Will Afghanistan and Ireland get enough competitive games?

The ICC has announced that Afghanistan and Ireland are now full member nations, which means that they now get Test status.

It is exciting and wonderful news for the hard working cricketers from both the nations who probably dreamt of this day since they started playing cricket.

Even though this is a great news, it also brings about the question if these two nations will be able to get enough competitive games.

The team before these two countries to get Test status was Bangladesh. Bangladesh for a long time struggled to get opportunities to play against the top nations especially away from home.

Bangladesh in their young 17-year career have played just 47 tests away from home, and the majority of their games have been against Sri Lanka against who they have been able to play regularly over the last 17 years.

They only played their first test in India just recently after 17 years of being granted the Test status. They have never played Pakistan in UAE and haven’t toured Australia since 2003.

Out of the 47 Tests 32 have come against four nations which are Sri Lanka, New Zealand, West Indies and Zimbabwe. The rest of the five teams in total have invited Bangladesh only for a grand total of 15 games in 17 years. That does not even equate to even one Test a year.

This is something which the ICC has to guard against. Bangladesh still does not get enough games against the top 5 nations. They haven’t played a game in England since 2010 and in South Africa since 2008. Those are pretty shocking numbers to be honest. When the world is calling Bangladesh a mediocre team in Tests, the stats above tells us why.

Both these teams would be incredibly excited at the prospect of competing against the top nations and it would be a disappointment if they have to resort to just playing with each other all the time.

The individual cricketing boards also have a part to play in this induction. Countries like India, England, Pakistan and Australia need to try and squeeze in series against these two teams regularly, even it is just for a game or two.

I understand that initially there might be lots of one sided games but they will improve with time and with enough opportunities against top teams.

The addition of Bangladesh and now Afghanistan and Ireland is wonderful for cricket in general and sends out a great message for other associate nations.

The rapid strides that Afghanistan has taken will give great confidence to other associate nations to take their cricket seriously.

This is a great day for cricket but again steps have to be taken that these teams are engaged effectively to keep the interest alive in their respective countries.

Hopefully the ICC and the rest of the countries realise that and do their part in development of cricket in these two countries.

Welcome Afghanistan and Ireland, and I hope you have a wonderful time playing Test cricket.

Read my original article at The Roar

Technology will never be perfect

UDRS (Umpire Decision Review System) was introduced by ICC in 2009 as a measure to improve the umpiring decisions at the international level. There has been call for the use of technology for ages in cricket and the ICC haven’t done anything for ages since “Third Umpire” came in to play for run outs and stumping’s. That was way back in early 90’s. The ICC has been always reluctant to introduce new technology for the most part of last 2 decades.

The UDRS primarily consists of 3 major technologies combined into one, the Hot Spot, the Snickometer and the Hawk-eye. Of all the three technologies Hawk-eye is the most debated and the most controversial one. There are various theories on the same and obviously like all technologies Hawk-eye isn’t perfect. The ICC needs to make sure that there is research constantly going on and they don’t get fixated on these three technologies for ever. Things need to evolve and improve and I hope that is taken into account as well.

But I am not going to talk about that at the moment. The BCCI has constantly opposed the use to UDRS since its inception but the problem is that the rest of the cricketing world has no problems with it. The fact is that no technology is going to be perfect and if we are looking for 100% stable technology we may never have one. The Hawk-eye isn’t a perfect technology and needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. The bottom line is that it will for sure bring down certain howlers in cricket at the moment. The Hawk-eye should at least be used to check if the ball pitched within the stumps or if the impact was outside off-stump for LBW decisions.

The Snickometer and hotspot aren’t that controversial but the recent test between SA and Pakistan has raised a few questions about Hot Spot too. The other concern for the BCCI has been the cost involved in implementing UDRS. The ICC doesn’t take care of the same which is the reason for the technology not being made mandatory. The ICC obviously needs to step in and possibly cover a part of the cost. This is probably a valid concern from the BCCI.

Even though there are some valid concerns over the technology, the use of it should be made mandatory. The ICC needs to step in to achieve the same even if it means that they cover part of the cost. No technology has ever been perfect and it will be very hard to implement one which will please everyone. The BCCI should bite the bullet and try the technology out for a while before opposing it completely.

Ridiculous scheduling by BCCI

The Indian team has had non-stop cricket since the World Cup 2011. If IPL after 7 days of World Cup was ridiculous the 1 off T20 in South Africa beats that hands down. South Africa themselves are coming back after playing New Zealand and they have to get ready to play a one-off game against the Indians. I agree that both teams have rested some of their key players but this is an absolute overkill.

I would have understood if India is travelling to SA for a decent length tour probably for few T20 games, followed by an ODI series or something but just for one game defies logic. This seems like a shameless money making venture by both the boards. Not only do these players have to travel for this ridiculous 1 off game but they have to get ready to begin the 5th season of IPL within few days of returning back. The India team have been playing non-stop cricket since the IPL 2011 (Tour to WI, England tour, Home series against England, Home series against WI, Australian tour, Asia Cup) and they could have very well used these few days as a break.

