Friday, 10 December 2010

What has Hilditch been drinking?

I thought I was beyond caring about Australian selection issues, but it just keeps getting stranger. The gum-suckers think it's all a conspiracy, with the feted Victorians finding it virtually impossible to get a game, but as soon as the big boy from St Kilda backs someone, he gets the nod. You might think the horses for courses idea might come into it somewhere, but that would imply Beer had bowled more than 108 first-class overs at the WACA.

Phil Hughes added some humour to the other inclusions by promptly getting a duck, while Steve Smith at least backed up his useful bowling by knocking off the crow-eater's meagre target.

I still don't want to bother thinking about whether Hughes/Smith/etc. are actually the right choices, but hte one thing I am sure of is that if the selectors do think the younger guys are better options than the likes of Hodge, White and so on for whatever reason, they need to pick some guys and stick with them (apart from dealing with injuries, of course). It'll be better for the team and those left behind in both the short term and the long term.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Pick me?

Apparently the Cricket Australia board has been asking questions of the selectors. Has this been leaked to the media to distract from the fact it was the administrators who forced the selectors to announce a squad a week earlier than they wanted to today.

Maybe we've all got the wrong end of the stick, though. Will Sutherland and Hilditch come out with a joint press conference tomorrow?

Sutherland: I know you all thought the new look Ryobi OD Cup was an overly ambitious attempt to change the face of day-long cricket and get a head start for 2015, but in bringing back the 12 player idea, we were actually working towards an agreement for the Ashes. We're still hoping to get a good reply from the ECB, but we're sure the public will love seeing more of the favourite players in the Baggy Green.

Hilditch: We believe we've chosen a great team for a 17-a-side match. Great batting lineup with Haddin coming in at 9. With Johnson, four full-time pacers, Smith and two more spinners with no batting to think of, as well as Watson, North, Clarke and Katich, no captain could possibly run out ideas. Isn't that right, Ricky? This team will really test the English depth.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Australian T20

I had plans to go to the first List A level T20 of the Australian summer, but they were discarded in light of the weather forecast and the fact that I haven't quite shaken the flu that kept me in bed for nearly 5 days, not to mention my intended companions' plans, reactions to the weather, and our general views on getting home from Rooty Hill after 10 on a Wednesday night.

As it turned out, the cracking thunderstorm was gone hours before, and it was traffic that held up the start of Blacktown Olympic Park's introduction to big time cricket. Once Sri Lanka had made it west1, we hear that Jayawardene took the attack apart, rain interrupted the Blues innings, and they fell well short. While it was hardly the full strength team that provides half the players for Sunday's international, I think it's fair to say NSW would have expected a better result, last night, and as they started the second portion of their innings against Tasmania last week.

On the topic of full strength teams, it's worth noting that Test and ODI players are not available for the Big Bash at all, so for all the chatter, Michael Clarke really should be looking for an IPL opportunity if being the T20 captain and having the appropriate experience is at all important to him. Either CA leave him free to focus on other things, or he should be ready to go to whoever will have him.

But as we see in the news today, the Big Bash with its state teams and clashes with the international schedule is set to be short-lived. At first I had really trouble trying to see why this had popped up in the news today, asking myself what part of it we hadn't already heard.

An 8-team league is the plan, and while one report mentions second teams in Melbourne and Sydney, most stick with the old line that the last two locations are yet to be determined, allowing continued speculation about Geelong, Newcastle, Canberra, the Gold Coast, etc. The only development seems to be in the financing and ownership - my understanding of earlier reports was that CA would hold off on private ownership for a limited time, getting things going with (at least) 6 of the franchises in the hands of the state associations. The only change now seems to be that some associations would welcome investment and offers of some sort have been made. It might be sooner than expected, but I think that's where it was headed the whole time.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Split interest?

The banana-benders are taking on the islanders today in the first match of the Ryobi One-Day Cup, playing a new format of day-long cricket. The idea seems to have been to give a boost to the flagging interested in the version of the game now apparently caught neither here nor there between Tests and Twenty20. A lot has been made of not knowing what to expect, but in my opinion, there's not a huge amount truly new, even apart from the fact that there had already been some split innings experiments in England.

When it was first announced with words like "two innings", a lot of people quickly thought of a game which was basically back-to-back T20s, a concept supported by several big names as capitalising on factors associated with the emergence of the short format. Of course, the convenience of a 3 hour game is lost (would double T20 be better or worse over two nights?), and the international nature of the IPL and the glitz/glamour/gimmicks associated with T20 worldwide do not rely on the format at all, but the high scoring rates are also said to be an attraction. High scoring comes from the higher pace of the game in general when squashing a whole innings into twenty overs changes the balance of risks facing the batsman, and also from decisions to encourage big hitting with smaller boundaries and other incentives. I appreciate the excitement of the former despite my preference for the traditional less hurried game, but am not really keen on the latter at all. There's nothing inappropriate about a fast-paced T20 match on the full MCG oval, or an unpredictable Kotla pitch which favours the bowlers.

