Sunday, July 19, 2020

Battle of the Eras : 1990s vs 2010s

It has been almost 143 years since cricket was officially played as an international sport for the first time. It was in 1877, when an English team toured the Australian shores and played 2 test matches, which are now known as the ‘inaugural’ test matches. But it would surprise many to know that the first cricket match between 2 nations was played even before that – in 1844 between the US and Canada, at St. George’s Cricket Club in New York! The game has evolved a lot over the years, but the maximum expansion has been in last 30 years or so, with the advent of live television broadcasting, the massive amount of sponsorship money coming into the game, the coloured clothing in day-night matches, and many other changes. The rules of the game have also evolved, to make it more interesting for the viewers, and the dwindling interest of the not-so-die-hard cricket fans, led the cricket administrators to come up with a shortened version of the game – the T20 format, which reduces the duration of a match from 8 hours to 3 hours. The introduction of Indian Premier League (IPL) took the world by a storm and the game has only seen more money flowing into the game, and more viewers.
Change in Playing Conditions
From 1992 till 2005, only 2 fielders were allowed outside the 30-yard circle till 15 overs in an ODI, and then 5 fielders till the 50th over. This prompted the rise of swashbuckling openers like Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwithrana of Sri Lanka, who took the ritual of making the most use of fielding restrictions at the start of the innings by hitting the lofted shots. This trend was started by Mark Greatbatch of New Zealand and India’s own Krish Srikkanth. Currently, there are only 2 fielders allowed outside 30-yard circle till 10 overs, only 4 fielders allowed between overs 11-40, and 5 fielders allowed in last 10 overs. This had led to the batsmen having an upper hand and score more runs since there is 1 lesser fielder outside the circle for 30 overs. This prompted Shoaib Akhtar to comment that if this rule were in place earlier, a player like Sachin Tendulkar would have amassed thousands of more runs in his career!
Change in the Pitches
The rules are not the only factor of contention – the pitches have been made to be flatter and less hostile, even in test matches, than they were before the turn of this century. The reason being that the crowd wants to see fours and sixes being hit throughout the match, which makes the poor bowlers look even worse. Same has been the case in past few years.
The image below shows a flat pitch, which is effectively a ‘bowler’s graveyard’.
A close up of a baseball field

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The batsmen make merry on this pitch, giving a hiding to the bowlers. These are most common to find these days, since that is the demand of the crowd, to see the batsmen score heavily and get entertained.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Curious Case of Kieran Powell's Omission

Sri Lanka is known to produce mystery bowlers, West Indies is known to produce mystery Selectors. The tussle between the West Indies Cricket administration/selectors and the players is well documented. It has been frustrating for the players as well as the fans who have missed deserved players from action often due to inexplicable reasons. 

The latest casualty of the selection policies is Kieran Powell. 

Leewards Islands captain Kieran Powell has been left out of the provisional 29-man squad for the West Indies tour of England which might go ahead despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Cricket West Indies and England & Wales Cricket Board are working out plans to somehow carry forward this tour which has been delayed due to the pandemic. 

The provisional squad sees return of Shannon Gabriel, Veerasammy Permaul and Jermaine Blackwood and also includes quite a few new selectees in Preston McSween, Paul Palmer, Shane Mosely and Keon Harding. 

Given Kieran has scored heavily in regional cricket, his absence from a squad of 29 is surprising to say the least.  Powell has been the top scorer in the regional 50 over competition this season and also scored well in the 4 day format. Though he didn't top the charts in the 4 day competition, an as opener he played quite a few very solid innings when the team was under pressure. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

World Beyond the Cup - Tete-a-tete with Cricket Brasil

DHCF: For most people Brazil means Football but what they don’t know is that Cricket was introduced in Brazil before Football. Cricket has a rich history in this football obsessed country. Tell us a bit about it.

CB: Cricket in Brazil began in the mid-1800s in Rio de Janeiro, during a period when a portion of the city’s population was British or of British descent. By the early 1860s, a number of cricket clubs were in operation. Beginning in 1860, as part of a much-needed beautification programme for the city, Emperor Dom Pedro II created several new parks, including a large grassed area in front of his daughter Princess Isabel’s house, who is a big figure in our country’s history, and this space eventually became the country’s first proper cricket ground, and hosted cricket, tennis and bowls matches for many years. Princess Isabel and her father were frequent spectators, and often called upon to present trophies to the winners.

