Saturday, April 18, 2015

No Dream too big. No Obstacle too high!

God has a peculiar way of inspiring each and every one of us through one of our own. Our inspiration can come from a nursery story of a Hare and a Tortoise, or a David v/s Goliath story. It could come from a person, like your parent, sibling, teachers, professors, bosses or any random person you meet. It could come from experiences – sometimes as simple as watching the rising sun, walking barefoot on a virgin beach, listening to music, watching movies / sports or in some cases, from our own personal life.

India adores sports. Cricket in particular, but things are changing and that too, for the better. We now have World Class performers in Badminton, Tennis, Chess, Athletics, Boxing, Wrestling et al. India is on the global map and is only destined to improve year on year. Many of the renowned players have had a humble beginning. They went through testing times and eventually overcame all the odds.

One such sportsperson is Mohammad Salih. A Chess fanatic who has played and won at college, university, state and even at South Indian Chess Championship, where he came 2nd. What’s that big a deal, you may ask? It’s a big deal, because he’s blind. That’s right, a person blind from birth plays Chess, a game where you have to be visually and intellectually astute.

Mohammed Salih - Chess player with visual disability

He was born in Calicut to a poor family which included a blind father and two blind sisters. He grew up not clearly knowing the benefits of sight. He was later admitted to a residential school for the visually impaired. That was when he was introduced to Chess, among other games. He took to Chess the way a fish takes to water! But fate had a different story for young Salih. He was moved to a different school where his freedom to play was restricted, more so due to extra care given to him by his teachers. During these testing times, he gave equal importance to academics, passed his 10th and later on went on to complete his LLB.

But his passion for Chess remained intact. Anyone who has played Chess knows how important it is “see” what the opponent is trying to do. Imagine closing your eyes and playing it. Very difficult, isn’t it? Also, when Salih works on his strategies, he has to touch the pieces to determine its position and then play. This gives a strategic advantage to the opponent. Another problem he faces is during the practice. While other players can practice using computer opponents and afford coaches, Salih had to practice with humans and had to teach himself through experiences. Despite all this, he went on winning – not only against the visually impaired opponents, but also against players who don’t have the disability. Quite incredible!

He is the only earning member in the family. To make ends meet, he has started taking Chess teaching sessions. He dreams of starting a Chess Academy to develop the next set of champions from India. He also dreams on representing India on the world stage – which involves a lot of money, something he is deprived of.

In one of the interview, he said – “I want to be known as famous chess player and not a ‘blind chess player’. I can play as well as other sighted people. Then why to add ‘blind’ to my name”. It’s very obvious he doesn’t need our sympathy. Disability does not (and should not) disturb our ability to achieve success. Mohammad Salih is one such icon we need to look up to and respect.

A true sporting icon indeed!

Corporates have regularly come in to assist, support and develop simple yet super-human icons live and realize their dream. WillOfSteel.in is one such initiative from JSW. When you visit the website, you are introduced to wonderful human beings who have braved all odds, sacrificed self and family needs, for the betterment of the society at large. These are the people who need our support. Just read their stories, select the best out of them and vote for them. It’s that simple.

I’m voting for Mohammed Salih’s #WillOfSteel and blogging on BlogAdda to help him get felicitated and eventually enabled by JSW.

Who are you voting for?

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Abhor the message, not the messenger

Now-a-days, filming, releasing and sharing 2 minute videos have been a trend – an instant means to increase your “klout” in the social media. Almost everyone is following the trend, which means we have some amazing videos, some boring ones and some that we outright reject. Some of the common responses to such a video would be – 
  • Awww, that’s so cute (almost tears moment)
  • Wow, I didn’t see that coming (a typical what-he-does-next-will-shock-you video)
  • What the hell! Who does such a thing?

The reaction is usually the first two for most of these videos. However, one video was released recently that made most of the Indians go “what the hell!” And for rightful reasons, I might add.
Vogue released a video which they thought would stir the ocean and force people to think and eventually empower women. It achieved its objective, albeit for altogether different reasons! It did stir the ocean; it surely forced the people to think and it empowered women to completely abhor the message propagated by the video. Hey, ends justify the means, right?

