Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Oram and the digital issue

Jacob Oram is seriously considering amputating his finger to play in the World Cup. I suppose its not the worst bargain in the world; after all, we routinely destroy "billions and billions" of brain cells in our youth by guzzling alcohol (some of us still are) as we try for glory in such mundane pursuits as impressing our peers (er, perhaps Oram is trying to do just that) or the opposite sex (well, perhaps Oram is trying to do that as well). The loss of a finger just seems a bit more visible. Would you, for instance, be willing to give up a small toe, if it mean the chance of featuring in a World Cup winning squad? Mountaineers regularly make those sorts of sacrifices (the ones that suffer from frostbite) - of course, they take a chance, here Oram is undergoing the loss up front. There is also the small matter of making a living; in New Zealand's cricketing setup, things are a little more edgy for the professional cricketer, and a man needs to make his money while he can; as that quote from Jone Tawake indicates, the chance that it could affect future selections, loss of form, endorsement income is perhaps too great. It sounds outrageous but when you look at it a bit closely its not so wierd. People make choices and take chances all the time that are a bit out there (look at rock climbers, skydivers, deep-sea divers) - cricketers are not doing anything close to that, but still, one gets the general idea.

Just one question: why do this for a one-day international tournament? (I'm kidding, I guess, but it does bother me a bit).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Chappell on, well, just about everything

Greg Chappell is never one to shy away from comprehensive answers to the usual journo questions. Here he is, talking away at length about the World Cup. Most of what he says here will be old hat to Indian fans who have heard him speak and write in similar vein throughout his tenure. Given the slightly Aussie-centric focus of this blog in the last few posts, I thought I would merely highlight his closing comments:
Chappell also did not want to read too much into Australia's recent run of losses. "It shows that New Zealand is a good side. It shows that England has made some progress. No doubt it will effect Australia's balance if [Brett] Lee and [Andrew] Symonds are not going to be there, but I am sure they have got good cricketers there. Stuart Clark has come in and maybe he will be the player of the series for them," he said. "The loss would have made them a bit hungrier and determined to play well. I would have preferred that they won all the matches and gone to the West Indies overconfident. Now they will be right on the job. We will have our job cut out."

Yeah, thats what I was worried about.

Monday, February 26, 2007

May on the golden goose

By and large, when Tim May speaks he makes good sense. And this latest pronouncement on the killing-the-golden-goose tactics being adopted by the BCCI and the ACB reeks of common sense. There is no matchup I'd rather see (yup, I prefer them to India-Pakistan games by far) but even this is getting to be too much. The BCCI has done this before with India-Pakistan games (back in the 1980s for instance), and it seems like there just isn't any institutional memory to prevent them from making the same mistake again. I suspect the Australian television audiences will tire of it first (the BCCI is guaranteed sell-out crowds in India and mega television rights), and frankly, I'm a little suspicious about how much an Australian audience figures in these calculations at all. I wouldn't be surprised if the entire package gets off the ground because the ACB is guaranteed huge sums for the BCCI just from the Indian audience.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dropped catches and Ducketts

