☛ Wriddhiman Saha shines as India wicketkeeper

This makes me so happy. :-)

India wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha was at the very top of his game during India’s second Test cricket match against South Africa. Usually, wicket keepers are invisible when they do their job well—they’re just there to catch or stump the batsman out thanks to the bowlers’ efforts. This time, though, Saha’s brilliance was plainly evident even on the highlight reel.

Saha dives!

Saha’s keeping is a thing of beauty (via cricketaddictor.com).

Saha has been India’s best pure wicketkeeper for a while now. For the majority of his career he was in the shadow of the great MS Dhoni; more recently, Saha’s injury has allowed the precocious but evidently still raw Rishabh Pant a sniff at the top job. It’s good to finally see Saha back in action. Saha may not be as exuberant as Pant, but he can certainly bat. After this latest Test and in comparison with Pant’s work in the past year, there should be no debate at all regarding Saha’s place as India’s first choice keeper.

Welcome back, Wriddhiman! Having him behind the stumps adds beauty to the game.


FIFA updates its ethics code… to fight defamation, not corruption

From the AP:

FIFA has officially eradicated corruption. All it took was pressing the delete key.

Soccer officials and players who bother checking out the new code of ethics governing their conduct will find the word “corruption” missing. They also will discover how to avoid being banned for paying and receiving bribes.

It seems that the lesson that FIFA took from their massive corruption scandal is that they need to run a tighter ship in terms of information about the corruption getting out.

Related, they have also previously addressed racism in the sport by disbanding its anti-racism taskforce, declaring that it had “completely” fulfilled its mission. “Completely”; meanwhile, task force member Osasu Obayiuwana had this to say:

“I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not. The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which need continuous attention.”

What would you bet that the next FIFA scandal won’t be too far away, however much they declare defamation of the body to be a punishable offense?


☛ Muhammad Ali is no more

A great fighter—“The greatest ever”—but he was so much more than that.

[…] as a young heavyweight champion he converted to Islam and refused to serve in the Vietnam War, and became an emblem of strength, eloquence, conscience and courage. Ali was an anti-establishment showman who transcended borders and barriers, race and religion. His fights against other men became spectacles, but he embodied much greater battles.

Also, these are must watch, if you haven’t seem them already:

Rest in peace, sir.


Of Cricket, Mankad-ing, and the Spirit of the Game

The Under-19 cricket world cup is on, and there has been a lot of controversy about a West Indies bowler running a Zimbabwean batsman out as he came in to bowl. Colloquially, this is called ‘Mankad’-ing, and some people view this form of dismissal as “not quite done”. As it happens every time, lots of people are talking about “spirit of the game” and “no warnings issued to the batsman”.

I think those people are in the wrong.

(Here’s the video.)

What would these same people say when a bowler gets a wicket, but his heel is found to be where the bat is spotted in our case? “Spirit of the game”, and give the batsman out? “Give a warning to the bowler”, and give the batsman out? No, of course not, because the rulebook says some part of the bowler’s foot must stay behind the line. The bowler made a mistake, and is penalized for it.

Well, guess what the rulebook says in this case.

Also, to be clear, backing up itself is not illegal; backing up too early is. ICC playing conditions says that the bowler may attempt this dismissal only if he has not completed his delivery swing. So, in effect, once the bowler is in the middle of rolling his bowling arm over to bowl, the bowler can no longer run the batsman out, and the batsman is free to start backing up.

In my opinion, “spirit of the game” issues should only come up when a) the fielding side resorts to subterfuge, or b) it is “obvious” that the batsman is not attempting to take an advantage, and is behaving as if the play is dead. For examples of this second case, see:

  • http://youtu.be/6zgvjC9WUCs (bad spirit of the game),
  • https://youtu.be/AsznuSW-1Ug (good spirit of the game) and
  • http://youtu.be/9vYPWYAoJhM (good spirit of the game, even though it was a close rescue).

In our present case, the batsman was definitely attempting to take advantage, and his opponent ran him out perfectly legally. The batsman made a mistake, and was penalized for it. What’s wrong with that, and what’s all this about giving the batsman a second chance?!

Play on, I say! (Or in this case, game over!)


On India’s World Cup performance (they lost today)

It’s always gutting to see your team lose, isn’t it. Gutting, and infuriating. “They should have won! If only they’d played better!”

Let’s think back though, to the beginning of the World Cup, before a ball had been bowled. Remember those days, just after the triseries with Australia and England? What if someone had said then that India would reach the semifinal? We’d have smirked. “With this team? This bowling attack?” Winning 7 games on the trot? Smirk. 70 wickets in 7 games? Best economy rate as a bowling unit? Cohesive batting performance from the entire unit? Fast bowlers bowling with pace and discipline? Smirk; smirk; smirk.

India have done well to reach the semifinals. They’ve been an excellent team. Their flaw today was that they were not a great team. But that’s okay, being excellent isn’t half bad.

Yes, they had a collective off-day. The bowlers sprayed it around a bit, uncharacteristically. The batters got out in inopportune moments, uncharacteristically. Dhawan usually scores big once he gets a start (and gets a catch dropped). Kohli usually gets himself in and ups his scoring rate, and doesn’t get out at all. There’s usually always Rahane, and even Raina has scored a hundred this world cup. Usually; just not today.

They came across a genuinely better team today, and lost. No shame in that; that takes nothing away from their excellence. Then too, they actually brought Australia back from what looked to be a certain 360+ score. That’s something in itself, no?

Also, a thought: how many teams have defended their world cup titles successfully? West Indies in the 1970s, and Australia in the 1990s and 2000s. It needs a great team, not merely an excellent one, to be able to defend trophies across four year periods and in different conditions. Would we call this Indian team “great”, comparable to the West Indian and Australian teams of before? Definitely not, right? Not yet. Maybe with time and more experience, and maybe a couple of different players, but certainly not yet.

So they came across a better team. They lost. So what? They played well until they lost; they played with pride and with skill and with passion and with excellence.

They kept the Tricolor flying high. Let’s be proud of that.