Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Hyped Up One-Sided Rivalry

11-Nil: That's the current scoreline in the most hyped up, yet surprisingly most one-sided rivalry on the biggest stages of world cricket. Since 1992, India & Pakistan have played each other 11 times in World Cups (ODI & T20), and each and every time India has come out trumps. The venues change, the conditions change, the protagonists change, yet the final result has always been the same.

Sydney, Bangalore, Manchester, Centurion, Durban, Johannesburg, Mohali, Colombo, Mirpur, Adelaide, Kolkata. It the World Cup. India and Pakistan come to play. India wins. As simple as that. 6-0 in ODIs and 5-0 including one win via bowl out in T20 World Cups.
Yet, when one compares the overall head-to-head record it reads, 72-51 in Pakistan's favor in ODIs while the T20 record is 6-1 in India's. Given this context, 11-0 is has now become too big a margin to be just a statistical anomaly?

India vs Pakistan provides the marquee clash of any cricket tournament. After all, the countries have a shared bitter history, the Partition still rankles many, while multiple wars have been fought. The cricketing rivalry is sometimes used as a metaphor for the larger issues (which it should not be). And hence the hype. Although from a purely cricketing perspective, Australia has already replaced Pakistan as our arch-rivals. Yet, when the sub-continental neighbors clash, it doesn't get any bigger . 

While the scoreline might not suggest this, the games have always lived up to the hyped up expectations and left lots of indelible memories for the fans on both sides. The Javed Miandad kangaroo jumps, the Prasad-Sohail face-off, the Sachin-Sehwag Centurion assault, Manchester played in the Kargil backdrop, the bowl-out, the Misbah scoop, Joginder Sharma's last over, the Virat Kohli gems, the mauka ad. Wonderful memories, if you are an India fan, nightmares for the Pakistanis. And yesterday's game at Eden Gardens was no different.

Here are the power-plays from the Kolkata game.
  • Based on pure talent, Pakistan have always had the better bowling attack, India the better batting line-up. No better example than this picture from the pre-game ceremony at Kolkata.

That is over 2200 international wickets on the left and 65,000 international runs on the right side of the picture.
  • It might only have been a group match, but the game needed its own opening ceremony. Only thing missing was the Wagah Border gate closing ceremony. Even if it came at the cost of cutting overs. 
  • There is Virat Kohli and there are other batsmen. In limited overs cricket, there is simply no peer in completing the assigned job. Pitch conditions, bowlers, the struggles of his fellow batsmen simply do not matter to him.
  • Dhoni's miscalculation. And I am not talking about his handling of the bowlers (Ashwin not completing his quota). He likes to complete a win with a six. He hit one seemingly thinking that the job was done, yet one run still had to be scored. Probably the pressures of the big game telling on Captain Cool as well.
  • There was a prequel to the game with the ladies playing in Kotla. The match was evenly poised but the rain Gods did a South Africa on the Indians. Result - suddenly Pakistani women team getting more attention and respect in Pakistan.

In the end Cricket and India won :D

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Arbit Stats #52

Irani Trophy 2015-16: Mumbai vs Rest of India.

603 - The highest score made by a losing team in a first-class game in India.

Rest of India seemed to be down for the count after Mumbai had obtained a 297 runs first innings lead. When Mumbai chose not to enforce the follow-on, the game seemed to be meandering towards a dull draw. But Mumbai's collapse in the second innings brought in some drama into the game. The target was still humongous, with Rest needing 480 odd in 4 sessions but their batsmen kept their cool. The batting unit fired collectively with five of the batsmen crossing the 50 mark and the target was achieved with just a few balls to spare.

In all, a great advertisement for the domestic first-class game.