29 December 2007 1236 hrs GMT
Projections in the Shadow of Melbourne
My pre-Christmas plans of identifying statistical indicators of why Pakistan lost against India, doing a little analysis of England's defeat in Sri Lanka and a career summary of Mahela Jayawardene, and projecting India's performance against Australia were all derailed by a series of hardware problems involving both of my laptops and my broadband connection. Nevertheless, I've managed to do a little work about India's bowlers, and I can offer some opinions about what happened in Melbourne starting on Boxing Day.
First of all, these are my projections for the frontline Indian bowlers going into the series. Projections are based on a weighted average of performances in Tests since October 1, 2004, plus an element of regression to the mean of all bowlers bowling for that team. (A point to which I shall eagerly return at the end of this entry.)
Bowler Average Economy Strike Rate
Zaheer Khan 30.43 3.12 53.96
R P Singh 29.07 3.29 49.22
Harbhajan Singh 34.76 2.80 69.08
A Kumble 26.99 2.68 55.71
Well, that's a pretty good bowling attack, if you ask me. Harbhajan is the weak link (and he has fallen far from a peak), but he still keeps the runs down. Let's see what happened in Melbourne.
Bowler Average Economy Strike Rate
Zaheer Khan 37.40 4.28 52.40
R P Singh 66.00 3.66 108.00
Harbhajan Singh 54.00 3.52 92.00
A Kumble 26.57 3.72 42.80
One test's worth of statistics is, in terms of sabermetrics, relatively meaningless. However, if you rank the bowlers in terms of average and strike rate, you can see that I had a problem with Singh (for whom I have the least data), otherwise I've got them in the right order. In terms of Economy, my numbers are much too low. And thereby hangs my tale - Australia achieved much better batting results against India than I had expected. In part, I think, this is because South Asian grounds offer a lot of opportunities to bowlers to keep the scoring rate slow, where Australian wickets reward the bowler who can bowl at the wicket. On that basis, India probably need a second bowler who can penetrate batsmen's defenses, in order to have a chance at rescuing this series.
14 December 2007 1107 hrs GMT
Keys to Indian Victory
India's beating of Pakistan represents the biggest triumph of batsmen over bowlers I've got on my records. The figures accumulated by batsmen on both sides are extremely high. I've awarded series scores (a number that adjusts the value of runs scored to reflect the quantity of runs in a series) of the following to batsmen:
Player Total runs Series score
Ganguly 534 70
Misbah-ul-Haq 464 60
Jaffer 378 48
Younis Khan 260 31
Kamran Akmal 249 30
By way of comparison, the highest score I've got before this series is a 52 amassed by Ricky Ponting against South Africa in 2005-6. No series has produced three batsmen with scores in excess of 40.
Yet, the more observant among you might say, three of those five names are Pakistan batsmen. How come they lost? A-ha - here are the real keys to the Indian victory:
(1) They batted deeper when it counted. Indian tailenders (those coming in 8 through 11) achieved a total series score of 15, from 165 runs; Pakistan tailenders accumulated 144 runs for a total score of 3. Why such a big difference? Because the Pakistan tailenders had more opportunities to score runs, but did a worse job of it. This advantage in the first Test proved decisive. Had play gone on for a session or two longer in each Test, Pakistan could well have lost the series 3-0.
(2) In spite of the dominance of the bat, Anil Kumble bowled a top quality series, scoring 81 on my charts. Furthermore, while the whole three-match sequence was a graveyard for pace bowling, adding together Zaheer Khan and I Sharma, one gets a score of 42, which is pretty good, too. Sharma may have been relatively expensive, but he took wickets at a ferocious rate for this series, with a strike rate of 47 against a team average of 73.42.
