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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ashwin and the one run syndrome

Ravichandran Ashwin who came under fire during the final day of the Mumbai test for failing to run a second when he possibly could have and ensured an Indian victory.  Yesterday in the first ODI the same happened as he failed to run a second run that was clearly on and was run out.

India eventually went onto win the match by a wicket [SCORECARD] thanks to a brilliant half century by Rohit Sharma.  Rohit Sharma was all grace yesterday and looked to be in fine touch, and it was sad to see him get out just when India were so close to the finish line.

This article is still about the Tamil Nadu boy who has been diagnosised with the dangerous case of 'the one run syndrome'.  Here are a couple of things Ashwin will or will not do in life due to his one run syndrome.

1.) Ashwin will never get drunk cause he'll always stop after just one drink.
3.) Ashwin will never number '2' when jotting down points.
4.) He will never grow fat and put on extra pounds as he'll never go for a second serving.
5.) The newly married, Ashwin will have just one child.
6.) A young, Ashwin once ran for the school cabinet and won.  After his tenure got over, he decided not to run for a second term.
7.) He will never ever take a second glance at a pretty girl walking by.  One glance completed is more than sufficient.
and finally the biggest one that concerns us,
8.) Ravichandran Ashwin will never run a second run.

So now do we have a doctor in the house who can help this man suffering from this ailment? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Big Deal with Sachin's 100th 100

Sachin Tendulkar has always been in the limelight when it comes to records and now with 99 international centuries to his name, he is just one short of becoming the first man with such an achievement.  A huge achievement and it is one that will probably stand as a significant monument such as Bradman's average in the chronicles of the game.  However in chasing this glory are we forgetting that 100 is just a number and that there are more important things?

Indians are always astounded by facts and figures and if you want to impress an Indian, all you have to do is sound confident and state some numbers and he will think you to be very wise, that is until he figures out that those numbers have little or no meaning.  But jokes apart, Indians love numbers and that is why records of individual players are celebrated in this country as much as a win or sometimes perhaps even more.  Even I do this and if you ask me how many ATP career tournament Federer has won, and I'll reply 70 from the top of my head or if you ask me how many test centuries Dravid has, I'll reply 36 without blinking an eye.  That is how much these numbers mean to the Indians and it is no wonder that we anxiously wait for Sachin's elusive century.

Sachin Tendulkar in India is an icon beyond what any words can describe.  If he was to run for parliament, people would elect him and likewise if he does a small cameo in a flop movie, you can bet yourself that the movie will be one of the biggest earners that year.  That is the magic that one associates with Tendulkar and this century of centuries is just another feather in his cap which will be cherished every Indian as a national artifact.  Whenever he bats nowadays people wait and even I hold my breath.  He is so close yet so far away.

That was the heart break in Mumbai a couple of days ago when he fell just six runs short.  I'm sure had someone listened in, they would have noticed India going quiet when Sammy pouched that catch.  Such is the love and admiration for this man that people don't just expect him to reach that milestone but demand that he does!  They all know its just a matter of time.

With the nation waiting for the next best thing in Indian cricket happening, the media dives straight in creating more hype and trying to get this publicized even more.  So hence its just not the fans and the followers of the game but the fourth estate is behind all this and sometimes I feel that news anchors feel more pain reading out that Sachin has missed out another chance to score his 100th 100 than when they read about a terror attack in which people have been killed.  Such is the tragic state of our media but that is another matter altogether.

With so much hype and expectations on Sachin, it is no secret that he feels the pressure to perform.  Sachin may play it down saying that this does not affect him, but the truth is far from that and being a player who is quite nervous when in the nineties, this only makes the job even worse.

However in the quest for this individual glory are we missing the bigger picture of Indian cricket?  I sadly feel that is the case.  Even the final match at Mumbai which was an absolute thriller in the final day is being talked not for what happened there in the final day but about Sachin's missed opportunity.  Sure Sachin's century would be great and being a fan of his I would love nothing more but isn't Indian cricket and a Indian win more important and more news worthy?

