Monthly Archives: May 2012

Who’s more ‘clutch’? Tendulkar, Lara or Ponting?

By Ajit Bhaskar (@ajit_bhaskar)

Who is the most clutch among these three legends from our generation?

The Stage

Given the somewhat sensitive title of the post, I tried to think of a lot of emotional, heartfelt introductory content but I failed miserably. But it suffices to say that these three players are the best from our generation, particularly in the ODI format of the game. A couple of folks (Ian Chappell and Nasser Hussain) have opined on who’s the greatest among the three ‘modern greats’. Honestly, it is a tough ask to rate the three for each is excellent in his own ways.

I’m not here to ‘rate’ which one of them is the best among the three. What I’m going to address, is each batsman’s ability to perform in the clutch, which is one of the measures of a player’s greatness. After all, such performances tend to ‘define a player’s legacy’!

I am going to compare (statistically), the performance of these three players under ‘clutch’ situations.

Also, it makes some sense to compare these three players in particular because:

  • They have played in the same era.
  • They are all top order batsmen and have spent a vast majority of their careers batting in 1-4 spots in the batting order.

Ground Rules/Assumptions

  • I’m going to restrict this conversation to ODIs alone.
  • Clutch’ is defined as chasing a target. I will try to make things more granular as I proceed further.
  • Only India, Australia, West Indies, Pakistan, New Zealand, England and South Africa have been considered for this analysis. Sorry Zimbabwe, Bangladesh et al.
  • Only run chases are considered.
  • The pronouns HE and HIS used in generic sentences encompass BOTH male and female human beings. Do not hassle me with ‘sexist’ and other epithets.

A brief note on ‘clutch’

Various images flash across our minds the instant we hear the word clutch. Like Michael Jordan’s buzzer beating “The Shot” against Cleveland (followed by Jordan jumping in the air and then throwing his elbows exactly three times after planting his feet on the ground), Javed Miandad’s last ball six off Chetan Sharma (I hate Nataraj pencils just for that) and so on. As far as ODIs are concerned, a clutch situation typically involves chasing a target. The pressure that is associated with chasing a target, particularly when two good, competitive teams are playing makes for good drama and excellent cricket. The players who shine repeatedly and consistently under such circumstances become legends of the game.

The reason for emphasis on run chase will become clearer during the course of this article.

The Statistics

These are obtained from Cricinfo directly after applying a filter for ‘fielding first’.

Key observations:

  • They’ve been involved in enough run chases to qualify for statistical analysis
  • Lara has scored nearly half his runs chasing targets!
  • The ‘chasing average’ of all three players is pretty close to their career averages. This suggests that the pressure associated with a run chase doesn’t influence their performance significantly. In fact, Lara (on an average), scores 3 more runs during chasing.
  • All players show the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome, i.e. elevated averages when their teams win during a run chase and reduced averages when their teams lose while chasing a target.
  • It’s the extent of this syndrome exhibited by the three players that is quite intriguing.
  • If we define Differential Chasing Average or D = Chasing Average during Wins – Chasing Average during Losses, it represents the degree of discrepancy in individual performance while a team goes on to win or lose. In principle, a ‘legendary’ player is expected to play the same way and produce at a high level regardless of the outcome of the game and the performance of other players on the team. So lower the D value, greater the degree of consistency of a player during run chases.
  • The D values for Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting are 19.53, 40.11 and 39 respectively.
  • Let’s pause and ponder over this for a moment. Taking Lara as example, when WI chases a total successfully, he tends to score FORTY MORE RUNS than when WI fails to chase a target. While an average of ~68 runs is fantastic during successful a run chase, that also indicates a lot of variation in performance. In other words, consistency is lacking. The same is true of Ponting (Differential = 39). However, the key difference between Lara and Ponting is that when their teams lose while chasing a target, Lara still manages to score a decent 27.5 runs, Ponting manages only 19 runs.
  • Tendulkar, on the other hand, shows the least variation (D = 19.53). In fact, the variation is half of Lara’s and Ponting’s. This indicates more consistent performance during run chases.
  • Lara has the best Chasing Average in Wins by a distance. He scores nearly 10 more runs than Ponting and 16 more runs than Tendulkar during successful run chases.
  • Tendulkar has the best Chasing Average in Losses. It’s is about 13 runs or 67% greater than Ponting’s. He also scores 4 more runs than Lara during unsuccessful rn chases.
 Figure 1. Graphical representation of performance of Sachin Tendulkar (SRT, blue), Brian Lara (BL, Red) and Ricky Ponting (RP, green) during run chases.

 

Cranking up the pressure to ‘ultimate clutch’

While the analysis so far has provided an indication of the extent of consistency of these players, it hasn’t truly separated them as to who is the best among the three. So I’ll up the ante a little bit and crank up the pressure.

I’d like to evaluate these players’ performances under extreme pressure.  In many cases, teams are chasing fairly small targets of 100 or 150. While the task is still challenging, it is not as daunting as chasing a larger target. Say 250.

