Friday, 26 October 2012

Inverarity is wrong about the doosra

And so is everyone who says you can't bowl it without chucking. I’ve changed my mind a little over this debate. My biggest post in terms of hits (86) with was this one, about Saeed Ajmal and my opinion that he chucks his doosra.

In one sense I haven't changed my mind, I still think Ajmal chucks his doosra (not to mention his teesra) but I also said in that post that I didn't see how it was possible to bowl the doosra without chucking it. I’ve sort of changed my mind on that one.

Saqlain Mushtaq was one of the first to bowl the doosra well, and there were never to my knowledge any questions about his action. Muralitharan obviously couldn't fully straighten his arm, and I don’t believe he necessarily chucked his doosra.

This brings me to John Inverarity and his comments about not wanting young Australian bowlers to bowl the doosra. Talking to an Australian Cricket Society lunch he said, "The question is being asked now about 'do we develop the doosra bowlers or not'. That's a question of integrity for Cricket Australia. I don't think we do" He also said "We've got to keep our integrity and teach our bowlers to bowl properly"

Would he not even want them to bowl it if they could bowl like Saqlain or had a hyper-flexible/double jointed wrist that allowed them to do so without chucking? What needs to be recognised is that calling someone for chucking can ruin their career, and so encouraging bad actions is a bad thing to do, but not all doosras are produced from bad actions

So, that doesn’t mean that a blanket ban on bowling the doosra should be imposed by Australian cricket. Most off spinners won't be able to manage it, Graeme Swann has freely admitted that he has tried and failed to bowl a consistent doosra, but some might.

Inverarity, in trying to get rid of the doosra, has set himself all sorts of unorthodoxy. Wrong footed actions like that of Mike Proctor, or more currently Jack Shantry, may be a bad thing to teach, but that doesn’t mean they should be coached out of people to whom they come naturally.

Without unorthodoxy, comes no innovation. Bernard Bosquant was impugned for being against the spirit of the game for inventing the googly, yet now nobody would argue against the googly as being a part of the game.

The googly is a good comparison to make, because for a hundred years, leg-spinners have had their ball that goes the other way, surely the off-spinners should be allowed to at least try to bowl theirs? 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Sri Lanka are swimming against the T20 tide

Just when Sri Lanka had a t20 team that could prove as a blueprint to others, they’re looking set to take it back five years by ignoring the formula for t20 success these days.  Sri Lankan chief selector, Ashantha de Mel told ESPNCricinfo that his team needed more “strong hitters who can clear the boundary successfully” and seemed to imply that Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Matthews weren’t bi g enough hitters.

Way to miss about a century’s worth of evolution in the t20 format. Back in 2003 when the format made its domestic debut in England’s Twenty20 Cup, teams were unsure of how to approach it, most batsmen seeing it as an opportunity to have a slog at every ball, and most bowlers seeing it as a way to ruin their figures.

In just nine years that’s changed significantly. Bowlers are now being discovered in t20, where the ability to keep pressure on is  invaluable, batsmen are learning that rotating the strike is important, and even though it’s just twenty overs, so is keeping wickets in hand.

Just look at West Indies’ win in the World t20 final, they were just 32 for two after ten overs. It was a poor start, but they hadn’t panicked, if they had they might have lost several more wickets, and not given Marlon Samuels the chance to make a competitive, and in the end match-winning target.

Sri Lanka’s strategy after losing early wickets may have been the same, but it didn’t come off for them on the day. Adding two or three inexperienced power hitters like Dilshan Munaweera wouldn’t have necessarily given them a better chance.

All the stats show that classy batsmen are the best in T20 cricket. Out of the ten highest averaging players in T20Is, eight are successful Test batsmen, showing how important class can be if you combine it discerningly with a bit of power at the right times. That list includes no Sri Lankan batsmen, but both Jayawardene and Sangakkara average 30 or over and have healthy strike rates.

By all means, add some power hitters down the order, but Sri Lanka’s top three are as good as any in the T20 game, adding Dilshan to the aforementioned players. The problem is players like Lahiru Thirimanne, whose part in the World T20 was puzzling, as a specialist batsman, batting up and down the order, scoring 27 runs in 4 innings, yet playing all seven games.

