Sports writing

American History X remains one of my all time favorites. And there is a line in the movie which I really love.

Derek says it’s always good to end a paper with a quote. He says someone else has already said it best. So if you can’t top it, steal from them and go out strong.

Dileep is one of the best sports writer of our times (and you guys might want to look up Aakash Chopra as well), and he has followed this rather good piece of advice to the hilt in this tribute to Murali.

Neville Cardus once said of Learie Constantine: “When Constantine plays the whole man plays, not just the professional cricketer part of him. There is nothing in the world for him when he bats, save a ball to be hit — and a boundary to be hit over. When he bowls, the world is three wickets, there to be sent spinning gloriously. Cricket, indeed, is Constantine’s element; to say that he plays cricket, or takes part in it, is to say that a fish goes swimming. Constantine is cricket, West Indian cricket…”

For nearly two decades, Murali was Sri Lanka’s Constantine, the prime factor in his nation wresting respect from a grudging world. There are a few more one-day scalps to claim and Twenty20 batsmen to embarrass. But for now he can put his feet up and contemplate a job that no one could have done better. Top of the world on the field, and a different class off it. Truly one of a kind.

Go read this piece on Murali. And to Murali: You Sir, will be missed!

Calling Wisden’s bullshit

Had it been printed in TOI, I would not have bothered to respond. However, when a respected publication like The Wisden Almanack says something as outrageous, I think it warrants a few words. And no, it is not about selecting four Englishmen in the top five cricketers of the last year. The piece I am talking about, appears as “If the ICC move to India, we might as well say ta, ta” in the current edition under “Notes by the Editor“. Some lines and my response below.

Were the ICC to be based in New Delhi or Mumbai, the power-base of their next president Sharad Pawar, the staff would become predominantly Indian as the main current administrators would find it too difficult to relocate their families there, and the organisation would cease to reflect the attitudes and values of all its members.

Where would you, Mr. Berry, have it relocate to? One would think it has to be one of the Test playing nations, given the lack on interest in cricket in the neutral venues like Dubai. If so, would not a city in the sub-continent, with four of nine test playing nations, be more representative of the members? And I would stick my neck out and say that Delhi or Mumbai would a top choice in the region. Also, with a large number of expat population, I see no reason why administrators would find it difficult to relocate here vis-a-vis London or Sydney or Johannesburg.

It is not a business, or an industry like steel, to be taken over.

In case you have missed the memo Sir, the game is a business, and the clout of India is proof enough. Unless Mr. Berry wants to stick his neck in the sand and pretend that we are still in the 50s, he should know that the game needs money to be run efficiently and ensure the further development of the sport.

All said and done, I believe the piece was out of place. While I agree that India wields more than necessary influence on the ICC, one has to be cognizant of the fact that India is where cricket gets most of its audience from. So get over your fears and accept reality.

And for God’s sake, please let Tata and Corus be in peace. It’s not like we have made you slaves.

Does India deserve to be number one!

There has been a lot of nonsense written about why India does not deserve to be the best test team in the ICC Rankings. Example here. There have been a lot of rebuttals as well. Example here. This post is yet another rebuttal of the same.

Let’s look at batting for a while. In the past three years, starting 01 Jan 2007, five of the top ten run scorers in the Test format, excluding runs scored against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and WI, have been from India. SL, SA, Australia, England, and WI have one each in the top 10. Not too bad I would say. Even the great Ricky Ponting is on the 15th step, which really makes you wonder why no one calls him over the hill anymore, but I digress. A team that has the best batsmen of the last three years must have something in it.

1V SehwagIndia2138213731957.7591.5257
2SR TendulkarIndia2647212616050.6154.96612
3DPMD JayawardeneSL1831208127574.3252.0676
4VVS LaxmanIndia29502053200*52.6449.86415
5JH KallisSA2239200918655.8049.5089
6MJ ClarkeAus24401983145*55.0851.33710
7R DravidIndia2954196617740.1241.07411
8S ChanderpaulWI22371933147*71.5942.06713
9G GambhirIndia1427186920671.8850.9177
10KP PietersenEng2240183015246.9255.9273
11KC SangakkaraSL1729179319264.0356.0377
12SC GangulyIndia2141176123947.5959.0139
13AJ StraussEng2240175717745.0545.4558
14HM AmlaSA22401730176*48.0547.51511
15RT PontingAus2441169915042.4760.78411

Now for the bowling. The list is much more evenly distributed this this. Three of the top ten bowlers, with same filters as above, are from India, with SA claiming another three, Australia two, and England and SL one each. Though bowling still remains a concern for the Indians, it is no better for the other teams. SA is arguably the strongest in this department, but then with Steyn injured and Ntini fading quickly, they might not enjoy the same status for long.

1Harbhajan SinghIndia23411209.51823465105332.8669.141
2MG JohnsonAus2344942.4168293710428.243.1154.331
3DW SteynSA1732598.210721199622.073.5437.373
4Z KhanIndia2240821.416826408331.83.2159.340
5JM AndersonEng2241839.417428678234.963.4161.440
6M NtiniSA2242724.514225277633.253.4857.230
7A KumbleIndia1833902.314727677238.433.0675.220
8PL HarrisSA223782817222907132.252.7669.930
9B LeeAus153061211719416728.973.1754.820
10M MuralitharanSL1525808.412323816735.532.9472.441
11Danish KaneriaPak1325759.412422786236.742.9973.520
12RJ SidebottomEng142558214015736026.212.758.241
13FH EdwardsWI1832507.36120205934.233.9851.640
14MS PanesarEng203378214123055839.742.9480.820
15CS MartinNZ1832652.214220615736.153.1568.600

The thing to note is that this data is for a three year period, and not for a one off year. So its not really a flash in the pan, but rather some sustained good performances by the Indian team. During this period, India has played an almost equal number of tests home (15) and away (14), so there is no real home advantage for the team.

I know that statistics don’t really tell everything, but they do tell you a few things, and what it does tell here is that India really has been a world’s best team for the past couple of years, even though SA are right on their tails.

All data from Cricinfo’s Statsguru. Batting and Bowling.

Failed promises

Failed promises – that is what the youngsters in the Indian team are. Not one young player, since Dhoni and Gambhir debuted in 2004, has kept the promise shown in the initial few matches.

Ishant has been but a pale shade of the bowler who bowled that amazing over to Ponting during that awesome Oz trip. Sreesanth was moved more by movies and glam than cricket. About the batsmen, the lesser said the better. The Jadejas, Sharmas, Pathans, and Utthappas have just shown a lot of promise and then quietly faded away after an initial hoopla has subsided.

Not one player, other than Raina probably, has shown any sort of consistency. Yes they look good on the field on the occasional days that India fields well. Other than that you can’t depend on them for anything. And yes, we have given them enough chances. They just don’t have the balls to grab the opportunity and prove that they are good enough. Heck they even lack basic cricketing knowledge – Jadeja was a classic example today! What on earth was he running for?? As Jrod says,

Those were the ten dudes. A collection of shit hot batsmen who were made to look like dribbling fools compared to Sachin.

And I am just talking about the ODI team. I don’t even want to imagine what happens to the Test team when Sachin, Laxman, and Dravid retire, with Sehwag not too far behind.