Cricket Australia's new format doesn't reduce the value of a wicket quite so much – a team's innings still needs to be built over an (interrupted) 45 overs. Some of the rules, such as an extra bouncer per over, give more tools back to the bowlers, although favouring pace over spin. The separate balls from each end will probably be welcomed by batsmen as well, and while what the periods which are effectively powerplays (fixed at 5 overs at the start of each segment) come to five overs less than in current ODI rules, the restriction to four (rather than five) players in the outfield for the rest of the match could lead more attacking bowling and batting.

In any case, the most obvious change isn't to the relationship between bat and ball, but to the order of the game, trying to spread the interest out by letting both teams get 20 overs in before either has the chance to finish their innings. This means more insight into where things stand for both players and spectators, more interest for those who turn up only for the second half and more even conditions for the two teams, but there's more to it than that - the team in front at the main break gets something like “first innings points”. While you need to build for a full innings, your first segment counts for something in itself. If you're going to give points other than for simply win/loss/draw, I'd have to say this makes more sense than the stupid bonus points currently favoured by the ICC. It's new, but not quite unfamiliar to anyone used to two-innings competitions.

So there is a small way in which the innings is more than just split/interrupted, and there should be a bit more batting to cope with it too. I wonder whether the most significant change might be to the makeup of the teams. 12-player teams are old news in this competition, but bowlers are also allowed to bowl 12 overs each, more than a quarter of the number required all up. This might mean higher quality bowling, but the restriction was never there to restrict the bowlers so much as to ensure reasonably traditional team make-up. Now, a team can choose to play 8 batsmen (assuming the keeper is included as a batsman), all of whom won't need to bowl except as a back-up in unusual circumstances. If part-timers come into plan A at all, the tail is even further reduced. This isn't the place for a slow-scorer at the top of the order. (It also makes D/L more likely to be a bit weird.)

It will be interesting to see how it goes. That, I think, is the point. I'm not sure how much F50 cricket in general is dying, or how much CA want to use this format to revive it, but it is always struggling to keep interest in the domestic cup, and they might be quite happy to rely on novelty for a year or even two, whatever the long term plans are.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

It's cricket season

The Australian team have arrived in India, played a practise match in Chandigarh which seems to have served the purpose of a practise match, and, having travelled such a long way to Mohali, are preparing for the First Test.

Of course, playing a practise match means press conferences, and the players have duly provided some material for our consumption. This has drawn a few comments, and I'm sure there could is room for a PhD on what is generally said by different countries' cricketers and journalists (and even the response of their audiences) at home and away.

I'm not so interested in the "same old Aussie talk" angle, though. Perhaps with knowledge of the situation, I'm reading too much into it, but it the bowlers lining up to tell their plans seem, perhaps not more circumspect than what we're used to, but certainly less confident and more desperate in the less complimentary sense.

Whatever the sports psychologists say, there's good reason for that. It's a tough ask, although the current team seems ready to go out and be tested. I expect it to be interesting rather than thrilling, a more consistent contest than matches in Australia's last few series, which threatened to blow out or swing violently back at any second for more than one reason.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

No fixing here

I would like to state that, despite my vaguely prescient-seeming comments in the week leading up to the (first) 2010 Grand Final, I wouldn't actually try to creat such a clash with my brother's wedding, and I definitely did not influence the outcome of the match.

I doubt that St Kilda were trying to recreate the events of 1966, although perhaps they are glad to have been undefeated in a GF for only the 2nd time. I can't say anything about 'spot' fixing, although if it turns out that anyone actually offer bets on the number of kick-outs that result in a free kick by going out, then I would start to wonder.

Which team will be able to get up again the most? I might be too busy to find out...

Thursday, 23 September 2010

View from afar

Surprisingly, I came across an article on the Commonwealth Games that isn't all about the site or security fears. Being in London, James Schloeffel is in good position to tell us how much inattention the Games are receiving from the Brits. The cliched description of Australia's disproportionate love of sporting victory is also not altogether empty, but let's hang on a bit here.

What is the disinterest in London being compared with? I don't know when Schloeffel left his hometown, but surely he wouldn't consider his current experience analogous to being in Melbourne four years ago. He's also a long way from the Australia supposedly preparing for lock-down in 2010.

The Games haven't been seen much outside ads from the broadcasters who need to make money out of them. I expect most of us have just laughed at TEN's hyperbolic announcements, and to be fair to them, even they wouldn't be disrupting normal broadcasting so much if the planned revision to the anti-siphoning laws was already in place.

Quite simply, I think it's been quite a while since anyone outside the host country paid too much attention to any Commonwealth Games.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Settling for pies

I have been driven to supporting Collingwood in a Grand Final. Can we please get it over and done with, so that I can leave this distressing fact behind and direct my attention to the following Saturday?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Swinging and Hanging

Continuing to find things to question in news reports, I found a version of my recent favourite misunderstanding/oversight again yesterday, when I looked at the election coverage in the Daily Tele I found on the train seat. Speaking of the hits Labor took in inner Sydney without looking like losing a seat, they said Grayndler had gone from a massive 25% margin to 5% or less. Apples and oranges, anyone?