From that moment to this century, Cricket has been played in several capitals and a street Cricket game called “Taco” was created. You can easily see taco being played in small cities by children – and most of them will not even know that it is related to Cricket!

Coming to the new era of the game in Brazil, the national Associação Brasileira de Cricket (ABC) was founded in 2001, and Brazil became an affiliate member of the ICC in 2003.

We started grassroots projects for Brazilians in Brasilia and mainly Poços de Caldas in 2011. The projects have been a success and we  have more than 3500 children playing cricket on a weekly basis, and that has led to a U13, U17 male and female teams and a Senior Male and Female teams playing on T20I status since 2018.

DHCF: With Brazil now been granted T20I status and International cricket action on for the national teams, what does it mean for the future?

CB: It is already being a big change. Since 2018 we have invested more on our women’s team and 2020 they were the first team from Brazil to have central contracts.

That is part of the plan on improving the pathway on the female high performance side and taking this team to ICC tournaments.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Total Recall #2 India vs South Africa, 24th November 1993, Kolkata Hero Cup (First Semi-final)

In this second article of Total Recall series, we are going to relive one of the most iconic matches of the 90’s era, one which shaped a youngster into a man and made millions of Indian fans hopeful that their team is going to get a lot of success in the coming years.

The Backdrop

The CAB Jubilee Cup, known as ‘Hero Cup’, as Hero Honda were the sponsors, was organized from 7th November – 27th November 1993, to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Cricket Association of Bengal. It included host India, along with Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, and Zimbabwe. Pakistan was also scheduled to participate, but they pulled out just four days before the start of the tournament. All the ten league games (each team played the others once) were held at ten different venues and the semi-finals and final were held at Eden Gardens, Kolkata.

There was crowd trouble in the match between India and West Indies at Ahmedabad, which shortened the game, as well as a firecracker burst in the face of Keith Arthurton of West Indies in the final match against India (yes, even firecrackers were allowed to carry inside the stadiums in those days, imagine!).

This was also the first tournament to be broadcasted live on a satellite channel, Star TV. Until then, state terrestrial broadcaster Doordarshan had a monopoly of broadcasting cricket matches in India. Doordarshan even approached the Supreme Court in 1995, stating that the broadcast should be uplinked from India (Star TV did from Hong Kong), but this plea was rejected, which started the entry of multiple sponsors and broadcast rights bids in India.

Points Table (at the end of league stage)


The Match

India had defeated South Africa in the league stage, but that did not mean anything in a semi-final, which was a new experience for everyone involved. It was the first day-night ODI held at Eden Gardens (the first day night match outside Australia was held in Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium in 1984). So, it was not a very common experience for Indian team to play under lights. The fact that it was winter made things more tilted in favour of the bowlers with some swing and movement at offer. South Africa had been a force to reckon since their re-entry into cricket in 1991, and this was going to be a mouth-watering contest.

Md. Azharuddin won the toss and elected to bat first. By the 7th over, India was tottering at 18/3, with Manoj Prabhakar and Vinod Kambli being brilliantly run out by Daryll Cullinan and Ajay Jadeja out LBW by Fanie de Villiers. When Sachin Tendulkar got out for 15, India was reeling at 53/4. That is when Azhar resurrected the innings, along with the help of Pravin Amre, who scored a slow, but much needed 48 off 90 balls. Such was the domination of South Africa, that these three were the only batsmen to reach a double-digit score (the fourth highest contribution was from Extras, 13 of them!)

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Tete-a-tete with Ryan Campbell, Former Australian & Hong Kong Player, Present Netherlands' Head Coach

DHCF:  Late 90s and 2000s was a time when people said that if Australia fielded 2 teams, they would be No. 1 & 2 in the world. The Australian XI was so hard to get into, that it deprived the World Cricket of some serious talent. How frustrating was it to keep performing in Domestic cricket and not making it to the national team?

Ryan: Of course it was frustrating but it was also the greatest time to play cricket in Australia due to the amazing competition that was going on. Our Test players (Gilchrist, Martyn, Langer, Katich etc) always said that coming back and playing Sheffield Shield was harder than playing Test cricket. It was an amazing period for Australian cricket and I feel very privileged to have been a part of it.

DHCF: You were known for your high octane game. Do you wish T20 cricket was invented a decade earlier? Atleast the world would have had a chance to watch you play in the leagues like BBL and IPL, a glimpse of which was seen in ICL.

Ryan: Yeah of course, I was lucky enough to play in the first ever T20 match in Australia, it was against Victoria and they had to close the gates at the WACA. We knew we were onto something then. I loved T20 but when I decided to retire I had made peace with my decision.

