Category: India cricket news (page 1 of 55)

The 2021 season is murderous. How many England players will actually make it through?

Joe Root (via BT Sport)

10 Ashes Tests in a row was such a good idea and went so well that the ECB thought to themselves: “Say, why don’t we play 10 Tests on the bounce against India? Let’s really focus on that. Let’s go from August 2020 to November 2021 without playing Test cricket against anyone else.”

Then, while they were all patting themselves on the backs for having such a brilliant idea, someone added: “Then after that let’s have the World T20 and then an Ashes.”

All of this happens within a year.

The India bit

England are again due to play 10 five-day matches against the exact same opposition in a timespan of about seven months.

This is two things:

  1. Boring (after a bit)
  2. Unfair on the players

The last time England played two successive five-match series against the same opposition, the team imploded and one of the players ended up needing treatment from a mental health professional. This was not even slightly a coincidence.

The really big events (Tests against India, Tests against Australia, World Cups) bring increased stress levels long before they actually take place. Even if a player gets a physical rest in between, the mental stresses generally remain.

Speaking about his downtime between international fixtures the last time England played back-to-back five-match Test series, Jonathan Trott said: “The three weeks in between wasn’t time off because I was working hard in the nets.”

This is why, when we wrote about overtraining* for Cricinfo a few years back, we asked whether it was actually responsible to play international cricket without an off season. Switching off is not an easy thing to do when the next major engagement is already rapidly approaching.

*Overtraining is not just a physical thing.

“It’s what they’re paid to do”

Yes, exactly. It’s their job; it’s their livelihood. Everything’s riding on it. And if that weren’t enough, cricket is also for many players pretty much their whole personal identity.

For cricketers who do nothing but play cricket and who are forever being told that the next batch of cricket coming up is really very significant, their whole emotional wellbeing is bound up in how things go on the field. When things don’t go well on the field, things don’t go so well off the field either.

Dr Richard Winsley of the University of Exeter told us that major non-playing stresses for a sportsman include frequent fixtures, competition for places, travel, and being apart from family and friends for long periods in foreign hotel rooms.

These are the things that eat away at you and wear you to a nub even when you’re supposedly ‘resting’.

England’s big fixtures in 2021

Let’s bullet point England’s major 2021 engagements (there are actually a fair number of one-day series in addition to this) and try and imagine how we would switch off and recover if our whole career hinged on making runs or taking wickets in these matches.

  • January-March: five Tests against India
  • July-September: five Tests against India
  • October-November: World T20
  • November onwards: The Ashes

It’s really hard to look at that without envisaging mental casualties.


Does the IPL deserve its reputation?

IPL 2018 anthem (all images via YouTube)

The 2018 IPL is underway. It is the 11th edition.

Back in 2008 the IPL was a bombastic upstart that threw huge sums of money at all the big name players. Now it is a bombastic-yet-fairly-well-established competition and it only throws huge sums of money at some of the big name players, but also at a few players who you don’t really know all that well.

Things have changed but things also haven’t changed. Either way, it’s a good time to take a look at the IPL’s reputation to judge whether or not it’s deserved.

One of the challenges of attempting to do that is that it’s quite hard to pin down the IPL’s reputation. The tournament is vast and sprawling and different people have very, very different opinions on it.

We took the not-at-all scientific approach of asking a bunch of people who happened to be on Twitter on a Saturday afternoon to try and sum up the IPL’s reputation. After that, we cherry-picked answers that we felt had the ring of truth about them. The end result was a series of different qualities, each of which we will now examine.

This is not a short article, but hopefully it is the kind of article where you are happy that it’s long because you find it to be fun and enjoyable and not the kind of article where you’re forever checking how much you’ve already scrolled through and how much scrolling you still have left to do.

Here are some commonly mentioned aspects of the IPL’s reputation and analysis of whether or not they are deserved.

(1) The IPL is over the top, gaudy and ostentatious

Here’s a shot from eight seconds into this year’s IPL theme tune video.

At this point, you’re quite legitimately concluding that what’s about to follow is probably not going to be a work of extraordinary subtlety.

This is ten seconds in.

