Monday, July 30, 2007

Change of momentum

At 250-3, England have put themselves in a position from where they might be able to save this match and even put some pressure on India tomorrow. Slowly, but surely, India are going on the defensive, as they realize whats happened as a result of Vaughan's innings.

Good stuff

Interesting cricket; very good batting from Vaughan, some good swing bowling from both Zaheer Khan and RP Singh but sub-par performances from both Sreesanth and Kumble. England are scoring runs a little too freely for India's liking; Dravid would be happier with the three wickets that have fallen had India managed to keep things a bit tighter thus far. It could become very interesting if India's bowlers start to get tired.

Not safe yet, but..

It was always on the cards that England would bat better in the second innings than they did in the first (and thats why India's lead of 283, while massive, could have done with a little boost), and that India's bowlers would find things a little harder as well. So far its gone that way: England have battled hard, and only one wicket has fallen. India will be hopeful, and they will know one wicket could change things quickly. But for that to happen, and for India to push on to the win they will desperately want, they will need all their bowlers to be consistent (especially Sreesanth). WOAH! That old going-to-the-bathroom trick worked! I've gotten rid of Strauss.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Slight setback, but still

A very slight fade by India at Trent Bridge as Dhoni falls after Taufel commits his second umpiring error of the day. What this means that the post-tea blast that one might have expected will not happen, and India, instead of having a bowl tonight, might well be continuing tomorrow morning (if the remaining wickets don't fall in a heap, that is). However, there are 40 overs left to be bowled today and if VVS gets cracking say, for the next 25 overs, we could see England batting again. Either way, India still well-placed but thanks to the SRT/Ganguly decisions and the Dhoni dimissal, they are not going to be racking up as huge a score as might have been predicted earlier at lunch.

Late regrets

It's interesting that Simon Taufel is continuing to shake his head after having given out Tendulkar LBW to Collingwood. I know why Tendulkar was given out: not playing a shot and all that. But I think Taufel realizes now that the ball was not moving enough, and now, it's too late to do anything about it. I'm a big fan of Taufel, but for the first time this season, I've seen him get a few things wrong. Small blemishes on his otherwise perfect record, but that won't be any consolation for the legions of Tendulkar fans that were hoping to see a ton from the maestro. Its all up to the Ganguly/Laxman/Dhoni combine now to push India on to the 300-run lead that they need to really put England under the cosh.

'e's got sumpin' on his head

Poor Monty. He might be England's go-to strike bowler, but that won't stop Sky commentators from sniggering about his turban. Nasser and Atherton were discussing helmets in modern cricket, during which discussion Nasser remarked "Imagine Monty going out there without a helmet. Good luck". To which Atherton responded, "I can't imagine his patka offering him much protection". And on cue, Nasser chuckles in the background. Sigh. I've watched the relentless cultivation of the image of Monty as comical bumbler, possessed of a mysterious skill, given to over-excitability, and it all seems very, what shall we say, exoticizing? And if in case you had forgotten that Monty wears a turban just like those gents that used to populate comic-book tales about the North-Western Frontier, well, here was a little reminder. Have fun Monty.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New age, eh?

Perhaps I'm just an old-fashioned fogey, but could someone explain to me how the following description of the Indian team's practice sessions indicates work on dealing with late swing (the main problem the Indian bats had in the first test)?:
The Indians were originally supposed to practice at Trent Bridge but changed their plans this morning because of incessant showers. The practice itself saw some innovations, with the batsmen trying out strokes with the wrong hand against deliveries bowled underarm. Ganguly did take part in that session, batting right-handed, and even padded up to face the bowling machine later but decided against it towards the end. The senior bowlers weren't present and it was mainly Ishant Sharma and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the wicketkeeper, who did the bowling.
From this article, which also talks about a niggling back problem that afflicts Ganguly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Austin on cricket balls

