Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Unendulkar, the Timeless

The quote below, amongst all I have read in past 5 years that praise or criticise him, best sums up the single biggest quality that defines the Sachin Tendulkar of today. Slyly, slowly and singlemindedly he has gone for the 10th mode of dismissal. Sachin has 'timed' everyone out through his continued love affair with Test cricket.

21 years after debut, it is quite extraordinary that he is likely to score as many centuries (6 achieved, 7 possible) in the current year as he got in 2 seasons even at the peak of his powers in 1998-99. To put in another yardstick, Sachin got as many tons in the first 4-5 years of his career and we all know how unimpressive he was in those days....

I won't be surprised if 40 years hence people start questioning the records when they chance upon this passage of his career. "This guy's incorrigible," the Mask would have remarked. Or in Boycs-ology terms, "it would take 10 horses to pull him off a cricket field."

Quite aptly, this quote has come up on Time magazine - or so I am told (apologies for not verifying). Enough of banter - 'time' to enjoy the quote:

"When Sachin Tendulkar travelled to Pakistan to face one of the finest bowling attacks ever assembled in cricket, Michael Schumacher was yet to race a F1 car, Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France, Diego Maradona was still the captain of a world champion Argentina team, Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam.

When Tendulkar embarked on a glorious career taming Imran and company, Roger Federer was a name unheard of; Lionel Messi was in his nappies, Usain Bolt was an unknown kid in the Jamaican backwaters. The Berlin Wall was still intact, USSR was one big, big country, Dr Manmohan Singh was yet to "open" the Nehruvian economy. It seems while Time was having his toll on every individual on the face of this planet, he excused one man.

Time stands frozen in front of Sachin Tendulkar. We have had champions, we have had legends, but we have never had another Sachin Tendulkar and we never will."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pollock, the emerging commentator

Instance 1: Robin Jackman was discussing a replay of Ishant's reprieve last nite (3rd day close of play of Ind-vs-SA 1st Test at Centurion). Ishant, after apparently being cleanly caught of Morkel's bowling, was called back by umpire Ian Gould after he chose to check foot position of Morkel at delivery with 3rd umpire under the new regulations and uncovered a no-ball.

Jacko then went back to the days of back foot no-ball rule. "Shaun, why do you think it got changed?" Apparently Shaun was off the mike for some reason, so Jacko himself went on explaining how some of the older quicks had metal toes in their shoes and would drag their feet ending up bowling from close to 18 yards. "That is where the front foot rule came into picture, to ensure everyone bowls from 22 yards." after a a while of silence Jacko adds :

"Shaun Pollock observes that since then the bats have got bigger and better, boundries have been pulled in, batsmen can jump to other side to bat left handed in themidst of a delivery but bowlers STILL have to declare the hand with which they are bowling and from which side of the wicket."

Instance 2: Sometime later Shaun Pollock is on the microphone. Ian Gould is flashed on screen at square leg, seen attending to some 'cramp' in the index finger. Off goes Polly in a flash:

"Ian Gould with an itchy finger - hasn't given anyone out since this morning."

[quotes are not exactly reproduced - but you get it I guess]

Being a top team is all about commanding an expectation

Reproducing a Facebook conversation with my friend Bikash Tewari:


wht do u feel , india has any chance in this test, in my view tomorrow is going to be the last day of this test, nomore 5th day is required.


@Bikash: Sharing my thoughts: India being a top Test team does not depend on what the ICC ranking says, or whether the Indian team does Eden 2001 in the next 2 days. It is mainly in what we (supporters) and they (all opponents) EXPECT the team to do.

From what we saw in Sri Lanka and Ind-Aus series, India are deserving no. 1, depending on individual brilliances at key points (to counter upsets) but not too much. If they are as good as I expect them, they should get to a position after the end of the test where they have made SA bat again and taken 3-4 opposition wickets in their paltry chase. In other words, to surprise them the wrong way. That sets up the rest of the series.

