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Getting punched in the nuts

In blah, Strategy, world cup on May 15, 2010 at 2:26 am

You know how it is when watching one of those shows titled “World’s wankiest bloopers” or similar. Where people send in video evidence of their attempts at getting eliminated from the gene pool. The skateboarder coming down the metal railing of the staircase to be met with an immovable object. Or a father and toddler dancing to some music before the son punches the father in the nuts without warning. Yeah, those videos. The ones that make you laugh and cringe at the same time. That’s how it was for all non-Pakistani fans in yesterday’s T20 Semi-Final.

For Pakistani fans, it must’ve been like the dude that’s having a good time and gets punched in the nuts by his 4 year old. Painful.

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the Klu-Klux Klan and real-estate agents

In blah, sports, world cup on September 25, 2007 at 1:30 pm

Event 1a: Jan 22, 1973. The court rules in favour of Ms Roe (real name Norma McCorvey) in Wade v/s Roe

Event 1b: Twenty years later the crime rates in all of the United States plummeted to all time lows.

Steven Levitt (author of Freakonomics) said not only are the two events not unrelated, but that the first caused the second. The reason, the first event legalized abortion in the US.

Event 2a: Year 2007 – India wins the 20-20 world cup

Event 2b: Year 2020 (yes, the year). The venue: Helsinki, Finland. The ICC has progressed in its efforts to globalize the game. (Not much of a risk considering the expat asian population that fills the stadium). The crowd is a sea of the India tricolour and the green and white of Pakistan (The flags are now thin flexible LCDs that can be programmed to display varying flags and insignia. So, the uprooted asian can still be a part of the community and support the local team when their ‘birth country’ team isn’t involved).

The captains face up for the toss (sponsored by Pepsi). The spectators (on the ground and in their homes), watch expectantly as the coin drops with a faint thunk (toss-mike sponsored by Intex) on the grass. The Indian captain wins the toss and elects to bat. The giant screen shows “Uttam Singh – Mirpur”, picked by an instant draw who texted in ‘India – Bat’ using the code on the bottom of his Pepsi can. The prize, Hero Honda’s newest 1700 cc bike, ‘Manhood’. A commercial plays (on the giant screen and tvs worldwide), the Indian captain zooms up from the depths of a steep ravine, rescuing a ridiculously hot chick, brakes in front of the camera and says “Girls love riding on my manhood”.

The teams go back to their dugouts to await the results of the HDFC ek kadam aage process. Fans text in their preferred batting order and the exact match with the order submitted by the captain are deemed winners (who receive bright yellow caps with HDFC on the front). Instant draw picks a mega-winner and hooks him up via webcam showing a picture-in-picture of him explaining his rationale for the batting order.

The batsmen come out onto the ground to the roar of the crowd. The dynamic logos on their shirts and bats swirl and radiate as they approach the wickets. The batsman takes guard and gives the thumbs up to the umpire (on a distant building rooftop in the background, a huge glowing Thums Up ad glows brilliantly for a few seconds). Windscreens slide into place to block the light breeze running across the ground to prevent undue deviation of the ball. During change of overs, they show recorded footage depending on which side is doing worse.

The umpire signals for play to begin. Bowlers no longer exist. The fielding captain presses a button on a device, called the Bowlflex (no sponsors) and the metallic arm delivers short of length, 6″ outside off stump, at precisely 84 mph. The device allows captains to impart a degree of swing and vary speeds between 70 mph and 88 mph (for seam up bowling) and (55 – 75 mph for spin bowling) – The speeds were calibrated after analysis over a 3 year period showed that speeds out of this range were not conducive to stroke-making.

As the batsmen launch into their shots, a panel of experts consisting of past Indian captains and one surviving retired fast bowler discuss the Bowlflex settings chosen by the captain. (40% bowlers underwent intensive rehab to retrain as batsmen, the remaining committed suicide). Viewers call in to discuss their strategies with the experts. (only callers subscribing to the new Reliance ‘cricket ki lo’ plan can avail of this feature)

Shivraj Singh launches another one into the Sahara stand. The crowd roars…

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20-20 ‘four’sight

In opinion, sports, world cup on September 18, 2007 at 7:42 am

Cricket’s turned a corner with its latest format involving 20 overs a side and skimpy cheerleaders. While opinions are divided about whether its the saving grace or the death knell for the game, its generally accepted that its likely to have a permanent impact.

