Monday, September 22, 2014

Missing In Action : Indian cricket @ Asian Games

Cricket has rarely appeared at Multi-sports events. Its limited playing base combined with the long playing duration (5-day Tests) has ensured that the chances of appearing at a multi-sport event was rare.

Cricket's only Olympics appearance was in the 1900 Paris Games with Great Britain beating France in  the final which incidentally was also the only game of the competition. It was almost a century later in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games 1998 that cricket reappeared. This time the format was the 50 over ODIs. The Commonwealth Games would have been the most appropriate setting for cricket with all the big teams from the Commonwealth. However there were issues of country boundaries with Wales as a separate entity, the individuals islands of the West Indies having to appear as separate teams. However the biggest dampener was the lack of enthusiasm of the various cricket boards. And hence cricket never reappeared at the Commonwealth Games.

However the advent of T20 format and the unexpected enthusiasm of the Olympic Committee of Asia has made way for cricket's entry in  the Asian Games. And this has resulted in cricket being played in China and South Korea. An excellent platform for spreading the game across the region. However the big boys of the cricketing world do not seem to be enthused with the idea. BCCI have stayed off completely. Pakistan and Sri Lanka seem to be reluctant participants. However the likes of Bangladesh and the Associates and Affiliates certainly like the idea. After all its probably the biggest stage for them.

Test cricket is an exclusive club and the current members seem unwilling to take on new ones. ICC talks about making cricket a global game but seems to have two different parameters for the Big 10 and the others. There is a strange reluctance to let the numbers spread at the very top level. Probably its the fear of losing control of the cash cow that is the Indian cricket audience thats prompting this idea.

There was an ongoing Champions League (probably the most useless "international" tournament). The BCCI could have easily sent a youth (U-23) or an A team, but it chose not to. And more difficult to fathom are the reasons for the non-appearance of the Women's team, which did not have any other international commitments.

Whatever the reason, Indian fans have lost a chance to cheer for their team in the Asian Games. And BCCI has done a great disservice to the Indian sports fans. Its almost as if the cricket team is BCCI's and not India's (which is the legal reality). So they might as well stop associating the Indian flag for the Men in Blue.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

RIP Norman Gordon

Norman Gordon (South Africa) (1911-2014)

Cricket's first and till date only ever centurion against time bids farewell.

Well played Sir.

The longest lived Test cricketer - a record which will stand for some time.

Arbit Stats #34

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

India in England, 2014 - Numbers Don't Lie


Chart above shows the Test-by-Test batting average comparison for Pataudi Trophy. And while it is often said that numbers hide more than they reveal, the above chart tells the entire series story.

1st Test - India & England both had their moments, both tails showed fight. And India ground out a draw with a fighting 3rd innings display taking out the time. England marginally ahead in the averages on account of their small first innings lead.

2nd Test - It was a low scoring match and India were ahead. With time in hand India won.

3rd Test - The one that changed it all. Big score by England, India could not avoid follow-on. England did not enforce the follow-on and then ran through the Indian 2nd innings. Hence the big gulf in the averages.

4th & 5th Tests - India bat first, score smaller and smaller. England score bigger and bigger. 2nd time around India go worse. And England are not required to bat again.

While England picked up their batting after Lords (and their bowling as well), India went lower and lower.
Overall series averages: England - 43.69; India - 25.74. A difference of nearly 18 runs/wicket certainly indicates a wide gulf in class of the two batting units.

Overall, a terrible performance by Indian batsmen.

Monday, August 18, 2014

India in England, 2014


After the 2nd Test in Lord's, England was the team in disarray. Cook's captaincy was in question, Prior had taken a possibly career-ending break, the attitude and form of many senior players was in question, the batting had been found out by India's seam bowling, there was no proper spinning option. All signs pointed to a prolonged summer of agony for the English. While the Indian  fans exulted. This was going to be the balm of the pain caused by the summer and winter of 2011. 