It is a small world indeed. Just a couple of days ago, I exchanged an email with kenelmdigby (John Sutton, on whose cricketing exploits I've blogged a few times), concerning catching and dropping catches. I wrote about an experience of mine in the Northern Sydney Suburbs Leagues:
Some five years ago, playing in the Northern Suburbs grand final, I dropped a left-handed batsman (brother of the man who had scored a double ton off us in an earlier game), shortly after I had been fantasizing about pulling off a catch in that very position. My captain, for some reason, had decided to send me in as a short-fine-leg, or leg-slip, call it what you will. I found the position odd, and stood there wondering why I had been sent there when I hadn't seen any evidence that we needed a fielder there. As I stood there in the heat, my mind wandered, looking around at the other players, the slips chatting away, (the bastards wouldn't even throw the ball back to me on the relay back to the bowler), the mid-on and mid-off talking to the bowler, and I suddenly felt lonely, despite being out there with a dozen or so men. I conjured up visions of pulling off a blinder, off a lighting quick glance played off a fast bowler - ah, that'd be it. Two balls later, our fast bowler pitched one on leg-n-middle, the lefty went across and over and flicked it down leg-side. For a fraction of a second, I lost sight of the ball as he moved and then suddenly, alarmingly, the ball was on me. I had my hands cupped, but I hadn't been in a catching position, I don't think (perhaps that was the problem, the placement had left it vague whether I was catching, or cutting off singles). And it was swinging, I still remember the banana like curve it described. It swung away from me, hit the top off my left hand and bounced off, harmlessly, over my left shoulder, down onto the grass. I ran back, picked up, threw back to the keeper, and closed my eyes. He went on to score a few more runs (I couldn't bear to keep count). We lost by one wicket.

Yeah, I know, a sad story. Now, note the reference to his brother - his name was John Duckett. He had absolutely pulverized our bowling earlier in the season during the course of his double-ton and this week, Peter Roebuck writes a story on him in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thats all?

Some not very perspicuous analysis from Nathan Bracken on why Australia were unable to defend two very big totals in their recent series against New Zealand:
Bracken said the phenomenon could be explained by small grounds and carefree batsman with "nothing to lose" slogging away. "As a bowler, it is always tough going into a situation knowing the opposition are going to come out without a care in the world," Bracken said yesterday. "You get in a position when a team is chasing that sort of score they have nothing to lose. "They can come out and if they get knocked over for 120 and lose the game, they can say: 'oh, we were chasing 340, so be it'. "They are in a position where they can come out and play any shot they want to play, chasing fours and sixes, without the consequence hanging over them. "It can be tough to bowl in those situations. You have to get on top early or it can get tricky."
Bracken is correct, but only partially, and that part which is correct is pretty superficial. Small grounds have been around for a very long time; run chases of the magnitude we are talking about here haven't been common all along, have they? Have batsmen just become increasingly "without a care in the world"? I doubt it - the mental attitude Bracken refers to has always been around, but by and large it hasn't worked. Why have these big run chases become more common? And bowlers should fancy batsmen coming at them, shouldn't they? And what "consequences" is Bracken talking about? Batsmen still stand to lose their wicket, teams still stand to lose games. Successful high-scoring chases require a confluence of factors - someone playing out of his skin on the batting side, a friendly wicket, and some bad bowling and fielding. To lay it all on a "nothing to lose" mentality is to sidestep the issue (and would Bracken like to extend his analysis to the third ODI as well, where Australia clearly let New Zealand off the hook, after having them down and out?). For a more accurate picture of where things went wrong, read Hussey's comments in the same piece.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No men please, we're Pakistani

From a cricketing scene normally known for its missteps, here comes one thing they've gotten right. In Pakistan, no single men are to be allowed to the women teams games during the World Cup qualifiers in November. Only men with families will be allowed. Good job, Pakistan. Single men at cricket games, who ever heard of such a thing! All they do is show up, get drunk (well, allright, they can't get drunk in Pakistan, but still, chew a few zarda paans and you're on your way), block the view, and generally take the mickey. I'd recommend extending this ban to the men's games as well. If there is one thing men don't like, its single men staring at them for hours on end. Its pretty distracting, puts them off their game and all that. Once results from this experiment are in, we can extend it to other games. Soccer for one. Or Congressional hearings.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Wishful thinking or considered speculation?