Coming back to expectations, even those who were saying Australia were finished are not REALLY surprised that they have come back from the ashes into the Ashes. Irrespective of their ranking, we EXPECT that from them..that is what makes them a top team

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wanted: 5th gear in Indian Test team

Reproducing my Facebook wall post:

"India 292/2 in 82 overs after NZ's 193 all out...When will the Indians ever dominate if not in the current Test?? They are already about 30 or 40 short of what they should have been at end of day given the position and opposition bowling..Get a feeling that there is no 5th gear, and the team believes depending on the opposition car's failure for a win is a good strategy just because there were self-implosions in opposition ranks in the past. To be fair, the vision is perhaps impaired by limitations in bowling."

Scorecard of India-NZ Test:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

But honestly, how do you make them honest?

I just read an interesting article by Rudi Webster on 'the psychology of cheating', including possible ways to encourage integrity in sportsmen. Recommend it even for non-cricket fans..especially the results of the tests with and without vows of code of honour.

What the article does not say: Does it work as well even on sample students taking their 100th test with such vow? Those tainted guys across all sport - none of them did it in their first match. In all likelyhood they would not have done it even if there was to be an offer.
Sharda Ugra has her individual take on the factors that may lead to sportsmen demonstrating loss of morality. She tries to answer her question:

Sporting heroes build their careers, their lives, on reputation. Of athlete as fighter, athlete as adventurer, athlete as risk-taker, but a man or woman doing so always within the rules of their sport. When the boundaries around those reputations begin to fray, we are faced with the same old, weary questions. Guilt and innocence. Reason and impulse. It's what was asked of Hansie Cronje or Mohammad Azharuddin or Saleem Malik, even of Mark Waugh and Shane Warne. Why? Whatever the hell for? What on earth were you thinking?

We want to know what leads men of such skill, achievement and fairly firm financial ground, to make choices that, before they are unethical, are so utterly illogical.

She cites another example of a non-cricketing great sportsman explaining the 'why' what for' 'what were you thinking' questions by looking back to that dark phase:

Tiger Woods described what life was like inside elite sport: "I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to, deserve to enjoy all the temptations around me. I thought I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have to go far to find them." That was his answer to the questions "Why?" "Whatever for?" "What were you thinking?"
I also found some words of interest in Sandy Gordon's study of such incidents as excerpted by Sharda. Along side his famous contributions to international cricket teams, Sandy is professor of sport and exercise psychology at the University of Western Australia's School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health.

One of the more unusual terms Gordon used in his responses to ESPNcricinfo was the "derailer". It comes from a psychological questionnaire called the Hogan Development Survey (HDS), used to study an individual's responses under stress.

The derailer refers to traits that belong to the "dark side of personality", which can sometimes take over under pressure and play an important part in decision-making - traits that are normally tolerated, even indulged, as Gordon says, but which, when "tempted with opportunity", can derail. "It's about character meeting opportunity and/or sport revealing character," Gordon said. Temptations come in many disguises; what stays constant, though, is the powerful lure.

The personality types on the HDS scales include "colourful" (seekers of attention, productive, with ability in crises, and possessed of belief in self and ability), "bold" (overly self-confident, arrogant, with inflated feelings of self-worth) and "mischievous" (charming, risk-taking, limit-testing and excitement-seeking). Gordon says "bold" and "mischievous" characters abound in the entertainment industry (e.g. professional sport...) We may often call them "characters" in cricket.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

To another planet..and back

Breaking news: Sehwag made a trip to a new planet today. It is called 'scoring 2 runs in 21 balls'. Amazingly he survived his stay in the planet.
Further news: Sehwag's personal score now reads 25(35)..the next 14 balls yielded 23 runs.

Perhaps the 12th man came running out to the crease and drew Sehwag's attention to an indignant looking man standing at the boundary rope, fully clad in batting gear. "Get off my planet," signalled a red-eyed Dravid to Sehwag and fidgeted his way back into the dressing room.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The VVS benchmarking

  • Take a great modern Test batsman (i.e. someone with avg easily over 50 plus)
  • Strip his Test stats of ALL "fair weather" runs
  • Check his residual batting average
Is it still above 45?
Does his century count still top 16?
And does he have the number of match winning non-hundreds as the 'benchmark' has?
And has he scored nearly a third of his career runs against the most dominant side of his era?

Yes? NOW call him great.
Else, you can still continue calling him great but with added words.