And then...
After the 5th Test, just vice versa. Replace England and its personnel by their counterparts in the Indian team. The entire script turned on its head when Ishant Sharma's injury replacement Pankaj Singh had Cook dropped by Ravindra Jadeja. One moment changed the entire course of a series.

Can't really even begin to analyse what went wrong as the mind is numbed by the manner of the defeats handed out in the last 3 Tests. So venting out my feelings through powerpoint (picture above).

After such a performance, drastic measures are required. And not just changing the players or the captain. The coaching staff should be the first one on the firing line. But will the stubborn Indian cricket management respond?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Arbit Stats 32: Duck Tales

India vs England, 4th Test, Old Trafford
India win the the Toss, elect to bat first and have a nightmarish innings.

Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneswar Kumar & Pankaj Singh all got out without troubling the scorers. And with this India claimed the record for most ducks (6) in the first innings having elected to bat first after winning the toss.

Also they share the unwanted record of the most ducks in a Test innings with South Africa and Bangladesh.

Monday, July 21, 2014

300

300th entry on this blog. Coinciding with an amazing win at Lords with India bowlers bouncing out the opposition. So pardon my self-indulgence for feeling like this



A time for some self congratulations. The scoring rate has certainly slowed down but the posts will keep on coming.

But this post is about this little cricket blog. 
  • Named after Ian Bell's tendency to score centuries only if another batsman had scored one in the innings. An anomaly which Bell (also named the patron saint of this blog) has since corrected. 
  • Also the only dedicated blog covering Jharkhand cricket and its cricketers. 
  • Arbit Stats which appear with their own random frequency. 
  • However what this blog is not? A newspaper trying to cover every occurrence in the cricketing world.

300 posts in almost 5 years of dedicated cricket blogging. Some of the posts have managed to make an appearance on other forums as well. Special thanks to forum moderators.
  • Die Hard Cricket Fans (Link)
  • Sportskeeda (Link)

Thanks to all the readers across the forums for keeping the blogs going. 

Next target Lara's 400 mark :P

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Arbit Stats 31: Sting in the Tail

The Arbit Statistics return after a long hiatus. There were many reasons for this. Lack of motivation & laziness to write a post being the prime cause of this gap. Lack of cricket and arbit stats were certainly not one of them. But with India touring England for the fullest of the full tours, some arbitrary statistics were bound to appear, alongwith the enthusiasm to note them down.

Test Match No. 2128: England vs India at Trent Bridge, presented something never seen or heard before in the long history of the game. On a lifeless pitch more akin to Nagpur than Nottingham (a metaphor I have borrowed from a forgotten source), both sets of bowlers managed to prise out 9 wickets for a reasonable score. And then lightning struck. TWICE. First India's Numbers 9 & 11 Bhuvaneshwar & Shami helped themselves to their maiden Test half centuries, reached off consecutive balls of James Anderson.In the process they also picked up a century partnership for themselves. Guess this must have really hurt Anderson's pride. So when the England number 11 came out to bat with England in a lot of trouble, he proceeded to get his own maiden first class half century and alongwith Joe Root also managed to compile the biggest 10th wicket Test partnership of all time.

So Bhuvi, Shami, Root & Jimmy combined together and against each other to make this the first Test match ever to feature two 100+ 10th wicket partnerships. Well, everything does happen for the first time.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mankading & "Spirit of Cricket"

Mankading - the act of a bowler running out the non-striker batsman before bowling the ball has always been a source of needless controversy. 

In fact for some weird reason it has become a test of the "sportsman spirit" of a bowler who does not do the "Mankad". Cortney Walsh has received a medal for not running out Salim Yousuf. But if the bowler does Mankad, like Sachitra Senanayake did to Jos Buttler, all hell breaks lose. The bowler and the fielding captain are accused of having destroyed "the spirit of cricket" - the greatest crime imaginable in the gentlemans's game.

