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Friday, 30 August 2013
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Kapil Dev’s coach Azad passes away IANS



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CA forced to release Watson for Rajasthan Royals


 
Adding complications to its Ashes preparations, Cricket Australia (CA) will be forced to release Shane Watson for Rajasthan Royals for the next month’s $6 million Champions League Twenty20.

Australia’s first Ashes Test start Nov 21 in Brisbane and before that Australia will play six one-day internationals and two T20s in England, and seven one-day games and a T20 in India. In between, Champions League has just complicated things, reports Sydney Morning Herald.
According to rules, players who have qualified for more than one team, as Watson and Mitchell Johnson have for Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians, respectively, as well as Big Bash team Brisbane Heat, are obliged to represent the Indian team.
Both the Australian franchises will receive $300,000 in compensation.
Last season, Watson was forced to leave Champions League midway to prepare for the home season.
CA has resolved to rest the stars, keeping the Ashes in mind, when it picks the squad for the limited-overs tour of India from Oct 10 to Nov 2. But that may not go down well with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Thursday, 29 August 2013
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Rahane, Saha fifties in vain as South

Pretoria: India A`s batting collapsed when it mattered the most as they crashed to a 121-run defeat in the second unofficial `Test` against South Africa A who rode on seamer Beuran Hendricks` six-wicket haul to level the two-match series 1-1 here on Tuesday.

The visitors lost despite fighting half-centuries by Ajinkya Rahane (86) and Wriddhiman Saha (77 not out) who fought gallantly to steer India to victory after a top order collapse.

Chasing a stiff 307-run target for victory, Rahane and Saha by tea had brightened India`s chances of registering a series win with an unbeaten 160-run stand for the sixth wicket after they were struggling on 18 for five at one stage.

India A had won the first `Test` by an innings and 13 runs at Rustenburg.

They were cruising on 177 for five at tea with both Rahane and Saha at the crease before the tables completely turned around after the break with the visitors losing five wickets for just seven runs.

Rahane`s dismissal triggered the collapse as the tailenders caved in meekly.

Even as Saha tried hard to put up a brave fight but he kept losing partners at the other end. He remained unbeaten on 77 off 183 balls including 11 boundaries.

Hendricks finished with figures of 6 for 27 from 17 overs, while Simon Harmer chipped in with three for 79.

Earlier, resuming the day on three for one, India lost four wickets in quick succession for just 17 runs, as Hendricks struck three early blows.

Cheteshwar Pujara, who resumed today on 2, failed to add to his overnight total as Jutin Ontong ran him out.

Hendricks, who dismissed opener Murali Vijay (2) yesterday, accounted for the other three wickets -- overnight batsman Shahbaz Nadeem (5), Dinesh Karthik (0) and Ambati Rayudu (1) -- to leave the Indians in tatters, before Rahane and Saha came to the team`s rescue.
Wednesday, 28 August 2013
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Rahane, Saha fifties in vain


 Pretoria: India A`s batting collapsed when it mattered the most as they crashed to a 121-run defeat in the second unofficial `Test` against South Africa A who rode on seamer Beuran Hendricks` six-wicket haul to level the two-match series 1-1 here on Tuesday.

The visitors lost despite fighting half-centuries by Ajinkya Rahane (86) and Wriddhiman Saha (77 not out) who fought gallantly to steer India to victory after a top order collapse.

Chasing a stiff 307-run target for victory, Rahane and Saha by tea had brightened India`s chances of registering a series win with an unbeaten 160-run stand for the sixth wicket after they were struggling on 18 for five at one stage.

India A had won the first `Test` by an innings and 13 runs at Rustenburg.

They were cruising on 177 for five at tea with both Rahane and Saha at the crease before the tables completely turned around after the break with the visitors losing five wickets for just seven


They were cruising on 177 for five at tea with both Rahane and Saha at the crease before the tables completely turned around after the break with the visitors losing five wickets for just seven runs.

Rahane`s dismissal triggered the collapse as the tailenders caved in meekly.

Even as Saha tried hard to put up a brave fight but he kept losing partners at the other end. He remained unbeaten on 77 off 183 balls including 11 boundaries.

Hendricks finished with figures of 6 for 27 from 17 overs, while Simon Harmer chipped in with three for 79.

Earlier, resuming the day on three for one, India lost four wickets in quick succession for just 17 runs, as Hendricks struck three early blows.

Cheteshwar Pujara, who resumed today on 2, failed to add to his overnight total as Jutin Ontong ran him out.

Hendricks, who dismissed opener Murali Vijay (2) yesterday, accounted for the other three wickets -- overnight batsman Shahbaz Nadeem (5), Dinesh Karthik (0) and Ambati Rayudu (1) -- to leave the Indians in tatters, before Rahane and Saha came to the team`s rescue.
Tuesday, 27 August 2013
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Nike sues Virat Kohli for breach of contract

In what appears to be a relationship turned sour, Team India's emerging cricketer Virat Kohli is now at loggerheads with his long-time sponsor Nike. The sports giant has accused the Delhi batsman of breaching their endorsement contract.

The Karnataka High Court, acting on suit filed by Nike, ordered issuance of emergent notice to cricketer Virat Kohli on Tuesday.

Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh directed Kohli to maintain status quo for the next four weeks regarding endorsement deal signed with Nike and adjourned the case.

In its suit, Nike claimed Kohli had breached the contract by disagreeing to continue as its brand amabassador till 2014. The five-year contract from 2008 was extendable by one year.

Nike had entered into a contract with Virat Kohli from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2007. Later, a fresh contract was signed for the period between August 1, 2008 and July 31, 2013 for exclusive endorsement rights.

According to The Hindu, Virat Kohli was paid Rs.1.42 crore for this contract that carried a clause for extension for another year, till July 31, 2014 with certain conditions.

While planning to extend the contract and also sign Kohli beyond 2014, Nike was shocked to receive a letter from Kohli on June 6, 2013. The sports giant claims that Kohli "made certain self-serving and baseless allegations with respect to implementation of the contract" and rejected its extension through the letter.

The firm also alleges that Kohli's action was a result of non-acceptance of his unilateral and unreasonable terms suggested by him earlier.

Nike, in its suit, has pleaded with the court to restrain Kohli from entering into or negotiating any endorsement deal with any third party until the expiry of the deal, company counsel Aditya Sondhi said


Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/virat-kohli-sued-by-nike-breach-of-endorsement-contract-karnataka-high-court-indian-cricketer/1/300488.html
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Mohammad Yousuf: The man who made a name for himself


Yousuf was ignored by mighty and pristine Lahore team in the mid-nineties due to his faith and background. Thus, he went ahead to play for Bahawalpur in 1996. Within a few months, Lahore realised their folly and requested him to play for them in the 1997-98 season. Within no time of making the switch, Yousuf was picked in the Pakistan squad for a tour of South Africa and made his Test debut at Durban in February 1998. He had thus become only the fourth Christian to play cricket for Pakistan after of Wallis Mathias, Antao D'Souza and Duncan Sharpe, an Anglo-Pakistani.