Continuing my attempt to collect cricket references in the philosophical literature, here is another cricketing example from JL Austin's Sense and Sensibilia, Chapter X, page 129 (Oxford University Press reprint of 1962 edition):
What are we to make, then, of the idea that sentences about sense-data are as such precise, while sentences about 'material things' are intrinsically vague? The second part of this doctrine is intelligible in a way. What Ayer seems to have in mind is that being a cricket-ball, for instance, does not entail being looked at rather than felt, looked at in any special light or from any particular distance or angle, felt with the hand rather than the foot, &c...This of course is perfectly true; and the only comment required is it constitutes no ground at all for saying that 'That is a cricket-ball' is vague. Why should we say that it is vague 'in its application to phenomena'? The expression is surely not meant to 'apply to phenomena'. It is meant to identify a particular kind of ball--a kind which is, in fact, quite precisely defined--and this it does perfectly satisfactorily. What would the speaker make of a request to be more precise? Incidentally, as has been pointed out before, it would be a mistake to assume that greater precision is always an improvement; for it is, in general, more dificult to be more precise; and the more precise a vocabulary is, the less easily adaptable it is to the demands of novel situations.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Last day blues

A typical Indian last-day meltdown underway at Lord's. Two wickets before lunch to good balls. A small partnership from Laxman and Dhoni, and then just desperate hoping that rain would close in. But it hasn't, and both Zaheer and RP Singh have played some utterly brain-dead cricket as well (Dhoni hasn't helped either by exposing the tail and continuing to take risks - to be fair though, he has played a much more responsible innings than usual). Ah, well. It seems India is determined to let England take a lead in this three-test series.

A bit of this-n-that

Some brief notes over the past few days:

  1. Nasser Hussain, discussing days gone by in the commentary box, insisted that one of the worst things about losing to India in the 2002 NatWest Final was that England were beaten by a pair of lads that weren't even in the team now.
  2. A heartening trend: more and more umpires are giving batsmen out who don't make a real attempt to play the spinner's straight ball (see for instance, the Taufel decision against Collingwood and the Bucknor decision against Tendulkar).
  3. Prize for the most bizarre field placing: Dravid's decision to put in a leg-slip for Vaughan facing Zaheer. That leg-slip would have required Zaheer to bowl short-pitched stuff on the leg-stump. But he had three slips waiting as well. A field placing shouldn't come at the cost of rendering the rest of the field irrelevant.
  4. Simon Hughes' piece on the first day's play managed to get under my skin a bit. So I wrote in, and my opening line, "This extended sneer, masquerading as a sports article, could do with a reality check" was promptly censored by the folks at the Daily Telegraph. Was it that offensive?

No breaks for you

There is something about Saurav Ganguly that provokes pretty open displays of hostility from people who should know better. This morning, Atherton and Botham have been carrying on about Ganguly not running for a single in the last over suggesting Ganguly was reluctant to face the bowling, that he would rather sacrifice Karthik's wicket, that he valued his wicket more, and so on so forth. Now, a quick look at the facts might be instructive. The ball had gone down legside, and the fielder had fumbled it a bit beyond him. Yes, possibly a legbye if runs were desperately needed. But this is the last over of the fourth day of a test match, it was Ganguly's call (its not as if Karthik had played a shot and called for a single, which had then been turned down), and he did take a single a couple of balls later (which was greeted with "well, he can't turn that down"). Ah, well. Ganguly is out, so at least we won't have to hear Ganguly-directed sledging from the commentary box. But who knows, you don't have to have the player out there to have a go at him.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Those elusive twenty wickets

If India's overrated batting line-up has the time they should consider this: the team's bowling attack has taken 20 wickets in an overseas test and dismissed the opposition for less than 300 in both innings. Theres been a great deal of moaning and groaning about India's bowling over the years but now, they've done what they'd have been asked to do. If the bowlers had said to the captain, "Skip, we'll dismiss the opposition for sub-300 scores each time", he'd have taken it every time. When will the batting line-up deliver?

Too late

Sigh. India break the sixth-wicket partnership a 100 runs too late (and pick up another wicket on the next ball). Given the pumped-up reaction at the fall of Prior and Tremlett's wickets, one would have thought India could have shown a little more gumption earlier. This match is gone, and only weather can now save India. Apologies if that sounds excessively pessimistic, but I'm just being a good old-fashioned empiricist, making predictions on the basis of having observed certain law-like regularities in the past. Anyway, Zak on a hat-trick, so let me turn back to the cricket.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Returning the intiative

Not for the first time (and certainly not for the last) an Indian bowling line-up will be seething at the inability of India's much-vaunted batting line-up to back them up with a decent performance. Credit where its due, of course: the English bowling was very good, and everyone on display moved the ball around. Tremlett looks like a good find, and I suspect he will be real handful as his career moves on (his action looks quit einjury proof as well). And Anderson's figures were positively McGrath-like. But India now are staring down the barrel; they are 97 runs behind, and collapses like England's in the first-innings are not easily repeated. There is plenty of time left for England to rack up a decent score and put India under the gun. Anything over 300 as a fourth-inning target looks insurmountable. If the weather doesn't significantly worsen, India could be knee-deep in the smelly stuff (and the bowling so far looks distinctly like the early effort in the first-innings).

