Thursday, December 30, 2010

UDRS in its first 30 months: Consequences, Criticisms and Implications

I contributed this article about UDRS to Clear Cricket. They've formatted and presented it much better than I ever do here at Cricketing View. Clear Cricket is a collaborative cricket opinions site founded by Subash Jayaraman and Josh Taylor and includes contributors from all over the cricketing world. It is an interesting idea, and I think might actually end up being greater than the sum of it's parts.

I encourage you to visit Clear Cricket, not just for the fine opinions contributed there, but also for the interesting discussion that follows these articles. My full article is after the jump.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Marginal Decision Revisited

A year ago, I proposed a modification to the referral system (since known as UDRS). The idea was as follows:
When the players ask for an appeal to review, the first decision the TV Umpire should make, before any technology beyond the action replay becomes available, is whether or not the on-field Umpire was obviously wrong, or whether it was marginal. A marginal decision should stand, even if Hawkeye shows otherwise. The current version of the marginal decision for LBW (when the ball is shown to graze the stumps) is too narrow. The TV Umpire has to have greater discretion.

A job well done

India beat South Africa by 87 runs in a low scoring Test at Kingsmead, Durban today. 40 wickets fell in 245 overs in 11 sessions of Test Cricket in which neither side came to terms with the wicket. South Africa won the toss and elected to field first - a decision which seemed to be justified when India were bowled out for 205 early on the second day. South Africa collapsed to 131 all out in just 37 overs on Day 2 to give India a priceless 74 run lead, which they extended to 302 thanks in large part to VVS Laxman's priceless 96. 303 was a stiff target, even on a wicket which had eased substantially by the 3rd afternoon, and it proved to be 87 runs too many for South Africa after a couple of marginal LBW decisions when against them.

deVilliers and Boucher, UDRS and LBW

We are going to hear plenty about how UDRS should have been available, and how two rank bad LBW decisions would have been overturned had it been available. The South African commentator Robin Jackman has already been lining up "key moments", three of which are umpiring decisions which have apparently favored India unduly.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The last day of the cricketing year 2010

It is a day that in all likelihood will confirm a major shift in the balance of power in Test Match Cricket. At the Melbourne Cricket Ground, England need 4 Australian wickets to retain the Ashes in Australia, something they have achieved only twice since the Second World War. At Kingsmead in Durban India need 7 wicket to draw level with South Africa in their most important series in years. South Africa need 192 more runs to confirm their recent resurgence as the best team in the world.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A qualified defense of Ricky Ponting

Ricky Ponting and the rules and standards of the on-field management of Test Matches are only passing acquaintances. His vociferous, even boorish protest after Kevin Pietersen was given not out upon review at Melbourne was uncalled for. I accept this provisionally. In general it is a fair criticism of the Australian captain. He has deserved it given his on-field antics over the years. I have found occasion to accuse Ricky Ponting of cheating on at least once before. But, I will suggest that it must be seen in a new light in the post-UDRS world. UDRS has tended to convict batsmen on evidence which is far from conclusive. UDRS also gives players the opportunity to question an Umpire's decision. That being the case, and especially given the fact that the UDRS review is shown live on the big screen at the ground in the Ashes, Ponting was within his rights to ask questions, especially given the poor quality of evidence. So I have no interest in defending Ricky Ponting per se, but I do have an interest in defending a player for asking questions in the age of UDRS. UDRS has changed the meaning of dissent, and while the Australian captain may not be the perfect messenger, he is in this case, an apt one.

Durban Pitchmaps: Zaheer, Ishant and Sreesanth

Has a fast bowling unit ever bowled worse for better reward in a Test Match than India's 3 man pace attack? Zaheer Khan, on his comeback from injury bowled well enough to make early in roads into the South African batting. His two colleagues bowled utter junk for the most part, a lot of it illegal, and some of it without literally collapsing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day Pitch Maps 2010

Boxing Day in 2010 has been a fine, albeit exacting day for fast bowling. In this post I look at the pitch maps for Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, James Anderson, Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson.

