Monthly Archives: January 2010

L. Balaji and a Leggie Chuck?

As India prepares to take on Sri Lanka in a tri-series final in Bangladesh, I stumbled on this extremely odd piece of cricket news that former India seamer, Laxmipathy Balaji has been called to a action-rectifying rehabilitation camp at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) Bangalore from January 18 to 24, 2010.

He is one of 35 bowlers — Yes! Thirty five bowlers — with a suspect action that have been asked to report for the camp. I looked and looked again to see if the names some well-known International cricketers who do chuck were included.

But apparently this set of invitations is just for Indian players!

While I laud the BCCI for trying to put in some measures to rectify actions early, I was quite shocked to see the name Abhinav Mukund feature in the list!

Left handed opening batsman, Abhinav Mukund, bowls leg spin occasionally. He has been used reasonably consistently as a partnership breaker in this seasons’ Ranji Trophy and met with some success.

To the best of my knowledge, Abhinav does not bowl off spin at all.

A leg-spinner can chuck? How?

The full list of “invitees” to the BCCI “rehabilitation camp” at the NCA HQ at Bangalore are:

Siddharth Trivedi, Amit Singh, Jayesh Makla, Rujul Bhatt, Anupam Patel, Dipesh Bhandari, Sanket Tandel (all Gujarat), G. V. S. Prasad (Andhra), S. Sriram (Goa), K. P. Appanna and Manish Pandey (Karnataka), H. Khadiwale (Maharashtra), Rajesh Pawar and Salim Veragi (Baroda), Yogesh Nagar (Delhi), Sarandeep Singh (Himachal Pradesh), Kulamani Parida (Railways), Rahul Kanwat (Rajasthan), L. Balaji and A. Mukund (Tamil Nadu), Shivkant Shukla, Parvinder Singh and Mohammad Kaif (Uttar Pradesh), Arlen Konwar (Assam), Tejashvi Yadav (Jharkhand), Basant Mohanty (Orissa), Jayanta Debnath, Debbhakta Jamatia and Abhijit Dey (Tripura), Murtaza Hussain, Vikrant Yelliugatti and Aniket Redkar (Mumbai), Vishal Joshi (Saurashtra), Sandeep Singh and Harshal Shitoot (Vidarbha).

The list of “invitees” to the camp does include some batsmen like Mohammed Kaif and Manish Pandey. So, in my most generous mood, I can only assume that Abhinav Mukund has been invited to the camp as a batsman. If not, I hope the NCA is being run by someone who knows his/her cricket!

— Mohan

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A conversation with Peter Roebuck

Srinivasan of the ‘Indian Voice’ in Melbourne organises a dinner around the Boxing Day Test every year featuring Peter Roebuck.

The venue is always at Indian restaurants, with names featuring ‘Punjabi’ ‘Dhaba’ ‘Masala’ ‘Curry’ and ‘takeaway’ in the usual permutations. The chef cum proprietor is routinely guilty 0f the interior decor, with a propensity for sequinned works featuring bearded grandees a-loll against bolsters receiving intoxicants from surahi bearing maidens with impossibly imposing implants. What looks very like a lungi on the wall with Taj Mahals all over it may well be my philistine eye not recognising a wall hanging when I see one.

None of this should take away from the menu which rarely deviates from Naan, dal makhani, mixed veg curry, papad and rice. For those of a certain persuasion, there a couple of other curries featuring body parts of young quadrupeds and bipeds.

The Roebuck dinner is an event I rarely miss, affording as it does the opportunity to fill up to the back teeth at the buffet for 10 bucks,  listen to one of the most engaging writers and fluent talkers about the game.

Sadly this time around the numbers were’nt there at all. Maybe something to do with the fact that it was Pakistan and not India playing Oz? Sanjay Manjrekar is perhaps right after all. Maybe most Indians are just interested in Indian cricket.

Nevertheless it made for a relatively committed gathering that welcomed Peter at about half past seven. The usual format was for everyone to hoe into the buffet, at the conclusion of which Srini would introduce Peter, who would then hold forth for a bit, followed by questions from the floor. Srini would then wind up with a present of a kurta (Peter’s favourite garment whilst in India) and invitations to contribute to Peter’s favourite charity.

