Tuesday, March 15, 2011
One of the widely debated topics in the on-going ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 – as was the case with the last few ICC events too – has been the inclusion of Associate teams in the competition.
The inclusion of Canada, Kenya, Netherlands and Ireland has certainly come in for lots of criticism from several quarters – including from players and team captains. While the general grouse has been that the minnows don’t add too much value to the event – either in terms of entertainment or in terms of they themselves gaining anything from the competition, not too many have actually ventured to investigate what it is that is wrong with the minnow nations. We venture out to analyse their strengths and weaknesses.
While the minnow nations have certainly come in for a lot of criticism, they’ve caused the odd upset, or have threatened to cause an upset; take the case of Netherlands running England close, or even better, Ireland getting better of the Englishmen at Bangalore.
The assumption when this analysis was being compiled was that the Associates had generally put forward a decent performance with the bat, but suffered because of a bowling attack that lacked teeth. Let’s investigate if this premise holds good.
Looking at the table below, the runs per wicket of the minnow teams averages to around 204 (and rises to 215 when you leave Kenya – the weakest team of he four minnows - out of the equation). While 204 is certainly a low total in the sub-continent, it certainly gives the bowlers an opportunity to put pressure on the opposition. In normal circumstances, even a full-fledged outfit of one of the major teams will possibly need anywhere between 30-35 overs to chase down a target in the region of 200-225, and in case they happen to lose a few wickets early in the run-chase, then the run-chase could possibly turn out to be a closer affair.
Performance of Associate teams after 31 matches in World Cup 2011-03-14
||Mats – Wins – Defeats
||Team Batting Average (RPW*)
||Team Bowling Average (RPW*)
||5 – 1 – 4
||4 – 1 – 3
||5 – 0 – 5
||4 – 0 – 4
* Runs per wicket
However, what’s happening is that despite the batsmen piling on the runs, the bowling seems to be failing miserably.
Of the 11 times the minnows have bowled first in the competition so far, they’ve conceded:
Totals in excess of 300 – 7 times
Totals between 275 and 300 – 2 times
Totals below 250 – 2 times
Further, in three of the six matches where the minnow teams have batted first and posted totals in excess of 190, they’ve actually done a respectable job defending the target. Here’s a look at how they’ve fared defending respectable targets:
|Performance of minnows after posting a respectable total batting first
||Overs bowled in run-chase
|Net v Eng
|Ire v Ind
|Ken v Can
If the story were to be told in a few words, or in this case two numbers, here they are:
Wickets taken by minnows so far in the competition: 116
Wickets lost by minnows so far in the competition: 163
Do we need to ask the obvious – should the minnow teams look at bolstering their bowling? If their bowling attacks were a little more competitive their inclusion in future World Cups would probably be a foregone conclusion.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
In the first tournament to feature them, how has the introduction of the free-hit changed the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011?
The introduction of the free hit to limited-overs cricket has had the consequence of fewer front-foot no balls being bowled. It was also, however, meant to entertain the crowd with the batsmen, having no real need to worry about getting out, throwing caution to the wind as they went for the big shots.
Free-hits have been a great success with the cricketing public, although purists might frown on the fact that batsmen cannot be dismissed with a legal delivery. They are now often announced at the stadium with a klaxon or with the announcers letting everyone know that the free-hit is on its way.
At the World Cup free-hits have been few and far between. According to the Castrol Tournament Tracker only 35 have been conceded in the tournament so far and it may be surprising to note that only 62 runs have been scored off all the free-hits. That is significantly less than two runs per free-hit. More than one third - 34.29% - of those 35 have resulted in dot balls. Out of 35 free-hits the bowlers have managed to keep the batsman quiet on 12 occasions even if the batsman took an almighty swing at the ball.
Even after considering that only 23 free-hits have been scored off, 62 runs still seems quite low. That is just over 2.5 runs per ball and the expectation nowadays is that boundaries should flow from each free-hit. In fact, the statistics were worse until the recent Pakistan-New Zealand match where the three free-hits in the New Zealand innings all went for boundaries. The Pakistani bowlers did not handle bowling them well; one was a length ball, one was full and wide and one was short. Easy pickings for the Kiwi batsmen.
So, what can bowlers do to keep the runs down when they are at their most vulnerable? Although a lot of it has to do with the bowlers, the batsmen should be given some of the blame. They often forget proper cricket shots when faced with the opportunity presented by a free-hit.
Still, plenty of credit must be given to the bowlers. For one thing, they are guilty of fewer front-foot no balls. They have all but been eliminated by spinners and even pace bowlers have drastically reduced their number. But when they do bowl them what is one of the most successful ways of containing the batsmen? Yorkers. As demonstrated by Lasith Malinga and Umar Gul, when guilty of overstepping the crease, one of the best ways to make up for it is to bowl a full and fast yorker that the batsman will find hard to squeeze out. Another good option is the slower ball. A good change of pace can not only deceive the batsman, but can also make it harder to hit a big shot because the ball comes to the batsman at a slower pace. Slower bouncers can also be effective, or even a traditionally quick one!
Cricket is generally considered to be a batsman’s game and the free-hit does add to that. And yet, there is always an opportunity for a bowler with enough talent and commonsense to still outfox the batsman.
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