The timeline of development of the game over time could be divided into 3 phases:

Phase I – Need for results

The accidental format played to compensate for a test match lost to rain as a way to kill time turned out to be quite an entertainer and addressed a few of the downsides of test match cricket.

  • Five days – 15 sessions – 30 hours of cricket
  • Preponderance of draws making the game look less competitive than it was
  • Emphasis on individual records than team results

Phase II – Packer, floodlit cricket and the tube

It took a while for the limited overs version to emerge from the shadow of real ‘test-match’ cricket. Games were still played in the template of tests with the result of most games being an after-thought. It took a businessman to take giant strides to unlock the potential of the game and make some key developments.

  • Tournaments involving more than 2 countries making results more significant
  • Coloured clothing and white balls, even for teams from the subcontinent (pardon the weak pun) made games more viewable for television since video cameras, in those days, weren’t good enough to track the red ball

Phase III – Handcuff the bowler

Even the instant version of the game suffered from the drawback of being about twice as long as that most yawn-inducing of sports called baseball. To compensate for the lull periods, a 30-yard circle was drawn, field restrictions were introduced and anything shaving leg-stump was deemed to be a wide.

Recent modifications have added 5 more overs of merry hitting albeit in 3 installments to total 20 overs

But, in spite of all those changes, 100 overs of cricket means periods of consolidation and the price of an entire day for those at the ground.

20-20

This format is pretty much 50-50 cricket, with the 20-40 over stages of each innings carved out. Hence, the biggest positive, for viewers, is the duration that’s comparable to a bollywood flick (75 mins/innings + 10 min changeover)

However, in its current format, it suffers from the same ills of predictability, though at a more frenetic pace. Going by past record, the game will have keep getting shortened to eliminate every shot that is not aimed at clearing the boundary.

The problem (that applies to all limited-over formats)

The bowler has been reduced to a non-entity barring the odd burst and fielding captains have nothing to do but damage-control. Every rule and development in the game is heavily loaded in favour of the batsmen, right from the power plays to the bats that clear the boundary even off thick edges, not to mention the rock hard flat pitches.

The solution

Make it an actual contest between bat and ball and not just between 2 batting line-ups. While any measure to curtail batsmen would be as daft as what has been done to bowlers, they could be made to actually earn their runs.

  1. Eliminate the french cut : Is there a more frustrating sight than to see a bowler do everything right to beat the batsman only to find the ball take the edge (inside or outside) and run away to the boundary? Sure, it was fun when the batsman was Utthappa and the bowler was Anderson, but it does not make sense to penalize the bowler for beating the bat! The area between fine leg and thirdman should be a ‘No run’ zone. This won’t eliminate too many actual shots, maybe a few dinky reverse sweeps
  2. Scoring zones decided by the fielding captain : Certain areas in the field could be deemed to offer bonus runs for 5 over periods. This would mean the fielding captain would look at his bowlers and decide where would it be most difficult for a batsman to hit it? e.g The area between deep extra cover and long off could be the zone for a 5-over period and the batsman could get 1.5 times the runs for every boundary hit through there (so no mistimed agricultural hoicks but actual middle of the bat shots)
  3. Rolling substitutions : Allow batsmen to be replaced if the batting captain feels he has a better batsman for a particular kind of bowler. This means, that both captains have the opportunity to pit their best against those of the opposition.

All said it will take more than just reducing the duration of the game to make it as viewable as most other sports.