"Great but not quite VVS"


Quote from Siddharth Monga on cricinfo:

While in Colombo they (Laxman's India teammates) walked out as if they had known Laxman was always going to win them the match, there was more exuberance today, but they were still not going to mob him Twenty20-style.

In the world of Laxman, you don't act all surprised after one of his near-impossible match-winning knocks. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Serendipity and cricket legends

Sneaked into cricinfo today to check the latest on the silly Randiv no-ball controversy - more precisely to check if Sangakkara was involved in asking Randiv for that no-ball as some Indian news channels claimed.

Let me confess - I was planning to get more updates on Sanga's guilt so that I could write a post relating this incident to the final sequence of the movie 'A Few Good Men' where marines Dawson and Downey are deemed guilty of "conduct unbecoming a United States Marine" (Haven't watched the movie? Check the last para of the plot section here) for executing unethical orders from their senior Colonel Jessop.

Not to suggest that Sehwag looked remotely as 'unable to fight for himself' as the movie's victim William T Santiago, or that Sanga was as hot or as brilliant on Monday night as AFGM's Jack Nicholson (Jessop).

Thank God I had this petty craving to send down an uninvited e-lecture 'coz I chanced upon a great page under development.

It is to die for - the legends of cricket section with features and videos on greatest cricketers that ever played the game. It looks to be growing - and we will need to wait for a fully developed page covering other legends. I am not complaining. We have to give it time. Such splendid stuff takes considerable time and effort to compile.

ESPN-Star's timeless cricket footages have been married at this page with the excellent cricinfo reports and stats in this never-before section. Happy watching and reading! Probably some day priceless snaps of these legends can also be linked into this section.

If you are still in two minds on investing the next few hours on this page, here's a clincher: the first entry on that page (and hence the subject of the default video feature that autoruns on opening this section) is Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Remembering Rahul's best days - 1: Prolific 100 run partners in Tests for India

Highest numbers by various 'couples' in recent history - Those were the days, RD...

The fast and the Injurious

Munaf Patel is being flown in to replace Ishant Sharma in the tri nation ODI tourney at SL.
Reason: Ishant is struggling with a knee injury.

A tinge of sadness comes upon hearing those 2 names. Together, in the same sentence. In another depressing news of injury to an upcoming Indian fast bowler. As of today neither are quite the 'fast bowlers' as per the first three words of that report, none bowling with the menace associated with fast bowling. Certainly not any more.

And yet, this is what we got, and England had to believe they got, from Munaf in his first Test in early 2006. Those indeed are the dry stats and may not reflect much. But which Indian cricket fan can forget the thrilling memory of a debutante Munaf Patel sending down genuinely unplayable balls, balls that rose from length with English batsmen at Mohali wondering what hit them?

It was great while it lasted - all of one and half series.

Ishant the 'up your nose' fast bowler lasted a little more - about six months. This was his 'coming of age' match - and for the next quite some innings in all forms of the game he had 'The' Ponting (of 2007-08) as his bunny at the latter's own backyard.

Don't let your recent memory of Ishant's nightmare spells (inside IPL and out of it) make you snigger at the thought that his knockout spell on that overcast morning of the Perth Test ever happened. In case you have forgotten, you can check it out here. Forget the analysis by ex-cricketers in that video. Instead, look at the sheer number of deliveries and ways in which Ponting was lucky to survive for many overs in that 'up there for keeps', never-ending, unlucky-till-Ricky-fell 9-over spell by a 19 year old debutante. And the boy-man was almost as nippy and dangerous in the 9th over, when he got Ponting out, as he was at his first bowl.

Very recently, Ishant had once again looked intent and difficult-to-play in some spells of the 3rd 'Laxman & Ajantha' Test at P Sara Oval last week. That is where melancholy comes. Munaf went the 'can't retain top pace in the international circuit' way and broke hearts. Ishant did the same and broke hearts. Now that Ishant looks to be turning back ever so slightly he has to get injured at his knee.

The only hint of positive note that the news has: Munaf gets another chance to turn his clock back...and hopefully find his top pace again.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Comparison of Warne and Murali (Test bowling career stats only)

Purpose of this post: Stating a closing argument against the malpractice of deriding Murali's achievements in comparison to Warne's.
[statistical closure, I meant - there is no remedy to people using baseless 'arm twisting' tactics of getting away from the statistical argument]

The Test bowling stats of Warne and Murali
The career Tests stats - TAKEN EXCLUDING BANGLADESH AND ZIMBABWE - demonstrate that the two bowlers were statistical twins in geatness stakes, both in terms of their averages & strike rates against various oppositions and also their averages in various lands.

