Monday, February 28, 2011

WC2011 - Ind-vs-Eng ODI@Bengaluru

Another bashing festival on a bowler killing pitch! Only the result and the build up to it (i.e. final 10 out of 100 overs) will stay in memory, besides the rather indifferent captaincy by MS Dhoni before PP3 was taken by England.

Interesting takeaway of match:

Powerplay 3, dreaded by fielding captains, came to the rescue of both skippers when they were cluelessly ultra defensive in the face of slaughter by opposition batsmen. These Powerplays yielded crucial wickets. Instead of aiding the batting side who chose it, the PP3 of each innings produced important breakthroughs and upset the smooth 'milking operation' that the batsmen were carrying out in the face of inert captaincy combined with placid pitch.

I see merit in introducing an additional 5 overs of Powerplay (say 26th to 30th over). Modern captains are feeling the pressure and tend to give up on aggresive strategies altogether. Together we saw another example of a skipper, a celebrated one like Dhoni, not showing aggression even when defensive strategies had leaked runs badly without looking like producing a breakthrough. It was almost as if he was prepared to lose the game that way rather than try something more positive to upset England.

By having another middle over powerplay, skippers will be FORCED to be positive at and left with no choice but to back their bowlers with wicket taking field settings. We saw today what a major difference positive fields (resulting from PP3) can make even in a match that was virtually dead by 92nd over. Time for PP4

[source: expanded from my Facebook wall post after the match]

Sunday, February 27, 2011

WC'2011 Pak vs SL group league match: Watching Pak after a long time

Once again pals, I can only share my match summary as posted on Facebook a while ago after the SL-vs-Pak match ended:

SL vs Pak: At last a proper WC match...where we got good batting and good bowling in both innings..Would have been a very good match with close finish if Chamara Silva would have scored more than 13 in his first 40 balls...
First the backdrop of my Pakistan review that will follow:

I was watching Pakistan today in an ODI after God knows how long..certainly more than 18 months. The last was perhaps the Ind-vs-Pak match in ICC trophy 2009 - which came after a similar previous gap.

It is no better in Tests, and perhaps slightly better in T20's. I have missed all the controversial stuff tht Pak were involved in. I missed the entire career of Mohammad Amir..except in highlights. I barely followed even Indian cricket in the last 3 years, and hence the only familiarity I have of non-India teams / players are those that played against India.

So here's my observation, again from Facebook:
Pak reminded me of old days.

Early wickets while batting , followed by great middle order work, followed by stop start final overs (inspite of having magnificent hitters)..

And then while fielding they showed variety+quality in pace & spin.......combined with good outfielding and terrible catching.

And a proud, fiery skipper who bowls brilliantly at crucial times and backs his players @ 'unforced errors' (While also getting livid when they serve up poor stuff) - almost saw reflections of another mighty Pathan lurking in Shahid today

Only change from those days: their keepers used to be ALWAYS good...(Akmal can cost them the cup)...and their pace bowling was even greater!!! [Qadir looked like a relief to most - so you imagine].

A rejuvenated Pak was much needed for the there is an outside chance of this edition becoming a bowlers' cup!! May be Afridi's..

Abdur Rehman / Shahid Afridi / Umar Gul / Akhtar can make life difficult for right handers coming their way - it is a little too much variety for 'sameness' fed right handed batsmen of today to handle over 50 overs...Sri Lanka needed their left handed opener to last today.

Some 'fresh additions', in case you think I have sold out to the dark world of Facebook:

1) Ahmad Shahzad looked like the only one capable of catching anything, just as Mr. Sania Mirza - or whatever his name is with same initials - did in matches played 8-9 years back. [Well I am being dishonest here for sake of crude humour - I rate Inzy as a good catcher]

2) In 12 WC matches over last 3 world Cups spanning across 2 other decades, Shahid Afridi pouched only 7 wickets. 2 matches into this World Cup, he has bagged nine scalps. Five of which are all to him (bowled / lbw). He also leads his team in 2011.

Compare that to Dravid's WC career who started with Shahid in 1999. Tell me you have seen any greater paradox??!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The videotapes that never were

I was searching for youtube videos of our featured player of the day. We share those amongst a FB forum of colleague friends trying to make the most out of the cricket World Cup. Each day we have decided to have a World Cup great as a player of the day.