Deepika Padukone - #MyChoice video with Vogue Empower screengrab

When I clicked on the play button, I saw Deepika Padukone describing what “choice” means to a woman. The dialogue writing seemed apt and I began appreciating the video till it came to a woman’s sexual choices / lack of it. I honestly didn’t understand the logic behind the statements the first time and I thought of seeing the video again (that’s my part in making this video cross 3 million viewership). Deepika actually said “having sex before marriage is her choice, having sex outside of marriage is her choice”. While I am no one to judge any person’s choice, doing anything against the law of the land is a choice, but a bad one in the end. Social media decided to act against the video and they have done a good job. Parents are happy their children hate that video. Husbands are happy their wife cannot relate with the video. Kids are happy because umm… well… its vacation time!

For the record, I don't agree completely with the video and its message.

Throughout all the rebuttals, some chose to rebut and, unfortunately, despise the actor who was representing “all of womanhood” in the video. Yes, the video messed up. The characters in the video probably didn’t think of the message the way it was eventually portrayed. I would like to believe that the concept of the video had its heart in its right place – women having the right to make their own choices in a largely male-dominated society. It’s just that the examples shown in the video went against our own ethos, are illegal and something that a right-minded person would never choose. The actors (including the lead actor – Deepika Padukone) probably decided to do this project with a different thought-process and the end product was totally different. Haven’t we seen this in movies too? Actors play certain roles which they think will be portrayed in a certain way and the end result is a total disconnect with the public. It works sometimes and messes up on occasions. Despising the actors for this is totally unwarranted. After all, the same Deepika Padukone recently had an interview discussing the perils of depression and how she came out of it, which was largely motivating and well received by the same audience. Just like adultery is against our ethos, despising someone (let alone a lady) for a choice s/he made is also against our upbringing. It was her choice to do this video and she will live with the repercussions. Personally, I would like to think of this video as a branding exercise for Vogue that went terribly wrong. And they now have to do some serious re-branding to get back in their target audiences’ mind. 

Despise the message. Don’t despise the messenger, Deepika Padukone in this case. It’s my choice. And I will live with it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Shahid Afridi - eternal youngster, all-rounder and an enigma

Shahid Afridi has left the ODI crease. This time for good. Shahid Afridi retiring from ODI cricket didn’t come as a surprise to me (and if he overturns his decision again, it won’t be a surprise either).

Shahid Afridi's ODI Stats –
Shahid Afridi - ODI career statistics
When you think of Afridi, the first thing that comes to mind is his 37-ball century. The impact of that innings was so profound that it becomes difficult for a neutral fan to think beyond that innings. But, believe it or not, there’s more to Afridi than that century. For a moment, stop thinking of Afridi as a batsmen and think of him as a bowler who can bat and you start analysing his ODI career stat in a different way!

Stats by batting position –
Shahid Afridi - ODI statistics by batting position
Stats by bowling position –
Shahid Afridi - ODI statistics by bowling position
One look at the above stats reveal that he has been all over the place. Was he a pure batsmen? Not really sure since he has played in all positions (baring 11th) in the batting line-up with an average of 23.57. Was he a bowler? Yes, 395 wickets in ODI format is not a fluke. Was he a fielder? Someone who debuted in the 1990’s are usually not known to be as good as the fielders of today, but he wasn’t bad either. So, can we safely claim he’s an all-rounder? Statistically, he definitely is. Is he one of the best all-rounders? Debatable. 

Afridi started his career as a batsman who can bowl leg-breaks. He ended as a bowler who can bat a bit. His initial batting success raised expectations from him (more so being from Asia where Cricket is the biggest religion) and he never stood up to those expectations vis-à-vis batting. But he was always a joker-in-the-pack. You never know when he makes a difference.

Personally, I have been a huge fan of Shahid Afridi. What makes Afridi special for me is the time he made his ODI debut. If we recollect, mid-1990’s was a time when ODI cricket was undergoing a paradigm shift. Some players, including Sanath Jayasuriya (predominantly a bowler who was given the responsibility to bat as an opener) and Shahid Afridi, were changing the way batsmen were batting. Risk taking, attacking the opposition in the first 15 overs during the fielding restriction were emerging as a key weapon to get a heads-up on the opposition. We remember Jayasuriya as the key proponent of that change. Very few remember Afridi for playing a key part. For a neutral fan, there’s never a dull moment when he’s batting. There are only two modes – boom boom or bust! And that’s the only thing that made me sit and watch his batting whenever I got the opportunity.

