Thursday, July 31, 2008

The mighty, not excitable, cricketer

All cricketers are equal, some are more equal than others:
Incredulity, closely followed by incandescence, was Flintoff's reaction when Jacques Kallis, on 55, was struck flush on the toe, plumb in front of middle stump, and with the bat not even close to the action. He appealed, then pleaded, then demanded, and at the end of the over, could still be heard giving Dar an earful as the pair moved to their positions at square leg.
As this is merely a "passionate Englishman fighting hard for his country" and not an excitable subcontintental throwing a hissy fit (or better still, just plain cheating), one can be sure that the match referee will not be handing out dissent charges. Yawn. Do people still wonder why there are chips on shoulders? No, don't bother answering that.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Some dictionary entries

Next time you're looking for a definition of "chutzpah", try this: reverse-sweeping the world's best offspinner when your side is 147-5 facing a total of 600-6 late on the third day in fading light. And the next time you're looking for a definition of "career-limiting move" try this: hoicking the next delivery straight up in the air to give the bowler a return catch. Karthik is lucky Kumble was the next man in, otherwise the shellacking he'd have gotten would have been one for the ages, worthy of capturing on video and selling on the streets. Karthik has done serious damage to his test prospects in this game; both with his shoddy catching and lame batting.

Now, this is what I call cricket

Someone must have carted in truckloads of the smelly stuff to the SSC because the Indians are deep in it at 131-4. Murali and Mendis have both struck. Mendis bowling Dravid with an absolute beauty and Murali dismissing Tendulkar with one that was spinning away but was edged on to the stumps during an attempted leave. Watching Murali and Mendis together is an absolute treat, and I can only hope that the remaining overs in this day are not affected. Laxman and Ganguly are batting; both are unlikely to simply block. This is pure, unadulterated pleasure - a bat versus ball contest for the ages. (And I'm wide awake now so the damn light better stay good).

And good Lord, Ganguly has gone and top-edged a sweep into backward square-leg's hands. Smellier and smellier.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The first second thought

I don't think I like reviews (for now). Something about the whole business of watching Benson raise the finger for a caught behind off Zaheer (Dilshan was the bat), the batsmen appeal, and then the mortified expression on Benson's face as it was turned down, just felt very, very odd (it made the game feel like a weekend hitout where batsmen are allowed to complain if they feel like batting longer). Perhaps I'll get used to it in the days to come. It was interesting too, just how difficult the decision was for the third umpire and in the end, I think he got it wrong. There was a wooden sound and the ball deviated slightly upward as it passed the bat. Dilshan appealed the decision and I think he might have been suckered by the fact that if the ball nicks the bat as the bat hits the ground, the shock transmitted up the handle can disguise the feeling of the nick (I once gave out a team-mate in a match and he complained to me afterward that he hadn't edged it; in his case too, the bat had made contact with the ground as it made contact with the ball). Of course, Benson could have held on to his decision but he chose not to. (Of course, I fail to understand how the on-field umpires decision could have been reversed with such inconclusive evidence.)

All in all, the first review of an umpiring decision doesn't seem to have worked out so well (except for Dilshan). Ah, well. Lets see how things pan out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nice all around

Superb cricket over at the SSC. High-class batsman facing (Sangakarra); Zaheer bowls one that pitches and moves away sharply; a nick, and a wonderful catch by that under-rated slip fielder, Dravid. (even though the ball bounced just a bit as it hit his palms, Dravid held on nicely - very good slip technique overall).

Ketchup man

A very good article on Johnny Gleeson, perhaps the only cricketer to be nicknamed after an American condiment ("Heinz" - of the 57 varieties, gerritt?). Gleeson's closing quote is excellent - a nice way of getting to the heart of the matter.

Off they go

Its on. The IND-SL tests have started. Given the weather forecasts for the SSC, I'm not sure how this game will pan out but still folks in whites are messing around with bat and ball, and thats how I hope it stays. Khan and Sharma have begun with decent overs (with Khan's second showing good use of the short ball). Its also occurred to me that this is the first time I've seen a game live from the SSC. Weird.

PS: India's XI is the expected one, looking strong and deep in batting (Kumble at 8, and Karthick at 7).

