Saturday, January 08, 2005

Frindall takes on the ICC

Not Cricinfo yesterday made the point that the International Cricket Council was making a mistake in granting official one-day international status to the fund-raiser in aid of tsunami victims. It appears that we are not alone.

Bill Frindall, widely accepted as the last word when it comes to statistics in the cricket world, had this to say, in an email, in response to the ICC's statement announcing that the match was going to given official status:

"This statement beggars belief. Limited-Overs International status and Records cover matches between national teams, not hot-potch multi-national games with no significance beyond fund raising. In no sense should the WCTA game qualify for inclusion. The ICC, for whom I was then statistician, dealt with this matter following the Rest of the World v England series in 1970, when we ruled that those five matches would not count in the official Test match records. And those games featured one international side."

While the statistical world is not quite united on this issue, it is fast becoming clear that many respected statisticians are, despite the ICC's assertions, going to ignore this match for official purposes. Frindall, adds:

"This ruling, which should be reversed immediately, is as bizarre as your recent one declaring that a match starts when the toss is made - a monstrous flouting of the Laws of Cricket. It will not have my support, and performances in Monday's match will NOT be included in any records published under my name."

The ICC won't reverse the decision now. But you can be sure this won't be the last we hear of this business. If the ICC have a good reason for granting this match official ODI status, and we haven't heard one yet, you can probably bet the reason is not cricketing.

Friday, January 07, 2005

It's official ...

Just when you thought the International Cricket Council had got things right in organising a jamboree cricket match to raise funds for victims of the Tsunami disaster that struck South Asia, they bungle it up. Staging associations, sponsors, television channels and sundry other parties came together spontaneously, in the right spirit, along with the players, and this, you would think was enough for the game to be a resounding success.

But the ICC is greedy. They want the match to have official one-day inernational status, so, conceivably, it can be monetised more completely. Well, we've been through these grounds before - not any match can be a one-day international.

"The ICC board is of the view that due to the extraordinary circumstances that have brought about these two matches an exception to the existing rules should be made," Ehsan Mani has said. "This decision applies only to these two matches and does not change the status of other one-day matches from the past or in the future."

But, what in heaven's name are you going to do with the records? When you list teams that have played one-day internationals will you also include Asia XI and ICC XI? And what happens to players' records? Do you count these in their one-day international stats and put an asterisk next to overall record?

We could go on and on about how silly this is. But, thankfully, this is not the first time someone has tried to pull such a stunt. Best have a look at Sorry, but they can't be official.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Bradman's balls, Tsunami appeals, and Habibul Bashar

If it was not bad enough to hear normally distinguished gents like Ian Chappell and Mark Taylor flogging the latest piece of strictly limited edition Sir Sonald Bradman memorabilia during the broadcast of the Pakistan-Australia Test at Sydney, the gent has struck once more. But first, let me not be the one to discourage you from buying yourself a slice of history. The "limited edition" - yes, for the charitable people at the Bradman foundation 974 is limited - high-quality ball featuring a full-colour portrait and a signature, mounted on some special wood thingamajiggy, costs a mere Aus $ 1440.

At a time when the world is opening its collective wallet to donate to the victims of the Tsunami tragedy that has devastated South Asia, the Bradman Foundation is selling cricket balls that you can't even chuck around in the backyard for a mere Aus$ 1440. Of course, the editorial board at Not Cricinfo is not one to thrust its views down your throat. If you'd like to buy the ball, click here. On the other hand, you may like to give a tenth of that money to the Red Cross appeal, click here.

But, that's not only why we're a bit miffed with Bradman this day.

The man they call the Bangla Bradman, Habibul Bashar, led flawlessly from the front after winning the toss and choosing to bat against Zimbabwe. In fact, he was, as usual, the backbone of the innings, with 94 out of the team's 280. But, and you may well abuse us for this, we strongly believe that it was the bad luck of the Bradman tag that pushed the cricketing gods into denying Bashar a century in a match that will go down in history books as Bangladesh's first Test triumph. Bradman wasn't unlucky? Can you imagine anyone else ever getting so close to a magical 100 average and being denied?