I suspect the Murali baiters will still fish through and come back with one glaring aberration - I am including my closing note on that point at the bottom of this post.

Murali's stats (Tests excluding Zim and Bang):

[Click for LARGER view]

Warnie's stats (Tests excluding Zim and Bang):

[Click for LARGER view]

Dear Murali baiter

I hope you have found out from above career figures
- that both bowlers have consistent and similar bowling averages & strike rates against most teams,
- that England is a common delicacy at (or near) the top in menu for both bowlers
- that both bowlers fare poorly against India (Murali struggled more when touring India, while Warne struggled both home and away).

That was the House of Commons.

Your favourite point, perhaps: Murali's bowling average falls to an abysmal 75 when he tours Australia (5 tests) while Warne does not have figures anywhere close to those against any team or at any country...

Well are you seriously looking for explanation why that happens to a bowler who is specifically targetted by 30000 strong crowds for heckling in the ground over 5 days, then by the umpires and then by the media including the nation's President?

Let alone bowl, Shane Warne would be unable to turn up in the field during SL tours if the crowd there had gone for his throat by flashing his underwear clad sleazy photos across the grounds and the media. Picking even 12 wickets in 5 matches (Murali's figures in matches played in Australia) would look like matching Laker in such hostile conditions.

Even excluding Zim-Bang matches, Murali still scalps better than quarter-to-six wickets per Test @ a bowling avg that is 2% better than Warnie's and a bowling strike rate that is 2% lesser than Warnie's.

Forget the six wickets per Test - it is that big due to Murali getting longer bowling spells with lesser bowlers. Those other two comparative figures tell the story of their amazing equality of greatness in bowling capabilities - within 2% within each other in any which way we look at it.

Should we now close this issue once and for all???

[Stats courtesy: cricinfo]

PS: There is a case for delving further into their stats and finding percentage of top order wickets against each country. But I will leave that exercise to others.

How do you fit the naturally superslow in super slo-mo replays...

"Can't you just speed it up a little bit, because we struggle to fit it into the super slow-mo replays."

Rudi Koertzen gets some advice on his signature 'slow death' signal from a television producer
[source: cricinfo quotes]

Read an older post on Rudi's slow handedness here

Successful by luck: The best cricket post I have read in some time

This post has some usual ROTFL lines (especially on Zaltzman's fave Kamran). Typical Zaltzman....and a bit more than that. It's like a good Rajkumar Hirani film. His examples (starting with Morgan's success last week, and going back to famous ones) and pointers therein on the specific role played by luck were splendid. His thoughts on Pietersen's hundred in the 5th Ashes Test of 2005 took me straight back to similar feelings that I (and probably many others) had after that match...

The completeness of that post comes with his take on the other side of the coin:

"Similarly, there must be many of one-, two- and three-cap Test players who ended their careers thinking, “If only that usually incompetent fielder hadn’t pulled off that uncharacteristic one-handed diving catch”, or “If only that umpire hadn’t been certifiably blind”. Scorecards do not record luck.

Perhaps 1920s batsman Jack MacBryan would have turned out to be a surprise Test-match great. He had an unlucky Test career. In his only Test, in 1924, it rained for much of the first day, then for all of the rest of the match. MacBryan did not bat. And failed, in his 66.5 overs of fielding, to convince the selectors that he had what it takes to succeed at the highest level. Perhaps they spotted some flaw in his technique whilst he was playing pretend shots in the covers in between balls."

I am an Ajantha Mendis fan

[Click for LARGER view]
The gallant man from Sri Lankan army left no choice, after playing an unforgettable innings of 78 as the Lankan number 10 in the 3rd Test against India on the 4th day.

To put the relevance of Mendis' effort in perspective:

  • Sri Lanka are ranked number 3 and are playing a prestigious series against India, the number one ranked team in Tests (thought not the number 1 in bowling); the SL team wants to win this series desperately for pride

  • The results of this 3rd & final match changes series result [SL have 1-0 lead coming into 3rd Test, but a loss can make it 1-1]

  • The teams have scored virtually the same runs in the 1st innings.

