Friday, August 31, 2007

Swallowing bullets

Let's say you are a member of an army that is under attack. Lets also assume that both armies have identical reserves of ammunition at their disposal. When the battle commences, your army decides to not utilize the small-bore ammunition, in fact using it so little that almost 50 - 60% of your ammunition is not utilized at all. In essence, your army is banking on the fact that the big weapons will carry the day, even as your enemy relishes in bombarding you with a flurry of small bullets that are at their disposal, injuring you repeatedly as they do so.

What would you say to a strategy like that? It is easy enough to see where it would take you. When your big weapons hit sensitive areas (and you need most of them to be accurate) you will win in a spectacular manner, but if the big guns do not work, you do not have any more ammunition to fall back upon.

Does such a strategy make any sense?

Then why, oh why, does the Indian cricket team treat their ODI batting in such a foolhardy manner? One simple stat will suffice. Lets's lok at the number of dot balls and the number of runs that they have scored by actually running between the wickets (i.e. excluding boundary hits - only 1's, 2's, and 3's). In the ongoing England-India ODI series:

Game 1: 209 dot balls and 106 runs
Game 2: 160 dot balls and 123 runs
Game 3: 193 dot balls and 100 runs
Game 4: 170 dot balls and 110 runs

The team gets a total of 300 legal balls in a match. Out of which the Indian team blithely avoids scoring on an average about 183 balls per match (which translates to a little over 30 overs!). So basically they are trying to outscore England in the remaining 20 overs. They indulge in an all-or-nothing approach while batting that is totally bemusing. And it starts at the top - in the series, Sourav Ganguly has played out 123 dot balls and taken just 43 runs. Sachin Tendulkar has played out 170 dot balls, and taken just 72 runs. So between the two of them they have played about 50 overs and and not scored a single run!! Two batsmen, themselves, have not scored a single run in 1/4th of the overs that the entire team has had at its disposal.

It is, therefore, not surprising that when they fail to get the boundaries the team loses. The one time this series that they managed to hit the fence they actually tried to manufacture shots by stepping around the crease. One success and then they went back into their shell. How long can India continue to be blinded by a combined 26,000 ODI runs every time they come out to bat? You'd think, by now, they would have learnt the art of placing the ball and milking singles.

I am a lousy batsman and I know how to do it. Why can't they?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A rose by any other name

How do you explain this?

A batsman, in a career of 51 matches (a huge sample size), has scored less than 2400 runs at an average of 28.51 with just 2 centuries and 13 50's to show for it.

Yet, today he finds himself in the India "A" team, indicating that the national selectors feel he is good enough to be on the verge of playing for India, should some vacancies open up. They have already called him up as a back-up once in June this year when an emergency came up.

Hmmm, what has the player done to merit such a rise? It is not as if he is a great bowler (he has taken just 12 wickets in 51 matches). It is not as if he is a great fielder (he has 13 catches in 51 matches...though catches, I admit, are not the best indicator of fielding ability). Could it be because his father is the head honcho of the Hyderabad Cricket Association? I think we have a winner!! The player is Arjun Shivlal Yadav. And he is deemed to be a better candidate for the team than any number of players with better credentials. Bah!

Nepotism is a wonderful thing, especially if you are shameless about profiting from it. Seriously, how does he sleep at night?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Here is a fairly detailed interview with Sourav Ganguly. Most of the recent ones with him tend to be spun one way or the other, depending upon the interviewee's POV. The reason I like this one is that it is presented in a more dignified manner, as befits the man.

Flame out

A fellow blogger-cricketer, RJ, has this hilarious and ironic anecdote on his blog.

Sometimes, being speechless is also saying too much!!

Mad Dog and glory

In continuing with what seems to be the theme of some recent blog posts – another of my all-time favourites – Greg Maddux – continues to simply go about his job with a minimum of fuss and notches up another milestone.

This milestone, becoming the first player to win at least 10 games in 20 consecutive MLB seasons, is a testament not only to his longevity but also his ability to keep up a high standard year after year. Oh, by the way, he is on pace to win a 17th Gold Glove award.

And not only that, there are many other less-heralded achievements of his that are starting to get noticed. My favourite bit in the article is this:
Maddux has made up five career wins on Clemens this year, and now trails him by 10 (353-343). It's not difficult to imagine Maddux pitching like this for two more seasons. So it's entirely possible that Maddux can supplant Clemens as The Winningest Pitcher Alive. And that's a title that will be held by either man for a long, long, long time.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Once in a blue moon comes along a game, insignificant to almost everyone else not involved with tthe two teams, but monumental to me. A few days ago, in the 40-over championships in England (called the Pro40 championships), Worcestershire defeated Lancashire. Oddly, I had been looking forward to this game for some time now, ever since I found out that VVS Laxman was going to spend the rest of the summer in England.