If the powers that be needed to shave 0.06 of a point from an average, couldn't they have chosen Graeme Pollock (60.97), George Headley (60.83), or anyone else to whom it wouldn't have made the slightest difference?

No the couldn't. Because it wouldn't have hurt anyone as much as it did Bradman. And therein lies the tragedy in Bashar being unfairly called The Bangla Bradman. He too earned the wrath of the cricketing gods.

Burnt wood

How can a genuine cricket lover not be deeply saddened by South Africa's most unfortunate and untimely win against England in Cape Town? After the mighty English were cruelly denied victory in the previous Test at Durban, it was just unthinkable that once again the Gods would conspire such ...

After all, England have been the most improved team in the last year ... think Steve Harmison, say Freddie Flintoff. And, for once, instead of cringing in their flannels, they have been shouting from the rooftops to anyone who may listen, "Bring on the Ashes!"

If only they went into the Ashes, still six months away, with an unblemished, untarnished record, roaring past every team but Australia ... if only they could claim they were the second best team in the world when the first ball of the 2005 Ashes were sent down in England ...

... then the fall would have been so much harder, so much more spectacular.

At least two Australians have said they never want to be part of an Australian team that presided over a series loss to England. One is Shane Warne. The other Adam Gilchrist. And people still think England will win the Ashes?

How can an SRW fail?

Sometimes initials say more about a cricketer than anything the pundits can come up with. Michael Colin Cowdrey was always going to a blue-blooded bacon-and-tie wearing MCC man. Stuart Charles Glyndwr MacGill, could only have learned his art at the Sydney Cricket Ground. We could go on and on in this vein, but that would take a lot of research, so just take our word for it. The reason initials have come in for such special scrutiny at this moment was the quiet debut of one SRW. No, Stephen Roger Waugh has not stepped back into the cricket world. That red-rag farewell was more than enough, thank you very much.

The quiet debut we're referring to is that blonde-mane flapping, broad chest puffed out allrounder who picked up one wicket and scored 31 for Australia against Pakistan. Yeah some other bloke scored a double-hundred, and someone took a bagful of wickets. But we of the keen glance, the discerning lot, had eyes only for Shane Watson.

In an age when everything is extra-large - people look at you funny if you say you want a small coke, or ask for something as unreasonable as a dosa that actually fits on a plate - his was the classical debut. Not for him the in-your-face showmanship of that other blonde marvel, Michael Clarke. Not for him a stirring hundred in a foreign land with parents, grandparents, siblings, agent and labrador weeping on the sidelines. Watson knew, instinctively, that you must first walk before you can run.

When he batted, Australia had already battered Pakistan so furiously that a Red Cross body count would have been more accurate than some one-eyed statistician ticking off the records. Already, the oppponent's spirit had been crushed. There was no need for any rescue act, no need to play out of the skin, no need to prove many points at once and deliver slaps in the face to any critics. Realising this, Watson delivered a simple innings. His 31 - the first three scoring shots of which were cool boundaries - did not win him throngs of admirers. It merely waved hello to those who have long believed he has it in him to be the best genuine allrounder in world cricket.

When he bowled, and rumour has it Trevor Hohns and co. want Watson to be a bowling allrounder and not a batsman who bowls - he threw people back to an era when it was still fashionable to have a straight run-up, a side-on action, and a strong leap. Few bowlers have such a classical approach, and it's no mystery that he comfortably bowled into the early 140 kph range. Even Jason Gillespie's fastest ball was a mere 1.5 kph faster, and the world thinks Dizzy is a speed demon quick enough to scare little children to painless noisy deaths.

But no, the world will not be convinced about Watson till he writes his name into the record books and saves Australia from dire straits. Save Australia from dire straits? You would sooner need blankets and industrial heaters in the Sahara desert. Don't bother waiting Watto, you're already a legend, and even if you take 1-fors and score 30s.