I picked up a number of videos from the net to pay tribute to this man...for example this one, or that one - even this.

Then I tried to search for a final video, the pinnacle of his achievements..only to remember I CANNOT show it.
No one can. It was never videotaped, that's why.

"Why are India perched at number 1 position in Tests?"
'Coz they have great players for some years.

"Why do India have great players?"
Because so many people in the country play and follow this game.

"Why do so many people follow this game?"
Because it shot up in popularity after India won the 1983 world Cup.

"Why did they win the 1983 world cup?"
 Because... much as all other reasons in all other games of India in that Cup, one man - their captain and best player Kapil Dev - emerged from the pavilion with his team grovelling at 17/5 & played one astonishing innings of 175* to win India a lost cause against Zimbabwe at a venue called Turnbridge wells in UK.

He did that on a day when the British media went on strike....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Top batting averages in world cups: facts that we expected and facts that we didn't

These days we are playing a little cricket quizzing game in a closed Facebook forum of a few old friends...and trying to answer each others questons without using the net.

AD Prasad, one of my friends, asked about the guy who comes in this WC with highest World Cup batting average. Turns out to be Shane Watson (112). Holland hero Ryan ten Doeschate is number 5 with a figure in the 80's from 4 matches.

Then AD, as he is famously called this side of Motera, filtered out the guys with top World Cup averages and run tally >400.

His findings:
1) Andrew Symonds at 103.00 is tops
2) Michael Clarke comes in at no.2 with 98.80
3) Scott Styris
4) Peter Kirsten (he played just one cup)
5) 'The King' [Viv]
6) Rahul Dravid
Sachin is 9th on this list, while Ponting is ranked in 30's

Surprised at the 6th name? So were we...

Now AD decided to do a further bit of study based on our queries. Dravid is number 6..which is quite something. But his runs may have come slow, not as valuable as some others maybe?

AD took the top 50 scorers in World Cup (by aggregates & not by averages). He multiplied their World Cup averages with the corresponding World Cup strike rates (avg 100 ~ 1.00 & so on proportionately). There may be (and SHOULD be) a formal name given to this value - perhaps it is there already - but we called it the 'factored average'.

Here's the new leaderboard (pasted straight from AD's Facebook post):

1) SCOTT STYRIS (62.107).
2) King Richards (53.845),
3) SRT (50.342),
4) HH Gibbs (49.064),
5) RR Sarwan (48.787),
6) ML Hayden (48.268)
7) R Dravid(46.047),
8) MD Crowe (45.964),
9) ME Waugh (44.243),
10) V Sehwag (43.483),
11) SC Ganguly (43.307),
12) Kapil Dev (42.786),
13) S Anwar (42.561),
14) AJ Lamb (42.437) &
14) DC Boon (39.639).
Ponting comes in at no. 20.

Conclusions we drew:

1) This last list brings out the true greatness of Viv 'da' as ODI player...To have anyone playing half of his WC's in the 70's (when 30+ avg & 60+ strike rate was very good) as high as no.2 on this is simply out of this world. 

These were his world cup specific averages, but his overall stat also reflects a batting average of 47 & strike rate of 90....effectively 42.3 factored average. We wondered if any player with >5000 runs in ODI's still exceeds that*..and we are not even talking about advantage of batting with protective gear / field restrictions / bouncer restrictions / lack of pacers / shorter boundaries etc

2) This part is a completely unexpected side-effect of the fun study that AD undertook:

One Indian player has played out the whole of his three-World-cup career between the last sub-continent World Cup (1996) and the current one. Over those 3 tournaments, Rahul Dravid bettered all but one of his all time great contemporaries from the sub-continent in World Cup averages - both normal AS WELL AS factored ones.

Famous for his away performances in Tests, this stat captures one whole career of stellar 'away only' performance from Rahul Dravid in the decidedly lesser facet of his game - ODI's. Not quite the King or the Master but a man for all occasions nevertheless.

Update: For a perfect contrast to Dravid's World Cup career, have a look at Afridi's World Cup career as it looks 10 days (& 2 Pak matches) into the 2011 WC. Both started their ODI careers in 1996, WC careers in 1999 World Cup.

