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.

Rank Player Country Mat Inns Runs HS Ave SR 100 50
1 V Sehwag India 21 38 2137 319 57.75 91.52 5 7
2 SR Tendulkar India 26 47 2126 160 50.61 54.96 6 12
3 DPMD Jayawardene SL 18 31 2081 275 74.32 52.06 7 6
4 VVS Laxman India 29 50 2053 200* 52.64 49.86 4 15
5 JH Kallis SA 22 39 2009 186 55.80 49.50 8 9
6 MJ Clarke Aus 24 40 1983 145* 55.08 51.33 7 10
7 R Dravid India 29 54 1966 177 40.12 41.07 4 11
8 S Chanderpaul WI 22 37 1933 147* 71.59 42.06 7 13
9 G Gambhir India 14 27 1869 206 71.88 50.91 7 7
10 KP Pietersen Eng 22 40 1830 152 46.92 55.92 7 3
11 KC Sangakkara SL 17 29 1793 192 64.03 56.03 7 7
12 SC Ganguly India 21 41 1761 239 47.59 59.01 3 9
13 AJ Strauss Eng 22 40 1757 177 45.05 45.45 5 8
14 HM Amla SA 22 40 1730 176* 48.05 47.51 5 11
15 RT Ponting Aus 24 41 1699 150 42.47 60.78 4 11

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.

Rank Player Country Mat Inns Overs Mdns Runs Wkts Ave Econ SR 5 10
1 Harbhajan Singh India 23 41 1209.5 182 3465 105 33 2.86 69.1 4 1
2 MG Johnson Aus 23 44 942.4 168 2937 104 28.24 3.11 54.3 3 1
3 DW Steyn SA 17 32 598.2 107 2119 96 22.07 3.54 37.3 7 3
4 Z Khan India 22 40 821.4 168 2640 83 31.8 3.21 59.3 4 0
5 JM Anderson Eng 22 41 839.4 174 2867 82 34.96 3.41 61.4 4 0
6 M Ntini SA 22 42 724.5 142 2527 76 33.25 3.48 57.2 3 0
7 A Kumble India 18 33 902.3 147 2767 72 38.43 3.06 75.2 2 0
8 PL Harris SA 22 37 828 172 2290 71 32.25 2.76 69.9 3 0
9 B Lee Aus 15 30 612 117 1941 67 28.97 3.17 54.8 2 0
10 M Muralitharan SL 15 25 808.4 123 2381 67 35.53 2.94 72.4 4 1
11 Danish Kaneria Pak 13 25 759.4 124 2278 62 36.74 2.99 73.5 2 0
12 RJ Sidebottom Eng 14 25 582 140 1573 60 26.21 2.7 58.2 4 1
13 FH Edwards WI 18 32 507.3 61 2020 59 34.23 3.98 51.6 4 0
14 MS Panesar Eng 20 33 782 141 2305 58 39.74 2.94 80.8 2 0
15 CS Martin NZ 18 32 652.2 142 2061 57 36.15 3.15 68.6 0 0

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.