And so it began. The Pakistani run machine was switched on; its first target was the Zimbabwe team. In his first two innings against the African nation in both Tests and ODIs, Yousuf scored half-centuries. He also went on to hold the record of scoring the most runs without being dismissed in ODIs when he hit 405 runs unscathed against Zimbabwe in 2002–2003, including a 23-ball fifty and 68-ball hundred. He was also the top scorer in the world in the shorter format in 2002 and 2003. In that same period, he blazed his way to a 27-ball fifty in a Test match against South Africa, which is the fourth fastest by any player. Yousuf soon formed a formidable Pakistan middle order along with Inzamam-ul-Haq and Younis Khan that pulverised bowling attacks around the world.


Conversion to Islam

In Ramchandra Guha's book, Corner of a Foreign Field, the author mentions an incident involving British writer Geoffrey Moorehouse, who came across a gifted Christian cricketer playing in Quetta. "Moorehouse asked why he didn't move to cricketing centres like Lahore or Karachi to better his chances of playing for Pakistan. The boy's reply was revealing: 'all the best jobs in the country went to Muslims and no Christian had a hope of getting anywhere in cricket — not like in India, where Roger Binny has made the test team.'"

Yousuf's faith as a Christian was always a taboo topic right from the beginning, but perhaps never came to the fore in the initial stages of his career; at least nothing significant was reported about it. He had married a Christian woman and things seemed normal. But suddenly, one fine day in 2005, news broke that Yousuf had converted to Islam. Yousuf Youhana had become Mohammad Yousuf. The earlier clean shaven look was replaced by a flowing beard that grew with years. His family was shocked and expressed anger at the decision. The Daily Times reported that Yousuf had been banned from his home. “I don’t want to give Yousuf my name after what he has done,” his mother is reported to have said.

Yousuf confirmed that he attended preaching sessions held by the Tablighi Jamaat — Pakistan's largest non-political religious grouping — where teammate Saeed Anwar and his brother used to preach. Rumours started circulating that he had been pressured into the change by a team with increasingly devout Islamic beliefs. However, Yousuf said that he had converted out of his own free will with no external pressure. "I cannot tell you what a great feeling it is," he told the BBC, also adding that "the discipline and focus Islam has instilled have filtered into my batting."


Purple patch

 Whether it was his change in belief or not, it seemed to have worked. In July 2006, when Pakistan toured England, Yousuf essayed three innings of extreme class: he scored 202 runs in the first Test at Lord's, rescuing Pakistan from 68 for four, batting seven hours 48 minutes in an innings that included 26 fours and a six, and bowed his forehead to the turf in the direction of Mecca; at Headingley, Yousuf fell eight short of his third double century in four Tests against England (he had scored one at Lahore the previous year) after a mix-up with Inzamam, but not before he shared a mammoth partnership of 363 with Younis Khan which was the fifth-highest for any wicket against England, Pakistan's highest against England, the third-best in a Headingley Test, and the biggest in all Test cricket in a losing cause; and finally, in a controversial final Test at The Oval where the Pakistan team was accused of ball-tampering by umpire Darrell Hair which eventually led to a walk-out, Yousuf gave the Pakistani fans something else to remember about with 128 in 236 balls, including 18 boundaries.
Friday, 23 August 2013
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On Over Rates And Time Wasting

On Day 2 at the Oval, England bowled 39 overs in three and a half hours according to one estimate. Their overrate was decidedly slow. At first glance, it was clearly below the prescribed 15 overs per hour. Time wasting has already been an issue earlier in the Ashes. David Warner suggested that England wasted time on Day 4 at Old Trafford. After yesterdays play, England's strategy was criticized widely enough to merit its own story apart from the match report. The sticking point is that England bowled 11.5 overs in the hour after tea. Australia scored about 90 runs in that passage of play, a scoring rate which always slows things down.

The suggestion of time wasting invites a lot of scorn, especially from the "give-the-spectators-their-money's-worth" crowd. On the face of it, the argument that a spectator who gets to watch only 87 overs in six and a half hours of gripping cricket as opposed to 100 overs in 6 hours of cricket where the overs are fired in one after another by Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin on a dead pitch, is obviously ridiculous. Are there moments in a day's play when a fielding captain's indecision causes delays? Yes of course. Are there other times when a fielding captain may want to slow down the game to break the momentum of the batting pair? Yes. This is entirely legitimate, as long as the fielding captain makes up for it elsewhere. That is what the rules say, as I will show in a moment. But think about this. If a match got over on the 4th day after 65 overs of play, would the spectators be entitled to 25 overs worth of money back? If Cricket is really a sport, is it really reasonable measure ticket price per over? This is, in my view, an extremely silly argument that bears that lethal combination of righteousness, fairness and moderation.

Even established commentators like Harsha Bhogle appear to think that the ICC's rules require 15 overs to be bowled in every hour. Every time a team slows down the overrate, supporters of the opposition and neutrals. Yet, overrates are, as far as I can tell, one of the few things in the Code of Conduct which are enforced consistently by the Match Referee.

The MCC is still the guardian of the Laws of Cricket. Test Matches are played according to the ICC's amendments to those laws. The laws applicable to Test Cricket are published in the ICC's Playing Handbook. This is an annual publication. The rules about minimum overrate are given under Law 16, which ICC have extended substantially. I have copied the relevant portion at the end of this post.

The ICC requires that the minimum over rate to be achieved in Test Matches will be 15 overs per hour. This does not, however mean that 90 overs have to be bowled in a days play. 2 minutes are deducted for the fall of a wicket, as long as this does not take place off the last ball before an interval, or is the last wicket to fall in an innings. 4 minutes are deducted for the fall of a wicket. So, if 2 wickets and 1 drinks break are taken in a 2 hour session of play, then, assuming that no other delays occur, the over rate of 15 overs per hour will have been achieved if the bowling team delivers 28 overs.

In any event, none of this matters if a team is bowled out in less than three and a half hours. The ICC's overrate formula is designed to account for progress in the game. This is why, the overrate is calculated only at the end of the match. The overrate of a team is also the average rate which is achieved by a fielding team across both of the batting team's innings. So England having 1 slow hour has no relevance because individual hours are not considered separately. As long as England make up time when they bowl again, they should be fine. However, if they don't get a chance to bowl again, then their overrate during Australia's 1st innings will count as their overrate for the match.

Every other matter in the Code of Conduct requires the umpires, the team manager, the CEO of the participating Board, or the ICC Chief Executive, to make a judgment as to whether or not the Code has been breached. In David Richardson's judgment, Darren Lehmann's comments about Broad constituted a breach of clause 2.1.7. The charge was brought, Lehmann pled guilty and the referee fined him 20% of his match fee. This type of judgment is necessarily inconsistent. In an earlier instance, Graeme Swann not only called an opponent a cheat, but said he wanted to "kill" him. The ICC's Chief Executive did not bring a charge, so Swann was not charged. In the case of the overrate, the umpires are required to calculate the actual overrate of each team after a match. So the umpires have clear data based on which to decide whether or not the overrate was slow or not. Compared to judgments of character, overrates are relatively simple to measure.