Friday, July 20, 2007

Miracle after the deluge

What a day of test cricket. After yesterday's rather disappointing show (there is never much fun in watching such a poor bowling performance), India's bowlers got the side back into the game, before England's inexperienced lot did some serious damage of their own. By the far the most valuable wicket to have been lost was Dravid's. If India were to have a chance of really making England pay for their 6-26 collapse, it was going to be through a 1.5 day marathon by the Indian skipper. That was taken care of by a pearler from Anderson, and now the game is dead even. Ganguly and Laxman have a lot of work to do, and Dhoni and the tail are really going to have to buckle down. But none of this would have been possible had it not been for some expensive technology i.e., the million-sterling drainage system in place at Lord's. And the ridiculously efficient groundstaff that worked while it rained. I missed watching the Indian bowlers live as I had taken off, having already written off the day's play. Perhaps the ICC should consider plowing some funds into purchasing drainage systems for grounds like the Bourda Oval, and most venues in South India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

This is a test?

India have, of course picked the XI, which had been predicted a while ago. For all the waffling on about Yuvraj, and the ludicrous discussion of Sharma and Bose's chances of being the third seamer, this was the team that was bound to take the field. Meanwhile, England are off to a rattling start, which would do their one-day team proud as Sreesanth contrives to do a Harmison impersonation without the pace or bounce (Zak isn't helping either). Interestingly, the crowd isn't too excited by the flurry of boundaries; the bowling is pretty bad, and the batsmen aren't having to do too much. 40 runs in the first five overs of a test? Gee. And RP is on.

Audio on, tripe on

My mood has improved a bit now that we have audio, but I was getting ready to throw my cup of coffee at the monitor in sheer frustration. Three overs gone, plenty of tripe on display from the Indian quicks.

Bye-bye Willow

Ok, thats it. This is the last time I'm ever buying from Willow. I don't think they care, losing a customer, but I've reached the limits of my patience. The cricket has now started, and we're still getting muzak. I doubt I'll get a refund, but I'm going to try anyway. I'll keep you posted.

Groaning at monopolies

This is getting to be ludicrous. I've bought cricket telecast packages from, and almost every time, I've regretted it. They manage to mess up some part of the deal somehow. Either the promised highlights aren't delivered, or they are of poor quality, or the audio is missing, or two days of a test are not included, or something else. Now, this morning, we have the sight of the video being streamed but with teeth-grinding muzak being played over it (I know that their page says the telecast begins at 6AM EDT, but common sense dictates you show the preliminaries, at least on the first day of a test). So, we can't watch the toss or the captain's discussions. I've written to willow before, each and every single time one of their latest snafus takes place, and it hasn't helped too much. Its 2007, and while cricket coverage in the US has improved, we're still stuck in a situation that is intolerable. One company, Dish, controls all the television rights, and they license them to Willow exclusively (not allowing anya la carte deals, which are absolutely necessary to allow some flexibility for the customers given the god-awful differences in timezones and people's work schedules). Pardon my language, but we're getting screwed, and its not getting any better.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A trip to Lord's

