Tuesday 30 October 2012

Jesse Ryder's comeback

In his comeback innings to first class cricket Jesse Ryder hit 117* off 113. That's pretty impressive. But it's how he scored them that was impressive.

He hit 13 boundaries. Which means that he hit 65 runs off the 100 balls that he didn't hit to the fence. This is a particularly easy to calculate activity rate of 0.65. Which is more like a t20 activity rate. In fact it's more than his actual t20 activity rate, which is closer to 0.55.

I believe that a high activity rate is one of the best signs of a batsman being in form. It shows that they are scoring off a lot of the deliveries they are facing, and therefore they are seeing the ball well.

117* off 113 with 10 sixes and 5 fours would possibly be more dramatic, but would be a lot less of a sign of a batsman who is really ready to return to international cricket.

While the opposition wasn't a full international line up, Doug Bracewell and Taran Nethula are international players and Kieran Noema-Barnett and Ben Wheeler are both capable bowlers. It was a fantastic innings, and one that if he continues to play like that, should see him return to international cricket soon.

The live scorecard for the match is here.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Net Run Rate calculator Group A

Today there are 2 potentially interesting matches in the Champions League.

There are 3 basic outcomes possible from these matches (as well as a couple of unusual ones)

Option 1 - Auckland lose

Regardless of what happens in the second match if Auckland lose, both the Titans and the Daredevils are through to the semi-finals.

Option 2 - Auckland and Delhi win

If this happens then Auckland and Delhi are both through to the semi-finals.

Option 3 - Auckland and Titans win

It this happens then the Titans are through, and the team with the best net run rate out of Auckland and Delhi go through.

Additional options - rain stops play
If the first game is rained out, then Delhi are automatically through to the semi-final. Then if Delhi beat the Titans by a significant enough margin to cause the Titans' NRR to drop below Auckland's, Auckland would go through, otherwise the Titans would. Given that the Titans would know the formula, they would be likely to go for the lower target to ensure qualification.

If Auckland win the first game and the second is rained out, then again it would come down to NRR between the Aces and the Titans.

For any of those situations you can use this Net Run Rate calculator here:

Thursday 18 October 2012

6 reasons I'm not surprised by the Auckland Aces success

The Auckland Aces seem to have taken many people by surprise by being so competitive this far into the Champions League T20.

I predicted that they would make the semi-finals at the start of the tournament. Here's why:

1. Completeness.

The Aces have not lost any players to any other teams or injury. Every player was available for them. This is something that most teams can not say.

2. Composure.

The Aces have 12 players in their squad with international experience. This makes a big difference as they are more used to playing in different conditions, and in front of bigger crowds.

3. Conditions.

South Africa at this time of the year is similar to New Zealand in late November. The pitches are a bit unpredictable, the weather is changeable and the outfields are a similar pace. Not many other teams are comfortable in these conditions.

4. Competition.

The HRV Cup has only 6 teams in it. This means that the player pool is not diluted much. Most teams in the New Zealand competition have at least 6 international players in them, if not more. There are no easy games, and not many players that you can target. The proof of this is that most NZ players have significantly better averages when playing domestic cricket overseas than when playing at home (batting and bowling).

5. Collecting.

The Aces have a raft of players who are outstanding at fielding and running between the wickets. This is often the difference between teams in close matches. With Kitchen, Hira, Guptill and Vincent they have 4 of the best fielders in world cricket. There are less easy runs against Auckland, and they are so quick between the wickets that they find runs that many other teams can't score, by hitting the ball straight to a fielder and running.

6. Closeness.

For the last couple of years the Aces played a short walk from a good friend's place, and so I saw a lot of them play. This naturally results in me having a certain bias towards them. But at least I can admit it.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Why and How the Champions League format needs to change

I'll start out by saying that I love the concept of the Champions League T20.

There needs to be more focus on domestic cricket, because that is a much more reliable way of growing the game than trying to grow it at the international level. Strong clubs/provinces will pick up players from lesser nations, and give them a chance to develop and succeed. A couple of examples of this from football are George Weah, who is from Liberia, but managed to win a Serie A title with AC Milano and obtained significant recognition for his skills that would not have been possible if he had only been playing for Liberia (who only twice even managed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations during Weah's 19 year career.