Well here are my two bits on Mankading.
It is within the laws of the game. In fact there is a specific law for the situation, hence no ambiguity is possible. Law 42(15) states - "The bowler is permitted, before entering his delivery stride, to attempt to run out the non-striker. Whether the attempt is succesful or not, the ball shall not count as one of the over. If the bowler fails to run out the non-striker, the umpire shall call and signal Dead ball as soon as possible". 

So if there exists a specific law which states what are the consequences of a bowler breaking the stumps with the non-striker outside his crease, then why the hue and cry? The "spirit of cricket" has already been murdered many a time (Fixing, Corruption, Walking/Not walking etc.) by different sets of players, officials and administrators. Guess that is why it exists in "spirit" form.

Here the batsman was wandering outside the crease and with run-out decisions sometimes become a matter of TV frames, then it does become an advantage for the non-striker to back up as far ahead as possible. In this case, Buttler had been warned twice by Senanayake in his previous over. (Which is where the matter of cricket's spirit should rest, which seemingly is not the case). And when Buttler was found wandering out again he was run-out. A result very rightly deserved. 

So the right decision was taken on action justified and well within the laws and more importantly the previous over Senanayake having shown the proper "spirit" also, guess Buttler should have nothing to complain about. Don't see any justifications for the hue and cry it has raised.  Nor do I see why the batsman is being portrayed as a victim, when its his own actions which are to be blamed for his fate.

To me its clear, Senanayake and the rest were well within their rights to run-out Buttler. And no harm was caused to the so called "spirit of the game".

Closing Notes - a couple of interesting exhibits on Mankading
Exhibit A - The original report on Mankading

Exhibit B - Chris Gayle showing "spirit" of game. Again the dancing might not be agreeable to the believers in the Gentlemen's game.


Now its up to ICC to either (a) tinker with the laws, which they love to do a lot; OR (b) tell the players that Mankading does no harm done to the "spirit of cricket" 

Monday, June 2, 2014

IPL7: The AfterThoughts

The 7th edition of the Indian Premier League has come to an end. And Congratulations to Kolkata Knight Riders for their second IPL title. After an embarrassing defeat to Rajasthan in which they lost 6 wickets for 2 runs they have really lifted their game and were deserving winners in the end.

Now the time to note down some after-thoughts (not a review) from this year's IPL.
  • The Impossible Chases - The tougher the ask, the higher the stakes, the more seemingly easy it becomes to chase it down. The team batting second knows the target and also the fact that they can only win if they go slam-bang from the first ball. And apparently this belief is actually carrying them to victory. Examples - KKR chased down 160 in under 15 overs to finish 2nd in the League; Mumbai Indians chased 191 in 14.3 to enter the qualifiers; CSK blitzed 100 in 6 overs in a chase of 227; Rajasthan smashed 65 in 3 overs to win with an over to spare. And it all culminated in the final with KKR chasing down 200.
  • The previous edition of the IPL was under the spot-fixing cloud. This year, thankfully, no such corruption allegations have emerged, as yet (fingers crossed). Though given the Lou Vincent & Player X stories coming out, sceptics want to see everything through tinted glasses. And that is the damage which has been done by the fixers.
  • The IPL unfolds like a story. Its a little long drawn but this year's script had the perfect climax. The events from the last set of league matches down to the final must have been the perfect dream run for the marketing teams.
  • The final stretch also highlighted the importance of the "Indian" part of the IPL. Manan Vohra, Wriddhiman Saha, Manish Pandey, Akshar Patel, Yusuf Pathan & Piyush Chawla in the final; Sehwag & Raina in the eliminator. It was mostly an Indian show towards the end.
  • Congratulations to Yusuf Pathan, for becoming the first player to be part of 3 IPL winning squads - once with Rajasthan and twice with KKR.
  • Special congratulations to Vinay Kumar, Roni Uthappa & Manish Pandey for winning their 4th domestic title of the year - Irani Trophy, Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy & the IPL.
  • Special Mention - Suresh Raina. He is the IPL GOAT (Greatest of All Time). The highest scores across seasons is the most reliable batsman and fielder in IPL with the happy habit of taking key wickets as well. And most importantly performing in crunch matches. The blitzkrieg against Kings XI was one to be remembered, though in a losing cause.
  • The umpiring standards in India are pretty poor. But the umpires are under far greater scrutiny than ever before. Its a tough ask made tougher by the technological hindsight provided to everyone except the people responsible for making decisions.
  • The Club vs Country Conundrum - This is not going to end ever. And the only one who has a right to make a decision is the player concerned. Though the club and the country do both need to have a slightly flexible approach in the matters. Sunil Narine chose to play in the IPL final over joining a West Indies Test camp. He did produce his worst performance of the season. Maybe this off-field drama was to be blamed or maybe he just had a bad day in office. But no player should have to make such choices.
  • And finally a word on the winners - Kolkata Knight Riders was a team made up mostly of India discards. But one by one all the pieces fell in place - Uthappa, Gambhir, Umesh, Chawla, Shakib, Narine, Surya Yadav and Manish Pandey - they became the strongest team in the whole lineup. A couple of them even made their India comebacks.
  • And a word about the final - Sony Max couldn't resist playing Veer Zaara right before the finals :P