11 December 2007 1159 hrs GMT
Zimbabwe vs West Indies ODIs Analysed
The recent ODI series between Zimbabwe and West Indies started with the proverbial bang and ended with the proverbial whimper. In between, West Indies asserted a clear measure of superiority over a Zimbabwe team that has suffered much in recent years. Given my lack of experience in looking at ODI figures, and even more the enigmatic situation of Zimbabwe cricket, I'm slightly cautious about drawing firm conclusions. That said, though, here are some shaky ones.
(a) West Indies are generally agreed to face a tough task in South Africa, and the Zimbabwe series shows that their problem lies not so much in scoring runs but in defending wickets. This is visible not so much from their batting figures, but from the Zimbabwe bowling ones. The Zimbabwe bowlers took wickets at a strike rate of 45.61. In the context of the West Indies' figure of 32.18, the recent South Africa one of 64 and the New Zealand one of 39.94, it really looks to me as if South African bowlers will prevent West Indies batsmen from building a decent innings.
(b) West Indies are going to have to rely on their bowling to win them matches in South Africa. This isn't beyond the bounds of possibility, but looks unlikely given the dominance of JE Taylor in their attack. Here's today's table:
Bowler Overs/Innings Strike Rate
Taylor 9.46 20.64
Powell 9 36.00
Lewis 8.88 35.50
Samuels 7 84.00
Rampaul 6.75 54.00
Taylor had a great series, but after that things fall off pretty fast among the top 5 West Indies bowlers. All the remaining ones have strike rates worse than the team average for this series of 32.18. By contrast, the South Africans against New Zealand go can count 4 of their top 5 from the New Zealand series as above their team average, with the exception being the stingy Pollock.
(c)Zimbabwe perhaps don't have as far to go as one might think to be competitive at the ODI level. Their economy of 5.07, while high, is tolerable against a strike rate of 45.61. Their main problem is an inability to defend their wickets against International-quality bowling. They really need the ability to stick around, because they are scoring runs at a reasonable rate, too - Scoring Rate = 74.4. Alternatively, if they could boost their Scoring Rate to a considerably higher level while not losing wickets any faster, they might find themselves winning a few more matches.
7 December 2007 1156 hrs GMT
The England cricket blogosphere, such as it is, has wasted no time looking for someone to blame for the defeat in the first test. James Anderson is a popular choice and, indeed, it may seem like he's a good target. I'm not so sure.
One problem with non-Sabermetric cricket analysis is that it has a tendency to focus on the trees instead of the wood. Anderson did not bowl well, lacking both economy and penetration. This problem was exacerbated by the injury to Hoggard, and the reluctance to give some of his second innings overs to Bopara. However, all bowling has value, and while brickbats are tossed at Anderson's 4.32 economy, Sidebottom's horrific Strike Rate of 240 goes largely unremarked.
Another problem with pointing fingers at Anderson is that the level of expectations he is carrying is beyond is actual abilities. His stats in recent years are dominated by an exceptional performance against India.
Versus Bowling Average Economy Strike Rate
India 28.85 3.25 53.25
RSA/AUS/SRL 81.00 4.39 110.67
However, Anderson's value lies in the fact that he can go out and bowl 15-20 overs per innings and take a wicket. As long as you bear in mind that he's a replacement, not a front-line bowler, you'll have his value in perspective.
But more annoying about the whole spirit of England cricket commentary is the notion that "if only we'd done this or that differently" somehow they would have won. Nasser Hussain, writing in the print version of the London Daily Mail, seemed to think England lost owing to a want of ruthlessness. Yet as I showed in an earlier post here, on paper England just aren't good enough. Their bowlers give up too many runs for the quantity their batsmen can score, or vice versa. Sri Lanka were coming off a difficult tour against Australia, where spin is muffled and almost all teams look worse than they really are relative to the rest of the world.
So where does that leave England? They are now likely to be without Hoggard, their best bowler, who is suffering a back injury. In the circumstances, I would probably make a virtue of necessity, and deploy two spin bowlers for the next Test, using spin to make up for the threadbare cupboard of pace, swing and seam; as well, I'd give Harmison a turn to open the bowling. As to whom of Sidebottom or Anderson to drop? Well, I'd give the chance to the guy showing the most vim in training and the changing room, something for which statistics offer no insight.