The overrate rule is well designed in my view. It sets a requirement without being too intrusive. It allows the game to proceed at a pace dictated by the match situation. It gives the fielding captain a wide berth. Only a captain who thoroughly disregards the overrate will get penalized. The overrate rule is effective as well. We have seen Tests in which the fielding captain leaves the spinner on for half an hour longer, conceding 30 or 40 crucial runs (in place of a fast bowler who might have taken wickets), just because his team is behind on the overrate. This way, the overrate law prevents fielding teams from abusing the privilege of being able to set the tempo of the game, while still allowing them some leeway. Jadeja and Ashwin can easily rattle through 18 or 19 overs in the hour. Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma, when bowling together, can probably only manage about 13.

Based on what I have seen, teams that are behind in the game, teams that are conceding runs at a very fast pace, and teams that are waiting for a declaration, tend to fall behind on the overrate. Even Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Stuart MacGill took 45 extra minutes to finish 90 overs on Day 2 at Sydney in 2004. That was the day when Tendulkar and Laxman added 350 or so against them and India batted into the third day.

Like much of the commentary about DRS, the commentary about overrates seems to ignore the facts. Time wasting is allowed in cricket, as long as the fielding team makes up for it at another point in the match. Even here, Law 42.9 provides Umpires with the power to curb time wasting which they don't consider reasonable. But this law has to be enforced on the field. It has nothing to do with the overrate which is only calculated at the end of the match. There is no symmetry between time wasting by bowlers and batsmen, since batsmen cannot start the play. It is a convention in the game that when the bowler is prepared to run up to bowl, the batsman must be ready to face up. Jonathan Trott flouted this convention and was criticized for it. Time wasting is similarly a convention in cricket.

Teams should be criticized when they overstep the rules. But this criticism must obviously take into account the actual rules, not the second hand modified, fictitious rules that are often bandied about on partisan commentary.

ICC's overrate calculation rules below:
Wednesday, 21 August 2013
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Brydon Coverdale Misses The Point

Everyone cheats. Lehmann shouldn't single out Broad simply because he thinks it was blatant. He ought to stop trying to play mind games and focus on his own work. Thats the gist of Brydon Coverdale's argument about the most recent episode in the Ashes. To call that an argument is generous, for it implies a measure of reason, as Coverdale put it.

But first, lets get rid of the silly idea that Broad's edge was not thick and blatant. He edged it to slip, and it would have carried to slip's right hand even if it hadn't caught Haddin's glove on the way. The fact that it caught as little of a deflection as it did despite a professional first choice wicketkeeper going for it should indicate how thick the edge was. The edge for which Broad eventually walked was thinner than the one for which he stood. That second edge carried low between the wicket keeper and slip, both of whom were standing back to a ball delivered by a right hander from over the wicket. The first edge, for which Broad stood, would probably have gone along a line somewhere between second and third slip if we imagine the slips standing similarly back.

Quite apart from that, its one thing for Lehmann - who is a member of the touring party and is clearly a partisan observer - to say that Broad cheated (he did, if words in English still mean what they are supposed to). It is quite another for Coverdale to argue that Lehmann shouldn't say what he did simply because he is one. Coverdale himself thinks that what Broad did at Trent Bridge was "wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. He shouldn't have done it."So why does he have a problem with what Lehmann said? Especially since he's a journalist, and not a partisan observer. What interest is served by arguing that a person in Lehmann's position of authority shouldn't come criticize something which was "a misjudgement that cricket could have done without." in Coverdale's words?

Coverdale brings up Lehmann's hypocrisy in his piece. Lehmann doesn't advocate walking, but he thinks Broad was wrong. Its fairly clear from the report on Lehmann's interview that he was incensed about the way Broad had "carried on and the way he's commented in public about it". The same story quotes Broad saying that he knew he had hit it.

When batsmen have reviews in hand, they cannot ignore the laws of the game as they can when they have no option but to accept the umpire's decision. When a batsman has reviews in hand, not walking is not a sin of omission. In Broad's case, England did have reviews in hand. I know it is a complicated concept for some people, but the point about blatant decisions is of central importance. Anybody who has played cricket, or has even participated in an activity that involves conventions being followed, knows how important it is that those conventions be respected. Even Michael Clarke, who has previously stood for similarly blatant edges, has publicly apologized in both cases. Broad not only didn't apologize, but justified his actions by saying that he has a "win at all costs mentality".

Coverdale asks whether Flower or Kirsten would have been similarly critical. Flower is the author of the win-at-all-costs mentality in England - he's a slick operator who protects his players when they do bad things. It probably is the same win-at-all-costs mentality which caused Stuart Broad to step on the ball against South Africa, and then made Flower coolly describe it as Broad trying to stop the ball with his boot. Kirsten would probably not get involved, at least publicly, in any such spats. Cricket is worse off because people in Andy Flower's (or Gary Kirsten's) position behave the way they do and either actively condone or ignore sharp practice from their team or the opposition. It is also worse off because Darren Lehmann didn't make a charge against Stuart Broad after Trent Bridge. Coverdale should know that. After all, he agrees that what Broad did was wrong.

So what if it was a "blokey" interview? Lehmann did not abuse Broad. He called Broad a cheat. This is accurate given that Broad admitted that he cheated and justified his cheating. The comparison with Hayden's comments about Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds' comments about Brendon McCullum is sloppy.

The worst thing about Coverdale's article is that it reveals that he really doesn't care about right and wrong. Its predictable that an Australian writer should criticize Lehmann when Australia are down 3-0 in the Ashes in England. Sadly, it is also a entirely predictable that most of this criticism is poorly constructed.
Toss And Bowling Average

Toss And Bowling Average

The toss is an underrated aspect of Test cricket. What if each bowler played half his Tests when his team won the toss and half when he didn't. How would it change their career records? Would it be fair to correct for this peculiarity in Test cricket. The results are mixed. I looked at about 65 bowlers who took substantial numbers of wickets in matches where their teams won the toss and lost it.

Alec Bedser has the most striking record. In matches where England won the toss, Bedser took 64 wickets at the rate of one every 90 balls. When England lost the toss, he took 172 wickets at the rate of one every 59 balls. Monty Panesar similarly takes his wickets 41 % faster when England lose the toss. Vaas and Zaheer Khan do better when their teams lose the toss compared to when their teams won the toss. Erapalli Prasanna

At the other of the spectrum, McGrath, Marshall, Hadlee, Kumble and Muralitharan all do much better when their teams win the toss.

Please see the list below the fold. Why do you think these differences exist to such a degree?