PPS: And Vandort gone! To Sharma.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A few over at Different Strokes

I've been slack in posting links here to posts at Different Strokes. A new one on American perceptions of cricket has just gone up. That was preceded by one on spectator experiences in India. And that in turn was preceded by one on the tensions associated with following test cricket. I'll try and be more diligent in cross-linking from now on.

Russell on language and cricket

To aid me in my effort to collect philosophical quotes related to cricket, John Sutton (aka kenelmdigby) has just sent me the following fantastic quote by Bertrand Russell:
Understanding language understanding cricket: it is a matter of habits acquired in oneself and rightly presumed in others
The quote is from Leonard B Meyer, Emotion and Meaning in Music, Chicago UP 1956, p.39. Meyer himself points to Russell's Selected Papers, Modern Library, NY, Random House, p.358. Use that quote the next time you are in the company of those uninitiated to the pleasures of the Noble Game.

Simple wishes really

Here are my thoughts on the upcoming India-SL test series, which could produce some very, very good test cricket if things work out. On second thoughts, I'll let more talented people than me do it.
Rain, please go away/Leave me alone, come another day/My love (i.e., test cricket) is gone, this time to stay/Rain, please go away
Courtesy Alison Krauss


Baby take the rain away/Make it come again some other day/Let's pretend everything's OK/Baby take the rain away
Courtesy Debelah Morgan

Thats it really. Everything else will fall into place.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Pardon me, but is anyone else out there getting sick and tired of this constant harping by the (I presume) India media contingent about Tendulkar overhauling Lara’s record? And to make things worse, this questioning is not being directed at Tendulkar but just about everyone else: Kumble, Dravid and good Lord, to top it all off, the Sri Lankan captain, Jayawardene (all of whom, poor chaps, can only provide the cliched answers that one would most expect; thus precious time is wasted again in the meetings with the press). The same media, of course, will be the one that will then carry stories about players selfishly playing for records if the result of a game doesn’t quite pan out to their (the press') satisfaction. Who are these dorks? ( rhetorical question alert!)

PS: And in all honesty, the run aggregate record has I think, stopped being such a big deal. The lead has changed hands several times and it’s been fairly clear who the next serious contender is going to be (Ponting after Tendulkar, for instance, is the safe-as-houses bet). The Sobers-Boycott-Gavaskar handoff was sort of riveting back then, but his particular chase has lost its urgency. I’m more interested in seeing how India do against the Mendis-Murali combine in Sri Lanka.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dazed and confused

Apologies for the confusion displayed in my last post. I hadn't been reading too carefully. The B sample is taken at the same time as sample A. Delaying the test is thus, not a delaying tactic to get rid of drug metabolite traces. Apologies again, and now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Hang on there

Mohammed Asif has a good lawyer. He wants more time to prepare his case and make travel arrangements, and thus would like the Sample B test to be postponed. Has his lawyer also been meticulous enough to find out how long the body's metabolic processes need in order to remove traces of any offending substances? (Drug metabolites are, as best as I know, quite varied in their signatures and susceptibility to detection by different tests; the older urine samples were quite easily fooled by masking agents and simple delays; the more sophisticated hair sample tests pick up smaller traces and are quite sensitive even when considerable periods of time have elapsed). So, all in all, an interesting stalling tactic; lets see how it works. If all else fails, there is always the three-man appeal board that the PCB should be putting together.

Toward the great escape

England now have an opportunity to show that, like South Africa, they are capable of batting for two days to save a test match. But things will be a little different for England. They will bat after having spent two days in the field and they will face a fresh bowling attack. Rain would make for a good ally under these circumstances; as would a wayward South African bowling attack. The first is more likely than the second, a depressing prospect for the English. Still, they can take comfort from the fact that their first innings debacle was a product of some risky strokeplay as well as good bowling. (As I write this, Strauss has fallen and Vaughan is in). The stage is set for all sorts of myth-making: the return of the great Ashes-winning all-rounder, the hero-in-exile exacting revenge on his former homeland, the indomitable English skipper wrapped in a Union Jack keeping the hordes at bay. Perhaps one should wish for a South African win; otherwise god knows how many hagiographic column inches we might have to wade through in the years to come.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Just a little, not too much