How do these players fare when chasing targets of 250 or above? The reason for choosing 250 becomes clearer when we take a look at how teams fare when they chase such targets.

Data Acquisition

  • Get the ODI inning by inning list for Tendulkar on cricinfo.
  • Set a filter for ‘fielding first’.
  • Open every single match/scorecard and choose only those where targets of 250 or above were chased.
  • Note the runs scored in each inning under two columns based on whether his team won or lost.
  • Calculate various parameters (Average, average during wins and losses etc.)
  • Not outs are considered as outs for calculating averages
  • Repeat the process for Lara and Ponting. Note that in Ponting’s case, a tied match is included for calculating chasing average.

Here’s how the three batsmen fare:

Key observations:

  • There is a LOT of collective failure! Just take a look at the W-L records. With these legends representing India, West Indies and Australia respectively, they have won ~30, 25 and 40% of their matches while chasing 250+ targets. The collective success rate is just 31%!
  • So, if anybody tells you chasing 250+ is an easy task, just show him this table. Even the ‘invincible Aussies’, who have boasted some of the game’s premier batsmen, bowlers and perhaps some the most balanced sides ever, have failed to win even half the games while chasing 250 or above!
  • Tendulkar’s average while chasing 250+ targets (39.9) is virtually same as his regular chasing average of 40.03. This is remarkable consistency. Lara and Ponting on the other hand, tend to score nearly 5 and 3 runs lower than their regular chasing averages respective, when chasing 250+ targets.
  • Tendulkar also averages the most during 250+ chases. While Tendulkar and Lara are separated by one run, Tendulkar scores nearly 3 more runs than Ponting.
  • The differential (D) values for Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting are 10.3, 34.2 and 46.6 respectively.
  • Let me emphasize a bit more on the D values. Regardless of W or L, you can expect consistent performance from Tendulkar. Lara and Ponting, on the other hand, tend to play extremely well when their respective teams are winning, but tend to score poorly when their sides are on the losing side. This is particularly true of Ponting, whose average of 18.5 when the Aussies lose chasing targets 250 (probability is 26 out of 44 games or 59%) or above is quite frankly, poor!
  • WI has lost 39 out of 52 games while chasing 250+. But even under these circumstances, Lara pretty much assures you 30 runs (chasing avg. during losses).
  • Tendulkar, on the other hand, gets you 7 more runs than Lara and nearly 18 more runs than Ponting on days when your team is not doing a good job at chasing. This is a very significant difference in my opinion, given the fact that India and WI do not end up on the winning side often while chasing 250+ targets.
  • But when their teams win, Lara and Ponting fire and fare much better than Tendulkar. This is clear from their chasing averages during wins.

Figure 2. Graphical representation of performance during 250+ run chases for Tendulkar (blue), Lara (red) and Ponting (green).

Bottom Line

The bottom line is, no matter how high the pressure is, whether the game is being played on earth or elsewhere, no matter what kind of target the team is chasing, Tendulkar provides the most steady, consistent performance. Lara is a gambling man’s pick, while Ponting is (compared to Tendulkar and Lara) more of a hit or miss case. If snoring is a problem, you may need ZQuiet.

To me, this analysis puts Tendulkar and Lara a cut above Ponting. Particularly because Ponting has enjoyed the benefit of better overall teams than Lara and Tendulkar have enjoyed over their careers. But more importantly, the averages of 18.95 during unsuccessful run chases and 18.5 during unsuccessful run chases involving 250+ targets is something I wouldn’t call ‘stuff of legends’.

In a nutshell, if I were to pick one of these three legends to help chase my team a target of 250 or above, which in my book, is a clutch situation given the rate of failure involved, I’d flip a coin. Heads – Tendulkar, Tails – Lara.

Sorry Ponting, you just don’t make the cut on my list. Certainly not in ODIs.

BCCI’s criticism-tolerance and the role of critics…

By Mohan Krishnamoorthy (@mohank)

There is much to dislike about the BCCI… there is much to like about Harsha Bhogle

The bully

I am not a fan of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or of the way it functions. Many journalists, writers and opinion-makers (I will use these terms interchangeably to mean “opinion influencers”) around the world appear convinced that the BCCI is a self-serving organisation that does not have the best interests of either world cricket and/or (sadly) Indian cricket.

This might be an inaccurate view. This might be a view that is highly unfair on BCCI. However, it is a view. And there appears to be a growing number of people in the world who hold this view.

When writers from around the world express their strong anti-BCCI views, they often need to brace themselves for a subsequent attack from a (largely) Indian fan base. This often includes a trivialising — either of them or of their views — by millions of cricket fans from India who think that this criticism of the BCCI is equivalent to a criticism of India. Many of these critics are easily (and lazily) labelled as racist by the chest-thumping flag-bearers. We can only cringe when these critics are attacked mercilessly in the comments section of the anti-BCCI articles they write. India and the BCCI cannot be criticized.