Hitting a flaming ball with a cricket bat initially seems kind of ludicrous, but two seconds later they’ve already made hitting a flaming ball with a cricket bat look like a very reserved way to promote a cricket tournament. It does after all greatly focus on cricket, rather than on tigers.

Our favourite part of the tiger shot is the disclaimer beneath which states: “These are stock shots and no animals were harmed in the making of this film.”

They say that because this is what happens next.

The tigers blew up!

Or at least an explosion was displayed at the exact moment that the tigers walking out of the fire towards one another would have touched noses. Maybe it’s a logical leap to conclude that we’re meant to see this as exploding tigers, but we put it to you that it’s a logical leap we are encouraged to make.

This is a very important example of how big things are marketed in India.

Here is a thing that no-one in India has ever said about marketing a big thing: “It’s good, I like it – but do you not think that maybe it’s just a little bit too much?”

No-one has ever said that. No-one will ever say that. Subjected to an assault of singing, dancing and explosions, people are far more likely to say: “Maybe we should have more singing, dancing or explosions.”

Then someone else will turn to them and say: “Let’s have more of all three.”

Everyone will nod and agree and then at some point someone will suggest the addition of tigers.

Here is another very minor, low-key example of the phenomenon. It is nice and small and manageable and easy to understand. When they named the Chennai franchise, they concluded that calling them ‘Kings’ would be insufficient, so they went ahead and called them ‘Super Kings’ instead.

Complaining that Indian entertainment is over the top, gaudy and ostentatious is like complaining about India’s geographic location on this planet. What do you honestly expect anyone to do about it?

If you have a problem with the over the top, gaudy and ostentatious nature of Indian entertainment, here are your options:

  1. Deal with it
  2. Fail to deal with it

Technically, you could also ignore it, but we’re writing this from the perspective that you’re in some way interested in the IPL and are doing your best to enjoy or endure it. As such, those are your two options.

(2) The IPL is a slogfest

This is a bit of a ‘yes and no’ which we are aware is not an especially satisfying way to deal with such a thing.

Yes, the IPL is kind of a slogfest, because it is a Twenty20 cricket competition and Twenty20 cricket is kind of a slogfest.

No, because when you say ‘slogfest’ there are connotations to your use of that word. It is very rare for someone to speak in complimentary terms about something they are labelling a slogfest.

The original pejorative description of Twenty20 cricket was ‘hit and giggle’. This has fallen out of use a bit because it makes the format sounds like a fun, knockabout, amateur sort of thing.

This is in no way appropriate any more because people are pumping millions of moneys into these franchises. We’ll tell you what people pumping millions of moneys into something don’t at all enjoy: giggling from the people paid to produce results. Giggling implies that you’re not taking things at all seriously and if someone’s invested millions of moneys, that isn’t going to go down well.

So the slogging. The crux of this issue is this: in cricket, runs and wickets do not have set values. The value of each fluctuates from game to game, and, in a more general way, from format to format.

In the shortest format, wickets don’t really have much value at all until the point you lose your tenth wicket and aren’t allowed to continue scoring runs. Runs are the meaningful unit of currency and with reduced likelihood of being bowled out due to the constricted nature of the game, there is greater incentive to try and hit fours and sixes. That is how the game is built.

To explain why it’s not just slogging, let’s think of a ‘slog’ as being a wild hack where there’s just as much chance of being dismissed as hitting a six.

(1) If all 11 batsmen hit exactly one six and play no other scoring shots before getting out, the team will make 66, which is pretty much guaranteed to be a losing total.

(2) If all 11 batsmen hit exactly two sixes and play no other scoring shots before getting out, the team will make 132, which is okay in some circumstances, but probably also a losing total.

(3) If all 11 batsmen hit exactly three sixes and play no other scoring shots before getting out, the team will make 198, which is good enough to win most matches.

Our point is that a batsman can’t mindlessly swing at everything. If his decisions are inevitably weighted towards runs and away from preservation of his wicket, then there is still a decision to be made every ball. It is not just a slogfest.

Additionally, bowlers and fielders also play cricket.

(3) The IPL has incredibly passionate fans

Okay, we’re going to address this one by telling you two stories from when we went to watch Bangalore Royal Challengers v Deccan Chargers in 2010 (a colourful time during which we wrote this). The first story is from when we were at the match. The second story is from when we were at a hotel.

