Category: Analysis Page 1 of 4

Numbers on jerseys? Bring it on!

Muttiah Muralitharan: 800; Marlon Samuels 730; Hardik Pandya 228; Herschelle Gibbs 00; Mashrafe Mortaza 0; Virender Sehwag BLANK.
What’s in a jersey number in cricket?
Originally devised as a means for spectators to identify cricketers on the field, the jersey number has since taken on so much more. 
Murali’s 800 was his tally of Test wickets, Samuels’s 730 the number of days he served banned from the game and Hardik’s 228 his highest score in any form of the game. Gibbs wore 00 to signify a fresh start, Mortaza went from 20 to 2 and then 2 to 0 to show the circle was complete and Sehwag, well his numerologist suggested a change from one number to another and when it didn’t work he went nude, discarding the number altogether.
In this day and age, though, it is surprising that this giant piece of real estate on a cricketer’s back hasn’t been used in a more innovative manner. Given that is is one of the parts of a player’s kit that is not for sale, yet, it provides a unique opportunity.
Consider this scenario. If each player had a different number each game, that would make it next to impossible for him to be identified in that manner, right? In a match that was broadcast, this would not be an issue as the commentators get a list of player jersey numbers at the start of each game. So they would still be able call the game without much disruption.
But what about the fan in the stands? Virat Kohli was 27 in one game and 43 today? Each of these fans has a smart phone. If they logged into the relevant application (apparently that’s what an app is), at the moment the Indian Premier League, and they clicked on the Royal Challengers Bangalore versus whichever team they were playing on the day and punched in 43, they would know which that player was.
In the meantime, having not only drawn someone into the app, with a view to the person following the game in that manner, the host has a chance to advertise the league, promote the team, and any associated sponsors while they are at it.
While this sounds like crass commercialisation, because it is just that in the context of a tournament such as the IPL, think of how it might be used in different contexts.
If you go to a domestic first class match, where the big screen is largely not in operation, there isn’t a radio broadcast to tune into and every player is wearing white and white, it can become impossible to distinguish one player from another on the field. You might be a regular at the M A Chidambaram Stadium and recognise every Tamil Nadu player by his gait, the shape of his backside when he is standing at slip facing away from you or his choice of wristbands, but you will struggle to place anyone in the opposition team. What if each had a number on the back of his jersey that gave everything away, for that game only?
You go to the BCCI app, then to the Ranji Trophy, then that match and voila! The number tells you all. At a time when audiences for domestic first class cricket are at an all-time low even as viewership for leagues and international cricket is booming, why not boost the one place where the lower levels of the game are being followed? Domestic cricket around the world has a serious audience on the Internet and while that once meant a computer in the home or workplace, it has now become the handheld device, whether phone, tablet or even the phablet.
If these are the people propping up the following of domestic cricket, either as dedicated consumers or casual observers, why not serve them better, while at the same time driving traffic to the game? Every cricket board today has a free app and each of them are looking at ways to increase following for non-international cricket. This serves both purposes without costing a dime to anyone. 
Naturally there will be a need to update jersey numbers on match morning, but when you have live scores on the app, this is a trivial thing to do. If you don’t have live scores, then you probably aren’t interested in the traffic in the first place.
While this brings further traffic into domestic cricket, the possibilities in a tournament such as the IPL are even more mind boggling. Just as Google sells key words that are searched, and IPL team could sell No. 10 to the highest bidder, leaving their key player wearing it, and each time the search happened on the app, an advertisement could be delivered. At a time when media rights and franchise fees are at an all-time high, who would not welcome a new revenue stream?
Today, each player chooses his jersey number. Some are traditional and pick the one their favourite player wore, some are superstitious and choose a birthday or an anniversary. Some have to just settle for what’s left.
Why not democratise this in a manner that is win-win for everyone?

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Sea of blue advances cricket colonisation

“You’re at the wrong ground mate.”

These were the words welcoming an Englishman who walked to his seat in the stands at the Vauxhall end of the Oval Cricket Ground. A group of raucous Indians were trying to put this outsider in his place. “At least you should be wearing an India shirt, because we’re playing against Australia, your enemy.”

The irony that the forefathers of this very English gent, sporting his team’s colours, established this ground back in 1845, and that the first Test in the country was played here in 1880 was clearly lost on the men wearing India’s blue. 

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The beast awakens at the Oval

The beast that has been lurking around the shires of the United Kingdom awoke and let out a spine-chlling, blood curdling roar in London on Sunday. At the Oval, Australia’s bowlers faced the wrath of the Indian batting line up, one of the scariest of its kind assembled, and try as they might, the “away” team could not overcome either the men in blue or the sea of the same hue in the stands.

When Virat Kohli won the toss and chose to bat first, it was a bold decision. Certainly it appeared to be the right one, but even that needed the batsmen to dig deep, apply themselves and do the job to justify the faith the captain had in his band of batting brothers. 

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Peerless Bumrah is India’s MVP

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The chants in the stands at Southampton from a sizeable Indian crowd began mutedly, but built up a steady head of steam and exploded in raucous crescendos. They pretty much mirrored the bowling action of Jasprit Bumrah — the man being celebrated — to perfection.

When Bumrah is at the top of his mark he appears to be ready to do anything but bowl fast. His first few steps are baby shuffles, his build up more of a person running to catch a train than an athlete aiming for peak speed but when reaches the bowling crease there is an explosive release of energy. 

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An Indian summer begins in Southampton

The beer had not travelled too well from Indore, described as flat and tasteless by one group of discerning patrons who had travelled some way to watch the match. The samosas, crispy on the outside and flavourful on the inside, flew off the shelves at the concession stalls in the stands. 