Likewise the New Zealand football team managed to go unbeaten in the 2010 Football World Cup, mostly thanks to a solid defense of Winston Reid, who had learned his football playing for a Midtjylland in Denmark, Ryan Nelsen, who had played for DC United and Blackburn Rovers Tommy Smith from Ipswich Town and Ivan Vicelich who had played for Roda JC and RKC Waalwijk in the Netherlands. It is hard to imagine those three players being as compotent if they had just played domestically in New Zealand, for the likes of North Shore, Christchurch United and Auckland City. New Zealand had such a solid defense largely due to the strong club nature of football.

The problem I have with the current Champions League is that it is not a fair competition.

Firstly every first class team is not able to compete, secondly the rankings are arbitrary, and not result based, thirdly the competition is set up in a way that has to much of an element of luck involved.

The Mountaineers from Zimbabwe won the Stanbic Bank Cup quite comfortably. But that is as far as they can go, despite having at least 7 current or former international players in their squad. Likewise the Dhaka Gladiators won the Bangladesh Premier League, contain 9 international players, but were not invited to the tournament.

The rankings are completely wrong. Every time Trinidad and Tobago have been in the tournament they have finished ahead of the South African teams and at least one of the Australia teams. Every time there has been an English team there, their top team has finished ahead of the second South African and Australian team. And yet South Africa and Australia get two teams in the main draw, while the English and West Indian teams need to qualify. This ranking system is ranking teams on how much money they can pull in, rather than how good they are. That is inherently wrong.

The third problem is with the tournament structure. The nature of T20 cricket is that the best team does not always win. However they will win more games over the course of a series. This makes it difficult to have a fair system that is concise enough to not drag on for months. However the current system is far from fair.

The big problem is the qualifying stage. A three team single round-robin is possibly the worst way to decide qualification imaginable. To demonstrate this I ran a simulation using the Pakistani domestic results from the last 3 years. I chose Pakistan because they were the competition that had one team being the most dominant.

The Sialkot Stallions have a formidable record. In the last 3 years they have lost only one match in the Pakistani competition. They have averaged 8.35 runs per over in that time, while their opponents have only averaged 7.23 runs per over. In a fair competition they should almost always make it through the group stages.

The only time they didn't win was the time where Pakistan also used the 3 team single round-robin method of qualification.

I took the Sialkot Stallions' results and then made 3 other teams who were all significantly less strong, but roughly equal to each other. They were all roughly average for other Pakistani teams. I then ran a simulation 1000 times. First with a 3 team single round robin, then with a standard 4 teams pool, where two go through. (if anyone would like a copy of the simulation that I used, just email me)

In the first option (3 team single round-robin) Sialkot went through 62.4% of the time. This means that they missed out in more than one in 3 of the tournaments, despite being a vastly superior team. In the second option, (4 team standard group) Sialkot went through 786 times. This meant that they missed out only 21.4% of the time.

With these numbers the 3 team single round-robin was 76% more likely to eliminate the best team.

I believe that the 3 team single round-robin should be avoided at all costs. Here is the format that I would like to see:

Teams: 3 from India. 2 from Australia, South Africa and England. 1 from West Indies, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. This makes 15 teams. The extra team then is either the team that won the previous competition, or if they already qualified the next best team from their country. For example, the last champions league winners were the Mumbai Indians. Mumbai lost the elimination final in the IPL, so they were effectively 4th overall. Hence they qualify for themselves. If instead RCB had won the final of the Champions League last year, then they would have gone through instead.

This then results in 16 teams. If we were to then have 4 groups of 4, going into 2 groups of 4 then to semis and finals we would need to play 39 matches. The matches could be played 3 per day for the initial round. (One morning, one afternoon and one night, with one double header and one played at another stadium). The second group round could be played 2 matches per day, and then (following a rest day (which would probably be used for travel for some teams) semi-finals and finals.

The whole tournament would easily fit within the 20 day window that the tournament has been using so far, and could even be squeezed to 16 days. (This would require the use of 2 stadiums that are quite close together - like Lords and the Oval, Chandigarh and Mohali, Centurion and the Wanderers, Eden Park and Seddon Park. etc)

It would also be a much fairer system. Each team would have exactly the same mountain in front of them. If anyone can win 8 in a row, they win the cup. In the current system Yorkshire could win 6 in a row, and only be in the semi-finals, where if (for example) KKR win 2 and lose 2 they could also potentially make the semi-finals. Something doesn't seem right about that.