Some of these opinion makers from around the world are possibly wrong (at worst) or ill-informed (at best) in their criticism of the BCCI. Many of them are, in my view, right.

There is much to dislike about the BCCI.

The BCCI, rightly or wrongly, has an image of a ‘world cricket bully that goes around throwing its weight and thumping tables’. Some of this perception is justified. Some of it is about the “old world” worrying that the “new world” will use its new found power tastelessly and wrongfully.

However, perceptions have a way of becoming realities.

My perception is that the BCCI worries about money more than it does, about the state of the game; that the BCCI worries more about the size of its coffers than about how it is perceived by the rest of the cricketing world; that the BCCI concentrates more on the power that comes from the money it generates than it does about using that money to develop the game; that the BCCI thinks about the monetary value of the broadcast contracts it signs more than the quality of the broadcast; that the BCCI thinks more of the size of its audience viewership-base than it does about the audience itself; that the BCCI worries more about the fans that it has today than it does about caring for the sustainability of the game; that the BCCI worries more about today than it does about tomorrow; that the BCCI constantly plays victim than it does leader; that the BCCI craves praise more than it tolerates criticism.

The undeniable fact is that the BCCI is the most powerful member of the international cricket fraternity. It provides the ICC with more than 60% of its revenues. With that comes power. As a prominent and respected Australia-based writer once said (by email): “Of course, it is not BCCI’s fault that they have power at the world cricket table. Nor is to their credit!”

What I would like to see from the BCCI is that they use that power sensibly; that they show exemplary leadership. What I would like to see from them is an open, accountable and transparent organization that shows the world how cricket ought to be run. There were many things wrong about the way the English Cricket Board , in collusion with Cricket Australia, ran the game of cricket in the period leading up to 1990. In the early-90s the BCCI accidentally bumped into a television contract. The world of cricket changed. Irrevocably.

The past wrongs are undeniable. However, the BCCI has an opportunity now to show how the game ought to be run differently; an opportunity that BCCI is, in my view, ruining.

Critics, journalists and opinion-makers

So, it has to be the responsibility of Indian journalists to question, explore, attack, inquire and constantly seek honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency from the BCCI.

However, we also know that most journalists and opinion makers in India will find it hard — no, make that almost impossible — to be critical of (or take a stand against) BCCI. The organisation controls accreditation, passes, access and hence, the privileges that journalists enjoy. There are few independent voices in Indian cricket — voices that do not care about either access or privilege. And without access and privileges, a journalist is as useful to cricket as slurry is to shoes. The BCCI runs cricket in India like a feudal landlord would, his/her land. Access and privilege are traded for good press and praise.

It is impossible for critical views to be aired in an environment like this. Some respectable voices are paid by the BCCI — we know of at least two such cases. Good press can be (and is) purchased. Good press can be purchased for cash; lots of it.

I cannot think of anyone other than Kapil Dev and Bishen Bedi who have, in recent times, criticized the BCCI openly. The former was ‘disenfranchised’ as a result of his ICL involvement. The latter seeks no favors or privileges and has always been his own man. The rest dabble in nothing but banal clichés and platitudes.

Enter Harsha Bhogle

It is impossible for even a respected and learned voice — like Harsha Bhogle (for example) — to be harshly critical of the BCCI. Even if the criticism is accurate, justified and backed up with significant analysis/data, it is almost a foregone conclusion that such critical opinion will be dealt with the same equanimity as a hand would, an irritant mosquito. The hand that feeds just cannot be tarnished. Clarity and objectivity become the loser.

Harsha Bhogle is a respected and responsible commentator. He has contributed strongly and with remarkable integrity, over a 20 year period, as one of the most learned, mature and responsible voices in Indian cricket. He is an inspiration to a generation of aspiring sports journalists, TV anchors and TV commentators in India. One such aspiring young journalist and TV anchor once said to me that his career objective was to be “The next Harsha Bhogle”. He was inspired by this simply-stated, challenging goal.

Today, Bhogle is to commentary what Sachin Tendulkar is to batting. Just as it is impossible to imagine an Indian team without Tendulkar, it is impossible to imagine a commentary box without Bhogle in it. He is the “go to” person when Indian cricket sound-bytes are required by the BBC or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). And rightly so. His body of work precedes him. His body of work speaks of passion and suggests vast knowledge, tremendous impact and signifcant contribution. He is an honourable man.

A tête-à-tête with Harsha Bhogle

I got into a brief (and somewhat heated) tête-à-tête with Bhogle on Twitter a few days ago (Sunday 13 May 2012). The exchange was captured by Nicole Sobotker.

It was an exchange and not a debate or an argument, for Twitter does not provide the proponents with either the time or space for engaging in genuine understanding — leave alone augmentation — of perspective or context. However, it appeared as though it was an argument. For the sake of this piece, I will call it a debate.

