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]