Back in October 1996, I made what might be described as a cricketing pilgrimage by some: a visit to Lord's. I was on my way to India, and had decided to stop over in London to visit an old friend working at University College. It might only have been October, but it was bloody cold, and I was jet-lagged after the overnight flight from New York. Thus, a few hours after landing in London, I staggered out (reluctant non-cricket-loving girlfriend in tow) for a walk directed at St. John's Wood. I navigated expertly with the London street map I carried around as I struggled to stay awake and warm, all the while noting uneasily the grumblings of a stomach exposed to too much coffee and too many time-zones. Suddenly, we were there. It said "Lord's Cricket Ground". It all happened a bit quickly. The grounds were closed, not yet open for touring, and so we had time to kill. Somehow the desire for a beer asserted itself and so we walked on for a bit to a pub named (I think) Crocker's. Miraculously, a pint calmed my stomach and my nerves and soon I felt able to return to the ground to see if a tour was on. It was. Our guide was friendly and knowledgeable, and we were accompanied by four fairly quiet Australians, who surprisingly, made no attempt to strike up conversation (I was a bit shy myself). The ground itself was not so dramatic but it was easy for me to conjure up scenes of years gone by. I made sure I stepped on the ground when we went down to the field, and tried very hard to convey the magic of the name to my partner (I'm not sure it worked). We went to the dressing rooms and got the obligatory photographs on the balcony. While looking at the honor roll, I pointed out in a very loud voice (ostensibly to my girlfriend, but more likely, for the benefit of the Aussies) that Vengsarkar had scored three hundreds at the ground, the only man to do so. Then, it was off to the museum, and the gift shop before packing up for the day. I was caught up in a wierd mix of emotions; while making a trip to Lord's was quite a dream come true I was so starved of cricket in the US that the fact I had made a trip there and not seen any cricket seemed like a particularly cruel confirmation of the expatriate's basic lot in life: not quite here, not quite there.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Gearing up for the real thing

India's tour of England has reached the point where the real business of test cricket will soon begin, and so far the news is as expected: the batting looks shaky (prone to those usual 100-5 starts that are our norm overseas); the bowling looks like it will make some early breakthroughs once in a while (I consider Khan, Sreesanth and RP Singh a talented enough bunch to make this happen more often than not) but still lacks the bite to put matches away (as the Sussex match showed) and will rely excessively on Kumble to finish things off (who, I suspect, is still going to have as hard a time as he has had all his career convincing umpires to give batsmen out LBW when they play forward half-heartedly to his straighter ones), and the batting order still isn't settled. To make things worse, it looks as if Dhoni has forgotten how to keep, and that we might be going back to the bad old days of wicketkeepers opening. Its all a bit of a mess. India will need all their ageing stars to fire, and will desperately hope that a couple of the young 'uns will get this through their heads: this is England, and performances in England count for a great deal more than performances anywhere else in the world (the English press will make sure of that). The next Indian tour of England will not take place for another five years. The stage is set and they need to perform. And Sreesanth needs to make sure he doesn't pick up a multiple-match suspension for the inevitable spats with Pietersen that lie ahead (match referees are still unused to Indians sledging or being antsy).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hammond, er, sorry, McCabe

Tony Greig lets us have his All-Time England XI. I'm not quite sure what the point is of giving us XIs of players that the selector in question hasn't seen playing but whatever, its a pretty common exercise, and at times I've fallen into the same trap. But the transcript contains an interesting error. Speaking of Wally Hammond, Greig says:
He's the guy about whom the great Don Bradman said to his team, 'you'd better watch this closely, because it's an incredible innings that he's playing here.'
Er, actually, the player that Bradman was talking about was Stan McCabe and the innings he was referring to was McCabe's 232 at Trent Bridge in the 1938 series. C'mon Greigy, you can do better than that. You are a former England captain aren't you?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Austin on the words 'real' and 'cricket'

So here we go, as I start my collection of cricket/cricketing references in the philosophical literature. Here is an excerpt from JL Austin's Sense and Sensibilia, Chapter VII, page 64 (Oxford University Press reprint of 1962 edition):
The other immmensely important point to grasp is that 'real' is not a normal word at all, but highly exceptional; exceptional in this respect that unlike 'yellow', or 'horse', or 'walk' it does not have one single specifiable, always-the-same meaning. (Even Aristotle saw through this idea.) Nor does it have a large number of different meanings--it is not ambiguous, even 'systematically'. Now words of this sort have been responsible for a great deal of perplexity. Consider the expressions 'cricket ball', 'cricket bat', 'cricket pavilion', 'cricket weather'. If someone did not know about cricket and were obsessed with the use of such 'normal' words as 'yellow', he might gaze at the ball, the bat, the building, the weather, trying to detect the 'common quality' which (he assumes) is attributed to these things by the prefix 'cricket'. But no such quality meets his eye; and so perhaps he concludes that 'cricket' must designate a non-natural quality, a quality not to be detected in any ordinary way but by intuition. If this story strikes you as too absurd, remember what philosophers have said about the word 'good'; and reflect that many philosophers, failing to detect any ordinary quality common to real ducks, real cream and real progress, have decided that Reality must be an a priori concept apprehended by Reason alone.
You can check out a philosophical discussion centering on this passage as well.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Cricket examples in philosophy