6 December 2007 1156 hrs GMT
South Africa vs New Zealand - ODI Bowling Analysis
The world of ODIs is a kind of Through the Looking-Glass Land for me. All I learned about performance analysis in Test matches doesn't apply in quite the same way. Test batsmen need the ability to defend their wickets above all else; ODI batsmen have to keep an eye on the scoring rate. Likewise, ODI bowlers are not under the same pressure to take wickets, but do their teams no favours if they are expensive.
You may recall that I posed the question of whether New Zealand's problems scoring runs were down to their batsmen or down to South Africa's bowlers. I should have done all the analysis at once, because now it is as clear as crystal to me. Let's look at a table:
Player Overs Economy
Pollock 29 2.62
Nel 28 5.86
Botha 25.67 4.79
Vettori 30 3.63
Mills 28 3.64
Gillespie 27 6.04
The average economy of three most-bowled South Africans is 4.39, and that of the New Zealanders is 4.40. But Pollock's figures stand out in dramatic contrast. That 2.62 is phenomenally low for a series where both sides averaged a 4.83 economy. Pollock also bowled the most maidens of anyone, with one more than Gillespie's 5. Pollock, one of my favourite players, probably ought to have been man of the series, or at least bowler of the series. He was the difference maker in shutting down the New Zealand bats.
My overall impression of this series was that it was far tighter than it appeared at the time - it was pretty clear early on into South Africa's innings at Newlands that they were going to win. Looking at the series overall, New Zealand's team bowling average, economy and strike rate were better than South Africa's. New Zealand had a higher team Innings Average. But South Africa won. I put that down to luck in individual matches, or perhaps to home field advantage.
5 December 2007 1412 hrs GMT
An interview by Jonathan Agnew with Duncan Fletcher, whose England coaching career ended in typical tragic fashion as hubris led to Nemesis, was broadcast during the Tea interval of today's Test match. In typical BBC fashion, they don't appear to have archived it on their TMS page, although it contained a couple of nuggets of interest, and I don't mean more involving the tedious personal shortcomings that attracted all the headlines in the first place.
Most importantly, yet again Fletcher asserted there was too much cricket, both at the County and the International level. I think this is a laughable assertion. If more of a squad approach was taken, then there wouldn't be too much cricket. But if you play favourites, the way Fletcher was often alleged to do, then the burden on your eight or nine best players is indeed going to be heavy. By giving players a rest, just like teams with 25-man rosters do over the 162-game Major League Baseball season, one can increase the possibility of players being at their peak for crucial games. Let's have more of a squad system and more cricket, please.
Secondly, Fletcher once again expressed his scepticism about the new Selection setup proposed for England. He offered the apparently logical opinion that since the captain is going to manage the team on the field and the coach is going to be held responsible for what happens, that they should be allowed to select the side for the match without having to look over their shoulder at the chairman of selectors. However, as with the 'too much cricket' argument, this is sort of projecting the past on the future, and not allowing for any adaptation to a new system. It could well be that responsibility will shift away from the coach to the new National Selector. Furthermore, one hopes the National Selector will be able to take a longer-term view of the side's development. Sportsmen are always keen to 'win now', but sometimes one needs to husband resources today, in order to sustain the effort tomorrow. It does look to me as if the Schofield Committee was trying to avoid another 'Fletcher era' of a taciturn public face apparently isolated from his colleagues and hostile toward the media.
Finally, he addressed another aspect of the selection issue which left me shocked. If he heard that there was a fellow worth a look, one of his coaches would go and make a judgment. The national side really should have a methodical system of scouting, with people paid to go to cricket matches and watch for future England players. It's all like baseball was a hundred years ago, with the selector's mates pushing their favourites, not a modern system of regional scouts and national cross-checkers.
