Friday, March 30, 2012

New Ground Broken In Cricket In South Africa - India T20

Sachin Tendulkar reached 100 international hundreds. But now, a far more significant, and far more interesting cricketing milestone has also been reached. It is a milestone which tells us just how much T20 cricket has changed the game, and just how tenuous its claim to being cricket is.

For the first time in 5551 international matches - Tests, ODIs and now T20s, a team has won a cricket match without taking a single wicket. It signals the extent to which T20 cricket has skewed the contest between bat and ball in favor of the bat.

To say that T20 games (or in general, an increasingly smaller, stricter limit on the number of overs in an innings) favor the bat more than longer forms of the game (50 overs, 3 day matches, 4 day matches, 5 day matches etc), is to merely point out an obvious outcome. A more interesting and less obvious aspect of shortened innings length, is that it reduces the intensity of the contest between bat and ball.

This is true if intensity is understood to depend on a concern for consequences - if the merit of the ball is to matter. Because the contest is so short, and because batting sides have 10 wickets to play with over 20 overs, they don't have to care about the merit of the ball. They would be fools to do so.

A lot of cricket is played these days. But only some of it is a contest between bat and ball.

Here are some posts that reflect my difficulties with T20 cricket.

On Rahul Dravid T20 debut
On T20 Cricket generally (From February 2008)

A couple of posts on Tendulkar batting in T20 cricket

Some posts about lazy reporting that simultaneously legitimizes and misrepresents the T20 game
Rayudu's Miandad Moment
On a "gutsy" innings by Paul Collingwood
On a "fluent" innings by Kevin Pietersen
On the description of a leg break by Adil Rashid
On a dismissal by Anil Kumble in the IPL

Finally, an argument against watching the IPL

Monday, March 26, 2012

An Alternative Batting Statistic For Century Counts And Batting Average

In late 2011, I published two new statistics that measure Test batsmanship - Performance and Value. Performance measures when a batsman has scored his Test runs, while Value measures the value of a batsman to his team. Two batsmen with similar or even identical batting averages could have very different Performance and Value scores depending on when they scored their runs and how strong their respective teams are. The recent interest in the milestone of a 100 international hundreds has also brought to light the largely arbitrary nature of the century as a milestone. Sachin Tendulkar has made 100 international hundreds, and 161 international half centuries. 28 of those 161 half centuries are scores from 90 and 99. So, if we considered 90 to be a milestone instead of 100, Tendulkar would, statistically at least, have to be seen as being far further ahead of his contemporaries (and predecessors) than we currently imagine him to be. His 50 to 90 conversion rate is significantly superior to his 50 to 100 conversion rate (which is already among the best of all time).

My friend Amogh told me about the Hirsch Index, which is a measure of productivity and impact of a scholar through a measure of his citations, and suggested that it could be used as a model for a measure for batting. If a scholar has a total of n publications, then his h-index such  that he has produced h publications that have been cited at least h times. We decided to use this basic idea to develop such a score for Test batsmen.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Podcast on DRS

I did a podcast with Subash Jayaram at The Cricket Couch. Thanks to Subash for the carefully edited podcast which makes me sound way better than I normally do (I still sound terrible, but thats my fault, not Subash's). Thanks also to Bagrat for transcribing the podcast.

This is my second podcast with Subash. The first one, also about DRS, is here.

Subash also has several other very interesting podcasts that deal with consequential issues related to cricket.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No Sanctions For Swann

Unless Sri Lanka Cricket lodge an official appeal with ICC Cricket Operations, at which point the ICC will appoint a Match Referee to look into the issue.

This is what the ICC's Colin Gibson told me via email yesterday night. The relevant portion of Gibson's email is in full below:
The ICC Code is applicable to the England players.

However at a tour match, we do not have a match referee at the match. Accordingly, the offence could be reported to ICC Cricket Operations Department who would then appoint a match referee to determine the matter.