The (almost) 25% figure is based on the two-party preferred results between Labor and Liberal at the last election. Had preferences between Labor and the Greens been compared, it would have been significantly less, despite the Greens not doing well enough on primary votes to make that count happen. (Actually, there wasn't a need to look at any preferences.) While we can't say for sure, I'd be surprised if the change in Labor v Green 2PP result was much more than the primary swing against Labor, that is, about the same as the 8% swing being reported for the Labor-Liberal 2PP in nearly safe Labor seats. Moving on to even more guesswork, the change in the Labor v Liberal was probably even less than that.

In any case the parliament is almost certainly going to be hung. For many years I've had a dream, probably inpsired by NSW in the early 90s, of hung parliaments where independents actively pressure the major players to work together across party lines, as well as providing a separate voice of their own. Now, I'm amazed that Independent Rob Oakeshott is actually make this sort of “cheeky” proposal. I'm not still naive enough to think that this would be all good, but I like the way Oakeshott and Windsor are talking.

Macquazza Dictionary

A recent SMH article explores the internet phenomena creating a generational communication gap. It starts with laguage being influenced by txt speak, and even contrasts it to traditional Aussie abbreviation. In that context, it seems particular strange that the example the Macquarie Dictionary editor gives as having reached spoken language is "TMOZ". Does she think that word's origins are purely in the typed or even written world. Really?

Friday, 20 August 2010

Stopping the boasts

With a resurgence in the number of asylum seeker-carrying vessels moving shorewards, Tony Abbott has taken us back to 20011 and told us he will
Stop the boats.

In response, Gillard and the ALP are slightly more confused about persuing an almost identical outcome. While there are issues of fairness and honesty involved, and the policy in this area doesn't deserve to be ignored, the acceptance of the idea that unauthorised boat arrivals are significant to the overall questions related to immigration and population2 is ridiculous.

The rest of the Liberal mantra can almost be summarised as 'stop the bloat'. While I've seen some details of Labor's “real solutions”, mostly they've been simply telling us to
Stop a boat,

sorry, stop Abbott, and that only they can achieve this for us. I am told that, if elected, Abbot will “take Australia backwards”. Economics and industrial relations get a run, but no doubt we're also meant to conclude that the coalition broadband-lite will 'stop the posts', at least the ones requiring a lot of bandwidth.

Not wanting to be outdone on personality-driven anti-campaigning, in the last week the opposition moved their ads forward from the bloat and boats message to also question the PM's trustworthiness. Both sides have put a lot of effort into telling us not to choose the others, and they both get agreement from Mark Latham, who thinks the answer is to
Stop your votes.

Whatever your choice, I expect that most of the boasts and promises will be stopped and forgotten pretty soon - probably by Monday.

1Which was, incidentally, the last time I was in Australia for a federal election campaign.
2The discussion of which has been, for the most part, bringing together every issue that has population as a factor and putting them together as a scare campaign targetted at self-interest, with very little consideration of how the details interact with each other.

Friday, 13 August 2010

First preference: getting it straight

In several places, I've emphasised the fact that Labor seats reported as "safest" due to the high two party preferred result against the Liberals are actually closer to being taken by the Greens. I've done this mainly it is often overlooked in an unhelpful tendency to make everything one-dimensional and it find it interesting just in being unusual.

As it turns out, Sam Byrne's campaign material has this plastered all over it - "It's between the Greens and Labor". I must admit that while it may add legitimacy to their perceptions, I doubt that it's an effective way to campaign, particular combined with the rest of their comments.

Still, at least it makes more sense that Anthony Albanese's complaints about them. Whatever they suggest regarding preferences, they're making it very clear that they're not looking for a "protest vote". There might be more to say when you put it in the national context, but I don't see anything misleading said about this particular contest.

Then there's the (inconspicuous) Liberal candidate, who also seems to protest a bit much. Even though he may well have other outcomes foremost in his mind, suggesting preferences for the Greens ahead of Labor is exactly the same as saying (truthfully or otherwise - not that I think there's a deal here) that you'd rather the result go that way. Not that that in itself should matter to a potential voter. In fact, let's completely avoid the Alan Jones response to how-to-vote cards and point out that whatever you think of the parties, candidates, and electoral and parliamentary machinations, there's no reason not to choose your own ordering.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Buy the bye

Sidharth Monga thinks batsmen hit while trying to avoid the ball should not be entitled to leg-byes. Thoughts?

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Second opinion?

Paul Roos says "There is no better team in the competition to test yourself against than Geelong, who have been the benchmark in the AFL over the past four years."

I do hope the Swans "take it up to the Cats" more than recent form would suggest, but is any more testing really necessary after last week's meeting (if you could call it that) with Melbourne?