Tuesday, 20 August 2013
 Kohli Was Not surprised by Jadeja’s rise

Kohli Was Not surprised by Jadeja’s rise



Jadeja jumped four places in the rankings Sunday after his showing in Zimbabwe, making him the first Indian to become the No.1 bowler in the world since Anil Kumble in December 1996. Overall, the left-armer is the fourth Indian after Kapil Dev (March 1989), Maninder Singh (December 1987-November 1988) and Kumble to claim the top spot.
“I am not surprised, to be honest. He has made huge strides in international cricket specially in the ODIs. In the last one or two years he has really been consistent with his bowling. Plus he chips in with the bat every time the team needs,” Kohli told IANS on the sidelines of a promotional event here at the Talkatora Stadium.
“I am really happy for Jadeja that he is the No.1 bowler in the world and he deserves it. He is one of those guys who will always make something happen on the field. When he comes on to bowl, he will probably get you the breakthrough or just control the run flow straightaway. He has made a huge impact on our ODI victories,” the 24-year-old said.
Kohli, designated for the first time as captain for the entire Zimbabwe series, thanked regular skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni for his tips.
“I spoke a lot to Dhoni about how to keep my composure in difficult situations. I have seen him and he does not react at all, it is a very hard thing for a captain and I tried to learn as much as I could from him. I spoke to him about field placings, when to control a certain situation in a match, when to go defensive and when on the attack,” added the Delhiite.
“I observe him a lot when I am standing with him on the field. I notice what he tries to do with his bowlers and field placements. I have really learnt a lot from him and it has really helped me in leading the side.”
Asked if India was vindicated on resisting the Decision Review System (DRS) seeing the spate of controveries in the Ashes, Kohli said: “Definitely, you have seen how many decisions have gone wrong because of technology, which is not 100 percent fool-proof yet.
Lot of people are in favour of DRS and many do not like it. But I would rather be given out by an umpire and just walk away in disappointment rather than having reviews and seeing that I am not out and still being given out. That disturbs a player mentally much more than an umpire giving a normal decision.”
 The Best Tendulkar Jonty’s run out of Inzy

The Best Tendulkar Jonty’s run out of Inzy



Tendulkar said the event provided him the opportunity to play against the best players of that era, but is disappointed at not playing against his hero Viv Richards
Tendulkar scored 283 runs in the 1992 World Cup at an average of just over 47 and was man of the match in India’s only two victories – over Pakistan by 43 runs and Zimbabwe by 55 runs.
The maestro retired from limited overs cricket last year after playing in 463 ODIs in which he scored 18,426 runs, including 49 centuries. In the 198 Tests to date, Tendulkar has scored 15,837 runs at an average of just under 54 with 51 centuries.
Remembering his progress from a ball boy in the ICC Cricket World Cup 1987 to being alongside the legends of that era in the best tournament, a modest Tendulkar said: “I remember in 1987, I was a ball boy so it was a big transformation for me from being a ball boy to participating in the next World Cup.
“I still remember the group picture of teams in Sydney. It was followed by a dinner at the Darling Harbour. It was an unbelievable experience with all the top players from the world in the room. I didn’t speak much to anyone. But just to see them from close vicinity was special,” he said.
For Tendulkar, the World Cup was the first chance to play with some of the big names.
“England had Ian Botham, Graham Gooch, Allan Lamb. If you talk about South Africa, there was Kepler Wessels leading them and Peter Kirsten as a senior player. For Pakistan, there was Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram. Having got a chance to play against them in Pakistan in 1989 itself was wonderful, but playing them in a world championship was a different feeling altogether.
“West Indies had Desmond Haynes, Richie Richardson, Malcolm Marshall and Curtly Ambrose. I was quite disappointed that Vivian Richards was not part of the West Indies squad. He was (and still is) my hero, so it was disappointing that I could not play against him.
“Australia was led by Allan Border, and Steve and Mark Waugh, and Craig McDermott were an important part of their squad. New Zealand had Martin Crowe and John Wright who played that World Cup. Sri Lanka had the likes of Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga.”
Tendulkar said the World Cup also introduced a number of newcomers to the world who went on to become household names and great ambassadors for the game.
“I have to say Allan Donald was a big name then. Everyone spoke about how good he was. Then there was Jonty Rhodes. His run out of Inzamam-ul-Haq was one of the highlights of the World Cup. Not many guys have seen a run out like that!
“West Indies had Brian Lara who was special with his flamboyant batting. For Pakistan there was Wasim Akram who was at the peak of his career, and Inzamam-ul-Haq who played an important knock in the semi-final. From New Zealand, Mark Greatbatch gave them some amazing starts, but Martin Crowe was the one who batted beautifully and was consistent throughout the tournament,” he said.
As a player who has played in three different decades, Tendulkar considered himself lucky to have been pitted his skills against the great all-rounders of the 1980s.
“There were some real big names and some of the world’s top all-rounders. One thing I feel happy about is that I played against all of them: Richard Hadlee, Malcolm Marshall, Clive Rice, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Ian Botham. They were the best all-rounders the game had produced.
“Having been able to play against them I consider myself very fortunate. It was quite an experience to play those top guys,” he said.
Thursday, 15 August 2013
On Ravindra Jadeja's ODI Bowling Ranking

On Ravindra Jadeja's ODI Bowling Ranking

Ravindra Jadeja is currently ranked the world's Number 1 ODI bowler (jointly with Sunil Narine) according to the ICC's official player rankings. This ranking says more about the current weakness in ODI bowling than it does about the quality of Jadeja's bowling. Over the last 23 years, the top ranked bowler has been rating at least 800 on average, and closer to 900 in the early 2000s. During this period the ratings were dominated by Glenn McGrath, Shaun Pollock and Muttiah Muralitharan. In the early 1990s they were dominated by Wasim Akram and Curtly Ambrose.



Since 2008, the top ranked ODI bowler has more often than not had a rating under 750. This decline in the top ODI bowlers rating coincides with two developments - the rise of franchise based T20 cricket, and the advent of the batting powerplay. The batting powerplay has resulted in the contest being skewed in favor of the bat even further by increasing the number of overs in which bowlers are restricted in the way they can set fields.

Jadeja is part of a larger trend in the ODI game.


Wednesday, 14 August 2013
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Scyld Berry on Khawaja