The approach to the ground experienced traffic disruptions because a politician was travelling to a nearby town. In the stands, in a box of their own were at least 13 members of a leading business family that also owns an Indian Premier League team.

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Bearded Harry Potter kicks off World Cup

It can be confirmed that rumours of the 2019 Cricket World Cup having begun on May 30 are, in fact, true. But for cricket fans from the most populous participating nation, the tournament begins today, when India play their first match.

Considering that India seem to have been in England for an eternity — they’ve had enough time to go paint balling in the woods and take selfies with Harry Kane — but have not yet been called up to play a match. As has been widely reported, this was to allow the team a sufficient gap, and rest, after the completion of the IPL, but it also gives them a significant advantage.

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Cricket in the Emirates without Sharjah? But why?

Inside one mall, you can ski down an 85 metre slope — about the height of 25 storeys — perfectly snow-clad, all year round, even if the temperature is pushing 50°C outside. In another, you can get in a protective cage and, wetsuits and breathing gear in place, feed sharks, even as experienced divers draw them to you. In a third location, you can experience the thrill of sky diving, without being anywhere near the sky or even jumping, forget about diving — the wind tunnel doing all the work for you.

This is Dubai, where the premium is on gratification and customer satisfaction, even as authenticity dies quietly in a corner.

That’s why it simply does not feel right that the Asia Cup 2018 is being played in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, cricketing venues that have come up more recently, while Sharjah has got the cool shoulder (There is no such thing as a cold shoulder in this region, air-conditioning notwithstanding).

The Asia Cup reflects this dichotomy perfectly. No cricket would have been played in this desert had it not been for Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, who put Sharjah on the global cricket map.

Actually, that does him little justice. He brought cricket to the region in the early 1980s when most international cricketers could not find the region on a map.

Read the full piece on ThePrint.in READ MORE

All that you missed from the Asia Cup

There's no better banter than India v Pakistan in the UAE

There’s no better banter than India v Pakistan in the UAE

The past week has been a bit of a blur with so much action in the Asia Cup that it has been difficult to keep up with posting here. But, fear not, here are a few things you might have missed out on:

What’s it like to watch an India-Pakistan match in the stands with an Indian-Pakistani couple?

Seated in front of your correspondent were three Pakistanis and one Indian, all clearly friends two possibly a couple. The banter began right then. “I told you before we came here. Bat first, make 270 and the game is ours.”

Read the full article on the Economic Times

Switched-on India Show Intent to Outplay Pakistan

Pakistan chose to bat. They slip-slid their way to 162. India knocked off the runs in 29 overs with eight wickets to spare. Perfect game for India? Well, yes and no.

Read the full article on CricketNext.com

Is the Asia Cup more about getting India and Pakistan to play each other?

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Catch up on the India-Pakistan previews

India v Pakistan, were you there?

Too much happened too fast for us to update this page. That’s what India v Pakistan does. But words were written in the meantime, and you might want to check them out:

India vs Pakistan: Hong Kong Alert India to Potential Banana Peels on Road to World Cup

Did India take their opening match of the Asia Cup, against Hong Kong, lightly? No. Did they use the opportunity of playing against an unestablished team as a chance to try a few things? Yes. Were they right in doing so? Absolutely.
With the World Cup approximately nine months away, and India playing 20-odd 50-over matches in the meantime, any chance to nail down their best players in the top order and lower middle-order cannot be wasted.

Read a full preview on CricketNext.com

India plays Pakistan in Asia Cup match in Dubai today. Need more be said?

There’s a huge difference between the way cricketers approach a game and the way fans and supporters approach it. If ever proof was needed, one should look no further than an India-Pakistan match.

It does not matter if the match is a dead rubber at the end of a bilateral series, a World Cup match, or what’s unfolding now, the Asia Cup. Why, there’s a distinct possibility that India could play Pakistan thrice in this short tournament, if the results work out right. How’s that for managing a mini-series even when the governments can’t agree to play each other bilaterally?

For the players, there is only way to approach such a game — like it is a cricket contest, and no different from one against any other top team. If they get caught up in the hype and hoopla — such as the war of words between the fans or the provocative ranting of certain television anchors — they simply would not be able to play.

Read the full article at ThePrint.in READ MORE

Afghanistan Loss Sees One-time Trailblazers Sri Lanka’s Struggles Carry On

A team that won a World Cup wasn’t even competitive in the Asia Cup

Is it possible to feel empathy for a larger cause even when your team loses? Is it necessary to feel sympathy for a team that loses matches it should have won? Is it relevant that a team that won a World Cup can’t even hold its own in an Asia Cup?

The short answer is that any tournament is poorer when Sri Lanka are eliminated early. Cricketers from Sri Lanka are not merely skilful, they are usually fairly unique, exceptionally talented and the kind of gents you would welcome into your home.
They were whipped by Bangladesh in the Asia Cup 2018 and had to beat Afghanistan by a long way to keep their prospects alive. Instead, they could do no better than allow Afghanistan to score 249 and then implode in style.

Kusal Mendis went in the second ball, but Sri Lanka were 54 for 1 at the end of 13 overs. Then the wheels slowly but surely came off. It was not as though one Afghan bowler produced a freakishly brilliant performance to stun a better team — the wickets were shared equitably — but this was a rout nonetheless.

Rashid Khan, the most exotic and dangerous of Afghanistan’s bowlers, wasn’t even called on to finish his 10 overs. He complemented the early wicket of Kusal Perera with the last scalp of Lasith Malinga, and ended with 2 for 26 with 16 potential balls of his breed of leg-spin going spare.

Read the full piece on CricketNext.com
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