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Not very English

After a bit of a delay (in several senses), the First Test has started. Pakistan becomes the third opponent to Test Australia at the MCC's famous home. (If only this had happened when I was in London!) Mind you, when it comes to cricket in general, Lord's is no stranger to Pakistan v Australia, this being the third such match since their first anti-climactic meeting in 1999.

The Pakistani batting has been weakened by well-publicised events. Australia have taken the opportunity to announce in advance Clarke's place in the batting order until next year. (That seems both unusual and unnecessary, to me.) Moving up a spot shouldn't hurt him or the team, but will hardly shake the world. Unsurprisingly, though, in my opinion, the big question is still how the Aussie bowlers will step up.

The return of Hilfenhaus may be useful in these conditions, but all three pacemen can be more erratic than some. The big change is the debut of Steve Smith as a spinner. I felt that throwing him in as the main spinner is rushing him, and am still concerned. Having said that, if there is a need, there is a need, and perhaps it is not such a big step from the role as all-rounder to replace a batsman that I would have been comfortable with. Even in this situation, I would put him in ahead of the other debutant. On that note, while I did get strangely confused just over a year, the Tasmanian wicketkeeper's inclusion for Haddin means that we now do indeed have three apple island born-and-bred members of the Test team!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Thwarted captain?

The headline of the article from PA Sport at the Cricket Australia site is still thwarting all of my attempts to make any sense of it.

More interesting than that is claim that he “was sent in at the top of the order”. If he's not the one making those decisions, does that mean he's in the team for his batting after all?

Monday, 5 July 2010

Candidates in the news

I've commented before on the transition of inner-city seats like Marrickville from safe Labor to a new sort of marginal seat, where the alternative is the Greens. It is a sign of just how complete this transition is that the Greens preselection was a story in the ABC radio news bulletins this morning.

Deputy Mayor Fiona Byrne will now challenge Deputy Premier (and former Deputy Mayor) Carmel Tebbutt for the second time in the state election next March. Together with the preselection of the 2003 state candidate (and former Deputy Mayor) as the Greens candidate for Grayndler, this means that while the sitting members in the state and federal seats are married to each other, the Greens candidates share a surname.

However, the media interest probably has more to do with the other preselection candidate, Sylvia Hale, a member of the Legislative Council since 2003, and known to the voters of Marrickville long before that (although I don't remember that she was ever Deputy Mayor). The SMH reports the vote as Greens reject Hale for Marrickville. Her past may have come into it, but I don't know whether she has received an official reason for her “rejection”.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Eye on Hawkeye

Some sort of event going on in South Africa has set of the talk about the role of technology in sports officiating again. I think Kartikeya at A Cricketing View brings to this issue many of the approaches that are needed.

In particular, he highlights the fact that the aim of a drive to use technology is not about getting decisions right, but getting them “verifiably right”. It's not even about being correct. Questions are only raised because there appears to be, and often is, available evidence beyond what the umpires have traditionally relied on. Being absolutely correct is still impossible, it is only a question of whether there is a decent basis for the claim that a mistake was made.

As he says, the uncertainty is shifted to “hitherto unforeseen areas”, and this can be a problem if the technology is seen as decisive. This is related to the other important point Kartikeya makes - that technology is more than just the technical. It's use affected by the interests of those involved, and how it is understood and portrayed by them. There are a lot of sides to this - the example of the Lampard goal in the soccer raises questions, yes, but technology doesn't really come into it until we start thinking about the efficiencies and other outcomes of using broadcasters compared with those of using two more officials.

While I think these points form a strong basis for discussing technology in sports officiating, I don't agree with all the conclusions reached or implications made. The professional nature of modern umpiring, or at least the particular system run by the ICC, quite conceivably hinders umpires, rather than allowing best performances over an extended period of time. Neither is the need for umpires simply caused by players trying deceive. Asking players to give themselves out LBW might work (sometimes) in the backyard or park, but it is clearly not just a matter of honesty. This is an extreme case where the Law itself was developed assuming indepedent involvement, but it is not the only example.

This example is very relevant,as Kartikeya does focus on LBW, in particular Hawk-eye. He begins by agreeing with what I think is the vital point - we have to move past the broad rhetoric of technology vs human, and look at each method of officiating as a separate case. The fact that technology shifts uncertainty rather than eliminating it is an argument against technophilia, not against individual solutions. Being verifiably right or close to it can be a valid aim, and uncertainty is sometimes (often, for example, in run outs) not “merely” shifted, but reduced. Even a change that is not quantifiable may be arguably more acceptable for some reason. This needs to be hammered out, not pre-judged one way or the other.