DHCF: How did the move to Hong Kong come about? How was your experience with Hong Kong cricket, having played multiple roles of advisor, batting coach and a player?

Ryan: When I retired from cricket it was due to my heavy workload outside of cricket. I was heavily involved in the media, hosted my own Travel show (Postcards WA) as well as being on morning radio, I actually said no to putting my name into the first IPL auction as I was hosting the coverage for Channel 10. But in the end, I missed the game and my good friend Charlie Burke (HK National Coach) had asked me to come up and work with the squad for a week. He knew I had my Level 3 Coaching certificate. An opportunity then came up at the Kowloon Cricket Club as Director of Cricket/Head Coach. I had just turned 40 and was single, I felt it was a chance for a great adventure and thought an year would be awesome. Little did I know that I would stay for 5 years, get married, have a son and play for the National team!! I love everything about Hong Kong and still miss it daily.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Total Recall - 1 India vs Australia, 21st October 1996, Bengaluru Titan Cup (Group Fixture)

Every journey is gradual. The pedestal on which Indian cricket rests today has been due to the years of toils of the players, and the business acumen of the administrators. If cricketers brought the spectators to the field, the administrators brought the sponsors and money into the game. The decade of 90’s saw both these factors gain more traction and get the ball rolling for Indian cricket.
In this special series of ‘Total Recall’, I will take you back to those memorable matches from yesteryears, so we can relive those numerous unforgettable moments again. The first segment in this series is the Titan cup match between India and Australia in Bengaluru.
Australia Innings
Having lost their opening matches against a strong South African team, both India and Australia were looking to get a win in this game and open their account in the points table. Opting to bat first, Australia got off to a slow start, and by the end of 10th over, they were struggling at 23/2. Steve Waugh joined his captain Mark Taylor in the middle and they forged a partnership of 92 before Steve Waugh departed in 31st over. Michael Bevan, who was yet to claim his fame as Mr. finisher, came to the middle and had a partnership of 82 runs with Taylor, before the latter fell for a laborious 105(144). This was Taylor’s maiden ODI century in his 98th match. 
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A late flourish from the lower middle order helped Australia reach to a modest total of 215/7, which was far lesser than what India managed against Pakistan in the World Cup quarterfinal at the same venue, just over 6 months ago. But from the start of the Australian innings, it was evident that this pitch far more sluggish from the earlier one. The chase was not going to be an easy one, against a competitive Australian bowling line up.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Tete-a-tete with Prasanna Agoram, Proteas Performance Coach

DHCF: How did it all start for you? Given its quite a niche career option, what challenges did you face?
Prasanna: It's everyone's dream to play for India, whatever level of cricket you play and I was no different. When I was playing state level cricket for Tamil Nadu in age categories like all other young boys, I wanted to play for my country. It didn’t happen as I felt there are guys who had more talent than me. Then I became a qualified umpire in BCCI in 2000 dreaming about walking in Eden Gardens and Melbourne cricket ground but unfortunately it was not as easy as I thought and I don’t want to elaborate on this. Then finally I finished my Engineering in Electronics and Communication and went on to do my post graduate diploma in Computer Applications and was employed as a software engineer in Bangalore. This is when I saw an article in Hindu stating that a software company is developing a software for match analysis for Indian cricket team in 2001. I thought look I have decent cricketing knowledge and when it comes to developing software not many can match my speed. So I started developing match analysis software all alone from that time which I demonstrated to the National Cricket Academy. NCA employed me as their technical head in 2003 and the rest is history. The main challenge I faced was when few of the top cricketers and coaches kept on asking me that I not being a certified coach,  am I qualified to talk so much of cricket. Then thanks to Cricket South Africa I did my level 3 coaching certification from CSA in 2014  and now with so much of experience not many question my credentials.

DHCF: How has cricket analytics changed over the years?
Prasanna:  A lot. The amount of data one can derive is huge now. But let me make it clear, with the

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Commentators are not neutral anymore?