Story One. Here is a not-very-good photo from when were at the match. Sorry about the quality. We seem to remember that cameras were banned and mobile phone technology was not-so-good back then.

We just wanted to give you a small flavour of what the crowd was like. You will notice that a lot of people are waving flags and at least one person is wearing a crown.

You also cannot hear the crowd. We’d gone there with our friend Tronco and when the RCB batsmen first walked out, it was loud enough that we could scream “this is loud” directly into his ear and he still couldn’t hear us. Whenever anything happened from then on, it got louder.

The boy who was sitting next to us was certainly passionate. He told us he was supporting both RCB and DC, but in reality he was supporting sixes. He didn’t even clap for most fours, but when there was a six, he was out of his seat, eyes bulging, nearly falling over. It was very weird. He wasn’t bothered about wickets either and it was hard not to conclude that his love for the DLF Maximum was entirely detached from its significance in the match.

There was also a middle-aged guy a few rows in front who was very definitely passionate. It was much less clear whether he was following the match too closely. He was mostly just into dancing.

He was dancing to everything. At the time, this seemed very strange to us because we grew up in a world where even sitting down on a chair in the pub is considered effeminate. In the world of our early adulthood, pubs were for standing in and nowhere in the world was for middle-aged men to dance. (Look, we’re not saying we agree with this view or that most of the people who populated this world weren’t dicks, but this was the environment and we have inevitably internalised many of the values whether we like it or not.)

After a while, we started to notice that Dancing Man was representative of a certain proportion of the crowd. Everyone was having a very, very good time, but the noise was constant in a way that wasn’t necessarily all that related to what was happening on the field of play.

We can’t say what the actual split was between people who were dead into the game and people who were just dead into the experience. Personally, we remember and cherish the experience and honestly don’t know who won the game. It’s worth mentioning that it was a very good-natured crowd too. We can’t imagine any of the players were getting abuse.

Story Two. A little while later, we had to spend ten extra days in the hotel because we couldn’t get home because of the ash cloud. We were on our own by this point and so took to chatting about the IPL with the staff. There was one guy who was very definite that he was not a cricket fan and not an IPL fan either.

Almost immediately after saying this, he dissected Harmeet Singh’s technique when bowling his leg-break slower ball and followed that up with a dissection of the same bowler’s technique when bowling his flipper slower ball. We are an actual professional cricket writer and we’re still not fully sure who Harmeet Singh is.

It seems that in India, the average person is far more likely to know their cricket shit.

This is hardly surprising because during the IPL, cricket can be hard to avoid. We picked up a copy of the Deccan Chronicle one morning during our stay. Six and a half of the 16 pages were devoted to IPL news of some form. There had been bombs at Chinnaswamy Stadium, but that only warranted a page and a half – the rest was all Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor, match reports and opinion.

The ash cloud got 150 words. Mark Ramprakash’s divorce got 100.

(4) The IPL has too much advertising

There are few parts of the IPL that haven’t been sponsored. Grounds are sponsored, shirts are sponsored, highlights reels are sponsored. They’ve even found advertisers for moments, like for a six or for a ‘perfect catch’. This means that corporate names can also lodge themselves within the match commentary.

After the match, there are awards – all of which are sponsored and many of which are flimsy and very obviously made-up purely to secure yet another sponsor. Man of the match is fairly conventional, but to this we can add ‘stylish player of the match’, ‘super striker of the match’ and doubtless a few others that we haven’t the will to find out about right now.

There’s an official strategic time-out partner. There are co-presenting sponsors. There are any number of ill-defined associate sponsors.

They’ve even named an ‘umpire partner’ – something which might come as very shocking news to some of the umpires’ actual partners.

Umpire’s wife: “Are you having a parallel relationship with Paytm?”

Umpire: “I, um… what?”

But it’s only on the TV coverage where you get the full IPL effect. Ad breaks are punishingly frequent and last time we watched it, they were doing a thing where they occasionally shrunk the live action picture so as to display banner ads at the bottom and down the side.

The ad break ads (it says a lot that we needed to invent that term) were mostly for aspirational stuff. Phones, LCD TVs, Mont Blanc pens and plush furniture featured heavily.