Scyld Berry has been in the news recently because a seemingly innocuous match report he wrote contained an apparently breathtaking line about Australia's embattled top order batsman Usman Khawaja. “He (Khawaja) could well be replaced in the Oval Test by Phil Hughes and Australia’s experiment with their Asian immigrant population will be shelved.” The line is no longer in the article which now merely states "He could well be replaced in the Oval Test by Phil Hughes." 
Berry has since offered something of a mea culpa. He says his reference to Khawaja's selection as "Australia's experiment with their Asian immigrant population" was "an observation I made without any intent to disparage Khawaja, but as an attempt to portray the unique position in which he finds himself as the first Muslim to represent Australia – and, broadly speaking, the first non-white since Sam Morris in the nineteenth century." Berry must be speaking very broadly indeed, because Dav Whatmore, Sri Lankan, played for 7 Tests for Australia in 1979-80. Berry's emphasis on breadth also invites us to pay attention to Andrew Symonds, the biological son of a West Indian and a Scandinavian (if wikipedia is right) who was adopted by an Australian couple when he was 3 months old, played 26 Tests and 198 ODIs for Australia. Berry should remember Symonds, since he wrote briefly about the "monkeygate" episode in his editor's note in the 2008 Wisden Almanack calling India's threat to call off the tour if Harbhajan was not acquitted, "a complete violation of the judicial process". Mr. Berry appears to choose vigorously from the facts.
With things like these (lots of heavy words have been thrown about - racism being one of them), it is the superficial, rhetorical appearance of discrimination which is immediately jarring. The rhetoric is worth paying attention to. Of all the objections to Berry's original point, the proposition that he intended to disparage Usman Khawaja is probably fairly low on the list. Clearly, it was the bit about the "experiment with the Asian immigrant population" which was the more basic problem. It suggests at least two things. First, it suggests that as Berry saw it, the "Asian immigrant population" was some kind of disposable appendage of "Australia". Second, that picking Khawaja was some kind of affirmative action, fulfilling some kind of minority quota, and not a selection made on the merits. Selection is a difficult art, and given Chris Rogers' first class record, it is hard to see how Khawaja, Hughes, Marsh and North were picked before him. But it is difficult, given that Australia currently don't have batsmen who are making first class centuries for fun and itching for Test selection, to accept that Khawaja didn't merit selection. Khawaja's early performances (and the selection decisions in his case) are not atypical in Test Cricket. Many players who started out like Khawaja went on to successful careers. Others didn't. Test selection is a brutal business.
Berry's mea culpa amounts to a list of things which explain his goodwill towards "them". Them, the Asian immigrant population. Them, the inner city kids, two thirds of whom are Asian. As if this goodwill wasn't enough, Berry even married one of Them! To my ears, in 2013, "racial integration" brings with it the unspoken assumption that the person attempting it is trying to mix oil and water. To organize a cricket tournament is a wonderful thing to do. Why drag that into a defense of a clumsy piece of writing (if this is all that it was)?
I wonder, would Berry call Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen "immigrant experiments"? Would he see Trott and Pietersen's occupation of the two most high profile slots in England's Test batting order - 3 and 4 - as successful immigrant experiments? Both were born and raised in South Africa. Trott played for South Africa Under 15 and South Africa Under 19. Pietersen played for Natal's B team at age 17 and explicitly criticized the quota system in South Africa after he moved to England. If facts matter, then as a matter of facts, this is precisely what they are.
The problem with Scyld Berry's article is that he is a writer from another age, seeing the world in terms that are thankfully (but not uncontroversially, not yet anyways) anachronistic today. Just look at his tedious metaphor of the "big game hunter". Stuart Broad bowled a fine length and took 10 wickets in the match at Chester-le-Street. But Berry's description turns him into a decidedly masculine beast, guided by passion, whose bowling is "not all cruelty". Why? Because, he apparently "helped out" his hunting partner. The hunting partner is that other tired beast - James Anderson. Anderson has gone through a "fallow" period. Reading Berry, one might be forgiven for thinking that cricket is watched by people who (own) farm land and hunt game, not by white collar service professionals in the 21st century city who have the disposable income and the spare time to make writers like Berry viable.
As an account of the final day of the Test Match, Berry's report was modest at best. Only Berry can say whether it offered an accurate insight into his world view. By explaining a clumsy sentence as he did, Berry has turned what might have been seen as a clumsy piece of writing into something far more revelatory.
Monday, 12 August 2013
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Test Team Strength 1989 - 2013

 Here is a companion slideshow to my post over at Cricinfo's Cordon. The batting and bowling strengths used in these graphs involve consideration for hosts, opponents, and grounds. I've included broad trend lines.


Note:
Blue: Batting - Higher is better.
Red: Bowling - Lower is better.
Grey: Team Strength (to be read with the Y-axis on the right side) - Higher is better.
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The Most Compelling Reason Against Involving Players In Umpiring

Day 2 of the Ashes Test at Durham was a great advertisement against involving players in any way in umpiring decisions. Here's a sample of actions by players on the field:



1. England captain Alistair Cook was apparently perplexed that a review for a caught-at-the-wicket dismissal by Chris Rogers was reversed even though the LBW procedure returned an "umpire's call" verdict from the ball tracker. For a team that is supposedly keyed in to every last rule and plays "very hard and very, very fair" (a description which, to be true, requires an assumption of great competence as far as knowledge of the rules go), Cook sure knows how to play dumb. The idea dissent exists precisely for these kinds of questions. It makes it less forgivable, not more, that Cook's questions were apparently prompted by ignorance. Had the ball track returned an "Out" verdict, then Tony Hill would have ruled Rogers Out LBW under the rules of DRS even though the original ruling was caught at the wicket. Read the rules, its written in black and white, without room for interpretation.

2. Towards the end of the day, there was an LBW appeal against Chris Rogers. The ball was delivered by Graeme Swann from round-the-wicket, it was very full and heading well past leg stump. Swann didn't appeal. Neither did the wicketkeeper. First slip appealed, and silly point appealed even more than first slip! For an LBW appeal! That can't possibly have had anything to do with the facts. The polite way to put it is that it was an appeal in hope.

3. Towards the end of the day Matthew Prior appealed for a stumping and acted as though he was absolutely sure it was Out. After the inevitable not out decision, he appeared nonplussed. He had seen the live action from 6 feet away! Rogers' back shoe appeared to be grounded behind the batting crease when the bails came off. I understand that Rogers had batted all day. I understand that England desperately wanted him out.

These three examples lead to one undeniable point. They do so because the Day 2 at Durham was by no means exceptional, either to the Ashes, or to England. Every test Team, from South Africa to Zimbabwe, does things like this regularly. They do these things more when they are losing, and less when they are winning. It is undeniable that players do not care about the correct decision being made. Players have no interest whatsoever in anything other than gaining any benefit of doubt, however small it might be, and accepting any umpiring mistake which is to their advantage. As many players said recently, it is "frustrating" to players when decisions go against them, but they respect umpires and accept that they have a tough job when umpiring mistakes go in their favor.

All this is fine. But surely, it ought to be palpably obvious that this narrow self interest is an inefficient way of getting at correct decisions. Players are welcome to appeal all they want, and rub any part of their body they like after they glove a ball, but they should not be involved with decisions. They can't keep having discussions with umpires about decisions after they have been made. The ICC can say that dissent has declined until its blue in the face, but this is mainly because the ICC has practically changed the definition of dissent, not because players have suddenly acquired respect for umpires. After all, dissent has nothing to do with the correctness of decisions, it has to do with respect for the umpire's authority.

Players should have no say in umpiring decisions because (a) they have no new information a lot of the time, and more importantly (b) they have no systematic interest in correct decisions being made.
Saturday, 10 August 2013
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The Greatest Test Players Of All Time - The Top Five

This post comes out of a conversation I had with Subash (the guy who does the Couch Talkinterviews). Subash disagrees with this list. I hope he will publish his point of view after reading this. This is admittedly a subject fraught with dangers. It is a question to which there isn't a right answer. I do think though, that there are good answers.

How does one provide a good answer for something like this? I think there are, broadly, two criteria. The first is performance. Great players are marked by their ability to stay at the cutting edge of their sport for a long time - to survive and to master the changes that mark the sport during their time - to be able to compete successfully with their contemporaries over a long career. Second, I consider the question - Which players expanded the possibilities of the sport in their time? Answering this question, alongside the first one about performance, is my way of building a list of the five greatest players of all time.



1. Bradman: Little needs to be said about my first choice. He made 6996 runs over 70 dismissals in 80 innings in Tests. The next best batsman over 70 consecutive dismissals has managed 5205 over Test Cricket's 135 year history. 65 years after he retired from Test Cricket, Bradman remains, without serious dispute, the greatest batsman of all time by a distance. His record is that of a batsman who played a higher class of cricket, but played Test Cricket for fun in his spare time.