Has commentary, which defines the best experience for cricket viewers, lost its touch? With more cricket players now being seen in the commentary box, we expected more banters, on field experiences, and interesting anecdotes. We got a few glimpses of these but the touch of neutrality seems to have started to go away. We have been lucky to be born in a generation where we have seen commentators like Richie Benaud, Tony Grieg, Geoffrey Boycott, who went beyond the nationality to serve the TV viewers. The excitement of Tony Grieg whenever Sachin hit a straight drive, or the joy in Richie Benaud’s voice whenever the spinner flighted the ball, or hearing the now famous Line “Prince of KalKuta(Kolkata)” in Boycott's voice, those memories will stay forever in cricket lovers’ minds.
Of late, the standard of commentary has not been what it used to be. Cricket players who retired have joined commentary but few stay for a long haul and make an impact. Also, while commentating the game, they tend to pick up a side eventually. The recent event of the BCCI throwing out Sanjay Manjrekar, may not be due to his non-neutral side, but more because of his trash commentary. He was ultra-critical in his tenure, made unnecessary remarks, which ultimately led to his axe. In the past, Harsha Bhogle faced a little period of ban from Indian commentary due to him criticizing some players. Being a critic is acceptable, but you cannot get beyond the line and spill out unnecessary remarks for a player. The basic point of being a commentator is to cater to the audience and engage them in the game. Picking up a player or a side will lose the charm of commentary.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Winning, the Aussie way

8th March 2020 will forever be a historic day in cricket, women’s cricket to be specific. Not just because it was the final of women’s T20 world cup, but because of an attendance of 86,174 people at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). It was the highest attendance for a women’s cricket match globally and the highest for any women’s sport event in Australia. It was a day of unprecedented enthusiasm and passion for women’s cricket. However, something not so unprecedented was an Australian domination in the final of a world cup and the Australian women’s team winning the T20 world cup for the record 5th time in last 6 attempts.

There was a lot of hype about this final in India also. The fact that India had reached the final of women’s T20 world cup for the first time was exciting enough, but 8th March being the International Women’s Day and birthday of Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur made the media report more prominently about this final than it ever did before for a women’s match. India had convincingly defeated this Aussie team in the tournament’s opening match, with young sensation Shafali Verma taking apart the experienced Megan Schutt in the first over with 4 boundaries as well as Poonam Yadav spinning a web around the Aussie batters with 4 wickets. India came into the final on a winning streak throughout the group stage and it was touted as their best chance ever to beat the Australians in their own den and win the cup for the first time.

But what happened in the final was totally anti-climactic, from India’s point of view. Australian openers Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney batted the opposition out of the match. The pressure of chasing a big score in a world cup final in front of a massive Aussie crowd proved too much for the Indian team and they capitulated to be bowled out under 100 runs. Unfortunately for the Indian fans, it was a painful reminder of another day in March, 17 years ago. Australian men’s team decimated the Indian team in the ODI world cup final on 23rd March 2003 in Johannesburg in a similar fashion. Being a 15-year-old fanboy at that time, that defeat was heart-breaking, on par with the miserable loss in the 1996 world cup semi-final defeat against Sri Lanka. But since that day, if there is anything we have been used to seeing, is an Australian team that plays like a well-oiled machine on the cricket field. The Australian team did have a tough time in the early years of this decade when their team was rebuilding, but they recovered sooner that other teams would have hoped for.

But what is it that exactly makes the Australian teams almost invincible in the finals of a world event? Is it the fault of opposition players, like when Indians dropped the Aussie openers in the initial overs? Or is it the luck of Aussie captains winning the toss and making a mockery of the opposition? One can’t argue about this as in the 4 ODI men’s world cups that Australia has won from 1999 till 2015, they won the toss only once in the final (2007) and in the 5 T20 women’s world cup wins, Australia won the toss only twice in the final (they in fact lost the only time in 2016 after winning the toss). So, the toss is not a deciding factor. As far as the below par performance of the opposition teams is concerned, the pressure of the final match is on both the teams. Then why does an Australian team triumph in the finals, more often than others?

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Poonam and Shafali: Beauty and the Beast

"Poonam has become a favourite adjective in the skippers' dictionary. Whenever a match is in a fix, skippers call Poonam to address it. And, she has always used her weapons with sheer flair and twisted games in favour of her team," said Reema Malhotra, former India leg-spinner and now a commentator about Poonam Yadav the 28 year old Indian Leg Spinner.
Yes, she indeed repeated her act once again today when Alyssa Healey was running away with the match with her team at 67/2, chasing 133 for a win in the India Vs Australia T20WC group match. Beginning with the scalp of Alyssa Healey, Poonam turned the match head over heels in a matter of next 7 overs. Though women's Cricket cannot match the men's game in terms of power, dynamics and skill, the artistry of players like Poonam makes it worth watching. She was giving unbelievable flight to the ball, ball after ball. Some of her leg breaks went up in the air, stood there for some time as if reluctant to come down and then left the batters bamboozled on the descent.
The Googly has become the most dreaded weapon in her armory, especially because she is more consistent with the Googly than her stock leg spinning balls. Poonam now is India's highest wicket taker in T20 Internationals and was decorated with Arjuna Award in 2019. Sidelined by injury for most part of India's preparations for the 2020 T20WC, Poonam had ceded her place to the relentlessly consistent Radha Yadav. But the Team management decided to rope in Poonam for the X-Factor or should we call it Y-Factor ? If not for Keeper Tania Bhatia missing a tough catch, Poonam could have had a Hat trick today. This incidentally is the third time she's missed a Hat trick.