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Chappelli rules

In blah, sports, world cup on March 27, 2007 at 7:27 pm

The first Super-8 match is halfway through and the defending champions have scored a very defendable 322. No, this is not another world-cup match review post. That the channel remained on Setmax was purely function of the fact that i had left the remote more than arms-length away. Left me open to the inane chatter of Mandira Bedi and Charu Sharma, but an unexpected bonus was that instead of the nonsensical Ayaz Memon, it was Ian Chappell on air. I’ve always been floored by the insightful comments the man makes. Not surprising why he was one of the best captains to’ve played for Australia. And sure enough, some points to ponder from the 2nd best commentator I’ve heard (1st being Benaud):

“When a spinner beats a batsman as completely as Samuels did to Hayden on that occasion, the ball simply has to land in the park, else there’s something wrong”

A reference to the quality of bats today that have much more wood but are not as packed/compressed (resulting in more distribution and therefore being easier to lift). A Hayden miscue off Samuels after he beat the batsman in flight ended up looping over the long-on fence. With the disruptive improvements in bats today, even badly timed shots go a long way. If administrators do not take this into consideration, spinners will become extinct.

“Shaun Tait is a handy weapon to have but as captain you have to realise that he will either bowl really well or will be very expensive (never in between). Also, his action will invariably result in injuries over his career.”

While the rest of the world Oohs and Aahs over the pace that Tait generates, Chappelli gives the captain’s assessment. Looking at his action that depends so much on his final stride with the extreme stress he puts on his back and front leg, one sees what he means

“Administrators need to consider bringing back the use of the 2-piece cricket ball to counter the heavier bats today”

The conventional cricket ball today consists of 4 pieces sewn together as opposed to 2 halves in ‘days of yore’. This results in a softer ball that loses shape and therefore does less in the air. The decision was made decades ago to let bats survive longer. However, to counter the growing domination of bats, maybe its time to bring the harder balls back. Another interesting point was how the size of golf balls was increased so they wouldn’t travel as far with the improvement in club technology.

Was a welcome change to have the two dimwit hosts completely incapable of contributing and therefore silent. If only there was a way to air-brush them out of the picture too.

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burn baby burn…

In rant, sachin, sports, world cup on March 25, 2007 at 1:05 pm

It’s only fair. I think its fitting that the cover page of the Hindustan Times and the Times of India showed angry fans burning/blackening posters of Sachin Tendulkar. It’s perfectly understandable that similar such fans grouped together and went to the Tendulkar residence and turned off the electricity mains to his apartment after he got out for nought in the crunch game against Sri Lanka. Thanks to every news channel for showing scrolling sms’s and emails from angry fans about how a bunch of “overpaid individuals interested only in making money” have let the nation down.

Serves the whole bunch of ’em right, especially Sachin Tendulkar. He should’ve known. He should’ve known when he first appeared on the test team as a 17 year old. He certainly should’ve have had an inkling when he stroked a hundred at Perth or when he set about redefining the term ‘opening batsman’ in one-day international cricket by going after the new ball in New Zealand. Over the years, he stubbornly refused to learn from the zillions of opportunities. Each time he set about dominating attacks or playing rear-guard on foreign pitches. Each time he raised his bat for having completed triple figures. Each time that opposition captains and their bowlers huddled together to work out ways to dismiss him and celebrated like the match was won when his was the first and only wicket to have fallen. He cannot feign ignorance when that ‘hard-as-steel’ veteran Steve Waugh said in his post-match interview that “We were beaten by a better player” (and not team). Not only that, he even had the audacity to exhibit his love for the game, I mean, how dumb do you have to be to celebrate a direct-hit runout as wildly as you celebrate a ton? oh, and especially when the throw wasn’t even yours?! Ridiculous!

Just because he was born with a rare combination of talent and temperament that will most likely never be seen again for several generations, he can’t just ignore the fact that his performances are the closest that, millions of people come, to a sense of achievement. He might claim in his defence that he is only a sportsman and only went out to give his best and that the rest  was never under his control, but that would be indeed weak. That it was unfair for spectators (and of that category, we have hordes) to shirk the responsibility of their own ambitions and need for fulfillment, and to tack it to the blade with MRF printed on it. He might plead that rarely have sportsmen maintained superlatives levels of performance for the duration of time that he has. What of his debt to the millions of this nation who, bereft of ability or temperament, will never amount to anything in the duration of their existence? He owes those teeming masses who will live their lives in utter mediocrity never having the opportunity to taste success for themselves. He owes them big.

