Monthly Archives: July 2008

England’s Highs and Lows

Over at Debatable Land, Alex Massie offers a compelling theory of what a good batting team needs to be good. In cricket, he says, it’s not just about averages (Tendulkar’s 55, or Dravid’s 57, or whatever), but about highs and lows. So, when a batsman strikes good form, he needs to really make it count and dominate a series and, one hopes, even a summer. Foreign teams throw up a number of such figures: Mohammad Yousuf for Pakistan, circa 2006-7; Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Matthew Hayden (to name only a few) for Australia; Kevin Pietersen for England last year. These guys are always good, but during their good days, their averages went through the roof, allowing their teammates to group around them.

The problem with England, however, is that no one is currently really firing, and it doesn’t look like anyone will. Continue reading

Fleeing Pakistan: The Champions Trophy Fiasco

I’ve touched on this before, but I wanted to spend a bit more time on players’s threats to pull out due to security fears. It seems more than clear to me that Wasim Akram is correct when he sees a double standard, since the threat of terrorism lurks in almost all of the cricket world (bar, maybe, the West Indies). When countries regularly tour England, they may think they are safer than, say, Pakistan, but they’re not. Intelligence agencies repeatedly note that the threat level remains high there, and yet South Africa relished the chance to tour the old country.

But fine: actions speak louder than intelligence briefings, I suppose. There’s no arguing that Pakistan is, on its face, a tad more unstable. But then, so is India: Continue reading

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Ajanta Mendis Explained, Part 2

How does he do it? A couple of things:

1. He doesn’t have a stock delivery. Some take that as a weakness; others think its an inherent part of his guile and difficulty. So, he bowls googlies when off-spinners usually don’t (wristy leg-spinners prefer that); he also bowls quicker, which gives batsmen less time to adjust to his various spins. This is a crucial factor of his success: unlike Murali, who often relies on loop and flight, Mendis goes straight in.

2. But there’s also the fact that he bowls differently. There’s the infamous “carrom ball,” which is explained fully here. I’ve included some videos below; watch as the middle finger just flicks the ball, which then does as Mendis pleases, spinning into and away when he wants. Continue reading

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Sri Lanka Takes Over The Neighborhood

So, I head off to Chicago for less than a week, only to return and find the ashes of Indian cricket lying around. We’ve known of Sri Lanka’s prowess since 1996, when they won the World Cup with a revolutionary ODI strategy. But they never really gained chops in Test cricket in my opinion: without Muralitharan and a few other stars, their team lacked the necessary firepower. And when they toured Australia last year, they showed that they were still in transition, struggling to come out of the so-called “lost decade.” Even now, I’m not convinced that they’re an international team; without Malinga and Fernando, they are only champions in the sub-continent.

Well, that’s still something to behold: Continue reading

Follow-On, Graeme Smith, And Touch My Feet

Few decisions provoke more controversy and debate in Test cricket than the option to force the follow-on. I still don’t understand how the exact follow-on figure is reached (is it half or two-thirds of the opposition’s innings?), but a captain faces a number of competing factors: are his bowlers too tired? What’s the weather and conditions like? How will the decision affect the rest of the series?

There’s also the emotional effect at play: when the follow-on is available, one captain must wait for the other’s command; it’s a hugely humilitaing exercise that leaves no doubt as to who is calling the shots. Continue reading

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Simon Hughes Knows What You’ll Do Next Summer

I’ve long harped on about how much I love Simon Hughes, Channel Five’s resident cricket analyst. He’s always so incisively clinical in his commentary, noting patterns and strategies and possible influential elements (cloud cover, weather changes, dryness, etc.). That doesn’t make him the best commentator; ideally, you want that flair and drama that only Boycott and Nichols can provide. But Hughes’s 2-minute breakdowns of the biggest factors in play — when he, for instance, succinctly explains what makes Monty Panesar so effective, or why swing bowling is so difficult to play — give the layman a window in this complicated, difficult sport.