2. Imran Khan: Imran Khan was that rarest type of cricketer. A truly genuine all rounder. In the last 70 years, I can think of only two other players who qualify in this class - players who merited selection, on performance and not just ability, as specialist batsman or specialist bowler in any Test team of their day. Imran did both. He was, in many ways, the model professional cricketer. He improved with both bat and ball as his career progressed. In 48 Tests as captain of Pakistan, he averaged 52 with the bat and 19 with the ball. He led Pakistan to parity with one of the strongest Test teams of all time. In 9 low scoring Tests over 3 series between 1986 and 1992 Imran Khan averaged 33 with the bat and 15 with the ball. Both Imran and Viv Richards featured prominently in this Test at Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1988. The Test must be among the greatest ever played. Imran bowled 62 overs in that match, a third of Pakistan's overs, and took 9 wickets. There are bowlers who have since taken more wickets than Imran, and batsmen who have fancier averages, but in his prime, there was no player more formidable than Imran. 10 Imrans and a wicket keeper would beat any Test team in the world.

3. Gary Sobers: We are all familiar with the exploits of Jacques Kallis today. Take Kallis, give to him the additional ability to bowl wrist spin and to bat like Brian Lara, and you'd come very close to Gary Sobers. Sobers was a genius who could do anything, and invariably did. He could bat on minefields and hit six sixes in an over. He could bowl with the new ball, and bowl wrist spin. He could catch slip to Wes Hall and at leg slip to Lance Gibbs. He played to win, once making a sporting declaration in a desperate effort to break a stalemate win a Test which his team eventually went on to lose. He made runs in torrents against pace and spin alike. Trueman, Statham, Gupte, Davidson, Benaud, Snow, Lillee, Mackenzie, all fell the lash of Sobers' blade. When he retired, he had made more Test runs than any other player, more Test centuries than anyone other than Bradman, and taken more Test wickets, in three different styles of bowling, than all but six bowlers in Test history.

4. Viv Richards: Take Virender Sehwag at his best in India, and then imagine that he played with that much success all over the world, in all conditions, for a decade. Then imagine that Sehwag didn't wear a helmet. You'd be somewhere in the vicinity of Vivian Richards. Before Viv Richards, the cavalier Test batsman was anomalous. Against pace and spin alike, Richards could destroy bowling attacks, and did so with remarkable consistency between 1974 and 1988. He would play on until 1992. In 1988, Richards played his 100th Test Match at Brisbane's Woollongabba. He made a typically murderous 68 in 78 balls. In a 100 Tests, he made 7336 runs at 53, with 22 Test hundreds. Later in that series, he would hammer 146 in 150 balls at Perth in another West Indian win. No other batsman in any era has produced as many breathtaking assaults on bowling attacks in a comparable variety of conditions. Delhi, Brisbane, Lord's, Manchester, Bridgetown, Multan and Melbourne have all been a stage. Chandrasekhar, Bedi, Prasanna, Lillee, Thomson, Imran, Botham, Qadir, Hadlee, Kapil, McDermott, Sarfaraz Nawaz all felt the lash of the Richards bat. Time and again, he would come in with West Indies in trouble and blast them to a position of the strength. Richards's batting average is more than a little misleading. He averaged 34 over his last 17 Tests. But he expanded the possibilities for what Test batting could be. He was, for over a 100 of his 121 Tests, the world's fastest, best batsman. Viv Richards does not make my list of the five greatest Test players of all time because he made eight and a half thousand Test runs. He makes it because he was the original master blaster.

5. Muttiah Muralitharan: There are those who say Murali was a chucker. Cricket says otherwise. A right arm wrist spinner whose stock ball spun into the right hander from outside off stump, Muttiah Muralitharan's controversial bowling action has obscured the fact that Sri Lanka's greatest ever cricketer was a master of flight and length. 1 in 4 wickets taken by Sri Lanka in their entire Test history (from 1982 to 2013) has been taken by Murali. In Tests in which he played, he took 40% of his team's wickets. Sri Lanka won 54 out of 132 Tests Murali played in. Of the other 90, they've won 12. It is often argued that Murali did well in Home conditions, but was not effective overseas. Yet, in the 10 Test Matches that Sri Lanka won away from home (excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe) during his career, Murali took 85 wickets at 17.4, including 16 in one Test at the Oval, 11 at Nottingham, 10 at Peshawar and 10 at Wellington. He bowled an incredible 630 overs in those 10 Tests. Rarely has a bowler dominated a team like Muralitharan did. Murali combined the two greatest features of his two great contemporaries - Anil Kumble and Shane Warne. He was as tireless as Kumble, and as guileful as Warne. Along with Warne, he made spin bowling an attacking force in Test Cricket. He edges out the great Australian leg spinner in my list of five only because of his enormous importance to Sri Lanka. He made Sri Lanka a seriously competititve Test team, just like Imran Khan did for Pakistan.

A number of other players merit consideration for these top five positions. These players would easily claim spots from six onwards. But these are the five greatest cricketers of all time in my opinion.
Measuring The Strength Of A Test Team

Measuring The Strength Of A Test Team

I wrote a post at Cricinfo's Cordon explaining a way to measure the strength of a Test team.


Thursday, 8 August 2013
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What Early Declarations Mean


Michael Clarke declared Australia's innings for 7/527 just after Tea on Day 2 at Old Trafford leaving England 32 overs to play before the end of the day. England began their response watchfully. They played out 30 overs before close of play for the loss of Joe Root and Tim Bresnan. Australia's final session should be considered successful. The big scalps however, are still in play.

For a team which bats first and reaches Tea on Day 2 without being bowled out, there are basically two ways to play it. The first way is to bat on and get as many as possible. The intention behind playing this way is to bat only once in the Test. The second way is to declare at tea with the intention of batting a second time later in the match. If a captain has a strong, deep, all wicket bowling line up at his disposal, then it does not matter much. Such a line up is likely to produce the 180-200 overs of sustained quality it might take to dismiss the opposition twice. But if a team has a lineup that is lopsided - with quality seamers but modest spinners or vice versa, then some thinking is needed. Batting on after tea increases the follow-on target. But it also makes the follow-on target that much more important. Most teams which reach follow on targets in excess of 400 tend to save Test match unless the scoring rates have been unusually high. Declaring early limits the follow on target, but gives the team which bats first more time to bowl the opposition out.



It is in the interest of teams with weaker bowling attacks to declare earlier rather than later. This is what Clarke did. Given that the Old Trafford wicket is likely to assist the spinners more and more as the match progresses, the attack Clarke has available to him is not as strong as it would be on a fast bowlers pitch. Clarke has the bowling to slow England's scoring. He doesn't have the bowling to run through England. Australia's bowling in the final session on Day 2 suggests that Clarke knows the capabilities and limits of his bowling attack very well.

England did give Australia a gift by sending in Tim Bresnan with nearly 30 minutes of play left. Bresnan made it worse by going for an ambitious pull shot to a ball of goodish length. As if that wasn't bad enough, he then seemed clueless as to whether or not he had hit it. It was argued on Test Match Sofa that Bresnan may have been "spooked" by Usman Khawaja's bizarre faith yesterday. Thats hard to credit given that Bresnan didn't seem to be sure as to whether or not he had hit it. If anything, I suspect it had more to do with the fact that Bresnan was a nightwatchman and it would have looked silly had Bresnan used up a review as a nightwatchman.