So what about LBWs and Hawk-eye? It is quite different to most other examples, in that the answer does not rely simply on observing, but on some level of speculation. The basis of that speculation was changing even before the advent of Hawk-eye, so I don't think it can be blamed for changing the Law. Using a technological system to observe and speculate is not in itself any worse than putting it simply in the hands of an umpire, especially under recent versions. However, traditionally there are a large number of umpires who are unreasonably biased against giving LBWs to one extent or another, and it should also be acknowledged both that Hawk-eye is potentially much harsher on batsmen than an umpire could reasonably be. I don't think “correcting” either of these aspects of human umpiring is a bad change, but it is a change.

The reason for this is that uncertainty, and the benefit thereof, is already acknowledged in our understanding of the rule. Shifting the uncertainty isn't simply shifting the errors. Thankfully, it should be possible to talk sensibly about what the uncertainty is for Hawk-eye, and tests have been done by the MCC. Questions remain, as the reports are light-on. Kartikeya rightly objects to two-part classification of “normal” and “extreme” LBWs, and to the 'average error', suggesting the median rather than the mean. We don't know how broad this test was. I understand that pitch variation and calibration based on play are fairly unimportant, but Soulberry's reference to all the bowling variations is important here. I'd prefer an indication of the distribution of errors for a whole range of deliveries, varying over the distance and other factors and summarised with a confidence interval, rather than any sort of average or claimed absolute maximum.

That is the technical side. There is a protocol for its use in the context of the UDRS. The uncertainty is not ignored at all - while the beneficiary of the doubt in this system is controversial, a half-ball's width (let alone 45mm) is generous enough to make worrying about errors as large as half the stump's width quite ridiculous. On top of that, the Hawk-eye document implies that the protocol also prevents LBW decisions when the batsman comes too far down the pitch, following traditional umpiring rather than the letter of the law. It might fall to further criticism, but I wouldn't say Hawk-eye has been “uncritically adopted”. It certainly hasn't been adopted as though it gives certainty about the trajectory.

Yes, it is convenient for the marketing of Hawk-eye to ignore the uncertainty. It probably does give the wrong impression sometimes, but I don't agree that it would be less persuasive if a range of likely locations were shown. Most of the commentators who leap to absolute statements are of the sort that did that anyway when given much less. Most of us are ok with the idea of an approximation at one level or another. I am probably not the best sample, but I would find an indication of the confidence interval more persuasive on first look. I don't have any problem with a commentator saying “Hawk-eye gives greater than 95% probability of hitting the stumps, so that's a good decision.” In general, I'd love to see an understanding of the uncertainty involved encouraged with that sort of display, although in practise it's not obvious how to show it simply without giving all sorts of other impressions. (Mind you, it's a bit funny to worry about showing about the Hawk-eye uncertainty in an application that doesn't even claim to perfectly display the Hawk-eye results!)

All in all, I think Hawk-eye can be used sensibly. Any suggestion that Hawk-eye gives certainty where an umpire speculates should be corrected, but that correction shouldn't simply rubbish the claim, but replace it with an good idea of how accurately a the Hawk-eye system performs that same speculation. Further testing showing greater errors, or concerns about the reliability or even integrity of those operating the system, may give reason to prefer a human umpire, but not simply the fact that the technology is limited and has been over-rated.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

First stop Dublin

So Australia's northern tour begins. In the past, the short trip to Ireland was a bit of fun, known for things such as six-hitting exploits and so on. This time it is a full-status ODI, the first between the two teams outside a World Cup. (I think it even counts for the ICC tables.)

Ireland are in some ways like the Socceroos - not necessarily living up to their past unexpected exploits. Of course, it doesn't help to be losing players to a more prestigious neighbour. Some more creative thinking is needed here - perhaps if more players were retained, Ireland wouldn't still be using Australian and other second -string players. In any case, it is a long way from the days when SR Waugh lined up for the Irish.

This is a strange tour - an unusually seroius warm-up match, yet another long ODI series, some modern stuff, and as a climax, an 'away' Test series against a team with all sorts of internal problems. The islands off north-western Europe are a long way from the North West Frontier - let's see what happens!

Monday, 17 May 2010


It's been a hectic few weeks, with my daughter being slightly sick on and off, probably a fair bit of worrying that she was sick even when she wasn't, and any number of things keeping us busy at work and play. Thankfully, she was well and happy for her first birthday a couple of weeks ago, with plenty of opportunities to show off her favourite word: "Hooray".

Actually that's just about her only word, certainly the only one I pick out well. "Mum" seems to mean a zillion things, and apparently she can go on about "Dad" when I'm late and she thinks I should be around, but generally making herself clear seems to be less of priority than getting some molars through those gums and taking herself to, into and onto anything she hasn't been able or allowed to explore!

Friday, 30 April 2010

The real deal?

Cricinfo's headline seems a bit harsh on WI and Ireland, ahead of tonight/tomorrow morning's match.

Thinking a bit further, it would seem to be just as slack to NZ and SL. Just what does count as the real deal in this tournament?

I'm still not convinced Australia (the team) sees the tournament as a whole as the real deal, but they could pull off a fair bit if the bowlers fire.