There is something in the Yorkshire water, methinks. Check out this quote from Jacques Rudolph now in his second season with Yorkshire:
"A little bit of me wants South Africa to win," Rudolph said. "I played for them for so many years, and you don't just change overnight."
Just a "little bit"? You don't have English citizenship yet, you're still qualified to play for South Africa, and thats the extent of your enthusiasm for your national team, one for which you played in the past? That's it? I don't get it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The new untouchables

I would have posted this earlier but I was too busy making frequent trips to the bathroom so that I could indulge in another bout of violent retching. For I had unfortunately managed to read about the BCCI's latest attempt at behaving like zamindars. When will someone sue these bastards out of existence? Why don't you fix the damn featherbeds in India, BCCI? You know, the ones that produce the dull draws that are killing test cricket? Oh, right, cause that has nothing to do with your power plays and everything to do with cricket.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Asif clears things up

Top ten reasons provided by Asif to WADA Anti-Doping Tribunal:

10. Ammi (my mother) told me it would keep off evil spirits

9. Wasimbhai said it would help me keep one side shiny

8. Kamran and I were out one night, and he challenged me to have just one sip

7. Geoffbhai said it helped him improve his eyesight

6. Saeed Anwar said it would help me concentrate during namaaz

5. Shoaib put it in my coffee

4. Everybody was doing it at the Bollywood party I went to

3. Virubhai said that this was a Najafgarh delicacy worth trying

2. Akshay Kumar told me it was how he got to look so buff

1. Lalitsaab said that all IPL players had to drink this otherwise they would be banned like the ICL players

Friday, July 11, 2008

Symmo the LionHearted

Ok, so I don't know which genius at Cricinfo is responsible, but the photo selection for this article on Andrew Symonds' reluctance to tour Pakistan is just brilliant (its almost a Dukakis-with-helmet moment). See Symmo play at being fighter pilot; see Symmo get a chance to put the moolah where the facial orifice is; see Symmo decide he isn't such a stud after all. Dobbing in the opposition when they respond to your sledges is one thing; shoulder charging skinny streakers is another; refusing to tour with your country's team is yet another. I have news for Symmo: if Indians (you know, the ones whose armed forces have fought four wars with Pakistan) can go to Pakistan, you can. Tone down the Big Daddy bluster the next time you step on a field, Symmo. It doesn't quite mesh with the rest of the image you're trying to cultivate (and neither does the quote, "I don't mind the odd game of cricket for Australia"; neither would a lot of cricketers, knocking about in ovals all over Oz, I'm sure).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Walking at Different Strokes

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Sport and War in Melbourne

Sports and war are often linked, and not just by metaphor. The State Library of Victoria is putting on a traveling exhibition titled, what else, Sports and War, which explores other dimensions of this relationship. Some excerpts from the announcement (you'll see why this is on a cricket blog):
This inspiring free exhibition explores what it means to be Australian by examining the relationship between sport and war - two key factors in our culture and national identity...Sport and War tells remarkable stories of courage and achievement, revealing the importance of sport to Australians serving overseas, as well as the wartime experiences of some of our most-loved sporting stars. The display includes evocative relics from wartime sporting history, such as...the little-known wartime medals of cricketing legend Donald Bradman....Sport and War tells the stories of famous sporting personalities whose lives and careers were affected (and sometimes ended) by war - from Keith Miller’s career-boosting performances in the 1945 Victory Tests to the tragic loss of Aussie Rules star Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott and others. Test cricketer Bert Oldfield, boxer Les Darcy and footballer Ron Barassi Snr are among the other champions featured.
Given that I'm both a military history and sports fan, this'd be the place to be for me. But I can't go. So someone else, please do, and let me know how it was. Send me a photo or two.

