Month: July 2011 (page 2 of 3)

Tendulkar has been better than Bradman

Over at The Cricketer, John Emburey has made the point that Sachin Tendulkar has been tested in ways that Bradman wasn’t. It’s a fair point.

Different eras

In Ed Smith’s damn fine book, What Sport Tells Us About Life, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to Bradman’s average. Someone somewhere did some sort of science/magic and concluded that in a later era, Bradman wouldn’t have averaged 99, but he’d still have averaged 70-odd or summat like that.

The point is partly that his average was higher because cricketers now are generally bigger-faster-stronger-better and partly that, actually, Bradman would still be exceptional, even allowing for that.

Different conditions

Don Bradman played Test matches in England and Australia and nowhere else. Sachin Tendulkar has played Tests in 10 countries. Only in Zimbabwe has he not scored a hundred – he has only had seven innings there and still averages 40. Tendulkar’s figures in each nation are not all exceptional, but they do stand up to scrutiny. Pace, turn, swing, seam – Tendulkar has succeeded against it all.

Different formats

Bradman excelled in every format he played – first-class cricket and Tests. Tendulkar has succeeded in every format he has played – Tests, one-day internationals and Twenty20. Defiant rearguards and hell-for-leather flaying, Tendulkar can do both and everything in between.

So Tendulkar is better than Bradman was?

We chose our title carefully. Tendulkar has been better than Bradman, because to us batting is about encountering different match situations in different conditions and succeeding. The best batsmen aren’t simply those with the highest averages, but those with the broadest range.

When comparing Bradman and Tendulkar, the latter has benefited from circumstance. We believe that Bradman would have excelled at one-day cricket and Twenty20 as well, were he around now.

But he hasn’t actually done it – Tendulkar has.


Feeble headline of the week

‘Sachin Tendulkar is arguably the best batsman of my generation’

The Guardian have set the bar low. Can anyone stoop lower?


Match report of garden cricket at the Frangipani Tree near Galle

Ged writes:

On arrival at the Frangipani Tree, we couldn’t help but notice the cricket bats and stumps mixed in with tennis equipment and swimming gear. “Oh yes”, we are told, “the staff are always up for a late afternoon game of cricket if any of the guests request it”. “Where do they play?” asked Daisy. “Over there.” A vague wave of the hand indicated the direction of the tennis court and several villas.

The next day was the start of the World Cup. We requested a game of garden cricket and the staff seemed delighted. There was another English family around and they expected that the young man of that family, Chris, would also be up for a game. He was. “Do you play?” I asked him. “A bit,” he said, which turned out to mean, “a hell of a bit more than you, Ged Ladd”.

The field of play was a little unusual. One side of the tennis court was basically the pitch. You could only score in front of the wicket. A villa provided significant fielding cover from square leg through midwicket and you were allowed only one run if the ball failed to clear that villa, six if you cleared it.

Frangipani cricket

Clearing the villa required a near-perfect combination of direction, upward trajectory and some power. The straight “V” was relatively normal, apart from the tree hazards, with the swimming pool making a very natural boundary. Apart from the net of the tennis court, the off-side was pretty hazard-free, with the perimeter wall of the resort designating the boundary.

The playing conditions were also a little unusual. Five players a side. Eight overs per team. Eight8, I’m thinking of calling it. It’s a terrific marketing idea, because it eliminates those rather dull, formulaic overs between over 4 and over 17 that seem to me to be blighting conventional cricket these days.

Chris and I opened the batting for our team with a respectable stand of 40-odd, of which I contributed about 15. The pitch had tennis-ball bounce, which makes sense really, considering that the pitch was a tennis court and the ball was a tennis ball.

It did make it possible for me to time and place my shots for once in my life. I mostly placed them in the direction of Daisy, who was playing for the oppo (once she put her camera down), as you needed to go aerial to avoid the hazards but also needed to avoid getting caught.

Our team managed 89-3 in our eight overs, which seemed like plenty until the oppo’s secret weapon, a big left-handed waiter named Sanjay, demonstrated the use of an asymmetric field designed to force off-side shots for right-handers but which allowed full-heaves to leg for the left-hander. Daisy scored a run off my bowling, which I’m still hearing about.


Does the England cricket team need a cartoon baker?

You need opening batsmen, you need a wicketkeeper, you need a spinner. You don’t always need a guy who looks like a cartoon baker.

That’s not to say that such a person isn’t of value though. Sometimes the captain will look round the field and think to himself: ‘Oh for a chubby, friendly face topped with curly hair that makes me feel like I’m about to be offered some fresh oven bottom muffins’.

If that happens, does Stuart Broad fit the bill? Most certainly not. If you want a vertically stretched version of the stroppy blonde boy from a 1950s novel, he’s your man. But if you want a jovial, red-faced, perspiring chap who looks like he’s keen that you try his new farmhouse loaf, you want Tim Bresnan.