The BCCI should be more concerned about player fitness and regarding their availability for important games. The one-off T20 does not make any sense to anyone except for the two boards involved. The grueling IPL is about to begin next month and I sincerely hope that we don’t see any injuries ahead of the ICC World T20 later this year. The ICC needs for sure step in here and stop these mindless and meaningless games. They can play as many T20’s as they want when the teams are on a full tour. This particular game does not serve any purpose and cannot be good for either team. The ICC has been always quiet about scheduling issues and I hope that at some point they will stop these stupid money generating games which does not solve any purpose.

World Cup 2011 – It’s hard for an associate nation

Ricky Ponting in his recent interview said that minnows have no place in the world cup. I feel that that was pretty harsh statement and I feel sorry for the associate nations. The associate nations hardly play any major games and their only opportunity to showcase their talent is the world cup. ICC (International Cricket Council) is to be blamed for this situation. The associate nations have not always been a push over. They have given us some amazing games in the past and have helped throw the tournament wide open.

Who can forget the brilliant Kenya defeating WI in the 1996 world cup, Bangladesh defeating Pak in 1999, Kenya making the semis in 2003 and also Ireland defeating Pak in 2007 world cup? So it’s not as though these teams are here to just make up numbers, they have played some great cricket in the past. Yes I agree that these teams also are part of some pretty one sided affairs, so what? There are 19/20 years olds of these nations, whose dream is to play for their country and represent them at the world stage. World cup is their chance; no one knows when these teams would graduate from being an associate nation. The frustrating part is that ICC doesn’t seem to care about the same.

Kenya a very competitive team few years back has gone south rapidly. Lack of matches at the major level can be a reason. Kenya went back to wilderness after their stunning world cup exploit. They should have at least been a full member ODI side playing regularly against top International teams. The ICC faltered big time there. The sub-continent power helped Bangladesh to graduate to a full member very soon, even though they were not ready for such a giant leap at that time. The Associate nations qualify for the world cup and then no one knows what they play and what sort of practice they have ahead of such major tournament. You cannot expect a team which plays a test side once in 4 years to suddenly transform into world beaters.

The Dutch proved yesterday that these teams need to be given a chance. Netherlands team almost pulled off an upset against the English yesterday. The Canadian team also had their moment in the warm up games. This shows that these teams might lose most of the times but they have it in them to perform at this level. The enthusiasm and the passion with which these teams play in spite of being thrashed is a fantastic example. The ICC needs to make sure these teams are prepared to participate at this level in a major event. The drastic leap in standard between Associate level and International level can be very difficult for the teams to bridge.

The ICC should at least let the qualified teams to participate in domestic leagues of full member nations to get a glimpse of competitive cricket. The ICC can sure make some sort of arrangement with the respective boards. I don’t think we should just dismiss these teams but need to find a way to get these teams to be more prepared and ready for such an event. If we ignore these teams completely then the world will never know the Tikolo’s, the Ryan ten Doeschate’s of the world. These talents need to be showcased and what better than a world cup for them to do that? Every young player has a dream of playing in the world cup and we should not take away that dream in haste.

India will play more tests in 2010 – Dhoni

India's cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni poses with International Cricket Council's (ICC) test championship mace

Indian captain Dhoni said that India will play more tests in 2010 to have a chance in defending their number 1 rankings in test cricket. After receiving the mace for ICC (International Cricket Council) test championship from Haroon Logart (ICC Chief Executive) Dhoni said,

“Quite a few Test matches are on proposal and I don’t think that we will play only four Tests next year. We will play more than that”

On becoming the number 1 ranked team in the world he said,

“It is a special feeling to receive this mace. I am taking this on behalf of the team and the BCCI. Being an Indian, it is a proud moment. We have really worked hard as a team in the last 14 months to get to this position. We want to remain here longer and everything depends on our performance,”

It’s brilliant to see that the BCCI have woken up to the fact that India needs to play more test matches in 2010. The CSA (Cricket South Africa) have already agreed to alter their upcoming series against India to include 2 test matches which is a welcome relief. Even Gautam Ghambir echoed his captain’s sentiments by saying that India needs to play more test cricket.

Batting Power play – An enigma

Captains should take Batting PP seriously to take advantage of the concept

Captains should take Batting PP seriously to take advantage of the concept

Batting power play is the latest innovation by the ICC to spice up the 50 over format. Over the past year when this new concept has been in place it seems like the teams have found this hard to comprehend. It seem like the teams have found it hard to determine how to use this new concept to their advantage. Previously the ODI format had a 15 over field restriction rule when the batsmen can go berserk trying to muster as many runs as possible within that period. This gave birth to the pinch hitters and unconventional openers in the mid nineties.