Peter is one, one suspects, who will talk cricket through the night if given the chance. Here then, are a few excerpts.

On his castigation of Chris Gayle before the Windies toured and subsequent approbation.

Most readers will recall that Peter had blasted Gayle for his stance apropos Test Cricket prior to landing on these shores.

Peter said he consistently states his mind with the facts at hand. If that meant that he changed his views and opinions from time to time, so be it. So long as the process was consistent, the end results could well change. Certainly, once Gayle demonstrated some responsible leadership in Oz, Peter did not see his commitment to Tests as an issue any more.

On Umar Akmal blasting Peter Siddle for 19 in one over.

High praise from Peter who was reminded of a young Sachin who hit perfectly good deliveries breathtakingly well. The crucial thing that separated the ‘Nadamaadum Deivam’ (my phrase, not Peter’s) from Umar was the latter’s ‘youthful impetuosity’ that caused him to throw away his wicket after he reached 51. What struck him about Sachin back then, reminisced Peter was that, even at 19, he had a ‘calm centre’ within him that ensured that he was hitting the ball amazingly well on its merits, not just with youthful abandon.

On the ever so slight improvement in the provincial nature of cricket writing in the Australian press.

This was a topic that delved into areas outside of cricket such as an evolving national image, an improved understanding of the wider world and apropos cricket, soul searching post Kumble 2007. That said, what I understood him to mean was that the hacks are, person for person, more deserving of credit than is given them. For the most part, they tend to be aligned to either the Fairfax or the News Ltd stables, each of which caters to a certain demographic. Articles are then written to suit.

This reminded me of Suketu Mehta’s take on Bollywood film directors. ‘None of them are remotely the idiots that their movies would lead you to believe’. Or words to that effect.

On India being on top of the Test Totem pole.

Contrary to the jingoism and triumphalism that might be expected, we the discerning audience took the view that India’s reign would be short lived. Largely because the fab four were on the way out, our bowling still does not inspire, the much beloved BCCI still operates as a fiefdom dispensing benevolence and largesse etc etc. Without disagreeing, he also pointed out that India could not have reached the top without Australia, SAF and to an extent England stumbling periodically. In defence of the BCCI he pointed out the fact that state level cricketers could now make a decent living from the game. ‘Fathers who, fifteen years ago were doing all they could to dissuade their boys are now pushing them with the same force into the game!’

One eyed Indians.

He didn’t hold back in chiding Indians for seeing conspiracies and bloc politics whenever anything went against India or Bucknor did us in again. A pretty thin skinned and one eyed mob we were, said he. Hard to disagree, especially if you share my opinion that we conveniently lose sight of when we benefit , as we did with SK Bansal in that 2001 epic in Kolkata.

As an aside, has anyone heard of Bansal after that game?

And so it went, till Srini had to reluctantly call stumps. As we trooped out into the warm night though, we were all in agreement that we had NOT got our hard earned’s worth.

For, there was no ‘gulab jamun’ to finish off.

Soundar

Decision Review System – Modern version of match fixing!

I am sticking my neck out and making a bold statement that the Decision review system is a disaster. It is a serious threat to fair test cricket. It is, and I dare say, cricket fraternity’s blind faith on an untested and unproven vaccine to poor umpiring. At this point in time, I would put greater trust on the worst financial risk model in the market. As an analyst, I am well aware that all predictive models are as good as their identification and  treatment of sources of uncertainty. To somehow imagine that this model takes into account factors including but not limited to bounce, speed, weather conditions, soil conditions, moisture etc. and predict vertical and horizontal outcomes of a ball bowled without some degree of certainty is very difficult for me to say the least. The horrendous decision to overturn and fabulous call by Billy Doctrove against Marcus North at the current Sydney test is a case in point. The fact that the Aussies are playing like school kids despite that is besides the fact.

I welcome discussions on this topic. In particular, comments by anyone who has a detailed understanding of the DRS model would be appreciated. I hold my views until I have been convinced that the model is trustworthy. The analyst and doubter in me casts serious doubts on the credibility and, more importantly, the motive behind the use of this system. I would also be interested in finding out more on the creators, their relationships with certain cricket boards/tv channels etc. and their commercial interests.

– Srikanth