A fearless Sachin with no baggage on his shoulders is a must for India during the tour of Australia later this year and I hope Sachin scores his 100th century there in the first match so the monkey is off his shoulder.  And also because I am getting tired of listening to this talk about when he'll get his magic century of centuries. So here's that he will score those 100 runs soon and raise his heads to the heavens and lift his bat to the crowd like he has done 99 times in the past.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Episode 11 - A Long Discussion

After a small break, we are back!  Here's episode 11.

Recorded on 23rd November 2011; Duration 40 minutes.

Description: In this episode Michael and I have a long discussion on the spot-fixing scandal and how the ICC can fight the menace.  We also talk about the tragic loss of Peter Roebuck and discuss about Ponting's future in the Australian team.  We also look forward to Tendulkar's elusive 100th century and Michael does a little rant about Mickey Arthur being appointed as the next coach of the Australian team.  Stats class as usual comes up with some very interesting stats and figures in cricket.

Panelists - Michael Wagener, and Christopher David

If you wish to download the podcast click here. You can also subscribe to it via iTunesor any other podcatchers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ranting about Australia

Australia have a new star and young Pat Cummins looks to be one with much talent and a bright future.  Watching him bowl in the second test against the South Africans and taking the 5 wicket haul established himself but also managed to impress in the lone match alone.  He still has a very long way to go and cannot be hailed as Australia's next super star already but with a player like Cummins, one can hope that Australia's future is bright.

Also Australia have appointed Mickey Arthur as their next coach and this is one move I find very progressive for Australian cricket.  I've been a huge fan of Arthur's role in the dressing room and the results he achieved with South Africa is there in the open for all to see.  And guess what?  Even Arthur has been impressed by the 18th year old Cummins and said that he reminded him of a young Steyn!  Now how much bigger accolade can Cummins get than that?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The remedy for fixing matches

Match-fixing or rather its new form spot-fixing is a menace and must be fought if the game of cricket is to continue to exist.  Fixing a match or even parts of match is a grave offense that shows utter disdain to the rules and spirit of the sport and to the perpetrator himself.  With Butt, Asif and Amir now behind bars, it is a great sight that justice has been delivered but now we face the sad question, just how many have escaped the net?  Surely these three Pakistani players aren't the only criminals.  At least that is what logic and reasoning points to, unfortunately.  I hope there is no truth in that but if there is, then it would truly be a shame.

In a conversation with a friend I was asked my ideas to combat the ghost of match fixing and I came up with the typical response of more vigilance by the ACSU and the ICC and stricter rules, and harsher punishments for the guilty.  It seems all good and very simple, but in reality it is far from it.

Marlon Aronstam, the bookie who contacted former South African captain Hansie Cronje came out last week and called the ICC idiots.  He said,
“The game is still crook. The ICC anti-corruption unit are a bunch of idiots who employ people who don’t know what they are looking for.”
And that is the sad reality that exists in the world of cricket.  The ICC is truly clueless or else it would have been the ACSU that caught Butt and his Pakistani teammates and not a British tabloid.  The failures of the ICC is out there in the public for all to see and till date the ICC hasn't caught a single player.  It has always been some third party from the outside.  I think that the ICC as a guardian of the game has failed its most important duty and must do an immediate rethink of how it is going to combat fixing.  They have always been two steps behind and in most cases a mile behind and this is definitely not good for cricket and if the game is to be clean then drastic steps have to be taken, and taken now!

My friend in our conversation suggested that all gambling and betting industries be closed, after all it was this that is leading to fixing.  This is really a stupid thing to do because there is no reason to close down a business that is well regulated and watched by the government as it is done in London.  It would send more people to the poor home at a time when the economy already is in shambles.  The gambling industry is a major source of income for some countries and provides countless jobs.

Gambling is illegal in India and most other sub-continent countries for the reason that the government is not capable to properly regulate it.  This is why betting in this part of the world is all done below the table and it is here that fixing originated.