The 15 over rule has been there for ages now and it seems like the teams are still stuck in that time in spite of the latest changes in the power play rule. The current power play (PP) has been extended to 20 overs with 15 bowling PP overs and 5 batting PP overs. The first 10 overs of PP are continuous but the bowling captain can choose when to take the rest of the 5 bowling PP overs. Then there are 5 PP overs which the batting team can take as and when they please within the 50 overs. If the batting team fails to take it by the end of the 45th over it is automatically applied or forced on the batting team.

Sounds simple enough but when you look at the ODI games in the recent times, it seems like the concept is more complicated for the captains then it actually looks. The bowling team takes the easy way out by taking the PP at a stretch for the first 15 overs keeping the older format in mind. So it works out simple for them, since the captain need not strategize and is happy to get the PP away. But the batting PP is the one which has got the teams napping. In the recent times most of the teams have been either forced to take it or have taken it one or two overs too late.

I guess the problem comes with the age old adage in ODI cricket that the slog overs start from the 40th over. The teams wait till the 40th over to decide whether they want to take the PP or not. Sometimes it works but most of the times the teams lose too many wickets which makes the PP almost useless. For example in the recent ODI between India and Pakistan, India was 190 odd for the loss of 5 wickets with two settled batsmen at the crease. The required RR was just over a run a ball and a perfect time to take PP. Suresh Raina was taking risks with the fielders on the boundary which made no sense as the PP was available for the Indians to take. India for some strange reason wait and Suresh Raina gets out and by the time India decides to take the PP they are 7 wickets down, virtually making the PP useless.

So what is the ideal time to take the batting PP? This is something the teams should discuss in their meetings prior to the games. They have to work out a strategy as to when they should take it and in what situation. The best situation as far as I am concerned is when two batsmen are going strong and are well set take the PP and score 40-45 runs which will put enormous pressure on the fielding team. The best example for timing was again a game involving India, when Sachin and Yuvraj where blasting the NZ bowlers earlier this year. They decided to take the PP as early as 22nd over and blasted 69 runs in those 5 overs. Brilliant decision whoever made the call to take the PP that early. India ended up with 392 on the board.

But these things are easier said than done. It’s very difficult to determine what goes through a cricketers mind when he is at the middle and yes there are team instructions to follow as well. We don’t even know if the players in the middle are actually allowed to take that call or not. Probably the coach sends out a message to take the PP. whatever may be the scenario if we take a sample of 50 odd games in the recent times, we will see that most teams have wasted the batting PP. If the ICC isn’t smart about it, this concept will also die down as the super sub did couple of years ago.

I guess the best way would be to put the pressure on the captains by saying that they have to take the PP themselves before the 46th over is bowled and will not be automatically applied if they don’t take it. It will be assumed that the team has given up the right to take the PP and it should work to the advantage of the bowling team. I guess if such a rule is put in place, it probably might receive more serious thinking by the teams during their discussions and probably will become part of their strategy. Unless something is done to make it more interesting, I guess the ODI game will still follow the same old adage of 15 overs of field restriction and last 10 overs of slog and the innovations will have no effect.

Cricketers not safe anymore

It was one of the darkest days in cricket history. A cricket team was targetted by the terrorists which was deemed as not possible by the Pakistani politicians when India decided to pull out of the series. Pakistan cricket which was already in the doldrums after International sides refused to tour there received a great setback. There has been lots of speculation in the aftermath of the attacks regarding the security provided and stuff but the reality is that the damage has been done. It will be difficult for Pakistan to bounce back from this disaster.

The Srilankan cricketers were really lucky to have survived the attack and it was only due to the bravery shown by their bus driver they escaped with minor injuries. The Srilankan’s were one team who always wanted to travel to Pakistan and what happened to them was attrocious. Srilankan cricketers are humble and friendly. Even when they are the opponents its hard to hate them. Its really unfortunate that this has to happen to them after they had graciously accepted to tour Pakistan after India had pulled out. Six srilankan players were injured during the attacks including the captain Jayawardane and the vice captain Sangakkara. Thilan Samaraveera and Tharanga were the worst affected and they were fortunate that the bullet just hit them at an angle that it couldnt penetrate.

As said in the media cricketers are soft targets for the terrorists and this will for sure put fears in the mind of teams around the world. This actually can have far greater implications on pakistan and rest of the subcontinent. Western teams would think twice about touring even India and Srilanka after these attacks. This has been the first instance of a cricket team to be targetted directly. As Harsha said in his column in Express India ICC have to take some harsh decisions regarding the WC. They have to stand up and behave like the leaders which they havent been doing all these years.

My prayer goes to the families of the security personnel who were killed protecting the pride of their country and the bus driver who was unfortunately killed during these attacks. This is an unfortunate incident which has made sure that cricket will not be played in pakistan for quite sometime now and unless there is a miracle in the next two years the WC 2011 might not happen there too. I salute the bus driver Khalil who putting his life in line drove the Srilankan players to safety. If not for him this might have been a bigger tragedy. I also salute the Srilankan players who in spite of going through a traumatic experiance handled themselves gracefully. Hopefully we will see these humble and great cricketers well soon on the cricket field doing what they know best.