4 December 2007 1112 hrs GMT
RSA v NZL ODIs - batting review
I've done far less work with one-day figures than with Test numbers, largely out of some prejudice, but I looked at the batting in the recent ODI series between South Africa and New Zealand and found a couple of things to say.
Pop quiz - who do you think had the highest Innings Average (number of runs divided by number of innings)? Score yourself a point if you said New Zealand. The Black Caps averaged 27.13, against the Proteas 23.96. And herein lies, I think, the key to South Africa's success. Let me give you a table:
Balls Faced Scoring Rate
GC Smith 145 65.5
MV Boucher 143 76.2
AB de Villiers 128 75.8
JH Kallis 124 46
HH Gibbs 103 115.5
Top 5 643 74.2
JM How 263 68.8
SB Styris 160 77.5
BB McCullum 157 51.6
MS Sinclair 101 105
L Vincent 50 66
Top 5 731 71.8
As you can see, South Africa's top 5 batsmen faced fewer deliveries yet scored at a faster rate. How did sterling work at defending his wicket, but couldn't score fast enough to make the kind of contribution that Gibbs, who only played two matches but stayed in longest of all South African batsmen, did. Whereas in Test cricket I value defence most highly in a batsmen, the One-day game requires a far more balanced contribution by those wielding the willow. Whether the New Zealanders' slower scoring was down to the South African bowling or their own temperament and abilities, is not something I could say. But that's what I'd look at if I was trying to learn a lesson for next time.
1 December 2007 2329 hrs GMT
A Tale of Two Grounds
Well, the Bopara versus Shah controversy, such as it was, ended with Bopara emerging in the side. England captain Michael Vaughan understands what's important for winning cricket matches: 'I just want 20 wickets. We have to try to pick the right bowlers to get 20 wickets, which is a positive step to try and win.' Runs? Who needs 'em. Of course, that also means picking the best fielders. Dropped catches equals lost matches. He might have gone to bed satisfied tonight after his side got half of those twenty wickets. But let's see how fast Sri Lanka can get through to England's long tail. It's worth noting that Kandy is not a batsman's pitch. It averages 27.40 runs per wicket, and 3.04 runs per over. Sri Lanka are behind on the wickets, but ahead on the runs per over, which is further evidence, as I thought, that their batsmen have trouble defending their wickets. England, meanwhile, are ahead on the runs per wicket, and behind on the runs per over, which is actually what a captain ought to prefer if forced to choose.
I bring up these facts and figures in part because of what's going on further north, at Kolkata. India really raced ahead of the average scores there, with 102 per wicket and 4.03 per over. When a team exceeds the average dramatically, it's a sign either that its batting is exceptional or the opponent's bowling is very poor. Just as we'll only get a real clue as to the nature of the Kandy pitch once we've seen England receive a few more overs, the nature of the struggle at Eden Gardens hangs on what Pakistan can achieve in their first innings.
30 November 2007 1830 hrs GMT
No Justice in West Indies?
Observing the poor performance by West Indies in today?s One-Day International, I decided to do some of the same kind of projecting I did for England for the West Indies. I thought I'd start with the bowlers, because the omission of Corey Collymore looked to me at first glance as something of a mistake. Of course, we all know that Collymore's 'stuff' (to use a baseball term) is lacking for the international arena, but nonetheless the man produces results. Here's a list of my projections for the West Indies bowlers, plus Collymore, rendered anonymous.
Player Average Economy Strike Rate
A 55.29 3.04 101.34
B 37.57 2.94 70.61
C 30.25 2.89 57.82
D 38.49 3.73 58.36
E 38.74 2.63 81.28
F 47.90 3.26 81.87
G 34.65 3.22 59.85
(Projections are based on a weighted average of performances during the last three years, plus a regression element.) Well, I'm not going to tell you which is which, but rather ask you which of the five bowlers you'd leave out. If you ask me, Player A isn't offering very much, except as a change bowler or reserve. You might be shocked if I told you who he was, but he's definitely on the tour.