Betting isn't like other casino games such as poker, roulette, blackjack or the slot machine.  It is similar as all these involve the element of luck and hence the risk of losing, but unlike in these games betting the risk is reduced or even nullified when you have certain information on the happenings in a match.  The same could be said for perhaps poker, you can win if you know the other person's hand, but that alone isn't enough as it also depends on your hand.  This is not so in betting and here lies the main difference.

Much of the fixing that has happened in cricket has been all done by bookies part of the 'illegal' set of betting, and this is one menace that the government has been fighting for years with no results.  One of the main reasons for the existence of these underground betting lobbies is because betting is illegal in some countries.  The remedy seems easy and all one has to do is legalize betting but that would lead to more complications and in countries like India, the government does not have the capability to have a proper regulating system.  That is why you do not have casinos here despite the fact that casino games are quite popular.  So betting is bound to take place here, and all underground.  So closing down this industry is just not possible.

So the only other possibility is to have the player refrain from fixing.  In an ideal world this is easily possible, but unfortunately we do not live in one such world.  Thus it is important for the ICC to protect these players and shield them.  How the ICC do it, I have no clue and am not the person to advise them.  But from where I stand, what is being done is just not enough.  Its no where near enough.  If cricket is to win, ICC must change its approach.

For cricket to remain a clean and respected sport remedies for this menace called match-fixing must be found out and I hope the ICC's ACSU find this remedy soon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Genius of Roebuck

Wearing an outrageous straw hat, the Englishman from Somerset would have found it hard to blend in anywhere, but he always did manage to blend into the cricket arena where for more than two decades remained as one of its greatest voice whose opinions which at times did border insanity and madness was read and held on by thousands all over the world.  I was one of these thousands and must confess that ever since 2006, there hasn't been a Peter Roebuck column that I haven't read and that probably stands as a testament just how great a writer and cricket analyst this man was and how much I cherished his works.

As a decent first class cricketer who had just a little more than 17,500 runs to his name, Roebuck remained as one of the unfortunate people who never did get the opportunity to wear the three lions in a test match.  As an eternal loner and an odd obscure character, the man was never shy of controversies and when I first heard about his demise yesterday, I was naturally shocked but when the Cape Town authorities did confirm that Roebuck committed suicide by jumping out the window of his sixth floor hotel room, I was further saddened.  It was a rude shock and the nature and mysterious circumstances around his death will probably stay in the limelight for some time as rumors will slowly start clouding the true genius that was Roebuck.

Roebuck wasn't a man without his fair share of faults and it was one of the first things he admitted in his autobiography.  He was an odd character who preferred being alone and had plenty of imperfections.  He was a man who was demonized by his own self, his past and depression and he reveals that more than once he has thought about taking his own life and it was this decision he made to finally end those voices in his head once for all as he leaped out that window. Classes at top psychology schools could very well use his biography for an in-depth case study in human behavior.

Roebuck was a man who was troubled heavily by his past and I am not here to write offering an explanation for his sins that I little know about or sympathize his short comings and erroneous decisions.  Rather I am here to write a tribute to the man who wrote some of the best cricket columns I have ever read and someone who one day I hoped to meet and talk cricket over tea or a few drinks.  Unfortunately now, that day will never come.

Roebuck the writer was a true wizard who made words come to life.  He was an acute observer of the game and even the smallest details failed to escape him.  His style was one that was very simple yet royally elegant.  It was erudite with a touch of arrogance and the opinions conveyed within was something that I always found amusing to read.  His articles contained much wit and had a stroke of intellectual genius.  He carved an unique identity to his writing and managed to create a niche for himself in cricket as a journalist and commentator.

Not always did I nod my head in agreement when I read his works but I respected his preposterous ideas and stands and loved the fact that there was never walking in the middle of the fence with Roebuck.  It was highly opinionated and always on one side of the fence.  I still remember Roebuck calling for Ponting's head after the Sydney test and despite all that happened to India in that test, I remember laughing at the very thought of seeing Punter go.  However most often than not I saw his point of view and enjoyed his opinions.  Opinions after all are there to be agreed or disagreed.  And it was Roebuck's opinion that I really looked forward to reading in 'The Hindu'.