As might be expected, there has been considerable talk of Australia getting knocked off the favorite's perch for the World Cup. I could understand this if the matches used as evidence for this claim were actually taking place during the World Cup. But they aren't. Much as it might pain Australia's opponents to realize this, these results have occurred too early (and hence, at precisely the wrong time as far as they are concerned). A team like Australia (or even the system that backs them up) doesn't get to be on top for so long without having coping mechanisms for these sorts of failures. I expect Australia to pull together in time for the Cup, to be mighty ornery now in their preparations, and to not take anything too lightly when their matches begin. The kind of hubris displayed by Buchanan's idiotic remarks about not getting enough competition (have Australia ever had a more embarassing coach?) will be put on the backburner, and good old-fashioned cricket skill will take its place. Far more worrying for Australia, and here I admit, there is some truth to the chatter, are their injury worries, with those to Lee and Hayden being first and foremost.

Which matter raises another issue: lost in the hubbub over the length of the Cup has been the issue of how much more likely injuries are in it, given the greater number of games to be played in it. Its going to be mighty silly if some top player blows out in a game against some minnow.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Simon my man

I think I'm alarmingly close to falling in love with Simon Taufel; what an umpire! Not only does he get everything right, he has personality. Zaheer appeals for lbw; Taufel turns it down. It looked close, till you see the replay - that the ball pitched millimeters outside the legstump line. And as Zaheer appealed, Taufel looked straight at him, grinned and tilted his head slightly to his right - yup, that pitched just outside. Onya Simon. I've never seen you get one wrong. You'd be a shoo-in for the World Cup Final. Problem is, Australia is likely to be playing.

Zaks again

I don't mean to be obsessed by numbers (wait, I'm a cricket fan), but its awfully nice to see Zaheer Khan bowl in the 140s tonight at Vizag. Six years ago, I remember watching him bowl at Nairobi, and being struck by the fact than an Indian left-arm quick had actually sent one down at 145 kmph. Zaheer faded away in the years after that, and that speed seemed a distant memory. Now, as his comeback continues, he's gone close to that magic number again - he hit 144 today. Small stuff, I know. But its significance for a young man, who came dangerously close to being consigned to that ever growing heap of 'young Indian cricketer of promise who didn't live up to the hype' is immeasurable.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

We'll make do

Over at My Two Cents, Homer has a nice take on the Indian selection for the World Cup. It really is a case of 'on a wing and a prayer', this selection. In some ways, this selection was forced, and so mores the pity.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Whats the world coming to?

I say, this sort of thing just isn't on. Touring teams being robbed in their hotels in major metropolitan centers? And to make things worse, an English team being robbed in Sydney at knifepoint? The BCCI is just going to have insist on some very stringent security measures before ever sending the Indian team Down Under. Of course, its a personal decision; if the players feel like it, they should go. But really, as every one knows, you can't play your best cricket with the threat of armed robbery hanging over your head.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Is privacy dead?

One thing continues to puzzle me about the Marlon Samuels-Mukesh Kochar saga (besides the fact that no one writing on this story is raising the questions that vex me) : Doesn't the act of tapping Samuel's phone line constitute a violation of privacy? Is it normal procedure for Indian police to tap phone lines into hotels? Do they require court orders permitting this? None of the writing on this story suggests that any such permission was obtained. Is there a standing order to the effect "given the specter of match-fixing that hangs over cricket, you are hereby granted permission to use any methods whatsoever in order to collect evidence that might figure in some criminal prosecution procedure in the future"? Clearly, the police are not taking permission from the cricketers themselves (did they take it from the WICB? from the hotel?). What is going on? Did the police also tape Chris Gayle talking to his girlfriend back in Jamaica? In short, has anyone considered that these acts, short of legal permission to do so - and presumably that permission would only be given if there was adequate reason and justification - count as gross violations of privacy. And, as the Gayle example should show, while they were busy tapping the lines, the police also tapped into a great deal of material that simply was none of their business.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

For once, thanks

England have done the right thing for the cricketing world by taking out Australia in the finals of the CB series - in more ways than one. They've highlighted the ludicrous nature of the triangular competition (and the equally insane Duckworth-Lewis rules); shocked Australia into all sorts of introspection (thus perhaps ensuring that Australia might be really, really brutal on all opposition in the coming World Cup); boosted their own confidence (thus ensuring that they will not show up at the WC as complete no-hopers); given heart to upstarts all over the cricketing community that all they need to do is play rope-a-dope for a while with the Aussies before getting off the canvas to wallop them with a crushing right hook; and of course, they've given bloggers like me a juicy little topic to sinky my teeth into.