Update 2: See what I mean when I say no one expects Rahul Dravid on that list, least of all at a position that high?
* Michael Bevan is the only possible suspect that comes to mind

Thursday, February 17, 2011

MSD's masterclass in communication

I simply love this guy's communications...most willing to make him my communication guru.

He might be the only skipper in the history of all cricket to speak exact same things at press meets as well as team meetings - and be respected by all concerned for doing that!!

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a genuine trailblazer in this field. He has blasted all previously held notions of discreetness by following a simple code of lipwork: what cannot be uttered at one place cannot be uttered anywhere..and the rest will have to be consumed everywhere.

Check the above crystal clear yet impersonal pre-WC communication on an issue that, with any lesser communication skills, would either be kept away from the press or would be shared in a manner that it became a potential source of ambiguity to the key middle order batsmen  of the Indian team. Far from it, the skipper's current communication has made it clear to all concerned the strategy that will be adopted for certain eventualities. No role confusion - all clear. Get on please.

I have seen corporate houses making loud noises on 'aligning' people across the hierarchy, while deliberately keeping the same people in dark on key issues...MSD can go to such orgs, ask CEO's of such companies to stand up on the bench holding their ears and teach them a lesson or two on alignment! And that being honest, frank and respectful have no disharmony with each other.

To make full use of MSD's unparalleled combo-offer of vision, leadership and communication, we need MSD to be around for the next 30 years to Indian cricket - 7 as a player, 10 as a coach, 5 as a Chief selector and 8 as an administrator (4 in BCCI and 4 in ICC)...and this is IRRESPECTIVE of Indian team's progress in the 2011 world cup.

When he reaches age 60 we can finally release him - he will be free to go and win the Prime Minister's post hands down thereafter.

Update: Here's a cricinfo quote from Dhoni on what he has suggested to Sreesanth to control his temperament:

I told him that he should not cross a few boundaries. If you want to irritate someone that should be the opposition and not your side.
Once more, the Alignment Man of Indian Cricket is direct, clear, precise...but fair considering the guy in question (a still temperamental Sreesanth).

Update 2: I suspect some of the readers may be having furrowed eyebrows while reading this article. It may seem to be a fan post eulogising Dhoni.

To them I warn: You are taking good things for granted; good things like having captains with pride and vision, captains supportive of their players.

India are fortunate to have such skippers for 11 years now.

For anyone having slightest doubts on the value that these leaders have brought to Indian Cricket through good communication, commitment & pride, I recommend this Prem Panicker article hailing from an era where it was missing in the leader of Indian article written with a lot of angst but with fairness ahead of another World Cup campaign 12 years back.
[As always, I still remain an ardent fan of Azharuddin the batsman - the single biggest reason for my getting hooked to cricket]

Update 3: Even the master communicator can have his sloppy days at press meets when made to answer same questions over and over!!

Dhoni offered a rather strange explanation for the fields he has set for Harbhajan so far. "At the group stages, I don't want to have a forward short leg or silly point because I don't want any player to get injured. That is one of the reasons we have been restricted to using a leg slip."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Magnificent B*****d

You have read millions of articles on 'Dada' evoking love and hate alike. Dileep Peemachandran's cricinfo article on the same topic does not offer new insights to start can skip the "oh no, not again" parts in the first 10 paras.

I suggest you go to the 11th paragraph straightaway, where Dileep begins his account of Ganguly's 144 at Gabba. Indeed it was Dada's finest hour of both batsmanship and leadership.
THAT is when the journey to No. 1 got its wheels.
The last 2 para's are too good, especially in context of a bit of 'unmentionable' history attached to Eden Gardens 2001!

Minutes before he raised his hundred, I'd gone down to the stands where the Fanatics stood, waving their Boxing Kangaroo flags. Some of them had history with Ganguly. On the tour of India in 2001, when India did a Houdini at the Eden Gardens, one of them had told me that they had footage of Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh showing them the middle finger after the victory.

The men and women I was surrounded by weren't admirers. It was fairly apparent that they'd love nothing better than seeing him run out for 99. But when he wasn't, after he had charged between the wickets to make his ground and then run a third of the way to the sightscreen to celebrate, I asked one of the flag-wavers what he thought of the man.

"He's a bastard" was the reply. After a small pause, he added: "But what a magnificent bastard."

That was a delightfully memorable anecdote, Dileep. Thanks a ton.