So, as a tribute, watch Hughes predict Michael Vaughan’s wicket on the first day against South Africa and almost predict Kevin Pietersen’s initial madness. Again, it’s all about patterns: Vaughan’s got feet problems, and Pietersen is always so jittery at the start, hopping about madly until he knows the pitch is his. See below, at 1:00 and at 4:00.

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Ian Bell Tolls For Thee

I wanted to write a post about the engima that is Ian Bell, the almost-double centurion against South Africa, but I see that Alex Massie has beaten me to it. He’s right when he notes that Bell cops far more criticism than is warranted (no one should be compared to the Shermanator), especially given the statistical background that puts him ahead of much of England’s batting line-up.

Still, Bell’s a difficult figure to root for or feel confident in. Continue reading

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Duck The Beamers: A Visual Collection

The last year or so has been rather violent for cricket: Sree Chanderpaul knocked out in the West Indies; Daniel Flynn without a tooth (and, consequently, form) in England; Sachin Tendulkar, hit on the vizor last year. I’ve collected a few videos below for those of you who wanted to know why this blog is called what it is. They’re not all beamers, but you’ve got to duck everything that comes at your head, right? Continue reading

Coming To Ducking Beamers: A Preview

I have more post ideas than actual posts, which frustrates me to no end. I’m not made for the blogging world; I procrastinate and hedge and haw, so that even when I finally get around to writing something, it’s way over 1,000 words.

But just to keep you interested (if you were to begin with), right now, I’m working on a few things:

1) Esquire, a classy American magazine, recently ran a photoshoot involving upper-class cricket chic. That brings out a bunch of issues on race and class, and why cricket supposedly never took off this side of the Atlantic pond. We’ll talk abou that.

2) Zimbabwe and BCCI: I know no one likes to talk about politics, especially when some far-away nation that no one cares about is the politics in question. Still, I can’t resist: the BCCI’s stance has been absolutely horrifying, further testament to the argument that the BCCI only cares for itself and the amount of money it can milk out of this game before Armaggedon arrives. We’ll talk about why cricket and politics mix, and why India — a country whose government banned it from playing cricket with Pakistan for nearly a decade — should understand this more than anything.

3) Beyond A Boundary: I finally got my hands on a copy of this CJR James masterpiece. Now, a lot of cricket fans talk about this book like it’s the game’s Bible, and having read only the preface, I think I agree. He takes a very frank and academic look at the game’s construction, that is, its racial and class issues, as well as its appearance and local appropriation. I’m going to tie this in with the recent West Indian crowd trouble, which peeved Ricky Ponting to no end. Just to give you a preview: I love pitch invasions.

4) And finally, England and South Africa take each other on soon. I cannot wait: are England finally up to scratch? Can their pace attack finally put to rest dreams and fantasies of a Fab Four return (Flintoff’s raring to go; Harmison’s picking up speed; Simon “Five-For” Jones has new knees, and Hoggard — well, he’s around)? And what about their ever-frail batting? Can they finally prove that the Adelaide nightmares are wiped away?

So look out, and come back frequently. I promise excellent wares.

Ajanta Mendis Knows Good Spin

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while — every year, I sell my soul to Wimbledon’s second week, and this year, it was worth the price. It came at an opportune moment too, since the cricket world had nothing significant on its calendar to offer  (what exactly is the “Kitply Cup” anyway? What is a Kitply?).

Of course, that meant I missed Ajanta Mendis’s first great claim to fame. I talked about the Sri Lankan wonderkid before, when he hinted at his potential during the tour of the West Indies. But he hadn’t yet matched the enormous hype that preceded his arrival on the international stage. There are players like this — Kevin Pietersen, or Shane Bond, or Dale Steyn, for instance — who somehow establish their reputation before debut. Some manage to live up to it (like the three I mentioned) and some don’t (like James Anderson and Gautham Gambhir, who both sputtered for years before finally striking gold).

But have a look at this man. Continue reading

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