Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mathews should not captain

I  hate to talk about individuals, but sometimes we have to breach that ethic when something looks so clearly evident and straightforward. This post is not favouring anyone or opposing the current captain as a player. To be frank, it is just to say that his captaincy looks so very dumb.

Yesterday SL lost with a heavy margin to Bangladesh. Although they were the favourites and a SL win would be a surprise at that moment, the scale of loss was too bad for even this weak team. It opens scary speculations about the team and its captaincy. It shows symptoms of chronic diseases that may not be cured in the short period before WC.

Despite the individual brilliance of Malinga, the rest looked like a flock of deer in the headlight. It wasn't the best opposition, just Bangladesh, and they were suffering from an injury and many collapses. I don't think the game was lost in any missed catches. I think they lacked a plan for the game entirely. And the captain was just hoping that something will bring the victory - something like a weather event or divine help or something.

I think the lowest point of the game was what happened after Tamim came for the second time to bat with the injury. He wouldn't have survived any delivery onto the stumps. But the only one he played was bowled to his body [WTF? injure him more?] and then SL captain never thought that other batsman should not be given the last ball single. That is street cricket, backyard cricket, or even no cricket but common sense. And that gives the best statement about SL captain.

That captaincy explains why SL loses. Have talent but no plan no thinking, just waiting for something to happen. And that also explains why SL does well in tests but fail in shorter formats. Simply because they play good strategies as evident in West Indies test series, where Mathews is not the captain. When he did last in tests we almost lost to Zimbabwe. Anyone would have been better, Chandimal, Lakmal, Tharanga, Thissara [Thissara was pretty good in captaining]. The batting failure also shows signs of lack of any plan, as they just played their shots and lost wickets.

Also, it was a crazy selection. For the lack of a batsman, they played a bowler. While having a player like Dickwella aside they played an extra bowler. Then to patch the hole they created in batting they played Dhanajaya too early and lost him. The only gain we had in SA series was the settling of no 6,7,8 with Dhananjaya Thissara and Dasun. It is very important to keep them intact, because, when Chandimal recovers they will surely be batting at those positions. If they want to fill Chandimal they should have played someone else. But keeping those 6,7,8 positions intact. For me, this tour's expectation would be how SL's 6,7,8 play in collapses [which will surely be there]. They should not have broken that just to accommodate this game.

Anyways, one more loss may kick them out in whichever stage. At least let's hope they'll do basics right. And among them, for me, is to relieve Angelo Mathews from this unnecessary burden of leading the side.

Nevertheless, I started suspecting the potential of the coach too. This cannot happen w/o his guidance.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ball tampering and illogical laws of cricket

In the follow up to Smith-Warner-Bancroft saga, the concerns of St Lucia incident involving Chandimal was already apparent. If we recap the proceedings, Smith-Warner-Bancroft saga had one high quality in it, that it was absolutely stupid. I mean, here we have a cricket team that discussed to change the shape of the ball in the team meeting, brought a sandpaper (of all things) and took it in the middle of the ground and applied it on the ball in clear daylight. If that much was not enough they chose a sandpaper with a yellow back, whereas yellow has been a color chosen for road marks for the drivers to see at a distance.

So, as expected, they got caught, confessed, cried, daddies patted, wives walked by and finally, we all have a clear case. Despite the shame and what not, everyone must be happy to have a clear decision in the game, win or loss you may call it.

But the real thing is not that clear, many scores level and game ends in the margin of doubt. Sitting in the middle of all the mess is the game of Cricket, the champion sport of vagueness and incomplete legislation. For an example, it is perfectly legal to tamper the ball with some things whereas some other things are not allowed. The allowed things are also not clear, and there is no definite margin. You are not allowed to apply foreign objects but you can apply a handkerchief which is a foreign unregulated object itself. You are not allowed to apply any rough material, but you can use your outfit. Now how many have thought of the possibility to have a sandpaper-like logo on the outfit?

This is another vague case in cricket like pitch fixing, where the curator is allowed to "fix the pitch" for the advantage of the home team, but not for the advantage of the bookies.

Laws are more than partial, in fact, they mean nothing here. They lead us to lunatic ends.