Only 3 players in ODI cricket have scored more than 8000 runs and taken more than 250 wickets…
Statistics of Top 3 All Rounders in ODI Cricket - Kallis, Jayasuriya and Afridi
… and Afridi is in that list, behind only Kallis and Jayasuriya!

For me, Afridi will remain an enigma. He was always the danger man when he’s at the crease – either to the opposition or sometimes to his own team. His last innings was testament of the latter. Five wickets down for 100-odd runs, Afridi arrived at the crease, Pakistan needed Afridi to apply himself, rotate strike, build a partnership and steady the ship. Afridi, however, played a typical “Afridi-sque” innings of 15-ball 23 and departed, much to the disappointment of Pakistani fans. But hey, that’s the only way he plays!

Shahid Afridi, thank you for entertaining 18 years. Cricketing world will surely miss an unpredictable and enigmatic character like you.

PS: all statistical data queried and taken from statsguru, courtesy espncricinfo,com.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

CWC 2015: Were the group matches worth it?

We are now done with 42 group matches to decide the final 8 out of a total 14 teams that participated in this World Cup. And baring England, there were no surprises at all. Yes, we got to see some fantastic batting - AB De Villiers, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan to name a few. We got some really close encounters too. And I must admit, there were some surprises in the order in which the top 4 teams finished in their respective group. But all's well that ends well. The real World Cup starts now. There are 7 matches remaining that will decide who will reign for the next 4 years.

Analysis of Group Stages - 

To analyze how the group stages went, I decided to add up all the results of the group stages on MS excel, categorized them according to some standard set of results (given below) and came up with a table for analysis.

Before I get to the table, here's what each set of result category means - 

CWC Cricket World Cup - Group stage analysis category

For example, if a team batting first won the match by 45 runs, the result will be categorized as "3. Not a bad game". If a team bowling first wins the match by 6 wickets, the result will be categorized as "5. Was that even competitive?". Now, I understand that categorizing a result based on victory margin alone may not depict the whole picture and there will be exceptions (a team bowling first wins by 8 wickets but only 2 balls to spare is actually a competitive match). But such results have hardly happened in the group stages, so we can keep the exceptions aside.

Using the categories defined above, here's how the group stages fared -

CWC Cricket World Cup - Group stage analysis Table

What's strikingly obvious in my analysis is that 60% of the matches were largely one-sided. If you add category 4 to this list, more than 3/4th matches were easy for one team to win. Less than 1 in every four game had some element of competition and only 7% of games were actually nail-biting stuff. I can even mention those games - Afghanistan v/s Scotland (1 wicket), New Zealand v/s Australia (1 wicket) and Ireland v/s Zimbabwe (5 runs). Some matches promised a lot, but didn't go the distance (like Australia - Sri Lanka and India - Pakistan). And there were some that completely degraded the competitive game between bat and ball (like South Africa v/s West Indies, margin of victory 257 runs).This is hardly an advertisement of Cricket, let alone the World Cup. 

Were the Group matches worth it? 

Largely, the answer is No. But the problem is more deep than the superficially described "associate" problem. Before the World Cup began, there were concerns from a lot of Cricket followers regarding "associate" teams. Adding associate teams will dilute the competition in this World Cup. was one of the concern raised. Personally, I don't think their presence has diluted the competition. If you see the closest games in the competition so far, 2 (out of a possible 3) were played by associate teams. Loss to Zimbabwe was instrumental in England getting knocked out of the World Cup. Bangladesh (although not an associate) defeated England. Ireland defeated West Indies. If at all anything, the test playing nations - the so called better cricket playing teams - failed to play at a competitive level expected of them. Don't just blame the associates for this. The problem lies in the way different test playing teams approached this World Cup. And yes, its a sorry state of affairs and ICC will do themselves a world of good if they go back to the drawing board and plan for the next edition in England.

Solution -

One possible solution will be to allow all test playing teams to enter the qualifying rounds, the same route an associate team goes through and only the top 8 teams qualify for the World Cup. Then these 8 teams can be divided into 2 pools where they play each other twice (i.e. a total of 6 games per team). This will also allow some teams to make a comeback despite a bad start. The top 2 teams from each pool will qualify for semifinals. 