Alistair Cook lived a charmed life. He was saved by a deflection off Brad Haddin's gloves early in Nathan Lyon's first spell of off spin. The ball looped into the air and fell short of the diving Michael Clarke at slip. Lyon bowled about as well as he did against India. England were watchful, especially Joe Root, and this made Lyon's bowling look better than it was. He was still delivering a free hit (half volley or short) once an over. Late in the day, Cook and Trott went through for a suicidal single after Trott pushed a ball into the off side and called. A direct hit would have found Cook short by about 15 inches at the strikers end.

Australia have had the better of the early skirmishes in England first innings. The real battle begins tomorrow against the big five English batsmen - Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell and Prior. The rub of the green has gone with Cook and that should worry Australia. But if Clarke's early declaration is anything to go by, he's seems willing to take a chance or two. With Australia 0-2 down, he has little to lose.
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Umpires Need To Reassert Their Authority

Despite the fact that the few problems with umpiring in the Ashes so far have had to do with the rules of the decision review system, its the umpires who have gotten the bulk of the criticism. It is always more satisfying to blame a human being than a disembodied system. It is also usually wrong. Now it has extended to players expressing dissatisfaction with the umpiring in print in the middle of a Test Match. James Anderson says nothing new in his Daily Mail column, offers nothing that has been suggested many times before. He has simply added his voice to the entirely unaccountable echo chamber of abuse that the Umpires have to put up with increasingly often. I would encourage all of you to watch just the final couple of sessions of the Edgbaston Test of 2005, and then try to imagine the hue and cry that would have followed if the current level of hysteria about umpiring mistakes were around in 2005. The final Australian wicket was not out according to the rules. There was also a very very close LBW shout that wasn't given by umpire Bowden about 10 overs before the end of the match.

DRS has made cricket fans and players less tolerant of the odd incorrect umpiring decision. It has made professional observers - commentators, writers, journalists - and fans on social media increasingly numb to the nuances of marginal decisions. In the nonsensical partisan world of cricket observer every decision that goes against one's team is "diabolical" or "a howler". Most people don't understand the difference between LBW as a mode of dismissal and other modes of dismissal. What is most frustrating (if I am borrow a favorite phrase of the contemporary English Test player) is that observers today often point out that an appeal is "close", but then completely ignore this fact when they offer their final word on a decision. Michael Atherton is one honorable exception here. Partisanship, and perhaps even just the desire to shout louder than others seems to make logical consistency optional. Yet, these people seem to lack self awareness to such an extent that they seem oblivious to such inconsistencies. And these are not children we are talking about, these are educated grown ups.
If Umpires are to survive in cricket, they have to be above the fray. Umpiring decisions cannot be a negotiation between players and umpires. Today the center of the cricket broadcast - the commentary box, whose influence in contemporary cricket is vastly underrated, cannot be allowed to be the arbiter of virtue, quality or reality. The opinion of the former cricketer peddling completely unaccountable, no-consequence bullshit in the commentary box or newspaper column has to be seen to be just that. The authority of the Umpire has to be respected, especially when he makes the odd mistake. When James Anderson writes that "taking wickets can be hard work and it is frustrating when something you think you have earned is taken away from you through no fault of your own." one is not quite sure what to make of it. Yes of course it's frustrating. But thats part of being a sportsman. It is part of the sporting character to accept decisions. But lets not pick on England. India have been guilty of this too.
After his retirement, Australian umpire Daryl Harper spoke out about his final Test match as an Umpire at Sabina Park in 2011. His comments offer perhaps the most candid view from an Umpire's frustrations with the prevalent setup.
"Three players were reported, and that's above average. Two of them came into the umpire's room afterwards, and they realised they were wrong in what they'd done," Harper said. "They both apologised profusely, they were humbled, they came in and they expressed their disappointment with their actions, they didn't avoid the issue, they owned up.
"One, Darren Sammy, was reprimanded; Ravi Rampaul was fined 10% of his match fee, and those boys were apologetic. In the other case, the first player reported was Amit Mishra, and even on the fourth day of the game he was still adamant that he'd got a bad decision.
"That couldn't be confirmed either way by replays … but regardless of where it came from, for my money that guy missed the point. There's no code of conduct for good decisions or bad decisions. The code of conduct is there to test out the strength of character, and on that occasion his character failed to respond in the appropriate way, and four days later he still hadn't worked out that he'd breached the code of conduct and thought he was quite justified.
"For me that's very sad, and shows a total lack of [a grasp of] what the spirit of cricket is all about."
Harper's point about Mishra applies just as well to James Anderson and every other player who has recently complained publicly about umpiring, not just to dissent on the field of play.

Umpires need to reassert their authority by aggressively reporting players for violations of the Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is currently written broadly and columns like Anderson's could easily fall under the Code's catch all clauses. Even if the Umpires don't get a penalty, they should at least force players to face a hearing. If it is indeed the players job to play and the umpires job to umpire (as the oft repeated argument against walking goes), then comments like Anderson's in the middle of a Test Match are at odds with this dictum.

Part of accepting umpiring' decisions involves keeping one's frustrations about them to oneself. If the players don't understand this, then it is up the Umpires to make it clear to them. I hope they do so soon for their own sake.
Sunday, 4 August 2013
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Umpires Need To Reassert Their Authority

Despite the fact that the few problems with umpiring in the Ashes so far have had to do with the rules of the decision review system, its the umpires who have gotten the bulk of the criticism. It is always more satisfying to blame a human being than a disembodied system. It is also usually wrong. Now it has extended to players expressing dissatisfaction with the umpiring in print in the middle of a Test Match. James Anderson says nothing new in his Daily Mail column, offers nothing that has been suggested many times before. He has simply added his voice to the entirely unaccountable echo chamber of abuse that the Umpires have to put up with increasingly often. I would encourage all of you to watch just the final couple of sessions of the Edgbaston Test of 2005, and then try to imagine the hue and cry that would have followed if the current level of hysteria about umpiring mistakes were around in 2005. The final Australian wicket was not out according to the rules. There was also a very very close LBW shout that wasn't given by umpire Bowden about 10 overs before the end of the match.