The first (or third) casualty

MS Dhoni has requested a break from the test series against Sri Lanka. Poor chap, all that hard work for the Chennai Super Kings has really tired him out. Or was it the Asia Cup? As my tone indicates, its tempting to get aggravated about this and complain about the evil ODI and T20 schedule that is keeping the best players from playing the highest form of the game. But I'm optimistic. Perhaps Karthik will seize this opportunity and make it hard for Dhoni to get back in the test side. Dhoni has lost the plot as a test batsman, and while I haven't seen enough of Karthik as a wicketkeeper to compare him adequately to Dhoni, I have high hopes that he can match him.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Reversal of fortune

I'm glad Michael Holding acted on his feelings and quit the ICC Cricket Committee. The decision to change the result of the Oval test is one of the most bizarre rulings I've seen this body make. Notice the broad outlines of the precedent that has been established: the outcome of a match is not felt to be the correct one by one of the teams for a variety of reasons; an appeal is made; the outcome is reversed. Consider the following minor variation: a match is played and ends amidst great controversy; one team loses and charges an umpire with bias and incompetence, demanding that he be replaced for the next game; the umpire is replaced, thus implicitly acknowledging the veracity of the charges laid against him; later, the team files a request with the ICC Cricket Committee suggesting that since its charges have been 'proven', the result of the controversial game be changed. There are only a few differences between the Bucknor and Hair cases. Should the BCCI ask for a draw in the Sydney test, given all their procedural and substantive complaints? The mind boggles. What have the ICC done?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Over at Different Strokes

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Mini-orders and how they do

A few days ago, I wrote to David Barry, cricket statistics hacker extraordinaire, asking him if he could help out on generating stats for mini-orders. A mini-order is a group of three batsmen batting in consecutive positions in a batting order. Why this curiosity? Well, we've always been interested in partnership pairings for particular positions (the most favored one being the opening partnership, for very good reasons). But I've also been interested in seeing which groups of batsmen worked together, flowing from one partner to another. A group of three batsmen generates three possible pairings, and thus the overall strength of the threesome is a reflection of how well these three pairs have done well together (a mini-order that includes Langer-Hayden for instance, will include their stellar contributions over the years). David has run the scripts, and the very interesting results are up now. Check 'em out.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The '98 escape

One memory of the South African tour of England in 1998 still stands out clearly in my mind. Not the usual Donald-Atherton one, but something more general: my surprised reaction to hearing the news that England had won the series 2-1. Why was I so surprised? Hadn’t I been following the series and its twists and turns? Had I been on another planet? Well, sort of. That summer I had decided to go off on a long road-trip through the American West, determined to finally hike through all those locales that had seemed to only exist in Ansel Adams’ coffee-table books. When I left for the trip, South Africa led the series 1-0. The first test had seen England take a first innings lead; the second test had seen South Africa win comfortably by 10 wickets; and in the third test, South Africa seemed to have had England by the throat, before England escaped in the follow-on. Despite this last survival trick, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that South Africa would win the series. As I traveled through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington and Montana, I lost contact with the cricket. Back in 1998, Internet cafes were not that common in the US (believe it or not); I didn’t stay in any hotels that might have had a computer with an Internet connection (more often than not, I was either in a tent or a cheap motel); and lastly, whenever I did pass through a town that could have provided access to the ‘net, I was simply in a hurry to move on, buy supplies, eat, refuel, and so on. Amazingly enough, for 24 days and 8000 miles, I simply didn’t check my email or cricket scores. I don’t think I will ever have such an extended break from either of the two ever again. When I returned to civilization (I think it might have been Minneapolis), I checked Cricinfo for the scores and was dumbfounded.

How had England pulled this off? They seemed outgunned in both the pace bowling and batting departments; their batting order circa 1998 was still susceptible to the quick collapse; and their captain, Stewart, was no Mike Brearley. South Africa had helped of course; they had taken a first innings lead at Trent Bridge but then failed to both stack up a serious second-innings score and seriously challenge England in their run-chase (despite Atherton’s heroics, South Africa really should have managed more than 2 wickets in 87 overs). And then at Headingley, they dismissed England for less than 250 in both innings, were left 219 to win, and promptly slumped to 5-27 before losing by 19 runs. Talk about stumbles at the last hurdle. England’s bowling attack of Fraser, Gough and Cork did them proud in the end, and of course, their batting line-up, which included Atherton, Stewart and Hussain proved to be tougher than people might have imagined.

As this series gears up (and its one I’m looking forward to), some of the older circumstances still seem to obtain: South Africa’s pace bowling attack seems stronger; England’s batting seems more vulnerable to the collapse; and in the captaincy stakes, they seem evenly matched. South Africa should be confident, but if their history is any indicator, they’d do well to postpone all celebrations till the time that Graeme Smith steps up to receive the test series winner’s cheque.