Category Archives: Sri Lanka

Is Bangladesh The Next Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka only started to play international cricket consistently in the 1980s. And for the most part, its early days, like Bangladesh’s, seemed pretty bleak — I don’t have the exact figures (I’m very, very lazy), but after perusing StatsGuru, I didn’t get the sense that Sri Lanka could be viewed as a competitive option during its first decade. (Oldies, feel free to call me out if I’m wrong.)

But here’s the surprising thing: for some reason, I assumed that new cricket teams’ success should look like a S-curve. That is, gradual improvements and wins that incrementally build on each other over time. But that wasn’t the case — Sri Lanka’s win-loss ratio looked relatively unremarkable until the mid-1990s, when it just took off (and, of course, when it won the 1996 World Cup). So two questions: a) Does the expression “we have to learn to win” actually have validity? That is, can losing teams suddenly just snap out of it by stringing together winning streaks? b) Can success be bought ‘on the cheap’? Rather than looking for 11 great players, do you just settle for a handful [Tamim, Shakib, maybe Mortaza?] and hope the rest can play support?

[P.S. Following a previous discussion w/ Idle Summers, I’d assume that Bangladesh has a much brighter future, given that its population — about 140 million — is roughly six times that of Sri Lanka’s. Also, it occurs to me that Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have all been coached at one point by Dav Whatmore. Maybe he has the secret sauce to success?]


Would You Appeal For This Wicket?

#1: A batsman has easily reached his crease after a comfortable run. But he strolled in with his bat in the air. Do you appeal?





The Stages Of A Fast Bowler’s Life

I remember little from middle school, but I do recall a lesson on the Hindu conception of the stages of life. (Hint: you eventually reject life and wander the hills as an ascetic.) It seems fast bowlers go through an evolution as well, until they reach the final stage — a place currently occupied by the likes of Lasith Malinga and Zaheer Khan. It is here that bowlers learn (cue sonorous zen master voice) that to beat a batsman, you must first learn how to think like one.  And not only do you understand batsmen, you have the skill and control to execute the arcs of your plans.

Listen to the way commentators talk when Khan or Malinga run to the crease. They talk about each ball as if it’s part of a specific plan; it’s all evidence of a master plan — and watching it unfold over the course of a few overs is watching a master at his craft. He controls everything in his domain and the batsmen have little hope to do more than survive. I had this impression last night; Malinga bowled slower full balls; slower short balls; fast yorkers; slow yorkers; fast short balls — apart from a bad wide, I didn’t think the batsmen were going to make it. (They didn’t.)

I think these types of bowlers are much more respected than those like Dale Steyn. Don’t get me wrong; Steyn is a great bowler with a similar level of control. But he relies on sheer pace, and he hasn’t been through the trial and tribulation Malinga or Khan have. Steyn is all about innate talent; Malinga and Khan are about bowling within very strict limitations. Wasim Akram may have been the first true fast bowler guru who understood mortality and ascended to nirvana; he shortened his run-up, figured out how to hold a ball, and then knew exactly where it would land and what it would do. All those who follow are reincarnations.

Are All Cricket Boards Awful?

1. Devanshu Mehta excerpts Peter Della Penna’s profile of the United States’ cricket association. It doesn’t look pretty.

2. Somehow, Sri Lanka’s cricket board managed to end up $60 million in debt after the 2011 World Cup. That’s right: they organized the premier event of international cricket and somehow didn’t make any money off it. That takes true skill. The solution:

Austerity measures in the wake of Sri Lanka Cricket’s (SLC’s) royal bungling of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, which saw the island’s cricket board in more than $60 million in debt due to budget overruns, now includes junior level district coaches being used to man ticket counters during the ongoing ODI series against Australia.

3. The BCCI, ready to appear as if it has received the message from the current series against England, is now trying to schedule an additional warm-up game on the Australia tour. Why is this a problem? Well:

India have a full series – three Tests and five ODIs – against the visiting West Indies pencilled in between October 29, when they end a home series against England, and that match in Canberra [in December].

Just brilliant. Sandwich a pointless series against a third-rate team we just played against right before a Test series that may be the last one for some of your greatest — the greatest — batsmen ever. Three freaking Tests?

Kumar Sangakarra’s Lecture

I just listened to Kumar Sangakarra’s Lord’s Lecture, an hour-long address every cricket-loving fan should download. It’s a truly ambitious speech that seeks to cover the history of Sri Lanka’s cricket, especially from 1996 to present. While most of the reaction has focused on Sangakarra’s criticism of Sri Lanka Cricket, the governing board, he devotes (by my count) about 10 minutes to the current administration’s foibles.

Say what you want about Sangakarra, but he is a smart man. He spends most of his address couching his criticism in strongly nationalist terms, offering ode after ode to Sri Lanka’s special “identity” and the greatness of players like Sanath Jayasuriya (now a political bigwig indulging the very tactics Sangakarra deplores in his speech). He was careful enough to cover all his bases, and now that he’s likely to be recalled by the Sports Minister, he can point to other moments in his text for his defense.

But what a history! Listening to the speech, you get a sense of the difficulty of being an international player from a South Asian country, especially due to the enlarged role of politics in almost everything you do, from the petty to the fundamental. Imagine a player like Murali: an Indian Tamil in a war-torn country; a much-hated figure in the West, constantly challenged abroad, but also scrutinized at every level at home. Consider this team’s recent past as well — a tsunami; a terrorist attack (described in vivid detail by Sangakarra); and the brutal end of the civil war.

I do have some quick notes and questions: 1) Sangakarra speaks often of a Sri Lankan ‘way’ of playing cricket. It’s true that part of cricket’s charm is its diversity, and people in the West Indies used to play differently from those in, say, India. It’s an open question, however, if that diversity will survive the game’s modernization, driven by coaches with video data and disciplined physiotherapists. What are we losing here?