Let’s quickly do some TV advert awards.

Our all-time favourite Indian TV ad. It was from 2003 or whenever the hell it was we first went over there. It was for Rupa Jon pants and featured a man in white Y-fronts who advertised his sole garment by saying: “You’re number one!” He accompanied that statement with a bold, joyful finger point to emphasise his message. It really was very entertaining. We can’t emphasise that enough.

The most jaw-droppingly perplexing ad that we saw while watching IPL matches on TV in 2010. As we remember it, the guy was a hangman and he’d had a bad day hanging people (a successful day really in terms of doing his job, but in a more meaningful sense a bad day because his job was to hang people). He walked home feeling all bad and then when he got home he switched a solitary lightbulb on and felt slightly better because of the fact that he had either (a) a lightbulb or (b) power for the lightbulb. (We’re honestly not sure how much of this is accurate due to it being a long time ago and because the final slogan was in a type of writing that we cannot read.)

The ad that best sums up an entire country that isn’t India. In Canada we once saw a prime time TV ad which suggested that the viewer might want to “impress all of your friends with a giant rig” – that’s ‘rig’ as in ‘truck’. Oh Canada.

Anyway. Yes, clearly the IPL has too much advertising. We could probably have done this one a bit quicker.

(5) The IPL is overrated and overhyped

This is to some degree connected to (1) and (4).

Of course it is overhyped because that is how the IPL presents everything. It would be very odd indeed if the one solitary thing it didn’t oversell was itself.

Of course it isn’t going to be shy about taking opportunities to talk itself up. It would be very odd indeed if, in amongst advertising 10 million other things, it neglected to advertise itself.

The IPL thinks that it’s the best and has always thought that it’s the best. There are two aspects to this that warrant our attention.

Firstly, the IPL is, and pretty much always has been, the best T20 competition. It is the best-funded and therefore the best-staffed, both in terms of players but also in terms of people trying to work out smart ways of winning cricket matches. So yes, the IPL is within its rights to think it’s the best.

What’s changed is how people regard T20 competitions. Initially, ‘best T20 competition’ was a bit like saying ‘best-looking deep sea fish’ because it was a label that didn’t really have any value in broader terms.

Now, thanks to all the great players and thinkers who have been involved for a decade, ‘best T20 competition’ pretty much means ‘most sophisticated and forward-thinking cricket competition’.

However much or however little you value that, T20 competitions are unarguably far more important to the game than they once were and the IPL is the most significant among them.

(6) The IPL is too powerful

The idea here is that the IPL is a talent sucker; that other parts of the sport are losing players and becoming devalued as a consequence.

You could argue that the arrival of the IPL represented a very obvious tipping point for a sport that had already spread itself too thinly and was asking too much of its players. Cricket’s foremost domestic league lasts seven weeks. That is not, by the standards of most sports, unreasonable. The problem, really, is what was already happening.

International cricket long ago lost sight of the idea that it is supposed to be about big occasions where the best players play the best players and everyone is at their best.

County cricket has also been affected, but it only expanded deeper into April in the first place to allow even more international cricket to take place.

The IPL could see the end of the philosophy of ‘more of everything’ in cricket and that isn’t such a bad thing.

(7) Most people outside India are at best apathetic about the IPL

A common refrain from outside India is that they don’t care about the IPL and can’t even find a way to care about the IPL. This is not the same as no-one caring about the IPL because it is quite obvious that in India very many people care about the IPL. (This division of caring makes total and perfect sense because it is, after all, the Indian Premier League.)

The fact that people are even discussing this is a measure of the league’s significance. No-one in England is following the Ranji Trophy too closely. No-one’s following the Logan Cup or the Lankan Premier League. Foreign leagues are foreign. The fact that in its 11th season the IPL is suffering unflattering comparisons with the NFL in the US or the English Premier League is really kind of an achievement.

So, in relative terms, people outside India actually care very much about the IPL because they mention it and sometimes think about it a little.

So, with all of that in mind, does the IPL deserve its reputation?

Having weighed up the facts and pondered the detail, we would have to go with ‘sort of’.