The debate stemmed from an article in the Times of India. In it, Anil Kumble raised questions on India’s dismal overseas Test record in 2011-12. The report, quite alarmingly, stated that the BCCI is “likely to” request the Team India coach to submit a report on the dismal record. So let us get this right. The coach’s report has not been submitted. The report has not been requested. The report may not be requested. It is only “likely” that a report may be asked for.

Bhogle reacted to the above report with surprise. He wrote, “so anil kumble is told duncan fletcher will submit a report after his vacation. this is may, the last of 8 tests lost was in january”.

Extremely valid. But hardly surprising. In the intervening period, we had a few ODIs and immediately after that, the IPL distraction commenced. It distracted BCCI from 0-8. It distracted the players from 0-8. I believe it may have distracted Bhogle too from 0-8.

I responded to Bhogle saying that the article was hardly surprising to me considering that everyone that ought to care (including him) “have been busy with the utterly draining madness called the IPL”.

Bhogle asked if everything he had “said in England and Australia while the Tests were on is (now) forgotten.”

Evidently, yes!

The BCCI, who need to listen, had forgotten, The IPL is their balm. It enables them to forget. It enables cricketers to forget. It enables fans to forget. It enables “serious voices” in the media to forget.

In my view, it is not sufficient for the voice of cricket to make a few noises while the whipping took place in England and Australia, and to assume that the responsibility of the voice was, as a result, over. The noise that was made, then, has clearly had no impact whatsoever. So either Bhogle needs to carry out an introspection and assessment of the impact, weight, carry and strength of his voice or assume that it is not enough to shout once and sit back. In India, and especially with the BCCI, it is necessary to keep shouting till you are heard.

That is only if one wants to see change; if one wants to make a difference; if one wants to use the unenviable position — that one has worked assiduously hard for — to good effect. Bhogle considers himself a “serious voice”.

A serious voice cares about impact; about making a difference; about being more than a ‘caller’ of the game.

Bhogle did write with pain and anguish in January about how India needs to overhaul — not merely tweak — its cricket system. He also made a suggestion of a 12-team Ranji Trophy.

With the BCCI though, it is not enough to declare the pain of a 0-8 whipping once or twice during the whipping. Any commentator would do that. Several did. One who cares and one who has a body of work that is accumulated over a period of 20 years should look beyond the whipping and relentlessly seek change. The fact that nothing happened subsequent to the whipping and the subsequent anguish expressed by Bhogle is a suggestion that Indian cricket does not need or admit even a respectable voice like Bhogle’s!

Then, either through boredom or expectations from his employers or loss of personal passion or an air of defeatism (or a combination of the above), Bhogle himself seems to have moved on from the pain of 8-0 to making somewhat banal observations on fitness comparisons across teams, Kohli’s next big challenge, Tendulkar’s 100th 100 burden (obligatory) and retirement timing of great players. Since that series of observations, Bhogle donned his IPL hat and unleashed on us a series of IPL-related articles: whether the IPL will be the “big ticket”, an IPL-5 wishlist (in which he declares, “the IPL will have to survive and blossom as a cricket tournament”), on why Test cricket is not the only cricket, and whether the switch-hit is kosher.

As Shyam Sundararaman says in this piece on Bhogle, “he rarely takes a stance on issues of not(e).”

I am not sure whether I would agree with that. However, in my exchange with him, Bhogle asked if 10 years or 15 years of service are not good enough. He claimed that it is “easy to throw darts a people without realising they’ve been and are serious voices.”

My point is simple: If after 15 years of service, the pain and anguish expressed by the “serious voice” of Bhogle in January leads us to a situation in May where it is only “likely” that the BCCI will ask for a report from Duncan Fletcher, clearly one of the following three observations are right: (a) Bhogle’s is not a serious voice, (b) the BCCI does not care about Bhogle’s voice or any “serious” voice, however serious it might be, (c) Given that we are dealing with the BCCI, Bhogle needs to be even more serious about his voice for even him to consider it as serious enough.

I am convinced (a) is wrong. Bhogle is the serious voice in Indian cricket. The answer, I suspect, lies somewhere between (b) and (c).

The IPL bandwagon

I do not care if Bhogle or anyone else applauds the IPL. Irrespective of the seriousness (or otherwise of his voice) it is his choice to celebrate it. And he does. It is my choice to scorn the IPL. And I do.

It is, in my view, a decadent chest thump; an entertainment package that makes us forget the 8-nil drubbing. In my view, it has no context or relevance. For example, I have watched almost all games in IPL-1, many games in IPL2 and a few in IPL3. Yet, I can’t remember a single game other than that game in Dharmasala in which M. S. Dhoni hit the winning runs off the last ball. Yet when I mention the numbers 97 or 241, everyone knows what I am talking about.