So did they in St Lucia. Dinesh Chandimal was thought to be feeding himself a sweet and rubbing saliva on the ball. So his action is deemed as a tampering, but had he taken the sweet during the break and kept it in his mouth, it would be perfectly legal to apply saliva. I mean, it is legal to apply saliva, legal to eat sweets, legal to have sweets in the mouth and apply saliva as long as you do not put it in the mouth in front of the camera. All that for a street myth that sweets change the shine of the ball.

And was it a sweet? As Chandi had sweets and almonds in the pocket and says that he does not remember which one it was. As the camera fails to find which one, he was in effect accused of "having sweets in the pocket" which any school kid can get caught when parents put their trousers to wash.

Now, this is not a face-saving for Chandi. Seriously, he may have intentionally changed the shape of the ball. Not only him, maybe most of these sweet chewing cricketers are doing the same. But it could equally be fair to say that they eat sweets totally unintentionally.

What a lunatic law is that cannot differentiate the two, define the margin. Not just here, the whole list of tampering techniques can be portrayed as totally innocent and natural actions, except for a yellow sandpaper

I don't know whether Dinesh Chandimal cheated or not, although he is hell bent insisting that he did not. But he is surely sitting on a match ban, as the same claim was upheld against Du Plessis. Punishment is going to be harsher than that due to current ICC drive against tampering (or the subset of tampering which they cannot stand). Regardless of his innocence, SLC (or whatever remains under that name) should take this the longest they can, for the sake of clarifying the law correctly, just like we managed with the flexing of the elbow.

Like I said before, we can tackle the yellow sandpaper in clear daylight. But such fools are so rare, mostly the culprits mimic the innocent and innocent get caught by mistake. Usually, a legal system should protect the innocent at the cost of the occasional culprit getting away, but here it does exactly opposite.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The rise of Bangladesh

After their back to back wins in Nidahas T20 Trophy against SL which eventuated the latter's exit, many are talking about the rise of Bangladeshi cricket. Most ppl think that it started with the tenure of Hathurusinghe. Although he was instrumental in the matter he wasn't everything.

If you want a turning point, you gotta go back to 2007 WC first round, India vs Bangladesh. See the scorecard. There are three names with 50+ scores. And those three names, youth at the time are the three colossal towers of their game in 11 years from there. India received an exit from WC after that game.

But that was only one fact. There are some other facts that Cricinfo won't report. The team management, cricket administration, school level upliftment, infrastructure development, etc. The secondary achievements like U19 dominance (most those noteworthy U19 players are now in national side), quality and effective first class (list A, T20 local included) and T20 franchise that is managed very well. Also most importantly the enthusiasm of a big nation that caused it all.

Bangladesh is a big nation, and their economy is capable of building a world-scale dominance like in India. Since the other big nation in cricket has gone bonkers, they have the capacity of becoming the other cash cow after India.

There was once a time where rich nations dominated cricket whereas poor nations struggled not only in the game but also in everyday life. Finances of the game were only ripe in richer nations and players of poorer nations merely volunteered for prestige and privilege. Although the struggle of everyday life may remain somewhat the same, the poverty lines have moved inside the national borders. Of those poorer nations, some rose up above the richer nations purely for their collective purchasing power, being bigger consumers in total hence having more value in the money invested in sponsored activity such as cricket. Population instead of per capita GDP became more important. And today they throw ridiculous amounts of money into the game where the players of richer nations look more like volunteers playing for prestige and privilege. It won't be SL or West Indies ever because few millions of people mean nothing anyways. But India, Pakistan or Bangladesh have individual populations bigger or in the range of the sum of all the other smaller test nations.

I am not talking about Bangladesh winning next WC. I am talking about the center of gravity moving close to them like it did with India. Them handing out big sums to first world beggars who would tweet and facebook after each game to patch up the hurts that their Bangali sahibs got from them during the match, just like hoe Starc would do after Smith's actions hurt his franchise master Virat Kohli. I foresee a second India across its Bengali border.

Speaking of India, money came long before but the recent in-ground dominance of India also began in a game in 2007 WC, incidentally against Bangladesh. Yes, the defeat in that same game changed Indian think tanks a lot and we all know their response through the past 11 years after that humiliation.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

ODI game is not for the hitters but diggers

Once, in recent times, India tried a young batsman who just turned 20. I think they had some opener slot free due to injury so they had him to open, against a 5 match series in SL.