What's next for this World Cup? 

I predicted 4 teams to reach the semi-finals (Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa) and all 4 of them have qualified for the knock-outs. These 4 teams have lost only 3 matches between them. I must admit, I am surprised to see New Zealand and India topping their respective groups but these teams are in the form of their lives! However, all they carry to the knockout phase is their momentum, their points / position hardly matters now. One loss and they are out.

7 games to go | One team will remain standing | One champion. Let the real World Cup begin.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Aren't we all the same?

The whole of socially active Indians are talking about “freedom of speech”, “freedom of expression”, right to be heard and having the option to make a choice of deciding what one wants to watch / experience. Post the 3-part episodes of AIB knockout that were released on YouTube, a furore of gigantic proportion erupted over the content of the episode, the language used and how much it is against our culture and the whole concept of “insult comedy”. For those not in-the-know of things, here’s a small backdrop of the incident – Some stand-up artistes decided to have an event that insults stars in a light hearted way.  The stars on their part are sporting enough to be insulted in front of live (and online) audience. So basically, people insulting each other and we, as outsiders, are watching it for fun. Harmless fun, I may add.

Not that my opinion matters compared to the popular ones on the Internet, but I still have an opinion and I have a platform where I can write about it – my blog. I saw all the 3 webisodes and found it quite entertaining. These were not awesome, but good enough to watch. Some of the jokes were really funny, some were ok, some were repetitive and some were not funny at all. But overall I enjoyed it and kudos to the team and the participants to even dare such a concept in India.

But there’s a problem. The ‘who’s-who’ of India perceived it differently. Some found it offending. Some compared this to porn. Some found it against Indian culture. Are you surprised by this reaction? Not me, for sure. 

AIB Knockout Roast - screen grab of statutory warning

To be fair to the AIB guys, the video started with a statutory warning and the way AIB roastmaster was introduced should have set the platform for what we are about to watch. The people who found it offending should have seen it coming. The people who compared this to porn, well, are ignorant. The people who found this against Indian culture need to test the ground reality by being a silent spectator to any teenage group conversation anywhere in India. During my teenage days, it was a fine balance between constructive discussions with a few cuss words thrown in between. The balance was maintained those days. Now the balance has tilted. 

So much enrage has happened on this issue that even FIRs have been filed! Wow, tough times ahead.

But that’s just one side of the problem. The other side of the problem is the reaction of ‘freedom-of-expression’ supporters towards those who are opposed to it. One Khan from Bollywood voiced his opinion and we pounced on him, called him a hypocrite for producing a movie “Delhi Belly” which had an objectionable song. Aamir Khan used his freedom of expression and we found it objectionable. A certain Khanna, ex-actress and now a writer, wrote about the hypocrisy of Khan and we commended her! So, what does that tell us? We will appreciate those who are in line with our thoughts but will also pounce on someone who does not support our version of the argument. Aren’t we also hypocrites in that regard? When a movie on god-men (demeaning them) hit the theatres, some of us silenced those who opposed the movie using the “don’t-like-don’t-watch” card. But when another movie on god-men (promoting them) was released, some of us went ahead and made fun of it. Isn’t the whole AIB-controversy also on the same line? Maybe what we fail to realize is that “The best way to explain our point of view is to walk the talk”. 

So what’s the bottom-line of all this? I genuinely felt AIB was good, it had an interesting concept and should not be a one-show wonder. The show must go on. People who like / support this concept, let’s show the other group how to support freedom of expression by practising what we preach. People who don’t like the concept, please close your YouTube window or watch some other video. The choice is yours.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

So an apology actually works!

I don’t think there’s anyone who can confidently say that they expected such a verdict from Delhi. Probably, except the staunchest of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supporters. Post the elections, all the exit polls were anticipating AAP to win the elections. BJP spokespersons had more or less conceded defeat. Post mortem started even before the results were declared. 

And then, the results were declared – 


Even Arvind Kejriwal commented – This win has scared me too! And he is not the only one who was taken by surprise. Most of the Indians across the globe were surprised / shocked (based on which party you support). No one expected such a “tornado” from Kejriwal that encompassed the wave that Narendra Modi was surfing on. Congress has been decimated in Delhi, which was more or less expected considering they had already given up before the voting day. It was always going to be a BJP v/s AAP battle. But AAP went one step ahead and did what Narendra Modi did in the Lok Sabha elections – decimating and nullifying the opposition!