Kohli, the Mortal and Immortal Words of Sahir Ludhianvi

2011 April 2: Somewhere around the delayed dinner time of millions of Indians, Mahendra Singh Dhoni launched that famous six to win the second Cricket World Cup for India. Coming 28 years after the first win, Indian fans were over the Moon.
We had Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Kohli, Dhoni, Raina and our test team boasted of Dravid and Laxman too. But over the next 3 years, Dravid and Laxman retired after back to back 4-0 drubbing in test series in England and Australia. Sehwag and Gambhir fell into bad times. Yuvraj Singh could never be the same force after he came back from cancer and Raina slipped into mediocrity. SRT was given a staged farewell at Mumbai. With only Virat Kohli going from strength to strength, MSD too retired midway through a test series Down Under.
Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane had formed a new top order that fought the loss of an entire generation of greats who dominated the decade between 2000 and 2010. Rohit Sharma's emergence as a superlative top order batsman in limited overs Cricket practically coincided with the decline of Sehwag. Indian Cricket marched into newer heights in spite of lack of big titles.
"I can go on with the same intensity for another two-three years. If you ask me when I am 34 - 35, my priorities and answers might be different..." said India Captain Virat Kohli when asked about the hectic schedule and his unflagging intensity. That pretty much sums up life as well as Cricket. Even Sachin Tendulkar has left and it's almost 6 years and India have only got better.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

10 Years of Resurgent Indian Cricket

2010s decade started with a bang for Indian cricket. The team led by charismatic Mahendra Singh Dhoni, with his uncanny techniques, tasted quite a lot success in the shorter formats. 
2011, the Cricket World Cup returned to Indian sub-continent and there was a likely chance of India winning the cup, knowing home conditions well. April 2, 2011, 120 crore Indians lived the dream after 28 years of wait. A memory for lifetime.

2013, India added another feather in the cap. ICC Champions trophy, aka mini world cup. India won by defeating the tournament favourites England. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Indian cricket achieved almost everything which was required in the big stage arena. Team was doing well in the shorter formats amid some hiccups in the 2014 & 2016 T-20 World Cup tournaments.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Twenty19 Lineup

As the year 2019 AD comes to a close, time to take a look back and present the Slipstream Cricket XI of 2019 – things to remember the cricketing year going by. 

1. Men’s ODI World Cup cricket 
England are champions or are they? When Super Over seems an unfair way to decide any game, forget a World Cup Final, Boundary count is just downright crueler. If only Martin Guptill’s throw was off-target. 

2. Performance of the Year 
Kusal Perera’s 153* to win Sri Lanka a Test in South Africa. Close competition from Ben Stokes’s twin feats, at the biggest stages – the World Cup Final at Lords and the Ashes Test at Edgbaston. And of course there was Anjali Chand’s 6/0 for Nepal against Maldives. Which brings us to 

3. Debutantes 
There were international debuts galore with ICC giving T20I status to all. So the new entrant list is huge. 
  • Men’s ODI - Oman 
  • Men’s T20I – Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cayman Islands, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Italy, Jersey, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, USA, Vanuatu 
  • Women’s T20I – Argentina, Austria, Belize, Bhutan, Canada, Costa Rica, Fiji, France, Germany, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Jersey, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Mali, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Samoa, Tanzania, USA, Vanuatu, Zimbabwe. Meanwhile Botswana, Brazil, Chile, China, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Uganda, UAE had made their maiden appearance last year itself. 
This created a nightmare for statisticians (And cricket is a game which loves statistics). There were lopsided results galore with many unwanted international records being set. However, there were some stunning results as well e.g. Singapore beating Zimbabwe in T20I, Thailand qualifying for Women’s ODI World Cup and Japan entering the U-19 World Cup. Certainly good for the global game!