The whole thing doesn't seem too predictable - partly because of the format, but also because international T20 is still pretty rare.

Friday, 23 April 2010

The bard and battleflags

To tear or not to tear - that is the question
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to respect
The bookshelf contents of outraged parents
Or to take down amid a sea of protests
And while ignoring, rend them.

Well, not outraged, but on this, the anniversary of the death (and traditional birthdate) of William Shakespeare, I note that my daughter seems to have developed a predilection for his work - in the sense that a not-yet-one year old child ever appreciates the printed word.

There are other reports of icons taking a beating on their special day. This day is also St George's Day, and as usual its (lack of) celebration raises the questions of whether there is a positive form of English nationalism which is missing in action. One of the stories that seems to pop up every year is the idea that the patriotic Englishman may be somewhat ashamed to fly the St George's Cross flag (unless the football is on), since it has been appropriated by the racist extremists.

The racist extremists at the back of Leichardt Town Hall could certainly be said to have appropriated the cause of defending the Australian national flag at this week's debate on changing it, filmed for a 60 Minutes segment to be aired this Sunday, being Anzac Day. The timing itself drew criticism, seen as an attack on a flag 'sanctified' by the military on the day sacred to them.

I expect the loudmouths and tv producers see the dramatic results as mutually beneficial - I was to some extent expecting more of the rational discussion, but I guess those with more reasonable views are less likely to involve themselves for the sake of a flag, old or new.

I would question the trends regarding nationalism and the use of flags on the day of remembrance, whether the flag is constant or not. With perhaps a more mainstream comment, I also suggest that the values often ascribed to both the diggers and the flag are more important than which symbol is used for our nation. O for a debate that actually reflects this.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Supporting acts

The ECB decided to shorten their limited-but-not-as-limited-as-some-these-days overs tournament, split it into three groups, and then realised that would work better with an extra team. They decided to fill the team with anyone who hadn't made it somewhere else.

I'm not sure where such a team would find supporters, but I learn through a tweet (that at first went over my head) that they, like the Lions team, have been named after one of the supporters in the royal arms of the United Kingdom.

Making up the numbers, I doubt they're expected to win much. Indeed,
The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town.

What's surprising is that an English team has been given that name. Surely someone in the ECB knows that the unicorn is the Scottish counterpart to England's lion?

Of course, according to Lewis Carroll's White King, even the winner does not get the crown, but the nursery rhyme continues
Some gave them white bread,
And some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake
and drummed them out of town.

and Alice does give the lion twice as much plum-cake!

Heavy on bats

It's the time of year when we find out which players will be paid by Cricket Australia from 1 July onwards. There's nothing too surprising in the list, although there's always something to talk about. Jrod wonders why Lee gets more allowances for injuries than Bracken. Tony wonders about the magic number of contracts, pointing out the absence of T20 write-ins.

I'm not sure where the Jaques story fits in the injury picture, and I can see why a T20 position might not be considered that important, but 25 contracts does seem pretty arbitrary. It also seems to me at first glance that the squad, if we can call it that, is fairly balanced in terms of bat and ball. This is slightly surprising, given the effect of both injury rates and recent selection tendencies on the number of batsman and bowlers likely to be actually required for national duty.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Waiting for standard time

This Saturday, sunrise in Sydney will occur at a later time by local clocks than on any other day this year. For the last few years, daylight saving hasn't ended until the first weekend in April, and hasn't begun until the first weekend in October, when we have the earliest sunrise of the year.

I can't see the point of this. Now that I appreciate the idea of daylight saving at all, I think the current set up is slightly better than the previous dates, where changes happened at the same time that Europe went the other way. However, where daylight saving is observed in both Europe and Australia/NZ, the times use seem to fit in with the solar pattern with unnecessary asymmetry.

I think it would be an improvement to move both changes forward a week. The only downside is that the spring adjustment will no longer fall on a long weekend, but that only happens in two states and a territory anyway. The return to standard time will also be less likely to coincide with Easter (as it does this year), but that's hardly a bad thing. There's certainly not enough reasons to outweigh the ridiculously late sunrises this week.

Mind you, even things I don't like can have a positive side. On Thursday morning I will appreciate the fact that a US-hosted webinar is on at 4am rather than 3am Sydney time!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Expansion teams

The announcement of two new IPL franchises sounds familiar, and while the process is much less drawn out in this case, can we draw any parallels with the AFL's expansion?

While Fremantle and Port Adelaide have been around long enough now, the IPL has accepted a second team in a cricketing heartland state (Pune). However, they have also taken on a "Western Sydney" expansion area 'not known for cricket' (Kochi). The apparently deserving alternative of "Tasmania" has been left out (Ahmedabad), perhaps continuing to supply fans for teams from neighbouring state(s), especially "Hawthorn", who play some games there (Rajasthan).