  • He came in when his team was struggling at 125/8, with Indian bowlers on rampage.

  • This pitch offers assistance to all bowlers

  • He was continuously hit by Ishant's bouncers on his 'business' finger which sends down those carrom balls

  • His highest score in 1st class cricket was 37 before this innings (refer picture above - freezeframe dt 06Aug10 of his player page) - it was also his highest score in any official form of the game

  • As a result of his joint effort with the brilliant Samaraweera, India are asked to chase down over 250 on a 4th & 5th day pitch which is already offering assistance to bowlers
Mendis' player page will show a highest score of 78 by close of business on 7th August. And when we look at that Mendis player page again after Ajantha is done with his career, that page would tell us that he scored big in some more important innings. That lost half-smile of his, it hides some steel.

[courtesy: Cricinfo player pages]

Elite readership?

Is it possible that Rahul stumbled upon the last "Pavilion View" blogpost? After painstaking innings in the first two Tests, a new avatar of Rahul came out in this Test and scored his first 20 runs off 5 boundary hits. Wonder if it is a first for him in any cricket - leave alone Tests.

Dunno, but the haughty b*****d in me would want to believe that this somewhat Sehwag-ised (or Vir-ile) edition of Dravid may be a fallout of "Pavilion View" playing Bagger Vance and requesting him to 'stand out of his own way' and 'let his shots find him'!
Had there been an answer in the affirmative, we won't hesitate to close this blog in that blaze of glory. We (PV) are surely not going to reach a greater high in the next 400 years of operation.
Jokes aside, let us see things practically...Rahul was probably playing to the team vision. Indians were focussed on forcing a win and the purposeful batting of the entire order reflected that. They can take credit for their current position in this Test#3. They have approached 3rd Test like a team that deserves their current Test ranking. They have left a lot of time for this Test to be decided.

Our 'imagined' R Junnuh probably plays one final Test innings in the Asian Emerald Island to improve his contribution to this series at the moment of reckoning (SL are having a 130+ 2nd innings lead at lunch with 2 wkts in hand)

As I close this post, Sri Lanka lead India by over 170 now with no further loss of wicket. Great rescue act from Samaraweera for 2nd consecutive time, this time with Mendis in supporting role. Got to bid good bye, get back to TV and help pick up the last two. [Again the same b*****d in me thinks he can play a role in changing not only Dravid's batsmanship but also the fate of his team...]

Back in the space of an sms

I sent an sms to some of my friends on today, the 4th morning of 3rd Ind-SL test at the P Sara stadium. I started keying into my non-qwerty pad at 45 mins point after start of day’s play when Sanga and Mahela were batting, managing to send it about10 mins later.

"Ishant looks like Perth'08 bowlg brillntly 2 Sanga who is takg blows but protects wkt. Grt climax, result jo bhi ho (whatever be the result).
23 kiya (made 23) but RD is finally lettg his strokes find him, looks he will score now. Mahela looks doing(sic) good - hurray, Ojha picks Mahela as i sms. Both morng wkts by Ojha.
Keep Saturday free, it is Sanga's genius vs Indian 4th inngs on a grt pitch fr spn & pace. Aah, Ishant not givn extra ovr like Perth....Viru comes on, so going 2 be interestg. Nothing like Test on a pitch like ths...
Sanga out 2 Ojha fr 28 to a flat pull straight to fieldr. Pinch me awake - Mahela and Sanga go within the span of an SMS!!!"

Well that was not exactly an sms (‘short’ msg) but I bet you would feel similarly if you are in front of TV at the time.

Stats lovers: I would have provided links to the individual series & career stats of Mahela and Sanga up until this innings but for the torment to Indian minds.

[Acknowledgement: Thanks AD, for sending the message back after I had deleted it]

Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Why India are number 1 in Tests": the batting part

Steve Waugh was asked during his recent India visit if the Indian Test side deserved to be ranked number 1 even as it is struggling to bag 20 opposition wickets. Steve responded, tongue in cheek: "If the team continues to struggle to take 20 wickets, there will be no wins and top position will automatically go away".