We have not received a report as yet
I first asked Colin Gibson about this on Sunday. He replied to me almost immediately saying "The tour matches are under the auspices of slc". I then pointed out the relevant rule from the ICC's Code to Gibson, after which he sent me the above response.

Make of that what you will..

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Swann Deserves Sanction Under Code Of Conduct

England's Graeme Swann has accused a Sri Lankan batsman of cheating after England's tour game against Sri Lanka Board XI. Swann has been quoted by Stephen Brenkley of The Independent as saying: 
"It was very difficult to take because it was so blatantly out. I'm just glad I live in an age where DRS is in place. The thing that annoyed the players on the field, and annoyed me, was that the umpire was unsighted but the batsman stood there knowing 100 per cent that he was out and chose to cheat, in my view. 
I think he then opened himself up to the level of abuse that was coming to him. To be honest, I'm glad Straussy was there because I'm sure it would have gone further than that had we not had someone with a bit of intelligence and nous to calm things down. 
It was just cheating in my view, but we live in an age where cheating is accepted in Test cricket. If people don't walk and think they can get away with it, nobody seems to say anything. But I don't agree with that."
Quite apart from being fairly rich on Swann's part (England's batsmen don't walk either), accusing an opposing player of being a cheat is surely at odds with 2.1.7 of the Code of Conduct (pdf), which specifies the following:
2.1.7 Public criticism of, or inappropriate comment in relation to an incident occurring in an International Match or any Player, Player Support Personnel, Match official or team participating in any International Match, irrespective of when such criticism or inappropriate comment is made.
As the ICC's Code makes clear in 1.5.2 of the same document, a player representing a National Cricket Federation's representative side (which England is) is automatically bound by the Code of Conduct even in a tour match. The player from the domestic team is not bound by the Code.
1.5.2 where a representative side of a National Cricket Federation participates in an International Tour Match against a domestic or invitational team, for the purposes of their participation in such International Tour Match: all Players and Player Support Personnel representing the National Cricket Federation’s representative side are automatically bound by, required to comply with, and shall submit themselves to the jurisdiction of this Code of Conduct; and all players or player support personnel representing the domestic or invitational team shall not be bound by this Code of Conduct. Instead, such individuals will be bound by, required to comply with, and shall submit themselves to the jurisdiction of the relevant National Cricket Federation’s own applicable rules of conduct.
Obviously, the batsman is well within his rights to stand his ground if he's not sure that a catch has been completed. He is not required to take the fielder's word for it.

Graeme Swann will probably get away with this, but that is only because the ICC is unlikely to enforce their own rules. Such selective enforcement compromises the rules and does not serve the ICC's interests. In this instance, there is enough evidence to at least warrant a hearing. This lack of enforcement seems to be most common when it comes to 2.1.7.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

ICC, Vendors On Errors And Mistakes In DRS

In our sub-continental obsession with the Asia Cup and Sachin Tendulkar's 100th 100, we have missed events of enormous significance for Cricket in the ongoing New Zealand v South Africa series. They relate to the Decision review system. The press in England has been silent about Kallis's views as well, for reasons that I do not understand. My own fledgling analysis - a comparison of the number of reads that my post about DRS from earlier this week to the number of reads that my posts about Tendulkar's stats from yesterday, tells me that DRS related events have had no chance of making it into cricketing discourse in the face of Tendulkar's 100th 100. DRS is the most important issue in Cricket right now in my view (apart from continued allegations of gambling syndicates bribing cricketers).

Friday, March 16, 2012

On (Personal) Milestones

It is a divide as old as the game itself. It is best encapsulated by this tweet that appeared on my twitter time line today. There must be hundreds, if not thousands of others like it. It says
Incredible achievement by Sachin Tendulkar but obsession with personal milestones is holding back India as a team. They lost the match.
I have little doubt, as I suspect do most people that the fact that he was chasing his 100th 100 weighed on Tendulkar's mind as he made his way past 50 at Mirpur yesterday. While, as Tendulkar said, the wicket did slow down, and the bowling was reasonably tight in the powerplay (where singles are not available easily because the field is up), it is also intriguing that despite the fact that Tendulkar and Kohli were already well set and in a long stand by the 20-25th over, they did not take the batting powerplay until they finally had to between overs 36-40. Having watched Tendulkar for over a decade now, had this been any other innings, he might have taken bigger risks and chased the big shot more readily in the first 40 overs.