Of course, these analogies are far from perfect: The IPL (thankfully) has no Victorian roots. It might be a more realistic depiction of the relative populations, and (probably only slightly) fairer to Kochi's cricketing heritage to align them with the Gold Coast. While the Chargers this year might look like the homeless Kangaroos of old, some might think that designation would also fit Warne's Royals better than that of the Hawks. But does that make Ahmedabad the Gold Coast? I'm getting confused...

My point (other than being entertained by my own confusion) is that it's interesting how quite different mechanisms of decision making (both directed at making money, it should be said) have led to similarly disputed choices when it comes to expansion. Having said that, my colleague from Ahmedabad isn't concerned with the news at all - the whole thing seems safer ground than looking at the leagues' respective approaches to providing players for the new teams!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Sledging bingles

A NZ ex-cricketer, cricket CEO and cricketer have come out saying that sledging Michael Clarke over his bingle/bungle (Kiwis can't tell the difference, after all) in his relationship. That hardly brought a response, but somewhere in there teammate Michael Hussey opined that it would indeed be "going a bit too far", and that brought on comments galore.

There's a lesson in that.

While still looking for lessons on sledging, isn't it interesting how these stories tend to prompt writers to include the stock list of all-time famous sledges? Isn't it even more interesting that nearly all of them aren't in the list because of the original sledge, but for the response?

Friday, 5 March 2010

Howard embraces ICC-speak

I have spent most of the last 10 years studying, mainly mathematics. This explains why I haven't had all sorts of experience that might be considered useful for all sorts of positions. The experience I have had might be just as useful for some of these positions, and for others is might even be more appropriate, but whenever missing skills are considered important, I can't simply say that I couldn't have pursued them and completed my studies at the same time!

John Howard has no experience in cricket administration. It's not hard to find arguments for his appointment on the grounds that his experience is at least as good for the ICC vice-president's position (if it matters). His reply, on the other hand is simply to point out that we know what he was doing instead:
''I think the fact I haven't been involved in cricket administration is explained by the fact I had a day job which made that rather difficult."

All I can say is that he clearly has skill in giving completely irrelevant response. He is a good fit for the ICC!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Blasting on both sides

Dave Warner bats both ways. He doesn't see why he should have to stick to one or the other during the course of the match, and there certainly isn't anything explicit in the laws to say he should. If he switches after the ball is in play, that is once the bowler's run-up has begun, it's all confirmed as fine - he is officially batting one way, and takes on the risk of changing in a restricted time-frame for the benefits of catching the bowler and fielders ready for a different approach. (Of course, it might rule out the leg-side wide and open up LBWs as well, but I wouldn't want to guess what the MCC are doing with this in this year's planned update of the Laws.)

If he changes just before the run-up starts, then he is officially batting the other way. Either the bowler is caught bowling to different rules and fielders are potentially illegally placed (not to mention tactically undone), or they notice, and will stop and take the time to change the field. Clearly against the spirit of the game, as the umpire told him.

I guess it's clear what these umpires would have done in February 1981. However, I'm not sure he should have been stopped from doing it in general. Yes, batsmen switching over adds one more time delay factor to the game, but is it any less justified than changing the field after each single for many partnerships? In general terms, if switch-hitting is ok, surely batting one way or the other with notice is in the spirit of the game! There would be no objection to batting left handed in one innings and right handed in the next, so where do we draw the line?

Mind you, why change anything when you are making 50s in 18 or 19 balls? I don't know whether the hype about this innings was going to last any longer than a T20 game in the first place, but it has certainly gone missing in the light of a more recent innings. Tendulkar's 200 was enough to excite even this fan of lower scoring matches!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Fun in the sun

Despite crazy scores in the warm-up in Canberra, the first two matches of this series have made Gayle east his words, or at least his 4-1 prediction. He seems to have switched tactics, looking to lull Doug the rug in to a false sense of security. Then again, maybe he's just being speaking straight, after all, he seems to know what cricket is all about - "If we can get to 2-1, we can get things happening for us. We need to make it more interesting so you can get some more ticket sales."!

In any case, the Australians now head out into the surprising heat in Sydney, to see what happens in the next match. The four changes to the lineup might be construed as levelling things up to some extent, but the real issue is how the Caribbean batsmen face the pace trio.

Friday, 5 February 2010


We all know the evidence behind the hype about Pakistanis and T20, but isn't it intriguing to think about what could possibly lead to a fielding performance several orders of magnitude better than what they put up in the Tests?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Responding to referrals

The UDRS is an ongoing topic of discussion, even during commentary of ODI series where it does not apply. As far as the Australian summer goes, the system could be considered to have served its purpose, at least in the Sydney Test, in making sure that post-match discussion didn't revolve around what would have happened if Australia were not gifted a wicket on the last day. However, it has also, here and elsewhere, provided talking points that could be seen as failures and negative side effects.

There is plenty to be said about the design of the system, its misuse and alleged abuse, but that's not my intent right now. The question of how the game itself may be changed by the current umpiring technology and/or the review system might be a less important topic of discussion, but I find it just as interesting.