28 November 2007 1055 hrs
Projecting England's Performance
Yesterday, I looked at the Sri Lankan team's series in Australia, and concluded that the host's batsmen may be more vulnerable than their bowlers. However, cricket is not that simple. It is a very balanced game, and adding strength in one place can create weakness elsewhere. So as well as looking to where Sri Lanka's weakness is, one must also try to detect what England must protect.
I started this little series by projecting the County Championship statistics of Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara into the Test arena. However, most of the likely Test team selections for the England team already have enough statistics at this level to make some practical projections without having to deal with the more highly variable County statistics. I've gone back as far as 2004-5 and assembled some projections. One gives different weights to each set of statistics, and throws in a factor for regressing to the mean. (Players have a tendency to drift towards the mean level of performance over time. Every time you see a run rate calculation in a one-day game on the TV, you're seeing this principle exerting itself. Commentators rarely seem to understand this.)
First of all, let's look at the England batting order. These are the players I reckon have guaranteed places, with their projected averages.
Panesar's projection is far more optimistic than I'd give him, an effect of regression to the mean. I'd be inclined to halve it at best. However, rather than undermine the principle of performance analysis, I'll stick with what the statistics show. This batting order adds up to about 240.
Things are not so easily summarized for the bowling, so I'm not going to produce a table. Instead, I'll tell you that assuming the Sri Lankan batsmen can stay in for about a hundred overs, based on the strike rates of Panesar, Hoggard and Sidebottom, plus an average England bowler for the 2004-7 period, a team can expect to score about 280 runs.
Now, if we cast our mind's eye back to what I projected for Bopara and Shah (or scroll down the page), you can see the nature of the problem. England score 240 runs. Assume we add a typical tailender, who will average around 6, England are still facing a deficit of about 34 runs. Bopara looks likely to be more expensive than an average England bowler, so selecting him and his projected batting average of 26 or so is a recipe for defeat. Shah's 32 carries England to within 2 runs of leveling the scores, and Shah plus someone like Anderson looks more likely to win the Test for England than Bopara.
27 November 2007 1145 hrs
Sri Lanka vs Australia Analysed
What kind of team is England going to face, and how should that impact their selection? Sri Lanka's test players are coming off a drubbing at the hands of an Australian team in a series typically marked by lots of runs. (Australia is, speaking in Test terms, still a place where bowlers are under sentence of transportation, it seems.) Using my system of series scores, one can get a more accurate picture of how different players performed against a neutral standard. The series score weights a player's contribution by adjusting for the number of runs scored during the series. Here's how Sri Lankan bowlers who bowled more than ten overs did:
Not very good, and I wonder when was the last time Muralitharan was the worst bowler in the Sri Lankan side? Obviously, the Australians did not offer the most sympathetic of pitches for spin bowling, as the peformance of Stuart MacGill illustrated (series score 6, worst by far of the lead Australlian quartet). Looking more deeply at the components of bowling, economy and strike rate adjusted for team average, one can see that the Australians plundered their runs off Fernando and Malinga, while playing Maharoof, Muralitharan and Vaas more guardedly. (Numbers are adjusted to a scale where 100 represents average team performance, above 100 means above average performance and below 100 means below average.)
Player Economy Strike Rate
Fernando 85 121
Maharoof 113 *
Malinga 79 123
Muralitharan 109 105
Vaas 104 108
When we turn to batting, the picture for Sri Lanka is more hideous. These are the series scores of batsmen who played both tests.
DPMD Jayawardene 2
HAPW Jayawardene -15
However, the question here is whether the bowlers were so hapless that they had the effect of making the batsmen seem worse than they were. Looking at the way series scores behave in other Test encounters, I'd have to say no. If you deduct the Sri Lankan score from the Australian one, the Australian bowlers have a bigger advantage than the Australian batsmen, suggesting this Sri Lanka side has trouble defending its wickets. So, for England selectors, the question is really one of whether or not to pick the strongest bowling side, even at the expense of batting, in order to attack Sri Lanka's weaker link.