In the often misunderstood and complex Roebuck, cricket had one of its greatest writers who made the game a more colorful spectacle and using his pen, he clothed it with royal garments that managed to catch everyone's eye.  Now with his sad demise the game has truly lost one of its greatest characters.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A manic day of test cricket

The second day of the South Africa versus Australia test at  Cape Town turned out to be quite a spectacle as we witnessed one of the most bizarre day's play.  To sum it all up yesterday's play consisted of 294 runs, 23 wickets, four innings played, two five wicket hauls (one by a debutant!), and two team scores below 100.

We saw two batting collapses as South Africa in their first innings bundled out for just 96 runs giving Australia a huge lead of 188 runs.  Australia however managed to squander that away as they were all out for just 47 runs - their lowest score in over 100 years!  Australia was 21 for 9, but thankfully their 10th wicket saw them double that score.  South Africa now are on their way to a memorable win with just 155 needed and 9 wickets remaining.

I witnessed some of the best pace bowling in yesterday's play and it was an absolute treat for the eyes.  Watching Shane Watson and then debutant Vernon Philander run through the some of the best batsmen in world cricket was just a stunning spectacle to behold.  Philander's spell in the second innings was specially good, and he brought South Africa back into the game taking 5 for 15.  What a dream debut for the youngster!  

Here's a piece on Cricinfo that has all the records and stats that yesterday's play broke.  

Today should be another great day of play and the game is still anybody's despite South Africa being slightly ahead.  Will the proteas choke this or have Australia let go of the game?   

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Game Review: International Cricket Captain 2011

Review -

International Cricket Captain 2011 (ICC 2011) is one of the fewest games in it's genre and is probably the best cricket management simulation game out there.  In the latest edition, the stats are more accurate and up to date while the graphics and the tactics employed have been improved slightly.

ICC 2011 is a game that die hard cricket fans would like.  However at the same time it is not everyone's cup of tea.  The game lets you take control of a team, and lets you be the captain leading the team to victory.  This game provides a virtual feel of being a captain of a team and merges the sports management genre with real time stats.

The game as expected has not changed drastically from the 2010 edition, but however does have a couple of changes.  The major ones are the comparability in screen resolution allowing the game to play on my netbook, improved stats and player database, improved tactics and finally some slightly better graphics.  If you've played the previous version, you'll feel right at home and enjoy the experience.  Having played the previous editions I do feel this is a better one and have enjoyed it so far.

Way ahead of Cricket Coach -

The only game close to this is Cricket Coach and personally I feel that ICC 2011 is so much better.  A million times better.  Sure the graphics aren't the greatest nor the interface and menus which look pretty ancient, but the game has some decent content and is pretty enjoyable.

One of the major difference I've noticed in ICC 2011 from the 2010 edition is the results.  Matches now end far more realistically with more draws (in the older edition it was either a win or a loss with draws being a rarity).  T20 and ODI matches are also closer and I've witnessed many tight finishes, so playing the shorter format is even more fun now.

How did I fare playing ICC 2011?

When I played as India, I failed miserably and just shows how great a job Dhoni is doing now.  I'm captaining Nottinghamshire and after barely escaping from being relegated find myself at the top.  So I guess I'm not all that bad!

This is a game that will surely be loved by cricket fanatics who want to take over the reigns of their national team or even their counties.

Positives - 

  • Better stats
  • Improved graphics compared to previous edition
  • Better stats and field-setting help
  • More realistic results
  • More screen resolution options

Negatives -

  • Boring interface
  • Still much to be desired from the graphics
  • Only for a selected audience (ie. Cricket fanatics who know the game well)

Score - 7.5/10 

My Take -

It is the best cricket game in the genre and if you are crazy about cricket, this game will keep you entertained and also educate you in the ways of leadership.