I agree..and see it happen soon if things do not change.

However the current exercise is not to explore the future of the #1 team in Tests. We only are trying to find out what got them there.

Let us look at this list from cricinfo's S Rajesh. It shows the top 10 Asian batsmen in terms of 'averages in Asia'. We can see that 2 of the current Indian players are in the top 5, and another is hobbling just outside that list (Rahul with current Asian avg of 50.52). Enough reason why India have been scoring heavily at home in recent times.

Now look at this list. This is the list of Asian batsmen with highest 'away from Asia' Test averages of all time. You can see that out of the top 15, India has 4 current batsmen and another one (Ganguly) who retired fairly recently. In other words, 5 out of the six batsmen in the batting order for better part of post-2000 performed remarkably well offshore.

Probably this rare combination of batsmen succeeding both at home and away, along with the A-Z bowling combo in away Tests (Anil-Zaheer, before you assume I am hinting at hidden bowling riches), led to India's consistent successes culminating in the number 1 ranking.

Rahul back to his post-35 struggle (something that keeps itself away from Sachin):
At the top of the heap on this 2nd list is the currently struggling Rahul Dravid with a run'away' average of 57. I am surprised as a Sachin-Dravid fan. The surprise is not exactly because the average is still so far ahead of everyone else's (including Sachin's) away average, but because I had seen Rahul's away average touch 65 odd about 4 years back and this is quite a fall from those standards. Probably the failures in 2007 in SA & England took their toll.

I was also checking Rahul's recent series averages to check if he is struggling to keep his place. It appears he has done rather well in all Test series since that post 26/11 England team's visit of India in late 2008. He has kept his Test form up till he landed in Sri Lanka a few weeks back. These long gaps between Test series are surely no help to a 37 year old batsman who is picked only for Tests. But like it or not, Rahul looks like having another personal battle on his hands going into the 3rd Test.

He beat the 'final demons' once in end 2008, just after I made this near-farewell post on him. Can he do it again??

Update 1: Perhaps on SL tours RD needs a 'Bagger Vance' all of his own who can clear the webs in his mind so that RD can 'let the shot find him’ and ‘get out of his own way’.

Cricket, the Aussie way

Here's Andew Hughes' fun take on the Aussie cricketers' own rules of the sport. Besides enjoying the humour, many of us would admiringly agree with Andrew's findings from the last day of Australia's recent loss to Pakistan:

"Why don’t they give up? Every other nation on earth would have gone through the motions this morning. Where does it come from? It certainly isn’t a genetic inheritance. The English way is to give up properly and give up early, before mounting a completely futile rearguard action when all chance of victory has gone."

To be fair about that second part, it seems to be changing since the millennium turned. The days the English are formidable 'pests in Tests'.

But coming back to Aussies' approach to cricket, I recall Steve Waugh visiting India last week. He was asked about Australia 'slipping' in recent times. Steve named South Africa, England, India, Sri Lanka and Australia as the simultaneous 'almost number 1' teams in Tests. However he also said some more words that communicated a quiet confidence that although times will keep changing Australia wil never be found close to the bottom of the heap.

You never do in Test cricket unless you keep giving up.

Update 1: Here's an interview of another guy who never ever gave up - and in fact did way better than just doing that. He is the one man you don't want to see in your opposition team even if you have Bradman, Richards (both Viv & Barry) and Sunny playing for you. You can be Alexander the Great and yet with him on the other side you will end up giving your most famous (albeit disputed) quote:

"I am not afraid of an army of lions led by sheep but an army of sheep led by lions."

In the interview he narrates how he came back from his 1987 retirement lured by the prospect to win a Test series against the 1980's WI side in their backyard. He was seeing a win where other 35+ guys would be relieved to have retired and thus avoided ignominy. That is more like the Imran Khan I know. Suits the man far better than coming back to aim for a less impressive 50 overs World Cup win.

No wonder Immy is the only man I can stand inspite of using as many 'I's as he uses there. I never see him painting a halo for himself. He already has one, so he does not need to.