The young opener was very slow for an ODI opener especially to match the legendary Indian openers. His returns were 12 (22), 37 (67), 25 (38), 54 (66), 31 (46). It was a low-scoring tour involving two Dambulla rock scaling games. But, despite the fact that he showed the potential for a long stay, his returns were characteristically too slow. He lost his position [maybe because the other guy recovered from injury].

He was dropped for one year and then he returned as a lower order player again against SL, to make 2 n.o. He got promoted to no 4 and for the first time played diff opponents, making 16(24), 79(104), 30(41), 10(16). 

They dropped him to lower order at times they made good runs as he was the slower cog of the wheel. Remember these are the days of great Tendulkar, Dravid, Sehwag, Dhoni and establishing heroes like Gambir, Raina, UV. They had every damn reason to drop him. They'd have found a "better hitter" by just waiting at the picket fence of a mercenary IPL dressing room, any one of them.

But they retained him. It was for the quality of his. The temperament of his. That they wanted the digger in him more than a wonton hitter they may find at every gate they knock. And moreover he was given a massive IPL deal and a permanent club to play for.

The lucky bastard is Virat Kohli. and this one is for those who still think ODI game is a hitter's game. I agree that his first many outings were too slow, but that is not the most important aspect. A good digger will turn a great hitter with much ease compared to vice versa.

I do not look at any particular SL player, but note that we need stable quality strong-minded young diggers, not six hitting broiler chicken. We may loose few games but the stability will be forever. Look next door for the little master if you doubt.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Gemstones surface in flushing flood erosion - I repeat

I wrote this article slightly more than a year ago, expecting a rank show against world number one Australia. I posted it with a different picture, never expecting to be proven picture perfect and totally wrong otherwise. Well, that was history but in a year the anomalies have disappeared and normalcy has taken its place. And here we are facing the much-expected humiliation in the hands of a different world number one.

What went wrong with my prediction last time, and went right for Sri Lanka then, can be summed up in three points.

  • In form Rangana Herath against Australia. But he did not show the same skills against India. If that is due to aging, well that would be a bigger hole than Sanga Mahela combined
  • Australia had no good spinners so we had the freedom to set pitches with as most spinning as possible. Sadly India has the two spinners who fight for world top rank and we had no idea how we should set the pitches.
  • Graham Ford had just started as the coach. The system was fully functioning and board sounded sensible. Neither is the case today, at best it is a cacophony for that symphony. Too many cooks poison the meal, and Ford jumped the boat before sinking.
Gemstones surface in flushing flood erosion. But whether we will pick them up is an entirely different question. In the agony of ongoing Indian tour, we encountered followings which are yet noteworthy. I hope whatever functioning administration would not miss them and try to enhance them.

1. In Niroshan Dickwella, we have an attacking ODI opener, a fighting test middle order player, a good wicket keeper and a good brain with potential for future leadership

2. In Akhila Dhananjaya we have a complete spinner with every trick in the book, well, almost [drift seem to be missing, depends on conditions too much]

3. In Vishwa Fernando we have a potential Vaas

4. Milinda Siriwardhana is a quality tail ender, and it was so unfair to drop him just for failing in one gloomy icy cold England tour.

Having said that let me copy paste my previous article with a whole new picture.

SL squad for Australia Tests:
Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal (vice-capt), Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Janith Perera, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal

If the word mismatch needs an example, look forward for the test series of Sri Lanka vs Australia. When we were at peak with experience and numbers in our ranks and they were at the rock bottom with juveniles, they still outplayed us in tests. When both seesaws changed its sides the gap may rise to a mount Everest. If that gap is not enough, SL sinks further with injuries to Prasad, Chameera, Vandersay and omission of Shaminda Eranga due to health and legalities.

The squad comes with many new faces and some surprises in non-selection. Noticeably, the top seven batters are pretty much predictable except for one lower order slot. Without the recent trials of Thiri, Mili and Shanaka either of the new players Roshen Silva or Dhananjaya De Silva is set to play in that. Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal have potential for some surprises. If Angelo regains his form, and openers do their defending bit at their best, you can hope for something. Kusal Perera can single-handedly win games, but he may need some time to find the game after ICC chased him to Siberia.