Which is our way of saying that we have no opinion as to whether Stuart Broad or Tim Bresnan plays in the first Test against India.


Zaheer Khan and James Anderson

We’re all pretty lucky, you know. For the next few weeks, we’re going to get Zaheer Khan one innings and then James Anderson the next. It’s like our metabolism has suddenly allowed us a curry-pizza-curry-pizza diet. No muesli.

What follows isn’t really meant to be a comparison. It’s more about celebrating both bowlers’ strengths. It’s not about which of them is better. It’s about both bowlers being ace and hopefully lopping a few chunks off some oversized batting averages. Batsmen are dicks.

Adaptability

If we had to sum up Zaheer Khan, we’d say ‘jack of all trades, master of most‘. That phrase doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, but what does in this day and age? Capitalism? The plot of the Phantom Menace? You? Us?

James Anderson is on the Zaheer Khan path, but four years behind. He’s become effective through adding a second and third dimension to his bowling (Zaheer has five dimensions). Anderson’s first dimension was always pretty tidy, however, and it’s a dimension that comes to the fore in England.

Going the distance

Zaheer Khan is cannier. Zaheer knows it’s a marathon, not a sprint; that your third spell counts as much as your first in the grand scheme of things. He tends to conserve energy for when he needs it.

James Anderson, by contrast, has taken the ‘being ridiculously fit’ option. As quick at 5pm as he is at 11am, he’s like a Tour de France cyclist – he’s all sinew.

Zaheer also gains points for his physique in our book. Paunchiness hovers around him waiting to pounce the minute he stops running around for a living. That’s something we can all get behind.

To devious bowlers toppling spoilt batsmen! [Raises mug and then stares at the clock, willing time to go at eight times speed, like in a computer game, so that the beer hour might arrive sooner.]


Alastair Cook still proving people wrong

No comments as yet on our latest Cricinfo article.

We predict that at least one of the first ten will be about how Alastair Cook isn’t actually all that good and how Virender Sehwag’s better.

The other nine will be asking whether the article is supposed to be funny or not.


What is Sachin Tendulkar really thinking?

The Cricinfo headline reads: “Tendulkar not thinking of 100th ton”.

Now we haven’t got time to actually click the link and read the article, but we have got time to sit here with a beer or two, spending hours thinking about that headline.

How can Cricinfo know that Tendulkar isn’t thinking of his 100th ton? They state it with some certainty, but how can they actually know it to be true?

Option one: Cricinfo have spoken to Sachin Tendulkar

This can’t be true. Even if it were true, you can’t ask someone what they’re NOT thinking about. Is it possible to know? Surely if you mention a thing, you must be thinking about it in some small way.

If you aren’t thinking about a particular thing even slightly, you’re not cognisant of the true meaning of the words that describe that thing and therefore cannot state with certainty that you aren’t thinking about it.

You have to understand the question in order to answer and in so doing, you have to think about the thing you’re not thinking of.

Conclusion: Cricinfo have not spoken to Sachin Tendulkar.

Option two: Cricinfo have developed some sort of mind-reading device

This must be true. Furthermore, the device in question must be scanning Sachin Tendulkar’s brain for every hour of every day. How else could Cricinfo state with certainty that the diminutive batsman isn’t thinking about his 100th ton?

This is slightly unsettling, because we had until now considered Cricinfo to be a peaceful organisation that did not possess sinister futuristic technology that could potentially be used to enslave mankind.

We’re also interested to know what will happen should Sachin read this Cricinfo headline. Surely, if this were to happen, the 100th ton will be thought about, if only for a split second.


Under-nines match report

Bert writes:

What an exciting start to the season it has been for the Old Filchonians Under-nines Junior Development Squad. The first match of a new season is always a fascinating one, with the crowd and coaches wondering whether any of the players remember their techniques, the rules, or which end of the bat to hold. It is also the best gauge for seeing just how much your children have grown since last August. Bare ankles seem to be very much de rigueur this season, while parents shuffle about uncomfortably, trying not to appear tight-fisted to the other parents, but secretly thinking ‘there’s another year in them pants yet’.

Bert Jr. has come to this match straight from the rugby season, during which he spent most of his time standing and watching what was going on. Now that standing and watching is what he should be doing, he has taken to rugby tackling his fellow fielders during the matches. He is one step away from becoming a decent all-round sports boy, that step being to know which sport he is supposed to be playing and when.