But, I digress…

A review of Indian cricket

It is Bhogle’s choice to celebrate the IPL. However, if he really cares about Indian cricket and felt the pain of the 0-8 loss, the responsible thing to do would have been to continually hammer for a review of what went wrong; to demand what came of Aakash Chopra’s review of domestic cricket; to demand an Argus style review of Indian cricket.

Within weeks of the second successive Ashes loss in 2010, Australian journalists demanded a review. They were all over Cricket Australia like a rash. Cricket Australia (CA) listened. It went ahead and constituted a review committee with clear and agreed terms of reference. The Argus Review process was initiated. It was a review of Australian cricket and covered everything from domestic competitions, player payments, CA governance, coaching structure, selection committee functioning, etc. It was comprehensive.

Such a review might work for Australia. Something similar may never work in India. That is not the point. The point is that serious voices demanded a review. Serious voices continued to demand a review until it was conducted. The Argus Review recommendations are now being implemented.

Such a review may be impossible — or even unnecessary — in India. With the BCCI what you get is a serious series of ‘closed-door meetings’ held by ‘think-tanks’. And when explanations/clarifications are sought for certain decisions, what you may get is a bullish roadside scrap in which the BCCI official barks, “Boss, you just shut up ok”, “chuppal se horthenga”, “googly dalenga”, “ungli karenga” and a clutch of other obscene profanities.

Monopsony and the market argument

But the BCCI can do bullish. It has the money. It has the power. It has no absolute necessary for accountability — to either the Government or to players or fans. It can unleash a national selector on us who says “boss you just shut up ok”.

The BCCI is a monopoly. Sorry, it is a monopsony.

In an imperfect market, the BCCI is a single buyer — that operates though a license bestowed on it by the ICC — with many sellers (resources). These sellers of resources includes the players, TV companies, and “serious voices” that are somewhat dependent on BCCI ‘handouts’. The landlord may take back what he giveth if the respondents do not queue up appropriately. The dictator can specify what (s)he wants to do because these resources are dependent on the unique buyer of their services. One is either in the queue or not.

Which is why the “market” argument for justifying the IPL is as banal as the IPL itself! If we want to see the BCCI and the IPL operate in perfect market conditions, we need to have the IPL operate alongside the now-defunct ICL (or an equivalent)! Only then will we know whether resources, commentators and fans prefer the IPL over the ICL (or its equivalent)!

The critical role of serious critics

Given the market in which it operates, it is necessary for the BCCI to use its power appropriately — both externally (at the ICC table) as well as internally (in developing the game, its structures, its TV contracts and its resources). I have no hope that this will happen in a cogent, clearly articulated and transparent manner.

In the absence of such hope, what is required is a bevvy of serious voices that ask tough questions. It is insufficient if such questions are asked once and forgotten. These voices need to ask tough questions repeatedly. They need to demand to be at the review table. They need to be at the review table, making changes that will have a long-term impact. They should not be surprised over 5 months of inactivity. They should expect it and seek change; not by applauding the switch hit but by demanding a switch in priorities. They have to explore why the slide commenced with a fatigue-induced handshake at Dominica and whether the craziness of IPL-4 had a role to play in it. They should ask hard questions about the long-term health of the domestic game, for however much they applaud the richness of the IPL, the long-term resources are going to come from domestic cricket.

The “serious voice” must be, simultaneously, a critic, an ombudsman and a watchdog, where there are no explicit requirements for either of these roles. The “serious voice” must make up for the collective failure of the organisation that controls the game. This is a high expectation. It is my expectation of a “serious voice” in Indian cricket. It is an expectation that is, sadly, unmet.

It is my hope that I have not offended Mr Harsha Bhogle or his ilk. He believes his is a serious voice. It is. But we need to hear it. Not once, but repeatedly. We need to hear other voices too. For otherwise we will continue to be surprised if a review is only “likely” to be requested of a coach who presided over an 8-0 drubbing.

— Mohan

Ps: Although this blog post talks specifically about Mr Harsha Bhogle, it is intended as a request to all “serious voices” that care about Indian cricket.

Top heavy IPL: A statistical analysis.

The IPL season is in full swing.About 3/4th of the season is over and this might be a good time to assess why certain teams are doing well and why some others aren’t. This piece aims to look at things from a purely batting perspective. The particular focus is on trying to correlate the success that certain franchises have enjoyed to the performance from their top order batsmen.

These are the current rankings:

Image

Apart from rankings, few other things are also shown. None of these statistics have been taken directly from cricinfo.

IPL is a fairly batsman friendly game. Also, a team gets to face ~120 balls per inning. So, in my opinion, the performance of the top order becomes extremely critical, regardless of whether a team is trying to set a total or chase one. While one bad over might be overcome by a good one following it immediately, a couple of quick wickets, especially among the top order batsmen puts much higher pressure in a T20 game in my opinion. This is the rationale behind assessing batting performances.

I consider the statistics listed above as a reasonable metric for analyzing the performance of top order batsmen.