26 November 2007
Bopara vs Shah
As England approach the opening of their Test series in Sri Lanka, the most fascinating news story is not the continued woes of Steve Harmison, but who to choose between Ravi Bopara and Owais Shah?
The whole subject demands a proper article of performance analysis, but to keep things in bite-size blogging format, let's start by comparing our two rivals' performance during the last three years. Furthermore, I'm going to apply a methodology adapted from minor league equivalencies, and use onlyy their performance from the English county championship rather than all first-class matches.
First, let's compare their batting records, for reasons I'll explain later. These are projected averages at Test level, based on their actual averages in English first-class matches (excluding Tests) during the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons. Each season's runs and wickets are separately weighted to give more emphasis to the more recent performance.
OA Shah 32.19
R Bopara 26.12
This is a very rough and ready method, so I wouldn't take these predictions too seriously, but they do underline what we already know, which is that Shah is on paper a better batsman than Bopara. However, what's worth noting is that Bopara's average has risen each of those seasons, whereas Shah's has drifted up and down.
When it comes to bowling, the first fact we really have to face is that Shah is at best a part-time bowler. But Bopara's County record does not inspire much confidence either. How do they translate?
Player Average Economy Strike Rate
R Bopara 108 9.5 66
OA Shah 285 11.5 137
Boy, I wouldn't be rushing either of those fellows into a Test side for their bowling. Given you need good batting to avoid Test defeats, I'd give the advantage to Shah for the moment. But if England are trying to replace Flintoff with one of these, then bowling contributions have to enter into the equation. And you'd really rather have Bopara out there for that than Shah, not least because Bopara has bowled far more overs in the last three seasons than Shah. Which then begs the question of how England's attack looks in the context of Sri Lanka's batting. But that's a question for another time.
22 May 2006
Once Upon a Time in America
A CricInfo writer offers his views about promoting cricket in the United States in this little piece. Frankly, I think he is too pessimistic about cricket catching on elsewhere in the world, but I think his opinions are highly accurate for the United States. Cricket there has always been an expatriate's game, and if you follow the link from the article to the reader's comments, you'll see that this remains the same. (Although I was astonished to learn that Detroit, where I grew up, has a small cricket scene going now.) You can find out more about the history of American cricket in this book.
16 May 2006
Bad Old England
Some things defy statistical analysis, such as the way England snatched a draw from the jaws of victory. Credit to Sri Lanka, who managed to bat effectively in their second innings, but a good side would have seen them off on Sunday to an innings defeat. Plenty of excuses will be trotted out to explain away England's failure, but I think it is typical of the kind of maangerial incompetence that has hampered England since I started taking a serious interest in cricket statistics again after the 1999 World Cup. The high spirits of England players in the field was inexcusable. Of course, sporting sides genuinely reflect their nation's characteristics, so I'm not surprised at either problem.
Bad Old Nasser
Replacing Channel 4 with Sky Sports has had the disappointing result of a prominent role for Nasser Hussain. I now find the coverage almost unwatchable, at least with the sound turned up, and the lack of synchronization between the BBC Radio 4 Longwave audio and satellite pictures is too extreme to be comfortable viewing and listening. Nasser loves his new role, but here we've always regarded him as a tactical incompetent and a poor excuse for a motivator; his televised pontifications only confirm our views. Far sharper is Mr Boycott on the radio, who hardly says a word wrong, in spite of not on the surface being the same sort of analyst of cricket statistics as us. That said, the technical aspects of Sky's digital coverage are an advance. The Hawkeye feature is truly a step forward.
2 May 2006
You can't judge a Test match by one side's batting on the first day, and the result of the Newlands Test just goes to show how wise this is. New Zealand were cock-a-hoop at a splendid captain's innings, but where did it lead? Not getting a result was bad for New Zealand, who now must win the final test just to secure a draw in the series. I regarded these two sides as fairly evenly matched before the series began, and I don't think I've seen anything to dramatically adjust my views. But I would say that South Africa have some edge in the batting, although it is not as significant as the mainstream commentators I've seen on the television might think. Meanwhile, everything I've seen, including the above article, tells me that the Black Caps thought this was a result pitch, if the spinners could get turn.