Cricinfo butchers Steyn

Cricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary, performed as it is by an ever growing cadre of neophytes, is pedestrian most of the time. While it is unimaginative, it doesn't often misrepresent a spell of cricket the way it did over the first 6 over spell bowled by Dale Steyn at Durban. It totally missed what was a fine spell of cricket - many schools of cricket were on view.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Old Battle Begins Anew

The Ashes have come to life after Australia's win at Perth. An article in The Telegraph focuses on an apparently uncharacteristically late switch in the pitch to the used for the Melbourne Test. The New Zealand Herald has a story about how the English media is getting all hot under the collar about this impending shift. On the other side, the chief of the Australian Cricketer's Association has argued that a Cricket Australia directive to Australia's players about sledging may have led to Australia's declining performance. Kevin Pietersen is characteristically nonchalant about this. The Sun on the other hand has a classic old-fashioned hit job on the England team, which could be summarized as the wimps lost to the bullies.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Test Preview: December 16-20, 2010

Two Test Matches begin today. At Perth, Australia take on England in the 3rd Ashes Test. At Centurion, South Africa take on India in the first Test of a much anticipated series.

Bedi, Muralitharan and Harbhajan Singh

The great left-arm spinner is right about this. But, not for the first time, he misdirects his fire. His real argument should be with the amendments to the bowling law. Law 24(3) now defines the "fair delivery" as
A ball is fairly delivered in respect of the arm if, once the bowler’s arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely from that point until the ball has left the hand. This definition shall not debar a bowler from flexing or rotating the wrist in the delivery swing.
This is an absurd law, because it is impossible to use the wrist without any straightening at the elbow. This definition sidelines the eminently reasonable version of the law which required a smooth action. It is no surprise that they have to then correct themselves and say that straightening (or "flex") up to 15 degrees is allowed. It goes without saying that bio-mechanical analysis should be taken into account in framing the law, but, as with the UDRS, it is far from clear that the ICC have gotten this right. There is a further problem here, and this is the uncertain relationship between the ICC and the MCC about the Laws of Cricket.

Harbhajan Singh and Mutthiah Muralitharan both have legal bowling actions as per the current law.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One bad day

England go into the third Ashes Test at Perth 1-0 up in the series. In their last 20 visits to Australia, dating back to 1936-37, they have been in this position only thrice, including the 1936-7 series, in which they were up 2-0 after two Tests thanks to some very kind rain (wickets were not covered in those days). It was only a matter of time before they had the worse of the rain, and this happened Melbourne, where after taking a 124 runs first innings lead (Australia made 200/9d, England 76/9d), Bradman reversed his batting order. The leg-break bowler Frank Ward and the batsmen Keith Rigg and Bill Brown more or less completed their assignment, extending Australia's lead to 211 runs, before Bradman walked in at 97/5, made 270 in the company of Jack Fingleton who made 136. England were crushed by 365 runs despite Maurice Leyland's unbeaten 111.

Monday, December 13, 2010

India in South Africa 2010-11

A series which the Indian coach Gary Kirsten thinks could be a defining moment in India's cricket is upon us. It is India's first major tour as the World Number 1 Test team - a position which is not as assured as the ICC Ranking would have us believe in my view. Statistically, it could be argued that it should be easier for India to beat South Africa in South Africa than it is for England (or any team) to beat Australia in Australia. With the exception of New Zealand, every major Test team to tour South Africa in the last 5 years has won at least one Test Match. England won at Kingsmead in Durban in the Boxing Day Test of 2009, Australia won at New Wanderers in Johannesburg and Kingsmead in March 2009, West Indies won at Port Elizabeth in 2007, as did Pakistan, and India won at New Wanderers in the Boxing Day Test of 2006.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rating Test Match Performance

The slideshow below consists of some results from my modified ratings method. I have done this for all 1974 Tests that have been played in bilateral series over the last 133 years. In the slides I have annotated some of the significant peaks and troughs in the history of each Test team. This is notable not only for the teams that it contains, but also for the ones that it omits. The slideshow contain 13 slides. I have limited the graphs to Test Matches from 1945 onwards. Two of the slides focus on the period from January 1, 2000 till date.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Might of the Mercenaries

One of the worst sidelights of English cricketing success is the epic gloating that invariably tends to follow it. Gloating is an integral part of the cricketing discourse, but the English perform it with a verve that even the bull-in-a-china-shop certainty of the Australians and the earnest jingoism of us Indians cannot match upon victory. After Adelaide, it has begun.