Many years ago, as I began my graduate studies in Philosophy in New York City, I stumbled upon JL Austin while reading on speech acts for my Philosophy of Language class. I was delighted to note that Austin, in his discussion of performative utterances (to utter one of these sentences is not just to "say" something, but to perform an action), provided the example of a cricket umpire saying "Out". I was a lonely graduate student then, and somehow, reading about cricket, even if only in the context of an academic discussion was a small reprieve from that loneliness. I felt part of something larger, and especially in that American context, was happy to think that perhaps some of my fellow graduate students would want clarification, which, of course, I would be only too happy to provide. (They didn't; they understood the example well enough from baseball: "steeerrrikkke! You're out!"). But I digress. Austin, I suspect, was a cricket fan, and often referred to cricket. I recently re-read Sense and Sensibilia and discovered another couple of references to cricket in his (attempted) refutation of sense-data theory. This discovery prompted me to start a mini-project, which I hereby announce with a grand flourish: to collect all cricket references in the philosophical literature. I suspect they will all come from English and Australian analytic philosophers (I'm not optimistic about German continental types including references to cricket in their works). I'll start tomorrow with the excerpts from Sense and Sensibilia. This is not a philosophy blog so I won't bother trying to explain the context of each quote (besides, I'm lazy, and its too much darn work in this heat). But, hopefully, you'll find them entertaining. If anyone knows of any quotes in philosophical literature, please send them on.

Possible elevens

A quick note on Mukul Kesavan's musing on the Indian selection dilemma, which contains this passage:
So, for the first Test: Karthik, Jaffer, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman, Dhoni, Zaheer, Sreesanth, Kumble and RP Singh. This is the team that I think will be picked: but if Dravid wants extra batting oomph, a bowling option and the team's best outfielder, he'll pick Yuvraj over Dhoni and make Karthik open and keep wickets
Interestingly, this was the same team I had picked last month on hearing the selection of the Indian team. Now, I don't mean to be suggesting plagiarism or anything like that, for this team selection is just pretty obvious. Kumble, Dravid and Tendulkar are certainties; Karthik has pretty much booked his place; the best three seamers are in there (and India will not pick a second spinner for the first test in England); Ganguly will not make way for Yuvraj (which incidentally is where I disagree with Kesavan for Singh has enough class to play in the top six of a test match - surely Kesavan has not forgotten his ton at Lahore?) What I find interesting about Kesavan's selection comments is the almost-heretical suggestion that Dhoni's place be put up for grabs (its not heretical to me; just, I imagine, to a whole bunch of folks out there). But all in all, I think India will play with the XI above, unless they do something really silly and drop Jaffer for Gambhir. I never thought the day would come when I would root for a Mumbai boy over a Delhi boy but I must sacrifice any city chauvinism at the altar of the greater national good. (Though I must admit, Gambhir will do better in the sledging stakes than Jaffer - small consolation that).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

On paying adequate homage

Mukul Kesavan pens a lovely piece on Dilip Sardesai. I managed to avoid some of the blindsight that Kesavan describes (in our ignoring Sardesai's contributions during that magical year (1971)) largely because one of the first descriptions I read of that year was in Ajit Wadekar's autobiography. Wadekar was extremely generous in his tributes to Sardesai, pointing out something that most discerning fans have agreed with in their analysis of the win in the West Indies: that it was Sardesai's double-ton in the drawn Kingston test (the first of the series) which was the crucial Indian performance in that series win. For that double-ton enabled an Indian total of 387 (the next highest scores were 61 and 25), which enabled a sizeable 150-plus lead, which led to India asking the West Indies to follow-on (one days play had been washed out, and the great Garfield Sobers, unaware of the laws of the game in this regard, was surprised and shocked when Wadekar asked the Windies to bat again). A crucial psychological blow had been struck; a cricketing Rubicon had been crossed, and India never regarded themselves as inferior to the Windies for the rest of the series.