So what does all this mean? Has the BJP wave run its course? Is this the new AAP 2.0 / Arvind Kejriwal 2.0? Where does that leave Kiran Bedi and BJP? Is the Congress still relevant after another whitewash?

In my opinion, here are the 4 important takeaways from the Delhi Election Results – 
  1. An apology actually works – AAP always knew they were in for a tough fight in this election. They literally ran away from responsibility the last time they were in power in Delhi. And that too in 49 days. It was always going to be an election for BJP to win compared to any other party. But AAP made their weakness into their strength as they started their election campaign by apologizing for their “mistake”. It takes guts at that level to admit your mistake and apologize. When was the last time a political party actually “apologized”? Conceding defeat is not apologizing. All we have heard till now were mere excuses for losing / anti-incumbency factor. Now that we know the result, we can safely say that an apology can go a long way in correcting the wrong. All that AAP needs to do now is to live up to their promise and fulfill their commitments made in their manifesto.
  2. Has the wave run its course? By all means, no. The non-BJP parties are sure to jump on the no-BJP-wave bandwagon. But it will merely be a “spokesperson’s brief”. The fact remains, BJP messed up the strategy for Delhi. In retrospect, they should have immediately called for Delhi elections post their Lok Sabha sweeping. They didn’t. They should have focused more on the issues Delhi faces rather than the personal attacks on opposition parties. They didn’t. If at all anything, the personal attacks gave Kejriwal more support than what even AAP had anticipated. BJP have lost Delhi. But their strategy to win state elections will more / less remain Modi-centric. Delhi simply didn’t like BJP’s proposition. Delhi wanted an alternative and they got one.
  3. A frustrated common man actually has the power to invoke change – In more ways than one, Arvind Kejriwal did what Narendra Modi did in the Lok Sabha elections – bank on the frustration of the people sick of politics without growth and offered them an alternative. The people of Delhi bought that proposition from AAP. Delhi has its own problems they face every single day. Here we have different political parties pitching for solutions. They elected one of them without any hindrance. Ironic as it may sound, elections are the only place where aam aadmi executes their power. For the rest of five years, it’s just a case of power imposed on them. AAP might change that scenario, at least they look most promising to bring about change.
  4. Congress needs a makeover, asap! Congress are just few steps away from being history. And its a scary proposition, not only for the Congress faithful but for Indian politics in general. We need at least 2 national level parties to keep the other on their toes. Decimation of Congress means BJP are the only one left at the national scene. This can bring in complacency (Delhi elections being one such example). AAP is still years away from a national level fight. Third front won’t cut the ice in today’s India where people want a stable government. That leaves only Congress. And they are in a mess – a lot of which are self-inflicted. They have to go for a serious makeover. Change something big – maybe the top echelons of the party, maybe the way they function, maybe the way they position themselves. Anything. Just anything under the sun, but bring it!

Narendra Modi will acknowledge the fact that he now has a competitor and a battle to fight. Generally such a scenario brings out the best in people. Any upsurge in the performance of the Indian Government will only be beneficial to the country in general. Expect a flurry of positive events happening soon (cue: national budget 2015, for one). Kejriwal, on his part, now has a mandate he could not have dreamt of. Not delivering on his promises will ensure a similar mandate in 5 years, albeit against AAP. People don’t have much patience now. “Perform or Perish” is the new mantra. It’s time the rest of India adopts this mantra too.

AAP may have won Delhi, but India is the clear winner.

Monday, February 09, 2015

CWC 2015: Team to watch - New Zealand

Black caps – as they are called. Also known as Perennial Dark horses to most of the cricket fans. But they always remain a threat! They enter the 2015 Cricket World Cup with their image remaining intact. Historically, New Zealand has done well in the World Cups. They have reached semi-finals on 6 out of a possible 10 occasions (that’s a healthy 60% chance of making it in the final 4), the last one being in 2011 when they lost to co-host Sri Lanka. In fact, they were the only non-Asian team to make it to the semi-finals in 2011. That says a lot about New Zealand and their ability to dig in when it matters the most.

