nearly 4 runs per over in their second wicket stand, there was nothing in the wicket. A leather hunt loomed. It was then that the Australian captain made a fatal lapse of judgment and a direct hit from Suresh Raina at mid-wicket found him short of his crease. Zaheer Khan, who had endured a dropped catch and an unforgiving surface let the Australian captain know exactly what he thought of him, and Ricky Ponting, for the umpteenth time in his career fired back. It will be interesting to see where the matter goes, given who the match referee is (for the 23rd time in his 41 Tests!), but I suspect it will not be reported by the Umpires. The top seven in India's batting line up in this Test have 583 Test Matches of experience between them. A lot can happen in 583 Tests, and they know this Australian opposition quite well. I doubt whether any of the Indians have anything new to say to the Australians today, but I have little doubt that there are little debts to be repaid. These will be repaid in full, and Zaheer's was just a little reminder to the Australian captain that he should expect this.