Update 2:

My orkut profile showed a 'thought of the day' that looked like a nice summary of some immortal-yet-forgettable Australian test innings from the late 80's and early 90's...innings that came mostly from Alan Border and Steve Waugh barring one - the best one - from Dean Jones:
"Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

And Afridi retires...again

Afridi has done it again - from being the Pakistan Test skipper, he has retired from Test cricket after the 1st Test of a 3-Test series.
Today's quote on the cricinfo page happens to be:
"I wasn't good enough"
Shahid Afridi doesn't mince words when announcing his retirement from Tests
And he goes on to drive the point home:

"I took the decision in the best interest of the team and hope a youngster with a Test temperament takes my position. I also feel that there are other players who are not fit for the longer version of the game and my advice to them is to concentrate on the shorter forms."

Anyone unintroduced to Afridi retirements could be forgiven for thoughts like "Phew - this man shows more patience in T20 games than in making career decisions." Probably true, but history shows that this charismatic 'King of T20' takes these retirement calls backed with a sound knowledge that unlike onfield hit-or-block decisions the retirements can be reversed pretty easily, within a very short time, and without asking for referral. Request you to go through some earlier Afridi retirements if you think I am being unnecessarily sarcastic.

That opening quote was pretty blunt for a self-assessment. Having seen Afridi for over a decade now, we can expect that to be a real call, of him calling a spade as he sees it, rather than an excuse to 'leave the battlefield' or 'insult Pak cricket establishment' that some people are accusing him of.

His ex-Pakistan teammate and skipper Moin Khan is relatively moderate. He opines:
"If he was not prepared for Test cricket then he should have thought about this before accepting the captaincy. His decision has come at a wrong time for Pakistan cricket and will complicate issues in the team."

Poor judgement, Moin. Did you truly expect him to have so much 'thought'-fulness alongside a strike rate close to twice that of the next fastest player???

The point is: It can change in the near future - by the 3rd Test, or by the next Test series...or even further down the months, say after the 2011 World Cup.

Why? 'Coz he does not have Test temperament, you see. For most others a career is like one long Test match. To Shahid Afridi, a career probably looks like a series of numerous T20 matches, each dissociated with the other. You never know what the next match throws up!

Take a well earned rest, smiling assasin

This post aims to clear a few 'Murali' cobwebs and let the sunshine come in at the time when this great cricketer most deserves it - on the eve of his Test retirement.
His action first. Here is a frank and reasonably fair assessment of the great Murali's action from that other great Warnie:
"Murali's action has been passed by scientific tests, I always thought it was probably legitimate," Warne said.

"But because of the way he bowled, I was worried that young spinners would try to copy his action and end up bowling illegally."
I loved those last words from Shane Warne. I find it quite possibly the main reason for various umpires outside Sri Lanka crying foul on his action repeatedly even though his bent elbow looked all right to me (and Warnie) by remaining bent till the end of delivery. These umpires, catastrophising on the impact that his action could possibly have on young minds, probably desired to stop Murali more as a precaution than to punish his actual bowling action.

Now to his achievements and the other 'calls' on his reputation. This cricinfo feature, apltly titled "An Unparalleled Match Winner", dwells on various notable career stats of Murali. It reminds our forgetful minds of the magnitude of achievement he is leaving behind, besides the small matter of returning a ratio of almost six wickets per Test.
For starters the man has taken 560 Test wickets since 2000.

We often hear a lot of comparison with that other spinning great Warnie of the 700 plus club. At times partisan cricket followers suggest that Murali's stats are inflated ONLY due to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe tours. S Rajesh does a favour to Murali's argument by presenting a stat for "Best bowlers between 2000 and 2008, excluding Tests v Zim and B'desh (Qual: 150 wkts)".

Under that particular stat Murali still comes out tops over Warnie in the averages, while Warnie returns a better strike rate. Considering quality of Murali's bowling support compared to Warnie's, a better strike rate for Warnie is expected as he found more favourable situations to take wickets and was seldom used as a stock weapon. Murali's better average is still a credit to Murali.

[Note: Bagging more wickets per match is an advantage Murali derived from having lesser bowling partners, and tha is why we are not discussing that. I believe Warnie too would have bagged close to six wickets per match had he bowled for a lesser bowling side than Australia - but perhaps his average and strike rate would both have been worse]

PS: This link has another post on Murali's retirement.