So the IPL fest concludes and now back to serious cricket. Tours of Bangladesh and England beckon for the team. Its a good idea to test the bench strength in the Bangladesh ODI series (only good use this hastily arranged series can have).  And then off to a 5-Test series against England. Hopefully results will be drastically different from the 2011 tour. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

IPL7: Notes#3

The League part of the Indian Premier League is over. Congratulations to Kings XI Punjab for winning the League. Oh wait.... the IPL is still not over. The top 4 have to now go through a seemingly complicated (albeit more fair) elimination process to decide the champions of IPL7. 

Some thoughts on the India phase of the league (For UAE phase, click here)
  • Chennai Super Kings are the consistency personified. 7th consecutive knock-out phase entry doesn't surprise anyone.
  • Defending champions Mumbai Indians recovered marvelously from pathetic start to just about enter the knock-outs by the skin of the teeth with net run rate calculations being as much in focus as the actual match result. (Detailed post tomorrow or maybe not)
  • Rajasthan Royals have always been a fan favorite team, in spite of the spot-fixing scandal. They have been unorthodox in their selections also but this time over-experimentation caused an early unexpected end to their campaign.
  • T20 cricket has emboldened batsmen. The bigger the target, the likelihood of it getting chased down somehow becomes higher. With batsmen under no pressure, even 15 an over does not seem too big an ask. KKR, Kings XI, Mumbai Indians all produced one astonishing chase after the other.
  • If CSK as a team are consistency personified, Robin Uthappa was the epitome of a consistent batsman. Nine 40+ innings in a row in a format which is designed to be unpredictable will take some beating.
  • Amit Mishra had a horror tournament after a good return to the national side. But it was as a batsman that he provided the "highlight" of the tournament with this extreme run-out against Rajasthan Royals. (Video)This one was straight from the Inzamam school of run-outs. [Aside - 23 run-out collection here]
  • Apurva Wankhade was fielding in a stadium carrying his name. Would like to know how many similar stadium-player combinations are there.
  • When the batsmen are in a rampaging mood, even the likes of Dale Steyn become lambs to slaughter. Steyn getting hammered twice (by AB de Villiers & Yusuf Pathan) wasn't a pleasant sight to behold. But what was pleasing was the way a smiling Steyn applauded his opponents. The kind of moments which make sports special.
  • Indian seamers stated well, but by the end of the league stage Bhuvaneshwar Kumar was the last man standing. Mohit Sharma was the other one to have enhanced his reputation.
  • As always, the future of Indian batting seems in good hands with Sanju Samson, Karun Nair, Manan Vohra all playing key parts.
Till next time