Friday, January 27, 2012

Is Australia this good? Or India that bad?

Greg Baum asked this question just now, after Umesh Yadav was caught at the wicket off Nathan Lyon to end India's 2nd innings and give Australia a 298 run win in the 4th Test at the Adelaide Oval.

The answer to both questions is a qualified Yes. Australia is good, in that they have a good pace attack - a pace attack that does very little wrong. A lot of people talk about the inexperience of Australia's attack, but Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and Ryan Harris all have plenty of control and are fine basic Test fast bowlers. Each of them can bowl long spells, rarely bowl a bad ball, can bowl to their fields, and Siddle and Harris can really bend their backs when the occasion demands it without losing too much control. Behind these three, are James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, three young bowlers who are still raw, but have great pace and surprisingly good control. Starc, as Sachin Tendulkar found out, possesses the priceless ability to swing the ball back into the right hander, while Pattinson and Cummins are both potentially genuinely quick.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

First Innings Lead Problems: Six Changes To The Ranji Trophy

I have written previously about the absurdity of having a 20 over contest with 10 batting wickets allotted to each team, with the same number of fielders and the same rules for dismissal as in a Test Match. My argument was that making the innings so severely short while leaving everything else as it is, skews the contest between bat and ball, and hence, does not sharpen skills and abilities that are necessary for actual Test cricket. In this post, I argue that the idea of granting a "win" based on first innings lead (as the Ranji Trophy allows) also skews the contest between bat and ball, to the detriment of both batting and bowling skills.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Some Cricket related diagnoses of Australia's success

Geoff Lawson, former Australian fast bowler, has offered this diagnosis of India's troubles in Australia. It comes as a pleasant surprise that someone has actually written about the cricket that has been played.
The Indian capitulation, and I use the word advisedly, has come through the agency of seam bowlers who actually hit the seam - sometimes after it has swung, sometimes without. The greats of the Indian order have been undone by accuracy, movement, discipline and some decent pace. Eight dismissals in every ten have been off the front foot; the tail have mostly got out to short stuff because that is just about all that is bowled to them. Agreeable pitches promote fuller bowling, and Craig McDermott has kept his tribe on the hymn sheet, with hallelujahs dotted on every line.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

One More Loss

It happened again. The batsmen were put in against an in form pace attack, got shot out on a bowler friendly pitch. The bowlers had no answer even though I heard comments to the effect that 10 wickets in 2 sessions was a good effort. Then, the batsmen, saddled with a hopeless 200 run deficit (which is nearly insurmountable on a wicket where every single batsman on both sides was beaten once an over if the over was bowled reasonably well), were bowled out again.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Warner, "Intent" and Perth

India were blown away at the WACA on Day 1 of the Perth Test. Dave Warner score a blistering century off just 69 balls in reply to India's 161 all out. This has been India's problem all along. The batting has been below par, and has typically been 50-100 runs shy of where they ought to be in a given set of conditions. After being put in to bat on a WACA pitch with plenty of juice, India's openers were separated early for the umpteenth time in recent overseas Tests and the middle order, while it showed glimpses of its old ability to produce periods of calm batting, kept making fatal errors, just when they were beginning to look good. The inclusion of Vinay Kumar, and the suspect batting technique of Mahendra Singh Dhoni meant that India have a longish tail in this game.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Haddin Deserves ICC Sanction - II

As you can see from the comments on my post about Brad Haddin's comments (and the response I had on my twitter feed), most people seem to see it in one of two ways. These are, I would wager, the usual, formulaic ways of seeing it.

1. The Aussies think this is a whinge - that India are losing, and hence looking for ways to get back at Australia.
2. That this is a severe reading of Haddin's comments, which, lets face it, are the usual Aussie fare about the opposition. After all, Australia have never been shy of offering their opinions about their opponents.

The first, I must dismiss out of hand. I have no affiliation with BCCI or India's Test team. Indeed, part of my point is that India are not likely to say anything to the referee. This is implicit in my claim that the ICC Code of Conduct be applied to Haddin, since, if you are familiar with the rules, this is possible if either the Umpires or the Indian team lodges a complaint.* India's preferred mode of responding, entirely predictably, seems to be to take the sporting high ground (in a manner of speaking anyway) and mock Brad Haddin's wicketkeeping.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Haddin Deserves ICC Sanction

Update: I should add one clarification to what follows (please see Russ's comment below). I do not preclude the possibility that specific individuals can fall out when the going's tough. It happens all the time in every walk of life, and a high pressure environment like international cricket is especially prone to these tensions. However, Haddin's claim was aimed at a far more generic group - the Indian squad as a whole. He said it as though this is a property of the Indian team in general. As I say below, the claim, if made about specific individuals, could actually be shown to be true, and is thus eminently defensible. But the general claim about the team is not.