We checked who bought Rishabh Pant and it reminded us of something about the IPL

Rishabh Pant is a player we keep an eye on. We don’t write about him much at the minute, but we get the sense that we will. We were therefore interested to see where he ended up in the IPL auction and whether the teams valued him as highly as we do.

Delhi Daredevils bought him for $2.34m (about £1.65m).

“Great,” we thought. “Now what?”

Because this doesn’t lead us anywhere. We’ve never really felt much affinity with any particular IPL team and this is unlikely to change simply because one of them is now blessed with a Pant.

The Indian Premier League is, it seems to us – and bear with us if this seems a rather obvious statement of fact – an Indian competition.

What we mean by this is that with players going back into the hat once every few years, geography seems just about the best reason for latching onto a particular team.

If you live in Bangalore, support Bangalore. If you live in Delhi, support Delhi. Those of us who live in Manchester and have visited five of the eight cities housing teams don’t really have an obvious route in.

In many respects, the tournament is best viewed as an academic exercise, a resource allocation competition in which various groups spend their money and deploy their resultant playing staffs and whoever has the best plans wins.

We can get behind that. We rather like it. The mechanics of the various strategies and the way things will eventually pan out are very intriguing to us. Except without any sort of bias or hopes for one group to triumph over the others, it also feels a little flat.

What we’re left with is lab sport of the mind: valid and worthy, but sadly lacking the power to truly delight us or to really piss us off.


South Africa v India is not boxing, it’s racing

With wickets falling every 10 or 20 runs in the South Africa v India series, it’s tempting to resort to the heavyweight boxer cliché. This has the two combatants going toe-to-toe, knocking lumps out of one another with neither taking a backward step.

It’s odd to think of wickets as ‘damage’ rather than the primary aim of the sport. Unlike limited overs, which is a ‘most runs wins’ game, Test cricket is essentially a race to 20 wickets. Wickets are the meaningful currency. Batsmen are necessary impediments and the game only moves forwards when they are dismissed.

In this series both teams have been moving at a ferocious pace, with India thus far not quite able to keep up. This isn’t for lack of trying however, and you wonder whether sooner or later the home team might be the one to crack.

 


Remember when Virat Kohli was a limited overs cricketer?

Virat Kohli (CC licensed by James Cullen via Flickr)

Nick Hoult wrote the case study we couldn’t be bothered writing in The Telegraph yesterday.

The short version is that between now and England picking their first Test squad to face India in August, Jason Roy will have at most one first-class match in which to make his case for inclusion.

That is one more than most of us have, but significantly fewer than Roy realistically needs. So it isn’t going to happen. And maybe England don’t want it to happen anyway because they’d rather keep him confident and focused on limited overs cricket.

That set of circumstances pretty much sums up our point.

Another time, another place

By the end of 2011, Virat Kohli had eight one-day international hundreds to his name and zero Test hundreds. However, the Test path wasn’t coned off. He wasn’t asked to follow diversion signs taking him back down a more familiar road.

Kohli made his first fifty in his fourth Test and his first hundred in his eighth Test. He then made his first double hundred in his 42nd Test. That was July 2016 and he’s made five more since then.

In the ongoing second Test against South Africa, Kohli made 153 out of 307 in India’s first innings in a match where runs have had an appropriate value.

However things pan out, we don’t feel like you’ll think we’re from a parallel dimension if we suggest that he is now a decidedly handy Test batsman.

Are you seriously comparing Virat Kohli with Jason Roy?

No, we’re just comparing circumstances: the situation faced by Roy and other England white ball cricketers now against a snapshot in time where Virat Kohli was only two-dimensional.

We would quite like for every player to have the time and opportunity to make their case to play all formats of international cricket. You never know what you might be missing out on.


Ajinkya Rahane must be shit-hot at making drinks

Ajinkya Rahane (detail of photo CC licensed by Mike Prince via Flickr)

We’ve always liked Ajinkya Rahane. He’s always struck us as a batsman who can adapt to different situations and different conditions. India like him too. They like him to be 12th man.

Rahane’s case for inclusion in the second Test against South Africa wasn’t undeniable, we’ll admit. He had a poor run of scores against Sri Lanka at the end of last year and got dropped. But surely he should be among the first names on the team sheet whenever India are away from home?