Roshen Silva averages 50.8 after 87 first class matches and that first class average is surpassed by only Angelo of all the SL players I can think of. Averaging more than Sanga, Mahela, Aravinda, or Thilan in first class after a reasonable period is seriously a bright factor, but you have this difficulty in interpreting what is meant by Sri Lankan first class which is played in below par conditions. Nevertheless it is unique, and if you consider that nearly a third of his first class innings are 50+ and he bats mostly in middle or lower middle, you may think he is an year-overdue solution for the problem.

In bowling there is a high likelihood that two Fernandos may sit back leaving regular pacemen to lead bowling.I personally think that the bowling in England was too conventional and there was no real attacking fast bowler. 18 year old Asitha Fernando may not be as fast as the grown ups but he may add that difference. However chances are high that they'd stick to the conservative solution.

Rangana's partner would be an interesting debate as Dilruwan is itching for a chance and Lakshan Sandakan looks equally competitive with his chinaman magic. Dilruwan is the third player with 30- average (take 40 wickets as minimum condition) behind the big two, hence deserving the slot. But a chinaman is as rare as that.

Of the non-selection, there will be debate over the drop of Milinda and Dasun Shanaka. Milinda misses selection with innings of 1, 68, 42, 35, 29, 62, 26, 0 and 35 and pretty effective bowling. Shanaka didn't get a fair chance for batting but his bowling created perhaps the only moment that SL was in control in England. Lack of their part-time bowling means that injury-prone Angelo is the only option other than the main bowlers. Nevertheless Thirimanne's name will get an standing ovation for getting dropped from the list.

Aussies are likely to play the the star of the practice game Steve O'Keefe instead of Marsh for their fifth bowler/all-rounder. They have five players averaging 49+ with bat, and bowlers of all variations. Lyon's offbreak combined with O'Keefe left arm orthodox may be like poison for spin-allergic SL batsmen. If that is not enough Starc shoots canon balls of150+.

Sri Lanka has beaten Australia only once in a test, and that win came with injuries to Steve Waugh and Gillespie which left them two men less in the second innings. A win this time is hardly an expectation but a national celebration. Hence any matches drawn can be considered equal to victory. Even in the case of total whitewash by them, I'd like to focus on individual performances as at this time what really matters is where we will be in 2-3 years time, not now. Let's pick gem stones as the flood gates open in Kandy on the 26th.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Let the order re-emerge within the chaos itself

I see that many people are talking about cricket. Some in jest some in despair some still having hopes. Some who did not like SL, cricket or cricket of SL are taking this opportunity too. Some even ask me why I did not write anything. Why should I? I mean has there been any unexpected event that should not have happened taken place suddenly?

I expected this and found it as a good research opportunity. I am glad they played 6-5 and found some answers regarding spin bowling and fast bowling questions.

Or do you want me to select a choice XI now and show my depth in team selection just because the XI failed? Any XI will fail, did you not know that?

It was pathetic and sad. Worrying and concerning. But not a surprise for hysterical or euphoric behavior. I am not surprised about the results of the three matches. But I am surprised about those who have suddenly found that SL is losing and got themselves surprised about it. Did you really expect to see a different result?

It has been a decades long period of mishandling, in which SL cricket beat the levels of Pakistan and West Indies boards to be the worst governing body, and was once crowned as the most corrupt institute within the corrupt nation, which may have been saved by the central bank now. It is run by a man with family connections to betting industry. It has been conducting musical chairs for team selection and coach selection. And 23 first class teams are accepted and select the board by means of their votes, hence creating a vicious cycle.

None of these are information to many, we all knew them well. But everyone seems to have woken up from a rosy dream and screaming in cold and anger. WTF is wrong?

If you still think that SL cricket died in Galle SSC and Pallekale and still wanna keep throwing stones at the unfortunate XI in the middle see the actual funeral proceedings that happened in front of your own eyes in past year or so.

You were there, you paid your final rites, so now let things calm down. If you believe in reincarnation, let the new being be revived one day, if you believe in God leave it in his hand. If you believe neither you know that there is nothing called fate and all is randomness, so let the order re-emerge within the chaos itself.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Tale of two tests

Sri Lanka, playing a world number one team, is expected to lose. Some may recall an Australian tour a year ago, yet, that was played in our conditions. Just like India claims entire Sri Lanka being within their naval military domain, so can they for our grounds - almost Indian territories. So what happened in Galle and SSC should not be a concern. Yet it is.

