Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cricket World Cup 2011 - Final round-up and predictions

In an earlier post, I made a disastrous attempt at predicting the results. Only 2 out of my 6 predictions came true. Then again, even cricket pundits couldn't foresaw AUS and SA both missing semi finals. So I guess not much harm a person like me missing them. However, that episode convinced me not to venture into cricket predicting business ever again.

So we wouldn't see any prediction in this post. (even if the title of the post says otherwise!)

India vs Sri Lanka at Mumbai on April 2nd 2011 !

That would be some match! 2 best cricket teams in the competition pitted against each other.

  • Best spinners vs best batters against spinners!
  • Bad fielders against even worse!
  • Fanatic cricketing nation against another even bigger fanatic cricketing nation!

and the list goes on....

  • Who would win the toss? apart from all the other things, the side winning toss would have much higher % of winning the match. Sri Lanka so far have lost the toss in both quarter finals and semi finals while India have won it in the last match. Will Sri Lanka lose the toss for the third consecutive time?
  • Will Sachin finally get his 100th international 100?
  • Will Sri Lankans be able to end Murali's last international match on a high?
We will see the answers for all those in 2 more days. (Now that I can not predict anymore....)

World Cup Holders :

Australia 4 (1992, 2000, 2003, 2007)
West Indies 2 (1980, 1984)
Sri Lanka 1 (1996)
Pakistan 1 (1988)
India 1 (1984)

Winner of Saturdays match will overtake West Indies in the above list of all time cup holders. More than that, they will be the kings in One day Internationals till 2015!

Some other (less obvious) insights :

If India wins, how many additional energy will be consumed over the next week? (if every Indian fan watches TV for additional hour, multiply that much of energy in few billions and so on.... has someone done those calculations ?)

How will the result impact Indian stock market ? Will the people be optimistic/pessimistic resulting in a huge change in a day?

What about the productivity loss on Monday if India wins the match on Saturday? (again, think about a person drinking and partying on Sunday and then spend the time in the office Monday chatting/celebrating with buddies. calculate the loss of productivity and multiply it by few billions!)

If Sri Lanka win, there will be a holiday declared on Monday for sure! Still it will not be sufficient to make a noticeable difference either way since Sri Lankans already having so many holidays per year.

Now to the all important bets and gambling business ...

How would the odds against one of these teams change on winning/loosing the toss on this particular ground ?

How will the odds change if India loses Sehvag early ?

All in all, it would be one heck of a match. So far the biggest cricket match against these 2 teams was that famous encounter in 1996 semi final. It was a pretty much one sided affair then.

This match certainly eclipses that one in terms of importance and looks like the same would hold true this time around in terms of competitiveness as well.

open for debates and thoughts ..... What do you think ?

Image of the day!

We are going to introduce a new feature to this blog. Every day there will be an image, which will be special in some way.

How do we define "special" ?

What is the selection criteria for the "Image of the day" ?

Well... for the time being we will decide all that ourselves and like true dictators in a democratic world, will pick whatever WE choose and thrust it on others :-)

Jokes apart, if you have a good image you can send us the url via a comment to the "Image of the day" post. If we like it, (or if we like you) we will pick it as the image for the next day. Who knows.. if this turns out to be interesting we could have a poll one day to select the best image of the day! (like true democrats in a dictatorial world)

Just make sure you don't send offensive stuff and to mention the source if it belongs to someone else! That's it. No more rules!

URL (source I got it from) for todays image :

Monday, March 28, 2011

Shaun Tait - New high in uncontrolled sledging in Cricket

Shaun Tait has announced his retirement from One Day Internationals today. On one hand we should feel sorry for the early loss of arguably the fastest bowler in the circuit today. On the other hand... well, I think he was also arguably the most uncontrolled and most uneducated sledger the game has seen in recent past.

This is the famous episode against Dilshan in the WCC match against SL. Look 0:40 onwards and one can even see clearly the words he has used at top of his voice without any provocation. In fact it was used as planned ploy to provoke the batsman. One could say it is game tactics while another may see it as a downright uncivilized behavior in what was called the gentleman's game.

Sledging of course is nothing new and Tait was not the only one involved, Infact SL captain Kumar Sangakkara was once known as "Most Educated Sledger" in the game. Sanga's tactic was different but aimed at the same objective : to unnerve the batsman. However, Sanga didn't mix it (or at least not recorded as) with bad language, threatening behavior or with hate. In fact, he did it with wits and control in a non-offensive manner, hence the title "Most Educated Sledger".

There are other versions as well, most of times fast bowlers are the most notorious rule breakers, Australian fast bowlers in particular. So much so that it has become a common sight to see a Australian bowler muttering something insulting to the batsman after a delivery. See Bret Lee for instance, specially in his very first over. One get the feeling sometimes that they require it to get charged up. Of non Australian bowlers Javagal Srinath and Nehra, comes to mind but there are many others involving almost every team.

Spinners are not totally innocent either. Shane Warne and Harbajahn Singh for instance. I think Shane Warne wasn't using bad language in as uncontrolled manner as Shaun Tait did. Matthew Hayden once described Harbajan as an 'obnoxious weed', wonder how would he categorize the countryman Tait in that same scale!