As for the other 14, several of whom might’ve first picked up a bat because of the person discussed above, who are currently wondering about the physical safety of themselves and their families. For Rahul, Zaheer, Ajit, Sehwag and co. The teeming blue billion have extracted the ultimate pound of flesh. Never again will they enjoy a game of cricket like they must’ve when they first picked up a bat or a ball. For they will now, more than ever, realise that this country does not understand the concept of competition or sportsmanship.

Sachin Tendulkar and the rest should be ashamed to be Indian. I know I am.

 

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India V Sri Lanka – preview

In sports, world cup on March 22, 2007 at 2:41 pm

If you believe the Sports pages of most dailies, certain key match-ups determine the fate of a cricket match. Hence, we are likely to see ‘Sehwag v/s Malinga’, ‘Murali v/s Sachin’, ‘Agarkar v/s Jayasurya’ and so on and so forth as being the deciders for India. Good reading aside, how can these ‘head-to-head’s be the deciding factors when their occurrence in themselves is a function of probability?

BOWLING

If bowling first, anything in excess of 230 at the Queen’s Park Oval is trouble. This is because of 3 reasons:

  1. Chasing under pressure is the worst situation to be in cricket
  2. India are not a good chasing side (inspite of the long list of successful run-chases, those were in bilateral series)
  3. Sri Lanka’s strength is its middle-overs slow bowlers adept at choking oppositions

That SL will score big if their openers; Tharanga and Sanath bat undefeated for 20 overs is not open to debate. However, India’s vulnerabilities have usually been against the ‘2nd wave’ – about the time that the opening bowlers complete their spells and the 3rd and 4th bowlers come on. These don’t even have to be part-timers, even with genuine bowlers, we tend to let the intensity subside and the opposition to play their way. This period, unhappily for India, coincides with the time that their best batsman, Sangakarra, is likely to be at the crease. In conjunction with Silva and Arnold, he could take the game away.

STRATEGY
  • Be flexible and sharp while ringing in bowling changes. Change the opening bowlers after 3-4 overs each (unless wickets are tumbling) and keep to short spells to not let the batsmen settle
  • Consider delaying power plays if under attack and take them immediately after wickets fall
  • Bounce ’em! (every couple of overs) Barring Sangakarra, they do not like it short. This warrants getting Sreesanth in at the expense of a spinner.
BATTING

If chasing, it will need two of the top three to play a big one. If batting first however, the typical Indian innings shows a spirited charge in the first 15 followed by a lethargic stroll from 16 – 40. The Lankan bowlers get better with dot balls and soon the trickle of runs goes dry. Our weakness lays in giving too much respect to the likes of Vaas and the disinterest in quick running when a combination of Sehwag, Ganguly, Yuvraj are at the crease.

STRATEGY
  • Do not go in with pre-conceived defensive intent against any bowler, particularly Vaas and Murali. Play the bowling rather than the bowler and show intent with aggressive running
  • Reassess target totals every 5 overs and change gear accordingly. Something we fail miserably at.
  • Run scoring against the Lankans gets more difficult as the innings progresses, so go in thinking about scoring 60% of the runs in the first 25 overs 

BOTTOMLINE : Arm-chair analysis rules!

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Advertising World Cup

In advertising, blah, world cup on March 21, 2007 at 7:58 pm

Friday is India’s “Do-or-Die” encounter against Sri Lanka and the match has just the right amount of tantalizing lead-ups to it to make it an advertiser’s delight. If we could get access to security camera footage from some of the biggest corporates in the world, it would be funny to see company chiefs fervently praying for a victory to the team representing one of their largest markets. And it doesn’t matter who’re official sponsors, pretty much all the usual suspects will be rooting for team India come friday.

