Monthly Archives: March 2009

Pietersen Misses Wife Jessica Taylor

So, here’s what happened: Kevin Pietersen made a few ill-advised comments to the papers about a) how he wanted to go home to England already after a long tour and b) how the current team is a “lonely place to be.” It now also appears Pietersen, like Matt Prior, asked to temporarily leave the tour to be with his wife, Jessica Taylor (pictured above), who was in a final of a celebrity dance show. He was denied and, for the record, she came in third (someone called Ray Quinn won).

A number of critics, including Nasser Hussain, have taken on Pietersen for the comments, but I’m not sure why, not least because Dancing on Ice sounds like a great show, no doubt more entertaining than the West Indies-England series.

But even when considering the matter seriously, it’s clear everyone has over-reacted: Continue reading

A Terrible Batting Pitch

Sambit Bal, Cricinfo’s editor, did not mince words when he condemned the Napier Test match’s pitch:

As I had said in the earlier discussion, this was a disappointing pitch. In fact, I would say it’s a terrible pitch. It has had nothing for the bowlers. Apart from Zaheer Khan’s first two wickets in the first hour, almost all the wickets in the Test have fallen because of mistakes made by batsmen. It had nothing for the quick bowlers on the first day, and nothing for the spinners on the last. That’s simply not good enough. It was poor batting by the Indians in the first innings that made this Test kind of interesting. Otherwise you could have played for ten days on this pitch and not a get result.

He later goes on to diagnose the trend:

Cricket administrators have an unhealthy obsession these days about making matches last five days. Television pays for cricket and TV bosses want every commercial break they can get. But if it starts in the way of producing interesting cricket, it would be self-defeating. Such cricket will only turn people away from Tests. There have been too many pitches like this in the last couple of months. It’s killing Test cricket. 

I agree pitches need to be bowler-friendly, but I disagree with why we’ve seen such bad pitches of late. Continue reading

V.V.S. Laxman, Explained

The Kiwi commentators had a good go at Laxman’s full name. For the record, it’s Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman. Wikipedia has a pronunciation guide on its Laxman page.

Cricket and Baseball Come Ever Closer

Baseball heavy-hitter Manny Ramirez was seen holding a cricket bat the other day during a promotional advertisement for some cricket league in America. The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting feature that tried to predict how well baseball batters would fare in the cricket, where the ball bounces and the stumps rattle. Here’s the idea:

In cricket, the “bowler” will usually throw the ball so that it bounces off the ground before reaching the batsman. By that logic, says John Aaron, secretary of the United States of America Cricket Association, “any baseball player who hits the sinker or low fastball would enjoy a greater percentage of hits.”

Using that metric, the WSJ had Ramirez put in the third-highest average against “low fastballs” (whatever that means). While the experiment may sound silly, baseball and cricket aren’t all that far apart. Continue reading

India’s Fielding Errors

How did New Zealand amass such a high score? Well, first, they had a few brilliant innings on a very helpful pitch. But second, India’s fielding errors didn’t hurt. From Cricinfo’s live commentary:

Taylor, on a duck:

Patel to Taylor, FOURdropped by Yuvraj at third slip. It kicked up from back of length outside off stump, Taylor pushed at it hard and the ball flew to the left of third slip. Yuvraj didn’t show the technique needed for a slipper, was late in leaning to his left, not well-balanced too and got his fingers to it

Taylor, on 73:

Harbhajan Singh to Taylor, no run, oh Karthik has dropped him! It was short and a tad wide and Taylor went for a cramped cut, getting a thin underedge which Karthik fluffs standing up to the stumps … it just went in and out .. what a clanger! Karthik has clearly not improved much since his travails in Sri Lanka last summer .. what will that cost India? Lets wait and see …

Taylor, on 84:

Yuvraj Singh to Taylor, FOURdropped by Rahul at slip. Very tough chance that. Taylor went for the cut to a ball which was not all that short and it flew to left of slip where Dravid dived but couldn’t hold on. These ones either get stuck or don’t. Taylor moves to 96 with that

Franklin, on 7:

Khan to Franklin, no run, dropped by Yuvraj at third slip. It was a back-of-length delivery straightening outside off, Franklin stabs it off the outer edge to right of Yuvi at a comfortable catchable height but he clangs it. Yuvraj doesn’t look too good at slips. He had dropped Taylor earlier and now this.