His place could be taken by another bowler, allowing Sri Lanka to play Herath and Dananjaya alongside Mendis, or by an all-rounder, both of those solutions would balance the team more. Even if they replace Thirimanne with another batsman, they need to add someone who can bat at four, someone classy, the sort of player who has been a success in the longer forms of the game. They might not be able to find that player, but that’s what they should be looking for. 

Hat tip to Rohit-Cricket for the stats I used, very interesting piece about the best T20 players being good in all formats. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

How interesting is the CLT20

Getting interested in the CLT20 might be a difficult thing for me. It's getting to the stage of t20 burnout, there hasn't been an international in another format since 5h September and there won't be another one until the beginning of November. Once we get to then there's some tantalising Test and ODI cricket on the way, but before then we have another three weeks of t20 as South Africa plays host to the Champions League.

I'm no huge fan of the tournament, it is skewed ridiculously in favour of the stakeholders for an ICC endorsed event  - it has its own window in the calendar – and the fact that it's in a form of the game that isn't even my second favourite is another sticking point. But it is the only televised cricket - bar a small amount of domestic cricket live-streamed by the Australia and New Zealand boards - on at the moment, so I can imagine I'll end up watching it anyway. If you can't get caviar, you’ll have to make do with fish eggs.

I've got a feeling that I will end up being fairly interested in it, because even though it has its down points, there is a chance to find out about new players that I've never discovered before, from Unmukt Chand of Dehli Daredevils to some of the brilliant fielders in the Auckland Aces team.

Close matches are the most important thing though. The World t20 lost my attention at times in the first group stage, because, as fun as the occasional thrashing can be, game after game of Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan getting tonked doesn't make for a good tournament. Hopefully the qualifiers will mean that all eight teams involved are well matched, although the four overseas players of each IPL franchise, compared to the two of most other teams, will skew the competition to an extent.

So in summary: it's cricket, so I suppose I will be watching... though I may be bored to death of t20 cricket by the end of it. Thank God for Test cricket in November - even if it is in the middle of the night. Who needs sleep anyway?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Winning on first innings runs: the coward's way out

North Zone's cowardly failure to enforce the follow on against West Zone in the Duleep Trophy Quarter Final is symptomatic of what's wrong with Indian cricket. Let me break it down for you. In their first innings North Zone put a imposing total of 484 then bowled West Zone out for 164.

That left them with a lead of 320 on first innings, more than enough you'd think to enforce the follow on. But North Zone chose to bat again. That's a perfectly acceptable decision, assuming they were going for quick runs. 67 overs later they declared on 208 for seven, setting West Zone 529 in 29 overs at, oh about, 18 an over.

Now why you say would a team set such a ridiculous target and stop themselves having a chance to win the match outright, well because they were ahead on first innings runs they had already secured qualification assuming the match was a draw. There was no incentive for North Zone to go for the win, although the fact that they didn't even try to give themselves any time to win the game with such a big lead reflects badly on captain Shikhar Dhawan.

It's a easy argument to make that rules promoting such a negative form of cricket at domestic level leads to negative, risk-averse players coming through into the international team. Look at MS Dhoni, a man who lacks any kind of initiative to try to force wins. Compare him to Michael Clarke, who has made a point of setting attacking fields and clever declarations to try to force wins out of a team which doesn't have the legends of the previous era.

When they went in to bat in their second innings, North Zone had 14 overs until the end of play. What would Clarke/Brearley/Benaud etc have done? They'd have sent their batsmen out for quick runs, tried to set 400 then declare at the end of the day. 400 as a last day target on a pitch which neither team scored at over three an over in their first innings would have been near impossible, and 96 overs would be ample time to go for the win. Alas it wasn't to be, and it's to the detriment of Indian cricket.

I'm not sure there is a solution to this problem, because there needs to be a tie breaker to put the team through in a knockout cup like the Duleep Trophy. First innings runs is a logical one, but the unintended consequences are dire, so if you've got a better idea stick it in the comments.