The first match was a very tense affair. Filchonians batted first, but tight bowling limited them to 269 in their 16 overs (look up the rules of U9s cricket). So now it was over to the bowlers, who are of course the same people as the batsmen. A middle four-over spell was especially tight, with one bowler finishing with the remarkable figures of two overs, two maidens, two for minus six. It all came down to the final over, with Filchonians having 17 runs to defend. As a senior member of the team, Bert Jr. was entrusted with the ball. I really need to have a word with the coaches about the level of trust that can be placed on Bert Jr’s shoulders. So, in finest Cricinfo style, here is the commentary on that last, decisive over.

15.1 Five runs. A mistimed massive swipe trickles into the leg side (obviously), and is nicely fielded as the batsmen take a run. The crowd are getting quite vociferous – “Don’t throw it – run it in” – but the ball has gone for four overthrows anyway. Now what’s going on? The umpire is coming over to tell the parents and coaches to shut up and let the boys play. Now the parents are shuffling around staring at their feet.

15.2 Four runs. A well-flighted ball on off-stump, pitching just full of a length, massively swiped to the boundary (square leg, obviously) for four vital runs. Will this bowler ever learn that a ball that only bounces once will always risk a boundary?

15.3 Five runs. Chaos in the field! Another massive swipe to leg, another single, another pick up, another four overthrows. The umpire is watching the parents closely now, but all they are doing is shaking their heads in unison and muttering swear words to each other. Three needed now from three balls.

15.4 Dot ball. That’s a better length from the bowler, reaching the batsman fourth bounce. The batsman takes a massive swipe at it anyway, but misses and the ball goes through to the keeper. Amazingly, the keeper does not hurl the ball at the wickets. Wild applause from the crowd at this unusual restraint.

15.5 Wicket. Gone, got him this time! The massive swipe was never on to that ball, and the ball rolls under the bat and onto the stumps. Six needed from the last ball now.

15.6 One run. A massive swipe into the leg side is carefully fielded, and a desperate yell of “Nooooooooo” from the boundary prevents the overthrows. The match is over. Filchonians have won by four runs. The umpire is coming to have another word with the crowd, who are dispersing quickly.

So a tight finish to the match. The teams shake hands. The coaches call for volunteers to collect the boundary cones. The parents try to get the kids into the cars because it’s a school night and it’s already past bedtime and mum is not happy about these late nights as you should see his behaviour the day after cricket. The players, against all instructions, are in the bar buying crisps. Man of the Match goes to someone’s dad for that final, match-winning shout.


England’s one-day opening batsmen might stay the same

You dumb moon - Buzz Aldrin walked on your face

For us, this is the biggest positive to have come out of England’s one-day series win against Sri Lanka. In one-day cricket, your opening batsmen are pretty much your most important players and England have rarely had a decent, settled partnership.

The run-up to the last World Cup was pretty typical. Mere weeks away from the event, Steven Davies opened, then Matt Prior, before Kevin Pietersen was given the job after a scissors-paper-stone marathon involving everyone who made it to breakfast at the team hotel one particular morning.

The chopping and changing never seems to end and England rarely start a 50-over match without feeling like they’re two wickets down before a ball is bowled. No starts, slow starts and bad starts – those are the ways in which England start their innings. Cook and Kieswetter haven’t done this.

Who knows, they might actually start to get used to each other. If they make a complete arse of the job against India later in the summer, can we maybe just give them the benefit of the doubt? The abiding suspicion that the grass is greener elsewhere rather overlooks an English one-day opening landscape that is as lush as that bit of the moon where Buzz Aldrin spilt bleach.


Harbhajan Singh is part way there

Sing, Harbhajan Singh - sing it loud, sing it clear and sing it strong

Cricinfo have done a ‘how will history judge him?’ kind of article in the wake of Harbhajan Singh’s 400th Test wicket. Seems weird. He’s still playing, right?

Harbhajan is now 31. He’s hardly shopping for his last pair of slippers. Graeme Swann had played about a dozen Tests by that age.

Maybe Harbhajan should have eased back a bit in the early days. He had two blinding years about a decade ago and everyone thought that was the norm. Set the bar low, Harbhajan. Give yourself room for manoeuvre. Trust someone who’s a past master at pacing himself.

Anyway, 400 wickets? There’s plenty more to come. He’s getting cannier even if he isn’t getting more dynamic and he’s always had that dickish streak that’s such a vital component of so many of the best bowlers.

To Harbhajan! [Raises empty glass and decides that, on balance, there probably isn’t time for another one. But no matter, the glass is raised all the same. But it doesn’t feel the same. It feels false. Turns out it does matter. Another one? No, too late. Bit of a limp toast then. Sorry about that Bhajji. Hope you understand. It’s not a reflection on you, it’s just a whole beer, just for one toast? You know. Seems a bit much. We are on our own at the minute. And it’s not like you read this website anyway. Why don’t you read this website, by the way? Is there some problem with it? Yeah? What kind of problem? Okay. Outside. Let’s settle this once and for all.]


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