You can download the 2 day trial and try out the game before buying it.  It is available for Mac, Ipad, and Iphone too [download link].

15,000 and counting!

Today wasn't about Sachin but about a young Chennai boy who on his debut picked up 9 wickets to help India come back into the match after conceding a huge first innings lead, but still this post remains about Sachin Tendulkar.

Tendulkar breached the 15,000 run mark in test cricket!  What a player and servant of Indian cricket this man has been!

Here's for that 100th ton coming soon!  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The cleanup of the spot-fixing scandal

Yesterday was a monumental day in cricket as three of its ambassadors and members of the Pakistani team were sent to jail for their involvement in the spot-fixing scandal.  It brings an end to one of the biggest scandals that turned the world of cricket upside down and now leaves the game damaged beyond repair.

I not sure what to make of the judgement handed down to the three tainted Pakistani players.  On one hand I am really glad that the law has taken its own course and that the guilty are being punished.  Whether the punishment is lenient or not is not for me to say, but I am glad that what ever verdict handed down punishes the perpetrators of this heinous crime and sends out a stern message that such actions will not ever be tolerated.

Now with Asif, Amir and Butt in prison, this incident must not be forgotten and left alone.  There is so much more here in this scandal alone that is yet to meet the eye.  Whether this is just the tip of a big iceberg, I do not know but I do think that this spot-fixing incident is not a isolated one.  I would love to believe that the game is clean and that this is just one big blot that stains the game, but if I did believe that, then I feel I would be believing a lie and deluding myself.

The ICC faces one of the biggest task as it tries to remove this clout of fixing from the game.  ICC cannot ignore this as an isolated incident and move on as if everything is fine.  That would spell disaster.  The game's image is tarnished and it must be rebuilt and the only way that is going to happen is by proving to the fans, the stakeholders and the general public that everything is being done to fight and not only curtail this menace but to completely eradicate it from cricket.  The ball is in the ICC's court and its time it started to make some major decisions and take some stern actions.

One of the biggest tragedy about this entire incident is that it just doesn't show how corrupt a few players are, but actually portrays an institution that is corrupt at its very heart.  I'm sure Amir is not a corrupt cricketer and that he was misled and this is perhaps the biggest worry and the failure of  the cricket managements all over the world.  Its not just the cricketers to be blamed but also the guardians of the game who have let this virus breed under the rug, right below their noses.  The ICC's biggest test now is to not only make cricket a clean game but to also show the world that it indeed is a clean game and the time for action is now.

Justice Cooke summed the public's outlook on cricket the best when in his sentencing remarks, said,
It is the insidious effect of your actions on professional cricket and the followers of it which make the offences so serious. The image and integrity of what was once a game, but is now a business is damaged in the eyes of all, including the many youngsters who regarded three of you as heroes and would have given their eye teeth to play at the levels and with the skill that you had.
It is this image that the ICC now have to try and remove and replace it with the image of the good old game.

One of the things I would like the ICC to do is, take some very stringent action and pull up some of the suspicous and shady characters of cricket, whom they have reasons to believe could be part of this abomination.  This will not only keep the players in check but also bring about a system that will continue to watch over them and from the public point of view provide a outlook that measures are being taken to counter match-fixing.  They must be more vigilant and be a guard dog barking at the heels of anyone with the slightest shadow of fixing on them and must look into them.  I know the players will not be keen about this and will surely play the lack of privacy card, but such things have to sacrificed.

ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) is very much a toothless tiger.  It has limited powers and powerless to make any major impact.  Had it been the proper unit, then surely there would be more than just three in the dock, I feel and it is one of the biggest failures of the ACSU that the trio were not caught by them but rather the NOTW tabloid.  The ACSU must be vested with more powers and the only way this will happen is if it somehow links with the member boards of the ICC so that it can have jurisdiction within a country.  However this will hinder the process of it acting as an independent body, and the ICC need to have a long discussion about the workings of the ACSU and start to think about its future.