This match featured two of my favourite cricketers ever - VVS Laxman and Graeme Hick. Both are no longer picked for their country's one day squad though both could probably still serve them with distinction (before you laugh at this, check out Graeme Hick's stats, especially in the shorter version of the game, these past few years. He is the only batsman I know who has scored multiple centuries in Twenty20 cricket!). Both scored undefeated half-centuries for their teams - Laxman made 80-odd and Hick 50-odd - with Hick's being the decisive score.

And quietly flows the (county) Don

Graeme Hick continues to pile up runs in County cricket and, to my delight, has re-signed for another year at Worcestershire. The quiet giant is trying to make every innings count.

Watching Kevin Peitersen's remarkable ascendancy to the top echelon of Test cricket, I often wondered what Hick would have achieved if he had some of Pietersen's iron will and flair for the dramatic. Surely more than 6 Test centuries in 65 Tests. Luckily, better writers than I echo similar sentiments.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The exodus

The Indian Cricket League is gaining steam in India. The latest news is that quite a few prominent Hyderabadi cricketers have possibly joined the league. The biggest coup for the ICL, as of now, has got to be AT Rayudu. Here is a player, in his early 20's with tremendous upside potential, giving away a chance to play for India (should the BCCI continue with its pettiness) to showcase his talents on a different scale. (Prem Panicker discusses the topic with some eye-opening anecdotes thrown in).

Many years ago, DSC suggested that VVS Laxman should have emigrated to Australia, played state cricket, and made it to the Australian team where his contributions would be better appreciated. I think AT Rayudu should actually consider doing this. What does he have to lose? With Shivlal Yadav and his cronies out to destroy this guy's career, I see no way he will be playing for India anytime soon. More's the pity since not long ago he was captaining the India Under-19 team with such distinction.

Elusive star-dom

I waited till sunset today to venture out for a drive. My sole intention was to wander around until the sun set and the stars came out. So I left town, went south, then west and drove and drove for an hour.

I was hoping to see a watered-down (but still impressive) facsimile of this. (I had previously blogged about that amazing photograph here).

Instead all I got to see were the bottoms of some wispy, but certainly opaque, clouds. Thwarted by condensed moisture, my visions of seeing the Milky Way will have to wait for another night. Next time I shall go armed with a blanket and find a spot where I can lay down and see the sky.

I am sure it will be worth the wait...

Last line of Casablanca

And so I got onto the plane again, this time trading the hills of West Virginia....

...for the flatlands of the Midwest. I am partly nervous and mostly excited. The future is now.

The king is dead! Long live the king!

Sin City

Las Vegas takes its reputation as a city of excesses really seriously. During a stopover at the airport I noticed how the whole place and the people there were playing on the greed of the migrant public. The obvious examples being the slot machines near the boarding gates.

The not so obvious ones being where the airline counters had personnel who would highlight how much money you could make by subscribing to various deals with them, tactics usually reserved for telemarketing phone calls. The overall emphasis was always around money - how much you coud win, how much you could save, how much you could spend. Funnily enough, for a guy who was "trying to make sure I make the most money I can" the hawker refused to let me take a photograph of him and his booth.

Truly, I guess, what happens in Vegas does stay in Vegas.

Gold rush

I recently spent some time in California. I suffer from earthquake-o-phobia (no one has invented a term for that yet, as far as Google can tell me) and for the entire duration of the trip there I could detect a tension in me. When the plane took off from San Jose airport, I was relieved to be off the ground.

But while I was there I did find time to wander around with some friends and see the sights when I wasn't attending talks or meetings.

The most surprising thing about San Jose was the total lack of rush hour traffic of any sort. We are so used to seeing overhead shots of clogged freeways that I assumed it would be the same here. Walking around town was a very pleasant experience.

Moving on

I am no longer in Morgantown. I moved to the Midwest a few days ago.

It is amazing how a few weeks of turmoil and activity can get condensed into short, bland sentences. In reality, I did not know head from toe while all the upheaval was going on. I packed all my belongings, more than I thought I had and less than what most people collect after 10 years in one place. All the stuff of value to me fit into a 11'x9'x6' space.

Yes, the biggest space-taker turned out to be boxes of books - all 29 of them! Unpacking them should be fun.

Words worth

A few years ago I was suffering from a mild case of writer's block and gave up on writing poems. A friend recognized this and left me a note that said:

What do pesky friends
know how a verse ends?
You see even I
want to try
to write (like thee)
with a bit of symmetry.
So isn't it time
to sharpen your quill and write and rhyme?

Having absconded from this blog for months, I am (once again) inspired by these words to resume my writing. I have transitioned away from Morgantown, with a heavy heart, and am in the heartland of America. The distances to familiar places may have increased but the scope to explore new areas has many advantages. Suddenly, like the Midwest, the possibilities seem endless.