Record Watch (September)

Monthly update on upcoming Test records/milestones and ones achieved last month

As the Test series roll on, record and milestones tumble for players from all sides. While these might seem like statistical oddities, they often say quite a lot about the longevity of a player or the rapidity of their rise. Continue reading

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India All-time Eleven (decisions explained)

In any Indian all-time eleven, some players will always be guaranteed a spot, given their heroic status in the history of the sport. Such figures like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev are deservedly fixed in the minds of Indian cricket followers for their lofty achievements. But, one of the nice by-products of this theoretical exercise is that it shines a light on those players who have contributed so much to Indian cricket but are not necessarily given the column inches they deserve. Players like Anil Kumble, who is third in the list of Test history’s greatest wicket-takers, recede into the memory of the middle-aged as his spearing legbreaks did not have the same sex appeal as Murali’s doosra or Warne’s flipper. Zaheer Khan, the key component of India’s rise to the number one position, can be recognised as one of the great Indian bowlers through this activity as time confers weight and heft to his achievements. In this article, I will explain the logic behind my decisions – something I have not done in previous such posts – and produce what I believe is a worthy eleven to represent India’s Test cricketing history.

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QuickStat: ODI Batting Records

In cricket, knowing who holds the various records is like knowing the capitals of the world in geography: if you cannot name the main ones, then you are bound to look a bit silly; if you don’t know the other ones, it does not matter one iota. As such, QuickStat is just an effort to include the blue chip records in an easy to digest list. In the categories, where the records are aggregated over the history of cricket, I’ll also include (where possible) the highest current player along with their age: usually with the constant cycle of retirements, it’s difficult to keep track of who might be able to overtake the record holder. Continue reading

Why the Australian selectors should want to pick Cameron Bancroft

During their decade of dominance in the 2000s, Australia’s batting machine was fronted by two stroke-playing aggressors in the form of Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. One towered over opposition bowlers, belligerently clubbing the ball back whence it came. The other had reinvented himself as a swashbuckler, playing his shots as if to atone for his previously grafting innings. Together they hunted down pacemen and their domain was the first twenty overs of an Australian innings.

As such, with the success of the Hayden – Langer days in mind, the Australian selectors have gravitated towards this model of “positive batting.” Since that point in time, each sustained opening partnership for Australia has included an aggressor, but – to the reluctance of the selectors – an accumulator. Shane Watson had Simon Katich. David Warner had Ed Cowan and later Chris Rogers. It reveals much about the attitude of the selectors (and the press) that, of the pairs, the accumulator was the batsman who came under the most selectorial pressure.

It wasn’t until the 2015/16 Tests against New Zealand that the National Selection Panel got the Christmas wish they so thoroughly desired with the chance to pick Joe Burns, an attacking Queenslander, along with David Warner. To their delight, the young man hit his way to consecutive sixes to reach a second innings hundred in the first Test of the summer. Two more tons would follow with similar verve against the West Indians and the Kiwis. All was well.

Then came Sri Lanka. The signs were clear from the start: prior to the first Test, according to cricket.com.au’s “Unplayable Podcast”*, Muttiah Muralitharan, consulting for Australia, chose to have a bowl against the Australian batsmen and, although Steve Smith “worked him out alright”, Joe Burns “had no clue.” Embodying Australia’s struggles against spin, Burns ended up producing scores of 0, 2, 3 and 29.

Although Burns was dropped for the third Test against Sri Lanka, it seems likely that he will return for the home series against South Africa and Pakistan. Now, this is probably justified given that he scored three hundreds in eight Tests the previous summer. But, with a view to the future and, more specifically, the tour of India in February – March 2017, the more inspired option for the National Selection Panel must be to pick Cameron Bancroft. (My previous preference would have been to pick Ed Cowan, but it seems that both he and the Panel are heading in different directions.)

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QuickStat: Test Batting Records

In cricket, knowing who holds the various records is like knowing the capitals of the world in geography: if you cannot name the main ones, then you are bound to look a bit silly; if you don’t know the other ones, it does not matter one iota. As such, QuickStat is just an effort to include the blue chip records in an easy to digest list. In the categories, where the records are aggregated over the history of cricket, I’ll also include (where possible) the highest current player along with their age: usually with the constant cycle of retirements, it’s difficult to keep track of who might be able to overtake the record holder. Continue reading

Five Great Performances from David Gower

Since the advent of televised cricket, no batsman has been able to surpass David Ivon Gower in their ability to make batting seem like an art form. Deep within every cricket follower’s brain a pulse of sensory pleasure is released whenever you see one of his effortless cover drives. Such is cricket’s regard for the aesthetic features of his batting that, like Bradman-esque is over-used to describe copious run-scoring, the term Gower-esque is the cliché attached to attractive strokeplay. Although most cricketing videos on YouTube are high-definition highlights of domestic Twenty20 matches, there are indeed a few videos that provide a brief snapshot into his abilities. Hand-in-hand with his elegance, Gower will also be remembered for his devil-may-care attitude – something that was at-odds with his hard-headed contemporary Graham Gooch – that seemingly led to his dismissals at inopportune moments in Test matches. In the end, however, his approach was a successful one: 18 Test centuries and 8231 runs is a remarkable output, regardless of the manner in which they were scored. Below are five of his greater performances, laid out for your perusal. Continue reading