1A) A related, but more difficult, question is whether or not such talk — like all nationalisms — stems from a crude and essentialist description of self-image. Is there really a Sri Lankan way of playing cricket? Is there an Indian style? If I were to describe it, would I risk setting up particular categories that seek to exclude as much as include? I understand the impulse — we want to set up our identity after centuries of colonization, whose chief discourse involved an unrelenting attack on local cultures. But need we construct false identities in response?

2) Part of the attraction of Sangakarra’s speech is his discussion of the Sri Lankan dressing room. In the early 2000s, he suggests that the team was driven by hierarchies and a collection of individuals, some of who “crossed the line” by interfering with the board and selectors. He then goes on to discuss Sri Lanka’s failing club structure, and the huge discretion afforded to its Sports Minister, who can dismiss whole teams on a whim. I wish more players would say what he did. It’s a huge risk, but imagine someone of Dravid or Tendulkar or Laxman’s stature making similar noises in India. Or is that a risk too big to take, even for them?

The Best Cricket Board Website

I’m doing some web design work in my current job (don’t ask), and the task nudged me to do some Internet ‘research.’ Like, which cricket board has the best website? Surprisingly, the results weren’t bad on average (except the Pakistani one, which looks like it was developed in the 1990s).

But I give my award to the ECB, which seizes the future and a) offers to sell English cricket kits and gear and jersey online; b) includes interactive links to encourage fan participation (like, podcasts and other Internet thingies). But too many of these websites advertise the wrong things — the latest game fixtures and results, or news from the national team. I doubt many fans go to cricket board websites for this sort of stuff. And why not include information on where to learn cricket, and where to play the game, and where to hire a coach, and how to get tickets at venues if you don’t have a personal connection to a VIP? The good ol’ Kiwis have some of the answers.

Anyway, you decide: England, India, South Africa, Australia, West Indies, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand

Stuart Broad Needs To Calm Down Again

I’m watching highlights of Day 2 of England v. Sri Lanka (c/o Cricket-Online), which features some choice Stuart Broad LBW appeals. Broad has long toed the line of decency in his budding career; his signature style of “How’s That?” involves piercing an index finger in the sky and running toward the slips without a care for the umpire behind him. (Never, ever, turn your back on Aleem Dar, young man.)

And, what’s worse, he gets away with it. (Well, usually; he did pay 50 percent of his match fee for throwing a ball at another player and then offering a nothing-apology.) I suppose you can’t expect too much of a 24-year-old, but I wonder how this aggression will take form when Broad captains his T20 side. Shudder.

Memories Of The 1996 World Cup

I recently pooh-poohed the World Cup, but it wasn’t always so. My first memories of cricket come from the tournament. I recall sitting in my parents’ room as the 1992 edition played on the television. I insisted to my parents that India was winning, but I don’t think they were even playing (and, of course, Pakistan won that round).

But in 1996, that’s when cricket started for me. I was 11, I was back in India, and it all just made sense. There was a young(er) Sachin Tendulkar, scoring runs in every match; there was that scintillating Bombay match between India and Australia (when all of the city seemed to stop); then there was that other match against Pakistan (cue all our Venkatesh Prasad impersonations).

And I remember the end, too. God, do I remember it. My father, ever the pessimist, made a bet with our upstairs neighbor that India would not win. He did so jokingly, but with India 100/8 against Sri Lanka, the neighbor sent his daughter with the money. That caused a bit of ruckus in my household, because my parents were embarrassed (don’t make bets with friends, people) and my father tried to find a way to resolve the faux-pas.

The neighbor’s daughter stepped into my room and there I was. Sitting on the ground with my dinner in front of me, watching Calcutta make a fool of itself (it was only later I learned it’s a regional pastime). I wanted to cry, just like Vinod Kambli running off the field (with Kumble?). It wasn’t just the cricket. My family had recently returned from the Middle East, and even as a pre-teen, I could tell India was backward in some way. Things seemed at a standstill. Back then, the talk was about “second-generation” reforms and coalitions, not 9 percent growth rates and India Shining. Everything seemed so fragile — the United Front governments, even Bombay itself, then firmly under the thumb of a mad man.

But I also remember some weeks later, when another kid and I ran downstairs in the compound with a new bat and tennis ball and started to play. Mind you, it all came naturally. I had a run-up, I knew how to bowl, and he knew how to bat. It was like a religious conversion. And ever since then, it’s been cricket. Always between tears and joy: that’s what it’s like to be an Indian, and an Indian cricket fan.

Dissecting The World Cup Squads, Part 2

From The Telegraph:

Versatility will therefore be the key ingredient. If you bowl first you will need loads of spinners to take advantage of the dry pitches that will prevail at the end of the season; if you bowl second you will need loads of seamers to take advantage of damp pitches, or at least medium-pacers who control a dewy ball, not fast and furious siege-engines like Shaun Tait who could spray it anywhere.

And it so happens that the three host nations have selected this appropriate mix of seamers and spinners, including batsmen who can bowl part-time spin – unlike Australia who have picked one spinner in their squad, Nathan Hauritz, who badly damaged his bowling shoulder in Friday’s win over England in Hobart.

The Sri Lanka Military Finally Takes Over

Geez, I knew the Sri Lankan army was ascendant after ending the civil war, but didn’t realize it would go to these lengths. Via, still the finest highlight website in the land, comes this hilarious video from the recent Sri Lanka-West Indies series. Watch for Asad Rauf’s excellent reaction. (Also, watch these soldiers stay in character, all the way off the field. My high school drama teacher would be proud.)