Vettori, on 36:

Sehwag to Vettori, no run, Dropped by Ishant at mid-off. Vettori stepped out to slice it to Ishant who crouches but makes a mess of it

Nightwatchmen Should Go

I like the name and the era it evokes, but I don’t much like the concept. Neither does Cricinfo editor Sambit Bal:

I find the idea the nighwatchman plain silly. I can understand using it at times… when it’s really dark, or the ball is swining about. But today there was absolutely no need. The batting conditions were perfect, and you’d really want you best batsmen to open the day tomorrow. I am sure a regular batsman would have kept that ball out comfortably. I thought Steve Waugh did his best to elimnnate the idea. But it persists. Today it was plain stupid. 

India Stutter Against New Zealand

Here’s the interesting thing: despite the Indian team’s recent successes and its clear confidence, I don’t think its fans feel as secure. While the Indian cricket team may firmly be 21st-century, I think most fans are still stuck in the 1990s, afraid that the batting line-up is more fragile than it really is, and that victory is never assured.

India are now 78/3, trailing by hundreds of runs. Admit it: you’re scared. But would an Australian fan have felt just as scared if this was their team’s situation, say, two years ago? Of course not. Have we got over ourselves? Do we really have faith? (And do we want it? Isn’t it more fun this way, when nothing is for sure?)

Hating on Twenty20

Alex Massie may be a bit too harsh on Twenty20, but I think his conclusion is spot-on:

Indeed, all the noise and colour associated with the Twenty20 “spectacle” is a clue to its essential emptyness: you need all this nonsense to distract the audience and prevent it from realising that that there’s very little that’s interesting actually happening on the pitch. High church cricket fans might be depressed if the game were sold to an abbreviated format that was, nonetheless, superior to the traditional forms of the game, but it’s quite another thing entirely for the game to be bought and soldto promote a markedly inferior, less compelling, less textured and varied form of cricket. And yet that is where our current masters are taking us. It is madness.

I’d only add a brief amendment to Massie’s argument. One of the big joys of Test cricket’s interminable length is that it allows the audience to keep the game in a pleasant background. You go to watch the game, obviously, but you also go to relax, read a book, and have the general hum-drum of leather and wood around you.

Twenty20, however, is the opposite: it’s an all-out assault on the senses. Even if the on-field action doesn’t include a boundary or a wicket, there’s music, cheerleaders, interviews, and the like. You just can’t look away, even if you want to. It’s really not cricket at all, but hyper-entertainment.

Andre Nel Retires; Don’t Blame Affirmative Action

I’m not sure why Andre Nel decided to quit international cricket, but last year, he voiced opposition to South Africa’stransformation policy, which attempted to increase the number of minorities in the national team.

Regular readers will know I generally support measures designed to increase team diversity. Opponents argue that merit takes a back seat when other considerations, like race, come into play, but I’m not sure Andre Nel can make that argument.

Looking at South Africa’s current bowling line-up, it’s clear that Nel, while certainly accomplished, isn’t all that great: Dale Steyn’s bowling average (23) is lower than his (31), as is Ntini’s. The Morkel brothers are still too new, but they’re not minorities. If Nel wasn’t picked because of his race, it’s also plausible he wasn’t picked because he’s not good enough.

Dhoni, Philosopher

From Cricinfo:

Dhoni took it a step further. “Mentally we are right there. When it comes to the mind it depends on what you’re feeding into the mind. The mind doesn’t know if it’s Napier or what you’re feeding. You come and say ‘this is Napier’, and it believes it’s Napier. If you see, it’s an abstract. When people say ‘he’s in form’, nobody has seen form. It’s a state of mind where you are confident and you think very positively and everything you think about, you think it’s very achievable. It’s about how you treat the mind. One day here, one day there doesn’t really make a difference. Preparation-wise, we are up to the mark.”

I didn’t take any philosophy classes in college, but this is fairly deep stuff — something to do with perception versus reality and mind versus matter. I particularly like the phrases “nobody has seen form” and “it’s an abstract.”

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