Five Great Performances from Ricky Ponting

For the past few months, the Lord’s Cricket Ground has gone to the effort of asking modern-day cricketers about their All Time XI, that is, the best eleven players they have seen and/or played with or against, arranged in some semblance of a batting order. Now, you can see these online on their Youtube channel, which, incidentally, has some nice HD-quality footage of cricket at Lord’s. But the remarkable thing about these All Time XI’s is that Ricky Ponting features on nearly all of them. Despite all the hoopla about his sometimes overly aggressive gamesmanship – there were certainly times he and his side earned the moniker “the ugly Australians” (one that dates back to the 1970s) – such is the respect for his batting and captaincy achievements that he is consistently etched in as both captain and first drop by his peers. In an attempt to educate myself on why he was held in this atmospheric regard, I have collated five of his best Test match performances. Continue reading

Future Test Stars XI

[Minimum qualification – At most one Test century or one five-wicket haul]

  1. Sami Aslam (Pakistan) – Having scored an impressive 82 and 70 against Anderson, Broad and Woakes in the recent Test at Edgbaston, Sami Aslam seems to be one half of the solution to the decade-long mystery of the Pakistan opening positions. To play so well in foreign conditions and against a high class pace attack is noteworthy for any international batsman, let alone a twenty-year-old.
  2. Cameron Bancroft (Australia) – Although he has yet to play a Test, this 23-year-old’s ability to apply himself and occupy the crease for long periods of time has been well-noted by Australian selectors over the past several Sheffield Shield seasons. With Joe Burns’ deficiencies against spin being exposed in Sri Lanka, Bancroft will surely get a chance to show his wares in the 2016/17 home summer.
  3. Kusal Mendis (Sri Lanka) (captain) – Scoring possibly one of the greatest hundreds ever made by a Sri Lankan a couple weeks ago, Kusal Mendis has demonstrated why Kumar Sangakkara cited his name when listing his favourite cricketers to watch. As a former Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, Mendis follows in the footsteps of Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jaywardene, who were similarly prodigiously talented from a young age.
  4. Jermaine Blackwood (West Indies) – Having been given permission by his captain Jason Holder to play his natural game, the talented stroke-maker scored two boundary-saturated fifties in the recent Test against India. If he can continue to play in an unrestricted manner, he could produce match-winning performances such as his run-a-ball 85 against England in a low-scoring match in Bridgetown last year.
  5. Mitchell Marsh (Australia) – The fact that he has played seventeen Test matches without a century or five-wicket hauls and is still not in danger of being dropped illustrates just how highly regarded Marsh is. But, as a hard-hitting batsman and incisive fast-medium bowler, he fits the archetype of the classical, match-defining all-rounder that Australia has been searching for since Keith Miller.
  6. Corey Anderson (New Zealand) – Ever since he bludgeoned a 36-ball ODI ton – then a record for the fastest such ton – Anderson’s aggressive batting has been well-known by the cricketing community. Combined with his handy mediums, he looks set to be New Zealand’s premier all-rounder provided that he remains injury-free.
  7. Jos Buttler (England) (wicket-keeper) – As the owner of a few outrageous – well at least, outrageous by English standards – ODI centuries, Buttler’s batting talent is manifest. Although he will likely come back into the England Test side as a keeper once he returns to form, freeing up Jonny Bairstow to focus on his batting, there has been talk of his inclusion as a specialist batsman.
  8. Mark Wood (England) – Having played a crucial role in winning the 2015 Ashes, Wood should be able to come back into the England Test side in the near future. However, his lively fast bowling seems to place a tremendous strain on his body, which should be heavily monitored by the English set-up.
  9. Pat Cummins (Australia) – After being named player-of-the-match in a Test match at the age of eighteen, Cummins was hailed as the next [insert pace legend] by the cricketing media. However, he has been held back by injuries over the past few years, leading to a severe deficiency of red-ball experience. But, as he is only 23, he still has plenty of time to develop.
  10. Lakshan Sandakan (Sri Lanka) – Bamboozling the Australian batsmen in Pallekele on his recent Test debut, Sandakan is a rare talent with an even rarer bowling style – in the history of Test cricket, there have been very few successful left-arm unorthodox spin bowlers. With 164 first-class wickets at an average of 22.75, Sandakan is an impressive 25-year-old slow bowler.
  11. Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh) – As I have written before, Mustafizur Rahman will be one of the premier quick bowlers in the world in a few years. Having achieved extensive success already in the international limited-overs arena, Mustafizur will be looking to translate his white-ball form into red-ball form, utilising his variations and bowling intelligence.

ICC Test Team Rankings Maths

With only ten points between the top four Test countries, the three ongoing major Test series – England v Pakistan, West Indies v India and Sri Lanka v Australia – have the potential to shake up the official ICC Test rankings. As such, this is a simple guide to the scenarios that we will lead to different countries topping the rankings.

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