The issue is not in the fact that we lost, but how we did. How our key players performed and how we took up the challenges. Even more importantly how we selected the teams.

Having played the world number one team in pitches where a coin toss wins games most, we lost both tosses. That gave India a chance to deliver another knockout punch on already bleeding SL who'd fall anyway. Both times they amassed 600 or more. If not for their own demons two years ago in Galle, we'd have lost twice by innings, all told, done and dusted, just in the first innings, just after the toss precisely. 

Clearly, SL batsmen did their best, and if not for the 600 deficit that looms in the back of their head, they'd have done better. Other than the first innings of the second test, the batting was all right. Those are the kinda scores that win games in SL usually.  Most batsmen did something or the other in the four outings.

The key culprit is Rangana Herath. It is true that he did not do so well against India except for that Galle test, and hence would deliver same bowling figures anyway, but his bowling was all over the place. It is not the lack of wickets that scares me but the lack of beating batsmen so often as he was used to doing. Being a player with lesser armory - little turn more often than not - his weapons were strategies, placement, and guise. Neither of it was on display in either of the games. He'd bowl unusually batting friendly stuff, half pitch to full toss or leg side lollies. The worrying issue is whether it is age. 

The impact of ageing is sudden at times, as shown by Sanath Jayasuriya in the latter stage of his career. For a player who depends on the utmost subtlety in accuracy, Rangana Herath may have passed a point of no return to his previous skill level. If so, the accountant of SL Cricket can start his final ritual, the declaration of bankruptcy.

In both games, Lahiru and Malinda respectively played blunders on the first days. Their lack of anything in the bowling other than just tossing it up, gave away a necessary advantage. Shikar Dhawan capitalised on Lahiru where at 3/133 India regained valuable advantage off Malinda's 75k non-turning bouncers. Having said that both players played commendably well since then that they both deserve selection for next game. Malinda bowled turning and bouncing deliveries that beat opposition often and gave two wickets. He proved that his style drastically differs to Rangana, although they both turn the ball in the same direction using the same hand. I think SL should no longer look at him as next Rangana, for he is a different player, hence let him play even when Rangana is around.

So the question pops up about the selection. Fast or spin, India had the capacity to out bowl us. Yet we had more chance for fast bowlers to grab their wickets. Sadly it is a time that we had not many such players. Prasad and Chameera have never recovered or regained form after injury more than a year ago. Lakmal got injured and Eranga's state is unknown other than he was cleared [he left the game with a health issue on top of bowling action being reported]. The next level players of Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Gamage, Vikum Sanjaya et al never impressed recently. So only Nuwan Pradeep and Lahiru Kumara were all we had.

Even on that grounds, we should have played at minimum two pace bowlers in the second test. Having only Pradeep as the sole fast bowler, knowing that he always shows a fitness issue of dropping his pace at the end of the day, selectors were calling for trouble. He just delivered what was expected from him - an injury.

With that comes the debate of how the composition should be. Notably with Asela Gunaratne being absent should Sri Lanka play 6-5 leaving the lower order in the risky hands of Niroshan Dickwella and the bowlers. But in comparison, Dilruwan playing as a fifth bowler may well be a better option than an all rounder with nothing in every department. We can postpone this debate for next tour when Asela is fit, but for now, it was proven that our best all rounder, for the time being, is Dilruwan.

Last but not least is Dinesh Chandimal. He's done bad even by his own standards in this year. His highest against anyone but Zimbabwe or Bangladesh is 30 for 2017. And then he was named the captain. Having a history of lack of form taking him away from the automatic selection as the captain, Chandimal may well be going in the same cycle.

My suggestion for Pallekale is that we should not play Rangana. He deserves a break as there are five more tests for the year. He wasn't effective so far, although that does not tell that he cannot win the game, it is a worthy risk to take. We should leave the game in the hands of other three spinners - Malinda, Sandakan, and Dilruwan. And we should play the best two fast bowlers that we have - Lahiru Kumara and the fastest available another player. And of course 6-5.

That game may be lost, but we can use the challenge and conditions to best in order to select the team for the Pakistan tour. A dead rubber is worthy that experiment. A game that Thilanga's family business may list as all odds on India, can be risked with no hesitation.