Category Archives: Shane Warne

The IPL Auction Shockers

Before the IPL auction, some media observers pointed out that England’s dressing room might have an awkward morning-after. Flintoff and Pietersen were both expected to raise $950,000, but what would happen if no one bid for them, and what about their teammates — Collingwood and Shah — who were valued nearly 10 times lower?

I don’t think I completely buy that, though. Boys may be boys, and $1.1 million is certainly more than what Shah or Collingwood eventually received. On the other hand, none of these bids actually reflects cricketing sense. It reminds me of that a card game popular in India in the mid-1990s, when the market suddenly realized how lucrative the game could be. Essentially, you had cards with statistics of a player, and your opponent had his own. You then would pick one statistic — average, or number of innings, whatever — and if yours was higher, you could take your opponent’s card.

It didn’t really make sense then, but, what the hell, we were 10 years old. Continue reading

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The Fall of Monty Panesar

As a viewer, it’s not always easy to understand why some balls take wickets, and others don’t. Sure, there are some magical deliveries where the “swing works the oracle again,” but especially in sub-continental cricket, whole stretches of almost boring, steady batting will suddenly give way to a wicket, and for no discernible reason. 

Of course, that’s not the case: good bowlers try to take wickets with every ball, or at least set one up. You bowl three outswingers, then bring one back in; you bowl two bouncers, then send a “sucker” ball outside the off-stump; you bowl four flighted leg-spinners, then throw in a quick flipper. 

Monty Panesar, alas, understands none of these things. During the England’s tour of India, you could see how personality determines sporting character. Shane Warne, flamboyant and ridiculously confident and theatrical, beguiled batsmen into giving up wickets (see: “Adelaide, 2006“). Panesar, on the other hand, is mechanical and boring; commentators made fun of his constant mantra of “bowling in the right areas,” while even Michael Vaughan said that Panesar left all the fielding tactics to him (“He would only set university fields.”) Other than his arm ball, he refused to vary anything; each ball was as flighted as the last and at the same speed. No adventure, no out-of-the-ordinary. Just Plain Boring. 

There is another view, which came out a bit in his autobiography ( ruthlessly panned by one Cricinfo critic). Witness this exchange with then-skipper Andrew Flintoff:

When I knocked on Flintoff’s door and handed over the results he seemed a bit bemused. 
“This is what I’m thinking of doing,” I said.
“Ah, okay,” he replied, sounding as puzzled as he looked. “No worries at all, mate. I’ll take it all on board and you have a good night’s sleep.”
I decided I ought to leave quickly because I wasn’t sure whether he wanted me in his room.

Poor guy. Andrew Miller takes this passage as evidence that Panesar needs self-confidence and constant assurance, though it’s also possible that this guy can’t handle himself around greatness. There are some — like Kevin Pietersen, for instance, or even Harbhajan Singh — who relish the thought of establishing themselves. There are others — like Anil Kumble — who are happy to grind out their wickets, establish a reputation slowly, and become absolutely necessary.

Panesar, however, is neither: he is decidedly not great, but he also lacks that gritty determination that the latter category demands. Once he feels adrift, he just goes back to What He Knows, that “right areas” nonsense. And in the process, he becomes Ashley Giles: mildly useful, but thoroughly inconsequential.

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The Decline and Rise of Cricket Nations

Rather grand title, no? But as I was on another interminable subway ride, I started to wonder: why do some cricketing nations dominate, and others do not? And — given Australia’s recent fall — why do some decline? 

The simplest, and possibly best, answer has something to do with the quality of players. Modern cricket has known only two great teams: the West Indies, which had the reins for a frightfully long time, and Australia. Both these teams had unmatchable players, and kept producing them. The West Indies had Viv Richards, Rohan Kanhai, Malcolm Marshall, all the way down to Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and lastly, Brian Lara; the Australians — well, you know who they had. 

Once that long supply was exhausted, the team suffered, and Lara was not enough to carry it. The West Indies also missed a trick with the rise of spin, which the Indians consitently relied on, but the Australians — with one Shane Warne — took to a match-winning quality. Pace alone, and spin alone, cannot do the task; one needs both, even if Paul Harris is your one spinner (as in South Africa’s case). Australia, however, now find themselves in the same position the West Indies did in the early 1990s: gone are McGrath and Warne, and Langer and Hayden, and Lehmann and Martyn, and the Waugh brothers and Gilchrist. 

There are underlying factors behind this sudden lack of resources: Continue reading

Letting The West Win: Ganguly/Warne (3)

Recently, I’ve found it difficult to make even the most basic points to my friends — the importance of empirical evidence in rational debate, for instance — but I want to take on a much complicated topic, involving post-colonialism, sledging, and media coverage. Stay with me.

The Shane Warne/Sourav Ganguly crisis folded just as quickly as it began, with each player handed out the requisite fee and slap on the wrist. The window was open long enough, however, for the 24-hour news channels in India to get their word out. Watch Times Now dissect the “scandal” in clear, India v. Australia terms:

There are a few problems here. Continue reading

Stealing The Spirit: Ganguly/Warne (2)

In his very impressive rant against Sourav Ganguly, Shane Warne makes note of “that wall” that all the captains signed at the opening ceremony. Their signatures required them, he said, to act only within the “spirit of cricket,” a vague and almost empty concept that means everything to everybody, depending on perspective and, apparently, nationality.