Recent ODI Form – last 12 months * 
New Zealand team stats - Recent Form in ODI Cricket (last 12 months)

Form in Australia – last 24 months *
New Zealand team stats - Recent Form in ODI Cricket in Australia (last 24 months)

Form in ODI World Cup events *
New Zealand Cricket team statistic- Form in ODI World Cup events

Out of the total teams I have previewed (5 of them to be precise), New Zealand have lowest win / loss ratio, which is marginally better than Sri Lanka. Also, out of the 17 ODIs played by the Black Caps in the last one year, only 5 of them have been outside New Zealand. Their success ratio is less than 50%, which is also the lowest among these five teams. What's interesting to note is that their batting statistic (Avg. Runs / Wicket, RPO, Highest Lowest Scores) is better than what Aussies have achieved during the same period albeit with better results. This means they have the resources to deliver. They will need their captain (McCullum) and ODI specialists (Williamson and Taylor) to rise above expectation on the biggest stage of them all.

SWOT Analysis – 
  • Strengths – 
    • Batsmen best suited to the shorter version of the game
    • Strong bowling attack with mixture of pace and spin
    • Recent form and momentum leading to the event
    • Home conditions
  • Weaknesses – 
    • Unpredictable. Can succumb to better teams
    • Although last few months were great, form over past 4 years are worth ignoring
  • Opportunities – 
    • On track to make a mockery of the seeding (Bangladesh above New Zealand)
    • Opportunity to reach the knockouts as the 2nd best team in the pool
    • “Dark horses” tag will help them go far as expectations will be less
  • Threats – 
    • Relatively stronger pool compared to pool B. 5 teams realistically vying for top 4
    • Although they have reached semifinals 6 times, they are yet to win any. Choking, anyone?
    • Possible exhaustion, since they have played no less than 8 ODI’s in January (that’s almost 1 ODI every 4 days).

After Australia and South Africa, New Zealand are easily the most balanced side in the tournament. Their batsmen are in top form, their bowlers are delivering the goods and we don’t need to mention how good they are in the fielding department. They have been winning matches off late, most of them in convincing fashion. They also stand to benefit from their pool fixtures. They will start against a strong team followed by a relatively weaker team, then a strong team and so on. This means, even if they lose a game against a strong side, they can more than make up for it against a weak team. You may argue how a fixture can help teams since all the teams in a pool will play each other. I agree. But you’d rather be in the top 4 than the bottom 3 after 4 odd matches. No team will prefer to be in a must-win game to qualify for the knockouts. Form favours them; condition favours them and now fixtures too. This could just be their year!

Like South Africa, they are yet to show the cricketing world their full potential. Both these teams haven’t reached a final of World Cup. Anyone fancying a South Africa v/s New Zealand final? Wouldn’t that balance the statistics somewhat? Wouldn’t it be great if the winner of 2015 World Cup be someone who has won it for the first time?

Click here to view all the posts on Cricket World Cup 2015.

* The above statistics have been compiled using http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ for the duration of 1 year or 2 years (based on the statistic) till 31st Jan 2015.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

CWC 2015: Team to watch - Sri Lanka

A team who were just one game away from winning the last 2 World Cups will come into this event with a much tougher proposition this time. Sri Lanka has a huge mountain to climb this time mainly because of injury to some of their key players and their lack of match practice. On the positive side, they have the most experienced squad of the lot, a trait that is bound to help them overcome high pressure moments / event like this World Cup. Will they take their performance one notch ahead of what they achieved in the last two editions of the World Cup?

Recent ODI Form – last 12 months *
Sri Lanka team stats - Recent Form in ODI Cricket (last 12 months)

Form in Australia – last 24 months *
Sri Lanka team stats - Recent Form in ODI Cricket in Australia (last 24 months)

Form in ODI World Cup events *
Sri Lanka Cricket team statistic- Form in ODI World Cup events
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sri Lanka have played more ODIs than any other team in the last one year. It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that they have won more ODIs than any other team in the same duration. Their success ratio is a decent 56.4% and a win loss ratio of 1.4. Of the 22 games they have won in a year, 16 have come in Asian countries and only 6 were away wins. They have not played in Australia in recent times but have recent experience playing in New Zealand, something that can help them acclimatize.  Although the result of the series against the Black Caps will be something they want to forget (lost 4-2). Their batting will rely heavily on Sangakkara, Dilshan and Jayawardene along with All-Rounder Angelo Mathews (currently injured but will be fit for the World Cup). Their bowling rests heavily on Malinga. If these players perform, Sri Lanka can go the distance, else it will be an early flight back home.