England, especially, will take heart; no team with Collingwood, Flintoff and Pietersen in its ranks can be counted out the reckoning in a lottery like the World Cup. They will still be lesser contenders than some other teams I could name (like, for instance, Sri Lanka, Australia and the West Indies, my three favorites for the comp), but still, other teams will take them a little more seriously now.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

My fair city?

And now, here is this extremely depressing piece on the sorry state of Delhi cricket. Delhi has always had a pretty fractitious cricketing scene; plenty of back-biting, disputes, factionalism at its worst (and it didn't help matters that the Ferozeshah Kotla used to be one of the worst test venues in all of India, with a dead pitch, and short boundary lines to boot). But this potential mass exodus of players has taken matters to a new low. After the halcyon days of the late 70s, and early 80s, Delhi cricket hasn't ever taken off properly. Despite the extravagant claims of having produced nine cricketers (sure, but what happened to them), Ranji success hasn't come their way with the same regularity as it used to before, and quite simply, it isn't the force what it used to be. When the players themselves leave, there ain't much left.

The sun hasn't set yet

Check out Cricinfo's list of great comebacks in test cricket. The first eight matches on that list are England-Australia games! Out of the remaining three, another two concern England. Out of the eleven greatest comebacks in the history of test cricket, ten occurred in games involving England, eight in the Ashes, and six of these comebacks were by Englishmen. Someone, anyone, please call Cricinfo, and tell them that the Four Lions or the Union Jack isn't the only flag in the world. And that other teams play cricket too.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Too bloody much

For once, Tim de Lisle is right. (Sorry, thats slightly unfair, but its a good opening line, you'll agree). The Australian one-day series is a right mess. And its a mess because its pointlessly long. I watch one-days when I'm starved for cricket. So why would I watch one-days when there is a surfeit of them? The tournament's length could be halved and no-one would complain. Well, perhaps a few sponsors and the like, but I'm not sure they would be so happy if they found out their marketing dollars are very likely to buy them progressively less down the line. International scheduling of one-days is quite similar; too many tournaments, over-long series (to my horror, I read that England have scheduled seven against India during their forthcoming summer tour!); and a desire to play all year around, everywhere. So, Australia will also play India in Ireland, and also visit India to play another dozen, and god knows what else. Its a shambolic mess. And with this BCCI in charge of Indian cricket, don't expect any changes. If anything, they might talk the ICC into dropping tests altogether. Or facing opposition to this, they might form their own one-day league. Yeah, I know, crazy ideas, but sometimes it seems ever-so-likely. Oh, I forgot, another one-day series starts tomorrow. Just because its Kolkata, and Dada's return, I'd watch, but work forbids it. Won't miss the cricket.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Kesavan on cricket

Mukul Kesavan, who in my opinion, wrote one of the best Partition-themed novels ever, Looking Through Glass, has a new cricket blog: Men in White. Kesavan is a good writer, and keen observer of the game, and I'm surprised at the irate comments that some of his posts have provoked (especially the one on keeping test cricket white). Check it out. I'm looking forward to his book (same name as the blog), forthcoming next year. For any sensible Indian fan of cricket, I suspect the book will be a must-read (yes, I count myself as one of them)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A philosophical acceptance of succcess

This isn't going to be a long post, but I desperately need to start blogging again, after my long travels to India (just in time to watch both England and India lose the last two tests of their respective test series). So here is a quick link to more cricketing glory for John Sutton (kenelmdigby on this blog, and I'm positive that one of these days he'll get it, and start writing real posts rather than just shoving his wonderful writing into comments!). But thats not just any old cricketing piece; read it and find out why.