Test Bowling Statistics

Over the past few months, I published a couple of new statistical measures for international cricketers. I now have a reasonable complete set of measures, at least as far as my concerns go. These concerns were related to how a player's situation within his team (and his teammates abilities) can be brought in to any discussion about the player's quality or merit. My ambition is modest - it is to give readers and observers of the game some way to make sense of what Anil Kumble's bowling average of 29 in a team like India (1990-2008), might mean in comparison to Shane Warne's bowling average of 25 in a team like Australia (1992-2007)? Anil Kumble's qualitative limitations compared to Warne (lack of turn etc.) are well known.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

An Opinion About A Line Up In Disarray

The verdict seems to be nearly universal. India's batting is in disarray. With the exception of Sachin Tendulkar, every batsman in the top 7 has struggled in Australia, and with the exception of a rapidly ageing (in a cricketing sense) Rahul Dravid, every batsman is in long term trouble. There may be signs that Gautam Gambhir is beginning to require some discipline around off stump. And there may be signs that VVS Laxman may be back amongst the runs with his 66. Lets not forget that he made 176 only 4 Tests ago. I wrote in my series preview that India have an age problem in their batting - their batsmen are all getting old.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Dale Steyn At 50 Tests

The Boxing Day Test at Kingsmead, Durban was Dale Steyn's 50th Test Match. Here is a look at the world's most prolific wicket takers at 50 Tests. This list includes all bowlers who had at least 100 Test wickets to their name in their first 50 Tests. It also shows their Performance and Value scores after 50 Tests.  For comparison, I have also included the bowling averages (T Ave) and strike rate (T SR) for their respective teams over those 50 Tests, each bowler's workload WL (share of the total bowling by his team) and each bowler's share of his team's wicket WS.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Tendulkar Is Surer When He Is Defending

The argument, as I understand it, is that whenever Sachin Tendulkar starts to think about blocking everything, he gets out. I don't think this is true. He gets out far more often when he's playing shots. I suppose people think that getting out for 20 in 80 balls is far worse than getting out for 55 in 80 balls when you are trying to save a Test Match. The story for the England tour for Tendulkar was the story of pretty, strokeful innings (until the Oval Test, where he played a cussed innings) usually followed by an unforced error because he played one shot too many. This tweet from the blogger Mahek Vyas encapsulates the dominant view about this matter.
"8(43), 62(66), 10(32) The 3 phases of Tendulkar's innings. No prizes for guessing in which phase he looked least likely to get out."
The following is based on my recollection and Cricinfo's ball by ball commentary.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Australia Return A Favor

On Day 2 of the Sydney Test Match in 2004, India scored 366/2, progressing from an overnight score of 284/3 to end Day 2 on 650/5. VVS Laxman made 178 and Sachin Tendulkar reached 220 not out, on his way to an eventual 241 not out. On Day 2 at Sydney in 2012, Australia have returned the favor, taking advantage of a flat wicket and an Indian attack that couldn't find a pair of bowlers who could exert some control over proceedings even for a spell of play during the day. 366/1 on the day means that Australia's position in this Test is nearly unassailable after only six sessions of play. With India's batsmen in indifferent touch, it looks like India will go into the third Test of series in Australia with no hope of winning the series for the second series in a row.

I have nothing to add to yesterday's post about why I think this might be happening. What was notable about India's effort in this bowling innings is that the four specialist bowlers could not, between them cobble together even the first 80 overs of the innings. Virat Kohli and Virender Sehwag  bowled a dozen overs between overs 60 and 80 in the Indian innings. This suggests a basic failing - that India's fast bowlers cannot be relied upon to bowl 20 good overs in a day. It would be easy to blame Dhoni for bowling Kohli and Sehwag. However, the fact is that come the 60th over, Umesh Yadav had bowled 14 overs for 74 runs, while Ishant Sharma had bowled 16 overs for 74 runs. Ishant had failed to bowl a maiden, while Umesh Yadav had bowled only 2. Zaheer, by contrast had bowled 18 overs for 58 runs, with three wickets to his name.

Fast Bowling remains a problem, not because they're not getting wickets, but because they're unable to control the scoring. India's limitations have been exposed in the last 12 months, and they are deep ones with no short term solution in sight.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

An Analysis Of India's Current Predicaments: Playing For Off Stump

If you are the type of cricket observer that is interested in finding out whose "fault" or "responsibility" it is that India are struggling, then this post is not for you. But if you are wondering why it is happening, then what follows might be of interest. I don't promise a definitive answer, but I will offer a way to think through it.

The figures are there for everyone to see. In the last 13 months, India have toured South Africa, West Indies, England and now Australia. I know a lot of people are saying that India won't play another overseas tour until December 2013, but even the most unsympathetic observer will have to admit that this has been a relentless set of tours, especially given the fact that they have come in the same period as a small tournament called the World Cup, which was played in India. The batting has not reached 500, has crossed 400 only once, and 300 thrice in these 11 Test matches (not counting Sydney). Three Tests have ended in a draw, two of them, because of rain. India have won 2 Tests and lost 6 in this period. Ten years ago, this would have been considered a very good record. in 2011, it is a cause for concern.

Nearly every single Test Match has been played on a result pitch. A result pitch is one which offers the bowlers something all the time, either off the wicket or in the air. More on this later. This string of 11 consecutive result pitches is unusual.