SWOT Analysis – 
  • Strengths – 
    • Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are still present
    • Strong performances in a World Cup stage (finalist in 2007 and 2011)
  • Weaknesses – 
    • Relatively poor fielding team
    • Non-performing bowlers in the death overs
    • Too much dependence on some players
  • Opportunities – 
    • 2nd position in the pool is up for the taking
    • Have played in New Zealand before the world cup (similar conditions)
    • Less expectation considering the recent performances and loss of key players
  • Threats – 
    • They can easily self-destruct (a trait applicable to all Asian teams)

Although Sri Lanka has the most experienced squad, it is not spread equally among batsmen and bowlers. And that is where the disparity lies. Lasith Malinga is returning from injury and his form will be a huge factor, either ways. Sri Lanka doesn’t have a quality death bowler as proved in their series against New Zealand and this deficit will haunt them especially in matches against the top teams. Even Malinga hasn’t been effective for Sri Lanka in the last two years (economy rate of 5.79 against career economy of 5.21). Bowlers have no alternative but to step up big time (big ask at this point). 

Sri Lanka would want to win this cup for their batting legends (who will retire after the World Cup) just the way India did in 2011. In more ways than one, Sri Lanka circumstances are similar to the Indian team in 2011. Despite the obvious flaws, they have the heart in the right place and this time, they can just take it one step ahead of where they were in the last 2 World Cups.

PS: A special thanks to Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene for providing cricket fans with a wonderful batting treat spanning across many years. Your boots will be tough for Sri Lanka to fill.

Click here to view all the posts on Cricket World Cup 2015.

* The above statistics have been compiled using http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ for the duration of 1 year or 2 years (based on the statistic) till 31st Jan 2015.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

CWC 2015: Team to watch - India

Team India remains an enigma. They have the capability to win against all odds, but can also give up tamely when expected to win. India winning the last World Cup made 1/6th of the World population super-elated – just to emphasize the point, elation of this magnitude has never happened before in any sport. But that was then. A lot of changes have happened since. The biggest of them was Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from the game. Ideally, there’s no one who can replace the little master. But India found a new youngster who can compete for that position and importance in the team – Virat Kohli. India is known to be a team who is perfect for an ODI or a T20 format irrespective of the pitch and conditions (assuming we can safely ignore the recent debacle down under).

Recent ODI Form – last 12 months *
India team stats - Recent Form in ODI Cricket (last 12 months)

Form in Australia – last 24 months *
India team stats - Recent Form in ODI Cricket in Australia (last 24 months)

Form in ODI World Cup events *
India Cricket team statistic- Form in ODI World Cup eventsIndia has had a mixed-bag 12 months. They have had some great moments followed some mediocre phases. The point to note is that mediocre ones have come away from home. From a comparative standpoint, only two teams have performed better than India in the last 1 year – Australia and South Africa. India has won 14 of the last 24 ODIs played – a success % of 58.33. Most of their victories came against Sri Lanka (5 of them at home), Bangladesh and England (3 each), West Indies (2) and Afghanistan (1). This shows they either had home advantage or the opposition was relatively less talented (England being an exception). On the positive side, the scoring pattern is in line with how Australia has performed, the only difference being Australia has a much better bowling line-up. In Australian conditions, India has played 4 ODIs in the past 1 year (all 4 in the recently concluded tri-series where India failed to register a single victory). The data is too small to make a calculated judgement, but lack of a single win in Australia poses serious questions to India and what to expect from the team in the World Cup.