Tendulkar's Batting Career In Aggregates

The sheer magnitude of Sachin Tendulkar's career is hard to understand. Over 23 years, Tendulkar has played 763 innings for India and reached a century 100 times. He has reached a half century 260 times. He has remained undefeated 73 times. That means that he has been dismissed less than 7 times for each century that he has scored. The next best record among batsmen who have made 10000 runs in their career (there are 59 such players) is Mathew Hayden's. Hayden was dismissed on average about 8 times for each century that he made. Only Jacques Kallis (so far) and Viv Richards reached 50 more frequently than Tendulkar has.

His conversion rate of 50 to 100 is the best among these batsmen. Amazingly, of the 160 innings that he has finished after scoring between 50 and 99 runs, he has reached 90 28 times! The next most prolific scorer of 90s, Rahul Dravid, has done it 14 times.

And yet, on a slowing, dying wicket, Sachin Tendulkar labored over the last 30 runs of his 100th international hundred.

It is a milestone that measures longevity and versatility. It is not a record. Scoring 50 centuries in each format is a more meaningful cricketing record.

But what a milestone!

Full table after the jump

Monday, March 12, 2012

DRS: Accuracy, Judgment And The End Of The Umpire

Jacques Kallis had this to say about ball-tracking recently:
"How accurate it is, I don't know. Have decisions improved? I think they have but we have got to accept that there are probably one or two that, as cricketers, we will think 'I'm not so sure', but maybe that's an improvement on absolute shockers which is what you wanted to take out of the game. We are getting that right to a degree but I am not convinced how accurate it really is."
The great South African all rounder's comments illustrate a crucial conceptual fault line in the current implementation of the DRS. The DRS - the Decision Review System consists of specific approved technologies which are deployed in a specific communications protocol which specifies what kind of questions can be asked, who can ask them, how they are to be answered, when can they be asked etc.

The ICC's General Manager for Cricket, Kallis's former teammate and South African wicketkeeper Dave Richardson says that Kallis is wrong when he claims that 99% of cricketers will say that ball tracking is not accurate. Of the ball tracking system, Richardson says:
"The bottom line is that they are going to be more consistent and more accurate than the human eye, that is just natural,"
There are two sets of distinction that are important here. The first is the difference between a reliable system and an accurate system. The second, is the difference between an error and a mistake.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Essence Of Dravid

Rahul Dravid is a difficult cricketer to write about. He is not a genius like Lara or an instinctive marauder Gilchrist or Sehwag. He isn't an enforcer like McGrath or Kumble either. The distinctively Australian confidence in strokeplay seen in Hayden or Ponting is not to be found in Dravid. He does not possess a distinctive style like Chanderpaul, neither has he been in a public battle with himself like Ganguly. He is not God. He possesses no signature strokes and his batsmanship leaves nobody but the most ardent cricketing bookworm breathless.

What then would it mean for a batsman or a cricketer to be Dravidesque? What makes Dravid, Dravid?

The Finest Essay On Dravid

From Mrs. Dravid.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

On Kalra's Point By Point Rebuttal

I looked carefully in Kalra's long response for a actual rebuttal of my original post. I failed to find it. As those of you who have read that post will know, its point was not to say that the selectors were right in some or all of the decisions that Kalra takes issue with. It was that he does not show that they were wrong. It was that he fails to acknowledge the limits that exist to being able to show that a selectorial decision is wrong on the merits. It is from this view that I took issue with his old and tired line about the selectors being "jokers". As I wrote in the first paragraph of my post (in an admittedly long sentence):
Every selectorial decision from the exclusion of Yusuf Pathan from the list of 37 centrally contracted players, to the selection of Varun Aaron ahead of Umesh Yadav from the Mumbai Test, to the team management's decision to play VVS Laxman ahead of Rohit Sharma at Adelaide, to the presence of Rahul Sharma as third spinner in the Test squad in the home series against West Indies, to the non-selection, again, by the team management, of Manoj Tiwary in the playing XI in the tri-series in Australia, is paraded by Kalra as an example, no, as an equally egregious example of selectorial incompetence. (emphasis added)