In general, the system is intended to overturn out/not out decisions where the technology in use provides evidence that the original decision was incorrect. Even apart from which standard of evidence is used and the much-discussed misuse/abuse of the system, this means different things in different contexts. While a front-foot no ball should always result in an reversal, the gadgets are not set up to capture everything. It is more likely that compelling evidence of an edge will show up than similarly compelling evidence of a non-edge, while the use of cameras to judge the cleanness of catches can be a black art. It would be interesting to check thte figures to see whether UDRS has produced more reversals of out or not out decisions.

Let's turn to specifics. So far, the most extreme departure from human umpiring is the use of Hawkeye, which aims to provide the actual path of the ball and tell us where it would have travelled if the batsman had not been there, enough to completely answer the question of whether a legal delivery deserves an LBW verdict.

Kartikeya has already raised the issue of whether this spells the end of techniques intended to reap the traditional benefit of the umpire's doubt. Personally, I am amazed that this sort of technology is used in any context, cricketing or otherwise, without the presence of a serious treatment of its margins of error. Once present, there is a decision to be made as to whether this margin of error should be incorporated in the application of the technology. I believe it is consistent with the traditions of the LBW law and the motivations of umpiring technology, that a sensible margin of error be include. Without too much certainty, I expect that this would mean the age-old technique of coming down the pitch would still provide greater immunity from LBW, although not as much as we have previously seen.

The heat-sensitive cameras provide images that in theory should be fairly easy to interpret - they show a pattern of waves received at frequencies which our eyes do not detect, showing a difference between, say, a bat in normal conditions, and a part of the bat that has just hit a cricket ball. This can establish that there was an edge, although care still needs to be taken if the question is whether the edge came before some other impact in an LBW decision.

Apart from that, the evidence is not always there. The more angles, the better the chance of finding something, and it has been suggested that with only two (or one?) camera in play, players could game the system by turning bats one way or the other. More controllably, some stickers on the back of bats do reflect electro-magnetic waves in a way that appears similar to impact-induced heat on the HotSpot screen. Persistence with this technology should possibly lead to more conditions being placed on bats.

Finally, something that I haven't heard even mentioned by anyone else. It has long been wise for fielders to remain on the ball at least until an appeal has been given a positive answer. On at least one occasion now, a batsman has been given out LBW, the fielders celebrated, only for a reversal and an outcome of four leg-byes. At the time, it didn't mean much, but you never know when four runs could matter in a Test match, let alone the shorter forms if they also adopt a review system. With (dismissal) reviews in place, it is sensible for both teams to keep playing until the ball is dead for some reason other than a wicket. Having said that, I don't want to imagine the controversy that may arise from a situation where one team continues and the other doesn't, with a reversal of a wicket resulting in a run-out decision.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Clarity on horrific crimes

The recurring stories from Melbourne which have prompted worldwide headlines are very disturbing. I have not been able to find anything that could be said that would actually be helpful. I'm not sure that this article from Sushi Das will help either, but it is the one comment I have seen that has come from a helpful perspective. It is a pity that even it has been misread by many commenters more interested in arguments of superiority.

The Indian Minister of State has particularly sensible comments. Is he usually like this? It's hard to imagine such common sense appearing in Australian politics!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Bellerive records

When you start your Test career with a 151 in fairly dramatic circumstances, you're probably not thinking that it will be five years before you improve on that mark. In contrast, it has only taken the Australians until the 15th day of this year to put together a partnership bigger than any they could manage in the previous decade, a fact less surprising than that one of the partners on that occasion was Jason Gillespie.

After the dearth of Aussie centuries as the summer began, who would have thought the last Test would feature a Ponting double-ton on his home turf? He has certainly capitalised on a couple of chances, and it seems his biggest worry at the moment would be deciding when to declare.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Bent wings

The Blues' Bird is headed to the AIS again.

Quite within the official procedures, he'll still be playing against the Queensland tomorrow night, probably sending down deliveries sa questionable as the ones that saw him reported. At some point he'll get tested in a lab, where he will either keep within the 15 degree limit, as he has done twice, or sometimes transgressing, as happened after the last report. Either way, he will porbably be back again sooner or later, bowling who knows what.

I'd love him to knock over the banana-benders at ANZ, and I don't blame NSW for taking the procedures as they are written, but I'd rather not rely on a player who might be about to be banned for things that are already happening. I'd love him to be able to "prove" his action is (that is, has become) clean and keep playing (although his place in the state team isn't as obvious as it might seem), but this whole story is the farce that could have been predicted when these procedures were adopted. Why care about bent arms if the umpires aren't going to call them? Is this any better than the controversy?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Watching the ball

What is going on? On the same day, Billy Doctrove manages to replace a ball in bad contition with Pakistan are fielding without suggesting any ball-tampering has occurred, while across two countries and an ocean, a referee's son puts his foot in it, or rather on it. It is not known whether Broad also keeps mints on his soles.