SWOT Analysis – 
  • Strengths – 
    • World class ODI batsmen in the squad
    • Cool captain and (still) the best finisher in the world (cue: World Cup final 2011)
    • Worldwide support (even in Australia). We Indians are everywhere!
  • Weaknesses – 
    • Alien conditions and recent performance
    • Non-performing bowlers
    • Lack of confidence and momentum
  • Opportunities – 
    • Can finish the pool at #2 or #1 especially considering the teams in the pool
    • Knowledge of conditions since players have recently played in Australia
    • Relatively lesser expectation considering the recent performances
  • Threats – 
    • Unpredictable teams can diminish India’s chances of finishing higher in the pool
    • IPL scam running in parallel can name some team players disrupting team harmony

Although India have been extremely poor off late, they cannot be ignored. Opposition teams know what this Indian team is capable of. A good start (against Pakistan, no less) will kick-start their campaign in style and the forgettable memories of the recent tri-series will soon fade. A loss against Pakistan, however, will be tougher to cope at a psychological level considering the importance of the match. If Indian bowlers can stand up to the pressure and expectation from the team / fans, we are in for a win-win situation! Indians fans will absolutely love it. From a marketing angle, the brands will enjoy more eye-balls. ICC will stand to gain with more ad revenue per 10 seconds. If the performance dips, all stand to lose. In that case, expect the Aussies / Proteas to hog the limelight. The revelations of the IPL betting scam may impact the performance too. 

Team India claims we #WontGiveItBack. Hope we live up to our claim. 

Click here to view all the posts on Cricket World Cup 2015.

* The above statistics have been compiled using http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ for the duration of 1 year or 2 years (based on the statistic) till 31st Jan 2015.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

CWC 2015: Team to watch - South Africa

There hasn’t been a World Cup when South Africa were not considered as pre-favourites to win the cup. The fact that they didn’t win till now is an altogether different story. Cricketing, Non-cricketing and luck have played their part to ensure South Africa remains without a World Cup trophy. Duckworth Lewis is more popularly known after what they did to South Africa in one of the world cups. They had a game tied against Australia in the knockout stage and lost out because of Australia’s previous victory against them in the same event. Then had a close encounter against Australia again which they lost. They have been better performers in the group stages but haven’t won a single knockout match in the World Cup history. That’s something they have to correct this time.

Recent ODI Form – last 12 months *
South Africa team stats - Recent Form in ODI Cricket (last 12 months)

Form in Australia – last 24 months *
South Africa team stats - Recent Form in ODI Cricket in Australia (last 24 months)

Form in ODI World Cup events *
South Africa Cricket team statistic- Form in ODI World Cup eventsSouth Africa, statistically, are second only to the all-conquering Australia. They have a win / loss ratio of 2.3 in the last one year which is significant considering their opponents included Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Of the 7 games they have lost, 5 of them have come against Australia and 3 of those in Australia. This could be a significant statistic for the World Cup. If we ignore matches against Australia, South Africa’s statistics improves drastically (win / loss ratio changes from 2.3 to 8.0). That’s how powerful Australia has been and how powerful South Africa has been against other teams. South Africa’s world cup performance has been consistent but they have lost key matches (mainly knockouts) when it matters the most. For a rational / impartial fan, South Africa winning this edition of the World Cup will ensure that justice has finally been served.

SWOT Analysis – 
  • Strengths – 
    • Momentum, form and consistent superior performance
    • AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla will be a constant pain for opposition bowlers
    • Dale Steyn will do the same from the bowling department
  • Weaknesses – 
    • “Chokers” tag will continue to haunt till they prove otherwise
    • Top tournament performance (or the lack of it)
  • Opportunities – 
    • Relatively favorable pool, strong chance to finish 1st in the pool
    • Similar conditions back home and recent ODI series against Australia will help
  • Threats – 
    • Unpredictability in the pool can be the reason for concern
    • This edition of the World Cup also has knockouts (sarcasm)!

South Africa will rely on key players to deliver and it’s high time the likes of AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla make this their world cup. Not only from a personal standpoint, but also for the team cause. Hashim Amla is the fastest to reach 5000 ODI runs and De Villiers has the fastest ODI century to his credit. In my opinion, this is the most balanced squad of them all in the World Cup, even better than Australia on paper. It’s now a matter to show the same on the field. Steyn, Parnell, Morkel and Tahir are quite a handful. Baring 2003 World Cup, they have always cleared the group stage. So it will be a shock if they are eliminated early. What’s shocking is, when they come to knockouts, they just don’t know how to win. This is where their key players should come in.

South Africa needs to correct a lot of unwanted records they have against them. This could be the place for them to start. How great will it be for South Africa to get their hands on that trophy? Isn't that their final frontier? 

Click here to view all the posts on Cricket World Cup 2015.

* The above statistics have been compiled using http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ for the duration of 1 year or 2 years (based on the statistic) till 31st Jan 2015.

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