All the teams have played at least 12 games. PWI is the only team that has played 13. As per current rankings, KKR, DD, MI and RCB round off the top four spots. Let’s try to look into how does their success correlates with the performance of their top order.

For the purposes of this piece, top order will refer to the first three batsmen in the lineup. Middle order will refer to batsmen no. 4 & 5 in the order.

Here’s how the table appears when the teams are sorted based on the % of total runs of the entire team scored by the top order.

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The results show that three out of the top four teams continue to feature in top 4. The only new entry is RR, which wasn’t too far (5th in overall rankings) to begin with. Further, there is not much change in CSK, KXIP and PWI’s positions. This suggests that there is a reasonable correlation between the performance of top order and overall success of the teams. The major outliers to this trend would be MI and DC.

A couple of interesting revelations:

  • MI slips to the last spot. This suggests they do not truly depend on their top order for their success. This in spite of one Sachin Tendulkar, but I shall not dare to ramble along those lines.
  • DD top order accounts for nearly 2/3rd of the total runs scored by the team!.

A few other details are revealed when the teams are sorted out based on the total number of runs scored per inning by the entire team.`

Image

A few interesting observations right away:

  • Top teams like KKR and DD have now slipped to the bottom of the ladder. In fact, those two teams score nearly 20 runs fewer than RCB, which leads the pack. In a nutshell, while DD and KKR don’t score much (relatively speaking), they do rely on their top orders to set or chase a target quite heavily. This accentuates the value of Gautam Gambhir, Brendon McCullum, Virender Sehwag and Kevin Pietersen.
  • MI continues to sit at the bottom of the pile. So not only does MI score the fewest runs, their top order contributes the least towards their scores. So how a does team that performs so poorly with the bat manage to do well in the overall rankings? I’ll try to address that in more detail now.

The curious case of MI:

How is MI winning games in spite of horrendous scoring compared to the rest of the league? One of the possibilities is a strong middle order. The table below sorts the IPL teams based on the average runs scored by the middle order.

Image

No points for guessing which team has the BEST middle order in the business. It’s MI.  Here are a few other interesting observations:

  • Mumbai’s middle order contributes nearly TWICE as much to its team’s success when compared to Kolkata. This is further proven when one watches the performances of Rayudu, Pollard and the likes who have bailed Mumbai out many a times. The latest addition to this was the blitzkrieg from Dwayne Smith that flattened CSK.
  • Sorting teams based on average runs scored by the middle coincidentally sorts the teams based on the % runs contributed by no. 4 and no. 5 towards the total score. This further accentuates the contribution of the middle order of MI towards its success, particularly in close games.
  • The fact that KKR lies in the bottom of this list again accentuates how important the top order is for its success. Same rationale applies for RR that has been enjoying the success of Rahane and Dravid, and now Watson. The top order is critical for their success as well.

So I hope that I have been able to throw some light on the importance of the top order’s performance towards the success of a team. While this might be intuitive for some, analyzing statistically, nerding it up with figures and tables makes a lot more fun! Also, this could enable fantasy IPL players to choose certain players from particular teams. Too bad I won’t be getting a medal for this social service.

P.S: 3 matches have taken place since I’ve compiled this data. It would be great to put the above analysis to a litmus test.

Game 1: DD v/s DC

  • For DC, the top order scored 107/187 runs (~57.2%). While this sounds quite impressive for a team that is dead last in standings, this is still an AVERAGE if not slightly below average performance. The middle order scored 78/187 (~41.7%) runs. This is nearly twice their average production, which is probably why DC posted a significantly higher score than their season average.
  • For DD, it’s very simple. The top order won the game for them. They scored all the runs and flattened the opposition. This certainly holds true with the above analysis.

Game 2: RR v/s CSK

  • RR has relied quite a bit on it’s top order. In this game, they were fairly abysmal. They scored 26/126 (20.6%) of the team’s runs, which is barely 1/3rd of their season average! The middle order (Binny and Botha) bailed them out a little with 60 runs (47.6% of the total score). But this is a clear cut deviation from their season’s average trend.
  • CSK on the other hand, didn’t rely on their top order to win this game, which is in line with the above analysis. The top order scored only 42/127 runs (33.1%). This is below their season average of 49.8%. The middle order and the bottom order bailed them out big time and they were able to snatch a close game from RR’s hands.

Game 3: RCB v/s PWI

  • RCB batted first and their top order gave them an excellent start to set a platform for a competitive score. Chris Gayle, Tilakaratne Dilshan and Virat Kohli combined for 68.8% of the team’s runs. This is in line with their season’s trend.
  • PWI continued to showcase the fact that they have one of the worst top orders in the game This doesn’t have to do with poor quality batsmen as much as the number of times they’ve tinkered with their top order. They have changed their top order roughly 9 times in a span of 14 games. That is not the best approach towards a stable, established lineup. The game was practically over when they lost their entire top order for a mere 17 runs. The middle order did well by scoring 69/138 (50%) of the runs but it was clearly too much pressure to bail out such a poor show from the top order. The result was a crushing defeat.