Akin to an assignment we had in Advertising class, I noted some of the ads on display in an hour of cricket and then rated them on memorability on a scale of low-medium-high. I excluded brands on players’ clothing and equipment since they vary by teams.

TV Commercials: Pepsi, Nike, Hutch, Reliance Comm, Airtel, BSNL, Videocon, LG, Sansui, ITC, Nokia, Gopal supari, Mcdowells, Dainik Jagran, Daikin, Gillette, The Mobile Store, Maruti, Thomas Cook, Hero Honda, TVS, Sprite

On-field placements : Hutch, Hero Honda, LG, Pepsi, Visa, Gatorade

On-screen placements : Hutch, 99acres.com, ITC, Western Union, monster.com, Union Bank, Nokia

LOW

The ads with lowest impact are unsurprisingly the on-screen and on-field placements due to their static nature. However, out of those the on-screen placements vary in impact depending on when they appear. 99acres.com and Western Union would lose out to monster.com and Union Bank, the difference being the former are shown during live action and the latter during action replays. I figure a viewer would be more likely to notice a logo on screen during a slow-motion sequence and not be as irritated with it as during live play

MEDIUM

The TV commercials without too many repeat airings would be in the middle, although some ads like Airtel stay in mind inspite of being infrequent. I would rate the Gatorade on-field ad to be in this category simply because it would be compelling for spectators at the ground while sitting under the sweltering hot sun. It would be a crime for expensive commercials to fall in this category since at the end of the day, the viewer might just confuse your ad with a competitor’s

HIGH

Finally, the ones that stay determined by a function of number of times they’re aired. But a boring ad falling in this category would just irritate viewers (like Videocon, Sansui, Gillette). On the other hand, Nike, Airtel, Sprite have made ads that have repeat viewability.

THE WINNER

The most ubiquitous brand hands down, in my opinion, is Hutch. The catchy SML plan ads (of which there are several versions) combined with the distinctive on-field logos and billboards. Add to that the free publicity from the acquisition bid, and we have a clear winner.

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f***wits

In rant, sports, world cup on March 19, 2007 at 6:11 am

Appalling…spineless…petulant! The first two words would’ve been seen with increasing regularity since the time Bangladesh scored their winning runs against India, but not the last one. That’s because I’m referring, not to the 12 who represented India in the game, but the millions of ‘supporters’ who have been ‘wronged’.

  1. Portly housewives wearing pads over their sarees as they beat up pictures of Dravid and co.
  2. Mobs in various parts of the country burning effigies representing the ‘villains’
  3. Other mobs pelting stones at players’ houses
  4. Politicians, beurocrats, BCCI administrators condemning the performance and demanding redress

Just who in F***’s name do we think we are?! Somewhere in the process of the game gaining its astronomic popularity and its players becoming household names, every tom, dick and harry in our populous country thinks he has part ownership of the Indian cricket team. Its like each person believes that its our magnanimity that allows each of those 11 individuals to be out on the field. That they perform for our entertainment.

What the f***wits don’t understand is that its a sport, not a bullshit reality tv show where every line is scripted to pander to their tastes. In sport, you go out, give it your best and look to play better than your opposition on the day. While the best sporting encounters are when there are two teams playing at their best, that, often is not the case.

Did the Indian team play at their best? Not by a huge margin. Did they try like mad? HELL YEAH! The same f***wits might point out that this was against a team that has been the traditional punching bag for every heavyweight. Fact is, if you blank out the names on the backs of their shirts, and monochrome the video, you’d have a hard time figuring out what team this was. They might be brought back down to earth by the Lankans, but on that day, they were near flawless in their efforts.

They’re sportsmen and must be hurting from that defeat and in a perfect world, their response would be to launch themselves at their next opponent to give them a memorable cricketing lesson. But when the l’il shits back home are stoning your homes, you can’t help but wonder if they’ll just show everyone the middle finger on live television and walk off the field. With all the afficionados of the game that we have, it shouldn’t be a big deal to replace all of them with better players, should it? Or maybe the f***wit response will be to show their rabid competitiveness by going online and voting to eject some pseudo-celebrity off a f***wit show.