Limp Willowed India?
In between other stuff, I've been slowly compiling some batting statistics for the 2005-6 Test series. Considering that India features a lineup including Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag - all proven centurions - their batting performance managed only one outstanding performance. Is it because Sri Lanka and England are particularly good bowling sides? Hard to say yet, but I'm working on it.
The other discovery I've made, which is actually none too surprising to me, is that you can't use form in one series to predict form in another. The experiences of I K Pathan and R Dravid should be a salutary lesson to all analysts.
25 April 2006
End of Season Cricketing Sabermetrics Test Ladder
No cricket statistics are ultimately as important as the Test Ladder! More judgment calls than before were involved in drawing it up this time round. A quick resume of the rules: Teams get 3 points for an away win, 2 points for a home win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss, and -1 for a home loss; a team replaces a team above it that it beats; at the end of the 'season', a team with fewer points than the one immediate below it drops a place, allowing the team immediately below to move up a place. However, I also make a subjective adjustment based on strength of opposition. Here's how it stood after the completion of all Test series beginning between 1 October 2005 and 31 March 2006.
Sri Lanka (-1)
New Zealand (2)
South Africa (-1)
West Indies (0)
Zimbabwe is currently suspended from Test play
Some notes. England retained second place thanks to a draw in India, which I used to deny India a claim on the second spot. I might have taken a different view if the series had been played in England. Australia bypassed India simply by amassing so many points. The Indian preference for One Day Internationals works against them here. South Africa remained rated above West Indies because they were more competitive in the series against a common opponent, Australia.
Herschelle Gibbs has been dropped from the South African side. I'll take a look at his career cricket statistics like I did for Shaun Pollock another day.
Meanwhile, the dispute between board and players in West Indies rumbles on. It is difficult from my vantage point in England to appreciate fully what is going on there but the situation is beginning to remind me of the time in my union when an upstart candidate unseated a treasurer whose solution to a serious problem was to cut staff and funds to branches. The upstart believed more leverage was available using assets, only to do a 180-degree turn after a couple of months on the job. I suspect the West Indian Cricket Board's financial situation is so bad that there are no options available, meaning famous rebels of the past act as today's conservatives.
22 April 2006
County Championship 2006
Rather than draw attention to the depressingly one-sided conclusion to the Centurion Test, I thought I'd highlight the opening round of the English County Championship. Although my family are historically deeply rooted in Kent, by accident of Royal Navy assignments, my mother was born in Hampshire.This is also where I first lived when I came to Britain, so I've adopted Hampshire as my 'home county'. They've achieved a weather-affected draw against Lancashire. Meanwhile, I'm assembling some batting cricket statistics which I hope will contribute to future posts during the relatively slow news period between South African Tests. Of course, I could always talk about the fracas in the West Indies, which is of interest to me, but has nothing to do with cricket statistics. I dread to think how this dispute will end.
18 April 2006
Horrid Black Caps
It seems I got it wrong, and the New Zealand Herald got it right. Rich Broock said we ought to be worried, and so it proved. I managed to watch some of the day's play, and I have to say that the batsmen looked terrible before lunch mercifully was taken. They were not getting behind the ball well, and their wafts at the ball invariably resulted in disaster. The unpredictable bounce, and a certain unwillingness to risk getting hit, understandable since it hurts and causes injury, look likely to have put paid to New Zealand's chances in this one.
Shaun Pollock hasn't bowled much in this Test, but when he has he has been effective, something that couldn't have been said of his efforts against Australia. I did a little investigation into what might be going on, and I post the results via the above link. I've done some similar work for other players over the years, and I'll try to post some of those studies to complement this one.