So it appears that the above analysis was valid to a good extent on the games that transpired after compiling the data. As the title suggests, IPL does seem to be top heavy.

– Ajit Bhaskar.

(@ajit_bhaskar on Twitter)

I’m not “Okay” with Switch-Hit

Summer of 2008. New Zealand vs England. In Game-1 of the 5-match ODI series, played at Cheseter-le-Street, Kevin Pietersen rattles the world of cricket with a new shot (Click here to watch Pietersen’s switch-hits in that ODI). If not for the career-low decision making skills of Paul Collingwood in the next two ODIs, Pietersen’s  switch-hits would’ve been bigger news, if not, the only news of the summer.

The switch hit had instance reactions. Cricinfo had compiled some of them in the same week the shot was first revealed. Everyone had their say, they should. Some liked it, some didn’t, and some were speechless. I didn’t like it.

We can react, we are just the fans who cough up money to watch the game, and then enjoy the game and support the players we love. But, if you are the ones who is drafting the rules of the game, I’d rather you take your time before you make the decision on it, call in the views, condense the views, debate it, and then draft the law on it, or make amendments.

The shot was played on June 15th, MCC approved the Switch-Hit on June 17th. Within 2 days, MCC has accommodated the shot while weeks and months after it, people were still debating its legality. This was a knee-jerk reaction from the MCC. Law makers should make decisions, not give reactions. They are supposed to be responsible for the game more than I am. And 4 years later, today, they are going to review it. Four years, it takes them to compile the feedback that they should’ve catered to before approving the act.

Yes, I don’t like the shot. The switch-Hit is very fancy, very skillfully executed, almost impossible to execute in a game-situation. I accept that. But, it doesn’t fit within the laws of the game.

Let me elaborate with a batsman as a specific case – a Right Handed Batsman (RHB).

A RHB has his right wrist below the left wrist while holding the bat. His right shoulder exerts the force into the shots. His left arm plays support, while guiding the bat with a direction. As soon as that left wrist grips the bat’s handle under the right wrist, the batsman turns into a Left Handed batsman (LHB).

First of all, the batsman cannot and should not do that. If that batsman comes to the crease as a RHB, he MUST play RHB. The whole *deletes swear words* nuances of bowling and fielding depends on that orientation of a batsman.

A bowler HAS to tell the umpire if he is going to bowl with his right arm, or his left; also, which side of the wicket he will be bowling from. If he doesn’t it is declared a no-ball. No, this is not Madrasi Gully Cricket rules, it’s what I understand from MCC’s Law 24 Clause 1. That’s their opening line, like saying, “Listen up, bowlers, you should give me your bowling run-up and stride’s co-ordinates in writing; and if you dare step one inch out of the path, you’re screwed. My back may be facing you, but I’ve got GPS to track you”.

“The off side of the striker’s wicket shall be determined by the striker’s stance at the moment the ball comes into play for that delivery.” – says Law 36, Clause 3. Does it mean that it means that if the batsman switches hands before the ball is released, the left half of my television screen becomes the leg side of the formerly RHB batsman who has jussst switched to a left handed orientation, according to that law? Because, if that was true, it is going to hit the fielding team in BIG way.

According to Law 41, clause 5, there can be no more than two fielders on the leg side behind the popping crease at the instance of bowler’s delivery. If our beloved RHB becomes a LHB at the instance of the delivery, and I, as a fielding captain, have set two slips, a gully, a point (standing behind the popping crease) and a 3rd man, then three or more of them have to act out scenes from the movie “Avengers” really fast to flee to the other side of the popping crease. Till that day arrives, however, I cannot fathom that happening. So, it obviously turns out to be a no-ball. Thus, almost every time a batsman is allowed to switch hands, becoming a left hander, he gets a no-ball.

Some interpret Law 36, clause 3, as “…before the start of the run-up.” In that case….

The most obvious, and the most widely debated issue in this Switch-Hit party is that of the LBW. This, is if you assume that everything else on the  field is frozen for a RHB, and then the batsman switches hands and has become a LHB and gets hit on the pads after the ball pitches on the leg side area of a RHB’s pitch map while he trying to swing the ball across to an RHB’s cover-point region. Even if the batsman is now a LHB, he can’t be out, because it is interpreted that the leg side is as per the batsman’s orientation when the bowler starts his run up. If the batsman is still considered to be a RHB in-spite of the switching, then this shoots up all the rules for wide and LBW. There is no clarity over which side is the leg side, and which is the off side before and during and after every ball.

All these levels of confusion, only because the batsmen have been given the leeway to switch their orientation as and when they wish. Which is plain wrong. Going back to the point I made earlier – bowlers are penalised for switching from over the wicket to around, or vice-versa, and the umpire conveys that information to the batsman.