Last time he played a Test in South Africa, he made 51 not out and 96. Last time he played a Test against South Africa in India, he made 127 and 100 not out (in four innings in that match, only two other batsmen passed 50).

He averages 60 in Australia and 70 in South Africa. You could argue these are small samples, but we’d argue they are inexplicably small samples. He’s been left out of these two Tests when he could have played instead of – ohhh, let’s pick a name at random – Rohit Sharma, say.

Rohit Sharma averages 28 in Australia and nine in South Africa.

Nine.

In six Tests and ten innings, Sharma has a top score of 25. The fact that he averages 85 in India seems dangerously irrelevant.

All we can conclude is that when Ajinkya Rahane brings out the drinks, they’re crisp and fresh and invigorating, and when Rohit Sharma brings out the drinks, it’s half a mug of lukewarm vegetable stock with a turd in it.


Is Hardik Pandya the best all-rounder in the world?

One of the problems with asking questions such as this is what time-frame do you use to make your assessment? Performances over the last year, over the last five years, over the last ten years?

We’re going make our assessment based on performances over the last 24 hours. This leads us to conclude that yes, Hardik Pandya is indeed the best all-rounder in the world.

Emerging with India 76-5 against South Africa, he made 93 off 95 balls. After that, he sauntered in and took 2-17.

Best all-rounder operating today. Without a doubt.


When did Kolkata become dibbly-dobbly military-medium paradise?

Wriddiham Saha talks prevailing winds (via BCCI Twitter)

If you were India and had access to a time-and-place machine capable of replacing a nearby patch of land with one from elsewhere and elsewhen, then when and where would you choose to play Sri Lanka at Test cricket?

It’s unlikely that you answered ‘Derby last April’ but that is apparently what the nominally home team decided. There’s been swing and seam aplenty. In a match blighted by rain and bad light, India are 74-5. They’ve been dobbled.

We’ll be watching the rest of this match with interest – if only to see whether any Derbyshire players breach the walls of the portal and inadvertently saunter into Kolkata/the future.


With the Ashes decided, England and Australia will look to determine which has the better ODI second XI

England v Australia ODI at the Riverside (CC licensed by Steve Parkinson via Flickr)

England and Australia fans who enjoy answering the question “so why isn’t this the Ashes then?” will be delighted to hear that the two sides are going to do that thing where they follow the Test series with five don’t-give-a-toss one-day matches six months later in the other country.

The news comes as part of the ECB’s announcement of England’s 2018 summer fixtures.

Pakistan will turn up first in a somewhat forlorn bid to try and breathe a bit of life into the springtime two-Test non-series.

After that, it’s a one-dayer against Scotland and then five against Australia, during which both sides will doubtless make an attempt to ‘blood some exciting new talent’.

Then it’s India for the main event. After three T20 internationals and three one-day internationals, the tourists will play five Tests: three in the South-East and two in the Midlands.


Jason Holder starts to play how you always imagined he would

India failed to chase down 190 against the West Indies and there were a couple of prominent reasons for this.

Firstly, MS Dhoni hit India’s slowest half-century in 16 years – although ‘hit’ seems an entirely inappropriate word to use for an innings of 54 off 114 balls. MS Dhoni bobbled India’s slowest half-century in 16 years. He was there until six balls to go too, so his soporific knock actually took in much of ‘the slog’ .

Another reason for India’s low score was Jason Holder.

When we first caught sight of Holder, we thought ‘ooh hell’ or something along those lines. Two metres tall, a seam bowler who could bat, we had visions of Curtly Ambrose as an all-rounder. After watching him play, he came across as more of an Angus Fraser/Chris Tavaré character.

While that would be many people’s dream cricketer, it was nevertheless an interesting contrast to one’s expectations. He was clearly a committed cricketer, but a labouring one to whom results didn’t appear to come easily.

For a long time the effort-plus-raw-ingredients-equals-results equation didn’t really add up for Holder, but the final part has been increasing in value for a while now. He took 5-27 against India and if he’s still coming on second or third change in Tests, here he was opening the bowling.

There’s more to come. Albeit probably in the form of a self-destructive diktat from the West Indies Cricket Board.


Older posts

© 2018 King Cricket

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