Another thing the ICC must do is, provide and protect the young players from the corruptors and an atmosphere where they will be safe.  Amir's fate in this entire scandal is very tragic and shows the failure of the board and the team management.

You cannot fully remove corruption from any organization as our very society is corrupt, but what one can do is try to stop it from influencing the game and anyone related to the game.  This is easier said than done and precisely the reason why the ICC has a very big and tough task ahead.

I hope this is the end of all the match fixing that we'll ever hear and hopefully the ICC will be able to cleanse the game.  Will the game ever be out of the match-fixing clout?  I'm not very convinced that day will come, but I do pray that I will get to see such a day.  Somehow, my heart knows that it probably will never be.  Am I being pessimistic or realistic here?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The fight has just begun

The world of cricket was jolted yesterday as two of the three players involved in the spot-fixing controversy were proclaimed guilty by the jury at Southwark Crown Court.  Former Pakistan skipper, Salman Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif, were found guilty of conspiring to cheat and conspiring to accept corrupt payments.  Mohammad Amir who already pleaded guilty awaits sentencing along with his two guilty team mates.

I was first glad when I heard the news that Butt and Asif had been found guilty.  It was a terrible thing they did and I was glad that the law had caught up to them.  I was overjoyed that these bastards (I apologize for the language, but I really can't seem to find a better word to describe the players) had not gotten away and that they are being brought down.  The guilty were being brought to justice.  Now why shouldn't anyone be happy about that?

However all the joy of the verdict was soon forgotten as I was inevitably reminded by their devious actions.  It was shameful, and the worst thing any sports person can do.  They not only brought disrepute to the game, their team and country, and their families and themselves but also betrayed the confidence and trust of the millions who follow the game.  A crime that I feel is very serious indeed.  The entire incident reminds me of Judas selling out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.  Only difference is that now the cost of betraying has gone up to  £150,000.

I feel that these three players including Amir should be handed the harshest sentence possible and made an example so that all who even had the slightest idea of doing a vile thing as match-fixing stop and think twice.

Salman Butt must be going through a particularly difficult time considering that his wife just underwent a Cesarean section giving birth to his second child just a hour before the verdict was delivered.  I do not know if he felt any remorse sitting there in his velvet blazer wearing his Rolex watch when the jury read out their judgement, but I do hope he feels something.  I however do not pity him one bit and still think that he committed the vilest of acts possible in sports and if it was upto me, I would lock all three in a cell and perhaps even toss the keys into Thames.

Pakistan cricket has already had more than enough wake up calls and now it is in the limelight all over again for the wrong reasons.  The Pakistan Cricket Board may have a new head, but still its ugly underbelly exists and this now is out in the open for all to see.  The name of Pakistan cricket is tarnished to an extent of almost beyond any repairs and I don't think anything can help restore the trust and integrity to Pakistan cricket unless the PCB actually starts showing some concern.  Till now, it has been a quiet observer and unlike the Indian and South African cricket boards with Cronje and Azharuddin that came down hard on their players has failed to do so.  The evident lack of need to fight this corruption that is unfortunately the very part of Pakstan cricket and it's board is not only a matter that causes much worry but also one that saddens me when I think of the fate of cricket in Pakistan and its future.  The board has not been able to sweep this incident under the rug as it usually does (thankfully!) and as three of its key players face possible imprisonment in a foreign country, the eyes of the whole world is now on the PCB.

Its time that PCB finally decides to stop playing games and for once puts Pakistan cricket ahead of all matters and try to set its own house in order.  A very tall ask, considering we are talking about Pakistan and I'm sure that it is highly unlikely that something like that would happen.  I would like the ICC put more pressure on the PCB, but when a board is so adamant to not change its ways, there's little anyone can do.  Pakistan must change its ways, not for anyone else but for the sake of its own future.

The last thing cricket and Pakistan need is another young player committing this heinous crime!

Saad Shafquat in a beautiful article on Cricinfo writes,
The conviction of Butt and Asif is welcome, but the fight against corruption in cricket has just begun.
How true that statement is!  The fight has just begun.