At some level, we understand what it means, but only with specific concrete actions: standing too long after being dismissed; shouting verbally at another player; pointing at some pavilion. But, like the slippery debate over torture in America, that’s where the consensus ends, and the clashing dictionaries come out. How long does a batsman have to stand before they can be pulled up for dissent? How much (and with what words?) can a player swear at another before the match referee becomes involved?

Referees and authorities have inadvertently contributed to this muddle when they make it a point to punish only the worst offenders. Don’t get me wrong; rude behavior should not be tolerated, but players understand that they can get away with a lot before they will be fined. So, instead of going all out with their offenses, they plan smaller scrimmages, and referees, interested only in the really glaring stuff, let things slide. Consequently, we begin to split hairs and make a mockery of the spirit behind the rules.

The IPL, however, should not even have had that Orwellian “wall” signed anyway. Continue reading

Warne Throws Ganguly a Flipper

I’ll have more to write about Shane Warne’s prodigious skills later, but he can talk a good game as well. Have a look at him lay his case against the ex-Indian captain:

This isn’t the first time that Ganguly has questioned a catch (he stood his ground against Ricky Ponting during that horrible Sydney Test), but the rules are apparently clear: you cannot ask an umpire to refer a catch upstairs; the umpire must make that decision himself. (Warne slips up a bit when he says that the “Indian umpire” caved; I’m not sure his ethnic background had anything to do with his decision.)

Here’s the catch in question, which looks good to me:

And finally, just note that once-favorites Kolkata has now lost three matches in a row, while Rajasthan hasn’t lost one since its first match. It’s a topsy-turvy world, this Twenty20.

For brief highlights of the match, watch below. The commentators are absolutely horrible and at a total loss for what they’re seeing: disorganized, inarticulate, and not at all informative.

Trescothick’s YouTube Problem

There’s plenty of reasons to mourn Trescothick’s retirement — his aggressive style; his sound technique; his oddly jockish name (“Marcus”) — but it’s a real shame that he bowed out before delivering a YouTube moment.

Search his name in the video engine,  and there’s nothing but bad news: bowled here, dismissed there. There’s very little for his own name, except that was Dale Steyn’s first Test wicket and Shane Warne’s 600th. Still, these are some stunning deliveries:

And have a look at Warne spin:

The (Faltering) Sri Lankan Challenge

 NO PICTURES AVAILABLE (c/o CRICKET AUSTRALIA)

For about a year or two now, the Sri Lankans have been on the verge of greatness, occupying the spot that India (too briefly) held in the run-up to the 2003 World Cup as the no. 1 challenger to Australian dominance. Their 2007 campaign for the World Cup was near faultless, recalling the heady days of Aravinda Da Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya circa 1996. Their Test performances have also been impressive, having recently secured draws in Pakistan, England and — most shockingly, for a South Asian team — New Zealand.

To watch their 1st match performance in Brisbane, then, was a more than a bit disheartening. As Mahela Jayawardene himself admitted, losing a Test by an innings and 50 odd runs was “hurtful,” and not least because it was in no way indicative of how good Sri Lanka is.

Regardless of the result, the match was nowhere near as one-sided as New Zealand’s loss to South Africa (since when did the Kiwis play their cricket like they prefer dry pitches to the bouncy ones at home?). In fact, Sri Lanka’s challenge — and I think it was a bit of that — helps deconstruct Australia’s cricketing greatness. It’s one thing to say, as many observers in the tennis world do, that an athlete like Roger Federer is sublimely great; it’s another to actually understand what greatness means, and how it presents itself. Continue reading

Rebuilding The Team, The Australian Way

I understand the Australians aren’t superhuman gods, whose manners and traditions we should blindly follow, but still: if they know the secret to fire, we might as well try and steal it.

Like the Indian team, Australia faced some difficult selection issues in the runup to their Test series against Sri Lanka. Without Justin Langer, Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne — and that’s quite a list — Australia had to go about filling in some opened voids in their lineup.

Unlike the Indian team, however, Australia took a sensible approach. Continue reading

The Personal is Political: Warne’s Tragedy

This blog began after Shane Warne’s career ended (thankfully), but his being the bowler he was, there’s no leaving him out.Gideon Haigh, an Australian cricket historian whom I adore, recently listed several factors that influenced Cricket Australia’s decision not to give Warne the captaincy, even though, by most accounts, he was a living legend in the game after Steve Waugh had decided to retire. Some of reasons make sense: Warne was a volatile character, perhaps too self-inflated to be trusted with such a massive opportunity.

Some of the other reasons, however, make little sense to me, like allusions to Warne’s sexual misconduct off the field and his perceived inability to maintain the public’s confidence in him. It’s interesting; political candidates often have to go through the same sort of personal examination, with their lives closely combed through for clues as to how they well (or not) they will perform in public office.

Since analysts in England, Australia, and India all agree that the captain of the cricket team has second responsibility only to those countries’ prime ministers, we must ask: how much should off-the-field behavior influence our leadership decisions in cricket? Continue reading