Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Curious Case Of Virender Sehwag

Virender Sehwag has never been a successful ODI and Test batsman at the same time. Periods of prolific Test Match play have been marked by erratic ODI play and vice versa. A look at 15 innings splits for Sehwag's career makes this quite clear. As the table below shows, Sehwag's periods of Test dominance have coincided with periods of ODI struggles and vice versa. Most recently, this has been evident in the period after his come back to the India team in 2008. 2009 was a fine Test Match year for Sehwag, while in ODI cricket, he went through a slump, before recovering in ODIs in the first half of 2010 - a period where he had a modest Test results. There are early signs that today Sehwag is beginning a period of modest results which rivals his troubles in 2007.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Vaughan Should Be Penalized For His Mediocrity

Former England captain Michael Vaughan criticized India's national selectors for picking a team without a specialist spinner for the first of England's three warm up games in the lead up to the Pataudi Trophy Tests in November. The hypocrisy of this is obvious since it has long been a practice in England for key county players to take a break in non-championship warm up games against touring sides. County sides that face up against visitors who seek practice are nearly always made up of second XI players. Further, he does not know what the make up of the XI for the other two warm up games will be. England are scheduled to play Mumbai A from November 3 - 5, followed by another team in Ahmedabad from November 8 - 11. These teams have not been announced yet. England are scheduled to play a warm up game at Ahmedabad, a week before the first Test at Ahmedabad.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Logic Of T20

Sporting contests have an internal logic. The value of such a logic is that it makes it possible for us to identify good performances and bad ones - good plays and bad plays - plays that will produce good results most of the time, as opposed to only occasionally. Thus, for example, in a Test Match, a fast bowler who gets a wicket of a specialist batsman caught at point off a full blooded square cut, having bowled a short and wide delivery, is a very different form of dismissal than a fast bowler who traps a specialist batsman on the hook shot, or in the slips after drawing him forward trying to defend his off stump. The reason for thinking that the former (square cut) was a fluke, but that the latter two were qualitatively better is that it is far less likely for the former delivery to result in a wicket than the latter two types of deliveries. We often conclude that the fast bowler got a wicket off a long hop in the first case. There is a fairly good concept of a good delivery and a bad delivery in Test Cricket. Bowling to one's field is considered good, while straying on to leg stump with 3 slips, two gullies, cover and mid-off is just that - straying. These judgments are based on an expectation of how a batsman will play, and what a batsman is likely to find easier or harder. Hence, in Test Cricket, we also have the idea of the rare batsman who can hit the good ball for runs.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

A Controversy In Baseball: Judgments About In-Field Fly Balls

An episode which will find resonance with cricket fans. We are typically quite critical of cricket fans at grounds (especially in the Indian sub-continent) who throw things on the field when they are upset as a group. The controversy itself is interesting, but the crowd's behavior is a revealing aside. Remember that people who can afford tickets to major league baseball games (especially games like the one game post season play-off which is being played for the first time) are typically wealthy, upper income Americans. Even the cheapest tickets for such games typically cost upwards of 50 dollars, with the better seats (near home plate or first base or third base) going for entire orders of magnitude more. Yet, these people responded to a controversial umpiring call the same way that a spectators at Eden or Wankhede might have responded to a controversial decision against India in the years gone by. Perhaps being poor has little to do with how fans react to defeat.