17 April 2006
Worried Black Caps
The outlook for New Zealand appears gloomy in this article from the New Zealand Herald. I don't know, they seem to be in with a chance to me, assuming the last South African wicket falls without too much damage being done. The South African lead, currently at 229, looks eminently catchable. Watching the CricInfo commentary as today developed, I became fascinated with how the New Zealanders were bowling to Ashwell Prince and to A B de Villiers. Prince received a large number of short-pitched deliveries toward the off stump, the same sort of ball that got him out in the first innings. Of course, it worked in the second, too. Meanwhile, short deliveries were heavily outnumbered by good length ones to de Villiers, with a lot of switching in the middle of his innings until, toward the end, the Black Caps were simply trying to find that famous corridor of uncertainty.
16 April 2006
Sauce for the gander
The unexpectedly modest score South Africa achieved in their first innings in the first Test against New Zealand made me think that my opinion of the Black Caps being a side on the rise was not a simple matter of looking for the bright side where my favourite captain, Stephen Fleming, is concerned. However, South Africa have come out and rattled quite a few stumps in a short space of time to remind me that one should be very cautious about reading anything into the first first innings performance. We only get a real sense of the balance between two sides once those batting second get in.
Apart from that little nugget of wisdom, which has little to do with the sabermetric analysis of cricket statistics, I spent yesterday studying Shaun Pollock's cricket statistics. He's just come off two bad series against Australia (a side he's only really done well against once, and that was in 1996-97). I did wonder whether or not he was a spent force in Test cricket, given his age. Well, I reached a conclusion; but it being Easter Sunday, I don't actually have time to publish my results. They'll have to wait until I've dispensed with cooking the Easter Lunch for the guests and drunk a few fine bottles of grape juice, fermented. Happy Easter everybody!
14 April 2006
I'm not a notoriously competitive person, but I have to tease S Rajesh for this current contribution to his "Numbers Game" column at Wisden CricInfo. Rajesh has never been in the business of applying sabermetric principles to cricket, so it's harsh to press him too hard on his points. However, the first of his two items this week is hilarious. He takes the current Test sides and compares their first innings score with their second inning score, and tries to draw lessons. Fair enough, one might say. Except that he goes back to 1990. Huh? Let's see who was in a 1991 West Indies cricket side: Greenidge, Haynes, Richardson, Hooper, Richards, Logie, Dujon, Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh, Patterson. I really don't see how any conclusions drawn from data including that team have any relevance to today's XI.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul resigned the captaincy of West Indies on 12 April. Good Friday is as good a day as any to comment on this once splendid side's trip down a captaincy Via Dolorosa this year. Chanderpaul willingly grasped a poisoned chalice when he took over. It only got worse. Controversy and defeat broke the back of Chanderpaul's captaincy, magnifying his shortcomings as a public spokesman.
Lara's name has cropped up as a candidate to succeed Chanderpaul, but this would be like Abraham Lincoln reinstating General McClellan to command of the Army of the Potomac after the defeat at Fredericksburg. Lara has twice been captain and the side has not performed particularly well under him. Both his captaincies led to major breakdowns between the players and the board. In the circumstances the re-selection of Lara would draw a big 'ugh' from this quarter.
Personally, I'd go for the best field tactician of the six candidates listed. However, given the previous controversial relationship between the board and Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chris Gayle, and even Daren Ganga, it is possible the next West Indies' captain will be drawn from one of the remaining three names: Denesh Ramdin, Sylvester Joseph and Wavell Hinds. However, the meeting of the board at the end of January seems to have been something of a sackcloth-and-ashes affair, and it's possible that as a gesture of good faith, bygones will be bygones. I look forward to seeing who is named, because it will give a clear signal of board policies for the immediate future.
Rick Eyre site off line
Those who use the excellent rickeyre.com to keep up with cricket news from the world's press have been feeling the loss of the site. Updates on the situaton can be found by pointing your browser to the link provided in the title to this entry.