Update 1: If you are a Murali fan you may like to go through Rob Steen's excellent piece on the 'Ultimate MVP'

"Should Murali retire now?"

A nephew asked me this question on Facebook. His personal take was that Murali could have continued as he had more to offer.

This is always a difficult question - to 'foretell' what could have been for a top cricketer depending on his advancing age and his diminishing form. We did that once or twice earlier (most notably with Dada in 2005).... we did not spare Sachin in 2006 either...(hard to believe now) - and look what happened.

Nevertheless this was my reply, and it is based mainly on Test matches:
As per my observations for the last 1 year it was time to go for Murali. I checked the stats in cricinfo and they supported me: From 1st Jan 2009 till date (18th July 2010), Murali has taken only 23 wickets in 8 tests against opposition (excluding Ban or Zim). His average in these tests is 47+ (almost double his career avg) and his strike rate was 89 (much increased from the customary 50's). He was too great a bowler to be bowling to ignore that year-and-a-half long signal - getting to milestones matters less than being of value to the team. In this case, probably he is only just holding his place in the team (but still not a burden) - and a great cricketer needs to step back when it comes to that stage.

As usual I backed myself up with stats there. But I confess that I would not have been able to state the above with any conviction had Murali himself not called it a day.
And what about limitd overs cricket? Well I believe he may just have a role to play in the 2011 50 overs WC. but T20 is also going beyond him...at least that was my first thought while watching Murali a few times in Chennai Super Kings matches of IPL-3. He was not quite the Murali we saw in the first edition of IPL.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sachin: Then, now and forever

This video shows how a sixteen year old Sachin spoke in front of TV in 1989, just before international cricket happened to him.

And this one shows how he spoke at age 36 in an interview with Boria Mazumdar in 2009, celebrating completion of Sachin's 20 years in international cricket.

180204 AD:
Manidus (descendent of humans, but more advanced) have found a 21st century relic. After research work they find it is related to the greatest sportsperson of the most populous country of that time, India. The man had lived till the exact age of 100. As a special honour to the man, 21st century society had stored Sachin's face and his smile for posterity using a technique similar to the one used to save mummies in ancient Egypt.

The Manidus people had also restored and watched video records of some on field performances as well as off-field interviews of this man. All agreed on one point: it was amazing that the man's smile remained the same at age 100 (as seen in the relic) as it used to be at age 16. Textbooks of the time confirm that the Sachin the person indeed remained remarkably unaffected by all external factors, including the numerous major developments he saw in his personal life as well as in the world he lived in. The people find it amazing that the story in the textbook can be so readily understood by one look at the expression on his face.

Within months of its discovery "Sachin's smile" becomes greatly popular as an old world relic in the Manidus world, surpassing the fame of Indus Valley civilisation relics - like the bust sculpture of Mohenjodaro priest, the bronze dancing girl from Mohenjodaro and bull engraved Harappan seals - amongst the earlier humans.

Some interesting quotes came through in that 1989 interview, by the way. He liked fast bowling (even the 80's West Indies variety) as 'the ball comes straight on to the bat'.

On an unrelated point, I watched this 'rare' video on recordings of Don Bradman's strokeplay. Some of the comments referred back to the suggested similarity of Don's game to Sachin's before degenerating into a pointless debate - and I must confess I got drawn into it to leave a comment or two.

Looking at the shots I believe the first one (cover drive, recorded from a match) reminds us most of Sachin. In two other shots - the 2nd one (step out and drive straight down) and 4th one (square on the off) - the initial movements of Don remind us of Sach but then the Australian ends the shots very differently. Our seasoned eyes just cannot imagine Sachin stepping out to drive the ball down the ground and yet NOT play a lofted drive.

UPDATE: Just found a better video of those 4 recorded Bradman shots. Also no ugly debate going on in the comments there (not when I read it), hence left no comments...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Foliage

Some weeks back I clicked this picture with a cellcam while waiting at my daughter's skating classes. This plant had an interesting arrangement of foliage. Younger leaves were coming into their own from below the dark shaded older ones at the top even as the youngest lot could be seen emerging further down. 

An analogy had struck me as soon as I saw the pattern in those leaves. I am trying to put that vision pictorially here.