If sledging is so common, why are we talking about it so much ? I think with Tait in this world cup, things got nastier than the tolerable levels. Specially in the match AUS vs IND. Tait was seen repeatedly sending off bad mouthed insults at Tendulkar and other Indian batsman. One gets the feeling that the bowler was certainly not fit as a sane sportsman in any sport not just in the so called gentleman's game. Is this the example we should set for youngsters watching or is this the spirit of the game or the spirit of sport in general ? Qualities like respecting the opponents, appreciate good cricket from anyone when we see it, taking win/loss both gracefully etc are all seems old fashioned now and players are just after each others throats.

Let us just compare Sachin with Tait. One is just a novice (comparatively) even though he can bowl fast at times, other is a legend often compared with Sir Don, perhaps the greatest batsman we have seen in our times. What kind of feeling does one get when you see the inexperienced kid sledging away at a legend ? utter lack of respect, not just for a great name in cricket but for the game itself! This is why the behavior could be described as Most Uneducated Sledging. Uncontrolled hate should have no place in sport. If one is unable to get motivated by patriotism and belief in self or by the desire to perform and excel, and if one need to get physically abusive and beastly to charge himself up and perform, such individuals are not good ambassadors for the game or for their countries, and hence not good sportsman, to say the least.

ICC should enforce a code of conduct in here. We know tennis players get huge fines where they swear and get caught in the camera. In tennis, players actually swear out of self frustration and it usually directed on themselves rather than the opponents who are at the other end of the caught. If it is still punishable, how come Tait's behavior in the video (0:40 onwards) get unnoticed ? Whether his retirement has something to do with his behavioral problems, I don't know. However, ICC certainly has an issue to address here. It is clearly straightforward with today's technology to find, prove and fine the culprits and save the image of the game. Why should we let the game degraded into this level ? even in a world cup where everybody watch ?

It would be unfair if we don't mention the good players and teams in here. Very seldom that one see a NewZealander or a West indies fast bowler sledging at opponents. West Indies in particular has a huge culture and tradition of fast bowling. Malcolm Marshal, Courtney Walsh, Ambrose etc comes to mind. Those great players were exemplary in this regard. If such greats after archiving such great feats could still do it without barking away at the opponents and can still be modest enough to respect the opponents, what excuse can a novice like Tait have for failing to behave ? England, may have had problems in the past but the current team certainly seems not to have any problems of extra aggressive/abusive individuals. South Africans are another great example, for they too are famous for quick bowlers, those who have earned it by performance of their arms and not mouths that is.

One theory to explain the behavior may be found from psychology, players who have not mentally strong enough to cope with the challenges on field or does not have enough skills or self confidence to cope with the proceedings can easily resort into cheap tactics of over aggressive behaviors, while the true greats who can perform without that are doing so. May be that's why we don't see much bad behavior or worst type of sledging from great players. Take the highest wicker takers, take Murali, Can you remember a moment he was insulting the batsman or trying to unnerve by putting verbal pressure ? I may be biased here, but I certainly take pride in Sri Lankan bowlers who not only refrain from throwing bad words at batsman they even smile most of time. Lasith Malinga and Murali comes to mind.

Indian bowling greats are same. How often was Anil Kumble charging opposition batsman with foul words ? However Indian quick bowlers need to learn a lesson here and not follow the example of Australians. They can find better examples from home and else where, someone needs to tell that to Nehra for instance.

Cricket could be a great vehicle to promote friendship and understanding among nations. We should not let it degrade into a level that it become a vehicle to spread hate, rivalry and mis understanding among nations and cricket fans. If I were the Australian ambassador for India at the time of Tait swearing at Tendulkar on TV where millions of Indian fans watching, I wouldn't be enjoying the moment.

From Semi Finals - Into the Finals

ICC World Cricket Cup 2011 has reached it's climax. NZ and SL will fight it out tomorrow in Colombo while PAK and IND will slug it out in Mohali, day after.

SL is considered the favorite to win the first semi final comfortably, while IND is expected come through after a tense fight. My earlier predictions were proved mostly wrong. BD didn't come into quarters, AUS didn't come into Semis and SA didn't come into Semis either. With that kind of a success rate, I should not venture into the prediction business again!

It will be good for the Cricket to have a SL vs Ind final. After all, these were the two teams who were favorites at the start. Ranked number 2 and 3 in the world (top rank team, defending champ, AUS is now gone out of the tournament). In subcontinent conditions, I think most will agree that the best two teams are in the finals if that were to happen. Of course PAK supporters will disagree here. In fact I think they at least have 40% of chance to beat the strong Indian team.

If we omit unpredictables and special events (such as a brilliancy from a single player deciding the match, toss playing a vital role etc). India is the stronger and hence more likely team to win in the semi. However I'm still little doubtful on their ability to hold the nerve in a crunch situation mainly due to the fanatic nature and huge expectations of billions of Indian fans, PAK might see an opportunity there. This applies to SL vs NZ as well..... One certainly can not rule out an upset(s) in the semi's

Anyway, at the moment it looks like a Ind vs SL final. Who would win that one ? When you compare team strengths head to head, it is easy to figure that IND is stronger in batting line up while SL is stronger in bowling. SL was considered (once) as a better fielding side than India, but not anymore after the 4 easy catches they dropped in the quarter finals against England!

So it looks close!

India will have additional pressure in front of home crowd and SL will feel bit relaxed with the underdog tag. In a huge match like this where team strengths are more or less even. It will all come down into three factors.

1) Who will win the toss
2) Who will manage to keep their heads normal under pressure.
3) Individual brilliancies, players who can win matches alone. (Sachin, Sehvag, Yuvraj, Khan for India. Malinga, Murali, Mendis, Dilshan, Sanga for SL)

Whats' your pick ?