World Cup flashbacks

In sachin, sports, world cup on March 13, 2007 at 9:57 am

World cup 2007 starts off today and its hard to miss with every instrument of the media targetting the event in its spotlight. Got me thinking of the world cups that I’ve experienced.

1992 – Australia/New Zealand
My first world cup and what a start! The bold coloured clothing, the catchy theme song that played before every game that ended with “…who’ll rule the world…just see…who’ll rule the world” followed by a graphic of a ball smashing into a set of stumps followed by the match of the day. The round-robin format meant each team every other team and I thought India was the unluckiest team of the tournament. We lost to Australia by 1 run (after the rain rule had deducted 3 overs and 1 run from our run-chase), to England by a slim margin, our game against Sri Lanka (minnows then) was washed out. Couldn’t have been worse than what South Africa faced though, needing 21 from 13 balls in their semi-final against England, the rain intervened, the equation was revised to 21 off 1 ball…just like that! I remember thinking only cricket, working out result combinations on the back of my notebooks in school while the teacher droned on. My booster dose of cricket.

Unforgettable moment : Jadeja’s diving one-handed catch in the outfield to dismiss Allan Border. Was later judged as the catch of the tournament.

1996 – India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka
The lamest world-cup of the lot that was timed just right so that it was at the same time as my ‘career-determining exams’, the HSC (the ones that determine whether you go become a doctor, an engineer or a nothing)…don’t look so surprised, thats how ‘conventional wisdom’ worked in those days. I do know I would have spent a lot more time studying had it not been for the cricket circus. Missed a few of the other games for obvious reasons, but saw all of India’s games. It all ended with the farce at Eden Gardens against Sri Lanka. The disappointment wasn’t helped by my results a couple of months later and the dismay of not getting into the city’s best engineering college. Forgettable times indeed.

Unforgettable moment : Aamir Sohail spanks two consecutive fours off Venkatesh Prasad and for good measure gestures to the bowler where he’ll hit the next one through. Next ball, Prasad knocks back Sohail’s off-stump. Crowd goes mad…literally. First (and only) time I used the f-word in the presence of my parents. India wins!

1999 – England/Ireland/Holland
They preponed the world cup so it wouldn’t clash with the Olympics! Somehow cricket in the land of its origin has always been a mouth-watering prospect for me, but the event was a bit of a let down in the quality of games. Mostly ordinary performances by India, an exception being the assault on Sri Lanka at Taunton. Felt like sweet ol’ revenge for having knocked us out of the previous edition. There were 2 games that stay in memory. The 2 Australia-South Africa clashes with the famed drop by Herschelle gibbs resulting in Australia qualifying for the semi-final. There they played the best game ever in a world cup.. The final was academic with the champions steamrolling Pakistan

Unforgettable moment : Defending a huge total, Australia seemed home and dry when they had taken key South African tickets when ‘the’ Lance Klusener launched one of the most savage counter-attacks in world-cup history. With 9 needed off the last over (a tie would see Austalia through), it was still in Australia’s favour. But Damien Fleming had his first 2 deliveries smashed to the cover fence. With 1 needed off 4 balls, Klusener played out 2 dots followed by the worst communication mishap on a cricket field resulting in Donald getting runout with no bat in hand. Match tied. Austalia qualify for the final.

2003 – South Africa/Zimbabwe/Kenya
India’s best world cup with near perfect performances against the likes of New Zealand and England. Its not often mentioned that this was thanks in part to Dr Ali Bacher for preparing flat concrete tracks for our batsmen to flourish. A Tendulkar master-class against Pakistan set up the perfect final. But then they ran into that automaton of brilliance and professionalism. You had to feel bad for our boys as each of their over-eager efforts were dissected with surgical precision by Ponting and co.The game was over by lunch and the deserving team won it without breaking into a sweat thus showing there was daylight between them and the rest.

Unforgettable moment : ‘That’ over, when Sachin reminded the world what he was all about. I’ve written about it too many times to repeat here…so refer here

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