DRS has made cricket fans and players less tolerant of the odd incorrect umpiring decision. It has made professional observers - commentators, writers, journalists - and fans on social media increasingly numb to the nuances of marginal decisions. In the nonsensical partisan world of cricket observer every decision that goes against one's team is "diabolical" or "a howler". Most people don't understand the difference between LBW as a mode of dismissal and other modes of dismissal. What is most frustrating (if I am borrow a favorite phrase of the contemporary English Test player) is that observers today often point out that an appeal is "close", but then completely ignore this fact when they offer their final word on a decision. Michael Atherton is one honorable exception here. Partisanship, and perhaps even just the desire to shout louder than others seems to make logical consistency optional. Yet, these people seem to lack self awareness to such an extent that they seem oblivious to such inconsistencies. And these are not children we are talking about, these are educated grown ups.
If Umpires are to survive in cricket, they have to be above the fray. Umpiring decisions cannot be a negotiation between players and umpires. Today the center of the cricket broadcast - the commentary box, whose influence in contemporary cricket is vastly underrated, cannot be allowed to be the arbiter of virtue, quality or reality. The opinion of the former cricketer peddling completely unaccountable, no-consequence bullshit in the commentary box or newspaper column has to be seen to be just that. The authority of the Umpire has to be respected, especially when he makes the odd mistake. When James Anderson writes that "taking wickets can be hard work and it is frustrating when something you think you have earned is taken away from you through no fault of your own." one is not quite sure what to make of it. Yes of course it's frustrating. But thats part of being a sportsman. It is part of the sporting character to accept decisions. But lets not pick on England. India have been guilty of this too.
After his retirement, Australian umpire Daryl Harper spoke out about his final Test match as an Umpire at Sabina Park in 2011. His comments offer perhaps the most candid view from an Umpire's frustrations with the prevalent setup.
"Three players were reported, and that's above average. Two of them came into the umpire's room afterwards, and they realised they were wrong in what they'd done," Harper said. "They both apologised profusely, they were humbled, they came in and they expressed their disappointment with their actions, they didn't avoid the issue, they owned up.
"One, Darren Sammy, was reprimanded; Ravi Rampaul was fined 10% of his match fee, and those boys were apologetic. In the other case, the first player reported was Amit Mishra, and even on the fourth day of the game he was still adamant that he'd got a bad decision.
"That couldn't be confirmed either way by replays … but regardless of where it came from, for my money that guy missed the point. There's no code of conduct for good decisions or bad decisions. The code of conduct is there to test out the strength of character, and on that occasion his character failed to respond in the appropriate way, and four days later he still hadn't worked out that he'd breached the code of conduct and thought he was quite justified.
"For me that's very sad, and shows a total lack of [a grasp of] what the spirit of cricket is all about."
Harper's point about Mishra applies just as well to James Anderson and every other player who has recently complained publicly about umpiring, not just to dissent on the field of play.

Umpires need to reassert their authority by aggressively reporting players for violations of the Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is currently written broadly and columns like Anderson's could easily fall under the Code's catch all clauses. Even if the Umpires don't get a penalty, they should at least force players to face a hearing. If it is indeed the players job to play and the umpires job to umpire (as the oft repeated argument against walking goes), then comments like Anderson's in the middle of a Test Match are at odds with this dictum.

Part of accepting umpiring' decisions involves keeping one's frustrations about them to oneself. If the players don't understand this, then it is up the Umpires to make it clear to them. I hope they do so soon for their own sake.
Friday, 2 August 2013
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What Early Declarations Mean

Michael Clarke declared Australia's innings for 7/527 just after Tea on Day 2 at Old Trafford leaving England 32 overs to play before the end of the day. England began their response watchfully. They played out 30 overs before close of play for the loss of Joe Root and Tim Bresnan. Australia's final session should be considered successful. The big scalps however, are still in play.

For a team which bats first and reaches Tea on Day 2 without being bowled out, there are basically two ways to play it. The first way is to bat on and get as many as possible. The intention behind playing this way is to bat only once in the Test. The second way is to declare at tea with the intention of batting a second time later in the match. If a captain has a strong, deep, all wicket bowling line up at his disposal, then it does not matter much. Such a line up is likely to produce the 180-200 overs of sustained quality it might take to dismiss the opposition twice. But if a team has a lineup that is lopsided - with quality seamers but modest spinners or vice versa, then some thinking is needed. Batting on after tea increases the follow-on target. But it also makes the follow-on target that much more important. Most teams which reach follow on targets in excess of 400 tend to save Test match unless the scoring rates have been unusually high. Declaring early limits the follow on target, but gives the team which bats first more time to bowl the opposition out.



It is in the interest of teams with weaker bowling attacks to declare earlier rather than later. This is what Clarke did. Given that the Old Trafford wicket is likely to assist the spinners more and more as the match progresses, the attack Clarke has available to him is not as strong as it would be on a fast bowlers pitch. Clarke has the bowling to slow England's scoring. He doesn't have the bowling to run through England. Australia's bowling in the final session on Day 2 suggests that Clarke knows the capabilities and limits of his bowling attack very well.

England did give Australia a gift by sending in Tim Bresnan with nearly 30 minutes of play left. Bresnan made it worse by going for an ambitious pull shot to a ball of goodish length. As if that wasn't bad enough, he then seemed clueless as to whether or not he had hit it. It was argued on Test Match Sofa that Bresnan may have been "spooked" by Usman Khawaja's bizarre faith yesterday. Thats hard to credit given that Bresnan didn't seem to be sure as to whether or not he had hit it. If anything, I suspect it had more to do with the fact that Bresnan was a nightwatchman and it would have looked silly had Bresnan used up a review as a nightwatchman.

Alistair Cook lived a charmed life. He was saved by a deflection off Brad Haddin's gloves early in Nathan Lyon's first spell of off spin. The ball looped into the air and fell short of the diving Michael Clarke at slip. Lyon bowled about as well as he did against India. England were watchful, especially Joe Root, and this made Lyon's bowling look better than it was. He was still delivering a free hit (half volley or short) once an over. Late in the day, Cook and Trott went through for a suicidal single after Trott pushed a ball into the off side and called. A direct hit would have found Cook short by about 15 inches at the strikers end.

Australia have had the better of the early skirmishes in England first innings. The real battle begins tomorrow against the big five English batsmen - Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell and Prior. The rub of the green has gone with Cook and that should worry Australia. But if Clarke's early declaration is anything to go by, he's seems willing to take a chance or two. With Australia 0-2 down, he has little to lose.
Thursday, 1 August 2013
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Khawaja’s was not the worst DRS decision on Day 1 at Manchester

Australia have had a bittersweet day on Day 1 of the 3rd Test of the 2013 Ashes at Old Trafford. On the one hand, it was their best batting day of the series. Their captain made a century, and one of their up and coming players is 70 not out at the end of the day’s play. On the other hand, one of the three wickets they lost was an umpiring mistake. If the ICC plays to form, we will not learn any specifics of the communication between the TV umpire Kumar Dharmasena and umpire Tony Hill. Based on the available evidence, the decision to uphold the on field decision against Usman Khawaja can only be seen as an umpiring mistake. If Umpires are involved, there will be mistakes.

Yes, mistakes. Not errors. An Umpire may misread a video, or make a mistake in putting together the evidence from sound and the evidence from video. If he gets the chance to see it again later in the day, he may reach a different, correct, conclusion. He may correct his mistake. An error is a more complicated matter. Suppose an Umpire correctly reads the heat signature and conveys this evidence. Later, suppose he sees the ‘snickometer’, over an iced tea after the days play, which shows convincingly that hotspot had given a false positive. Here, the umpire has made an error. An error is a wrong decision which is reached despite the umpire making no mistake. Errors arise out of the very real possibility that evidence available to umpires can be contradictory, or worse, incomplete. Errors are, as I hope you will deduce from this definition, confounding than mistakes.

The decision against Usman Khawaja was not the worst instance of DRS use on the first day. The worst misuse of DRS came from England when they unsuccessfully reviewed an LBW appeal against Steven Smith.
It was the first ball of the 41st over. Smith played back to a ball from Graeme Swann which pitched outside off stump, gripped and turned back towards the stumps. It hit Smith above the knee roll, on the flap of his left pad. Smith is a right hander, so in cricket parlance, this would be his front pad. Tony Hill gave it not out. After prolonged deliberation with wicketkeeper Matthew Prior and bowler Swann, Alistair Cook requested a review “in the nick of time” as commentator David Gower observed live on air.