Friday, March 09, 2012

Gaurav Kalra Responds

Over a series of direct messages on twitter, Gaurav Kalra, Sports Editor CNN-IBN demanded that I post his "word-by-word" rebuttal on my blog. He refused my suggestion that while I would do so in any case, he should also post it on his.

So here it is - "without a comma changed" as the title of his email to me commands:


While making my case about the problems with India’s selection panel I was well aware of the unenviable nature of the job. A selector can never really please all the people all the time. Each marginal call has an equally vociferous contrarian view. The intention of the piece was to point towards a trend of feeble leadership and lack of vision. It was to highlight the subservient, hands-off nature of this panel that bows meekly to the whims of an adamant team management. The examples quoted were to highlight what I believed was an unmistakable trend. I was prepared to be challenged but the ferocity of this piece by Kartikeya Date was unexpectedly enjoyable!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Statistic That Defined Dravid

Rahul Dravid has made 10,000 runs in both formats of the game, reached fifty ninety nine times in Tests and ninety five times in ODI cricket. He made 36 Test hundreds and 12 ODI hundreds. He made nearly 24000 First Class runs. But the defining statistic of Rahul Dravid's Test career is 123 - the number of deliveries he faced per dismissal in Tests. Only Jacques Kallis, among his contemporaries has a comparable Survival Rate - 126. Tendulkar's survival rate in 103, Ponting - 91.

Think about it. Dravid faced 123 balls per dismissal - thats just over 20 overs. Given that India's average Test innings during Dravid's career has last 115 overs, and the average batsman in the top 7 positions in India's Test team lasted 83 deliveries during his career, this is a phenomenal record. In Australia, England and South Africa, Dravid faced a 110 balls per dismissal, the average Indian specialist batsman (1-7 in the order) survived 76 balls. India lasted 105 overs per team innings in these countries.

Dravid is the finest number three batsman India have had. At his best he was difficult to dismiss, but even when he wasn't, he was not easy to dismiss. It is no surprise that he retires with a Test average in excess of 52. Only Javed Miandad and Brian Lara have played over a 100 Tests and ended their careers with a better average.

Here are some recent posts about Rahul Dravid. A great great player...

On Rahul Dravid's retirement from ODI cricket in 2011
During the 2011 England tour
An old post from 2007 when Dravid quit the Test captaincy

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A Reply To Gaurav Kalra

The Sports Editor of the Indian cable news channel CNN-IBN  makes a very good point about the selectors in his recent article. Kalra writes "If after a dismal one-day series where the world champions in the format finish third out of three teams the panel's chairman "assures" you that no one has been dropped, you know a critical function is in the hands of circus clowns." This is also the only reasonable sentence in the entire essay which otherwise is filled with pablum like "Selectors aren't merely meant to select, they are also meant to drop" and demonstrates a level of analysis which is crude even by the standards one has come to expect of the professional cricket press. Every selectorial decision from the exclusion of Yusuf Pathan from the list of 37 centrally contracted players, to the selection of Varun Aaron ahead of Umesh Yadav from the Mumbai Test, to  the team management's decision to play VVS Laxman ahead of Rohit Sharma at Adelaide, to the presence of Rahul Sharma as third spinner in the Test squad in the home series against West Indies, to the non-selection, again, by the team management, of Manoj Tiwary in the playing XI in the tri-series in Australia, is paraded by Kalra as an example, no, as an equally egregious example of selectorial incompetence. As the author asserts, "Bizarre selections have become a permanent feature with this panel.."