If you really want the bowlers to bowl where you want, how you want, use a bowling machine.

I’ve also been bumped with this question – “How is reverse sweep looking okay to you, but not Switch-Hit?

In a reverse sweep RHB plays with right wrist on the bat’s handle under the left, unlike in the case of a switch hit. So, there is not confusion with the field set-up, or the pitch map, or any rule pertaining to a RHB.

What puts me off the most, is the excuse MCC made to bring the shot in. In the June 17 press release, MCC says – “They (bowlers) do not provide a warning of the type of delivery that they will bowl (for example, an off-cutter or a slower ball). It therefore concludes that the batsman should have the opportunity – should they wish – of executing the ‘switch-hit’ stroke.”

Well, neither do the batsmen give a warning about what shot they are going to play (for example sweep, cover drive, lofted shot over long off, cut shot, or for *deletes swear word* sake even a leave).

Where is the mismatch in expectation or element of surprise, where is the need for the “opportunity”?

And yes, Kevin Pietersen has been tweeting wild defending the switch-hit(1, 2, 3, 4, 5), while the ICC is trying to modify the LBW rules for it.

To me, Switch-Hit has no place in cricket. And trying to accommodate this and then modifying other laws of the game to compensate for this is will dilute the quality of the game. Of course, it is a stroke of exceptional skills, and am sure Pietersen (and Robin Petersn and David Warner and the other faithfuls of the act) will find a platform to showcase that and entertain the people who love that. Like, in those cricket skills shows .

– Bagrat

April-May: The Hunting Season

Writing or talking about cricket, in the internet era brimming with seamless social networking, in the two months of April and May is like walking into enemy territory- ready to get fired at, any time, from any direction. Doesn’t matter where you are, what you do for a living, you fall under two categories – you either like IPL, or you don’t.

That’s OK. You can choose what you want to. You like something, and you have the right to enjoy it. The only problem is that everybody wants everybody else to like the same thing.

Start music.

So, the IPL starts early April, and this year, the county season started in early April too. That is a cue for a battle right there. There was a big battle between the ones who liked County, or preferred it, over the IPL, and the ones who liked the IPL. At what point of time will you accept the fact that I’m not interested in Butterscotch flavoured ice-cream and stop stuffing that down my throat?

Real cricket, reality of cricket…

Umm, you have defined three forms of the game, so I suppose all of those are “real cricket”. Why should someone watching the West Indies vs Australia test be bothered about what somebody else is commenting on an IPL game? Conversely, why should an IPL fan least concerned about a test match be bothered about somebody watching that? People watching different games fight. If you believe what you are watching is real cricket, watch it. You have your own reasons for doing so, yes. Others have their own reasons for watching the other stream. You have a Ford, I have a Hyundai, both are happy, neither is fighting on the streets on which is better.

It was kind of crazy when one gets angry when someone else is expressing his comments, while watching a test match, about a bowler who is going to get a whole portion of stands in his home ground named after him sooner or later; while this person is wanting a certain character to immediately be given the India cap after one innings of IPL stardom, while he was totally ignorant of all the efforts the player had put in throughout the Ranji season where his seriously good efforts failed to buy a couple of pairs of eyeballs of appreciation.

Fandom

IPL has hit the level of European football standards in fan following, that is for sure. The fans show their passion with highest level of swearing, something that I’ve noticed in almost every sport that I follow running franchise models. So, yes, IPL is right up there. They either swear at each other, or team up to swear at somebody who is not quite amused by the IPL. Either way, wonderful words pop out now and then, which are likely to be Disney‘ed if on air on an episode of The Two Chucks. Shiva Shiva…

But yes, some true hard-core values from supporting the unified Team India don’t dwindle. They hate or like Sachin Tendulkar just as ever. They hate or like Sourav Ganguly just as ever. They have the same sentiments for Rahul Dravid, Shavir Tarapore, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rajiv Shukla etc etc just like if it were a game with India playing in it.

Every single move of Tendulkar was debated on. Rajya Sabha seat, his hair style, his son, his house, the kangan on his arm, his jersey number… I don’t know if I missed or added some topics over there. Ganguly’s batting position in the line up, well that was a lovely topic, wasn’t it? I read people on Twitter wanting him to drop down the order, and called for his head all the while. And, when he did, they questioned (“questioned” is not how exactly they expressed it) that move. Pure entertainment, I say. Just like always.

And, oh yes, whatever Harsha Bhogle writes or says will be dissected with utmost suspicion.

I just hope this month goes away quickly, so I can feel safe in expressing my views; so the IPL lovers can write about a season that had ended; so the County fans can rant about how the early season has been poor (or great); so the test cricket fans can build up to the ex- South Africa vs ex- South Africa, so a Pune Warriors fan can talk about Michael Clarke’s IPL u-turn with an Australian test cricket fan, so Chris Gayle can be seen playing for West Indies and etc.

– Bagrat