So that's my take on the Champions League. Eventually I'd like it to get to a system where the champion from each country go through, then the next 6 are based on performance at the previous Champions League. So a team coming in the top 6 qualifies an extra spot from their country. (Similar to how the Basketball World Championships work.)

Thursday 11 October 2012

CricketGeek Player Profiles: Anaru Kitchen

Anaru Kitchen with a young Aces fan
courtesy @sillymidoff
One of the main reasons that the Auckland Aces have been the dominant team in New Zealand limited overs domestic cricket over the last two years is their extraordinary fielding. Guptill, Hira, Vincent and Cachopa have all prowled the infield, cutting off singles and saving boundaries. But there's another element to their fielding that is often ignored. The exceptional boundary fielding and outfield catching of Anaru Kitchen.

He is extremely quick, and at times seems to sense where the ball is going before it even leaves the bat. The result is that he has saved a number of runs, and made a significant number of catches for Auckland. He took more catches last season than any of the wicket-keepers. In fact, he took double the number of catches of the most prolific (Kruger van Wyk).

Sometimes outfield catching is merely a case of being in the right place at the right time. In Kitchen's case it is more that he covered so much ground, so quickly, that he caught batsmen who thought they had safely hit the ball into a gap. In one game he took a catch at deep backward square leg, while fielding at a wide mid on.

His ability to take catches has seen him placed high on the list of the most consistent catchers in T20 history:

To go with his remarkable catching he is also a competent batsman. His career started with a hiss and a roar, scoring 33*, 31, 0, 31, 61* in his first 5 matches, followed by a slump as bowlers figured out where to bowl to him. This often happens to players who have immediate success when they make the step up to the next level. The difference between good players and the rest is how they respond. Kitchen has found a way to score runs, faster and more consistently after his lean patch. His career strike rate has risen above 125 and his average is now over 25 (as shown in the graph below. He still has some work to go before his batting alone would be a reason to select him, but when combined his fielding prowess, it resulted in his being named in the 30 man New Zealand training squad for World T20.

Anaru Kitchen is someone to keep an eye on in the Champions League T20, both with the bat and in the outfield.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

CricketGeek Player Profiles: Colin de Grandhomme

Colin de Grandhomme with 2 young fans. Courtesy @sillymidoff
When I was a child my father had season tickets to watch the Auckland rugby team play. I went along and watched them play almost every weekend of winter. That team was amazing. They won 75 consecutive regular season home matches. They would often be so far ahead at half time that they could try crazy, high-risk plays in the second half. And they were so good that they would often come off. Throughout the time that I watched them, there were two players who, more than any others, got the crowd excited. The first was a butcher from Mangere called John Kirwan. When he got the ball the whole crowd would rise as one, because he was unbelievably good. He was so fast and elusive. Whenever he touched the ball there was electricity. The other player was on the opposite wing, Va'aiga "Inga the Winger" Tuigamala. Inga was a very good player, but was not quite as good as Kirwan. Despite that he was the true crowd favourite because what he did was often more spectacular. He had the power and balance to get through the smallest of gaps. Kirwan scored 35 tries in tests for the All Blacks, Tuigamala scored only 5, and yet was clearly the crowd's favourite.

Likewise, Colin de Grandhomme has not scored nearly as many runs for Auckland as Martin Guptill, but when CdG walks out to the middle, there is a hush of expectation come over the crowd at Colin Maiden Park. Everyone knows that there is a chance that they will see something special from the big man. He is capable of making the largest grounds look ponderously small. When he hits a ball, they certainly stay hit.

I have been fortunate to have been able to see some of the biggest hitters in world cricket. I have seen the likes of Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Chris Cairns, Adam Gilchrist, Viv Richards and Mark Greatbatch; but I'm not sure I've seen anyone hit the ball as cleanly or as regularly as de Grandhomme. I once saw him hit the ball out of Colin Maiden park, over the embankment and trees, across the road, over the fence on the other side and into the university car park. I'm not good at estimating distances, but I would be very surprised if it was less than 120 metres.

His career strike rate for the Auckland in T20 matches is a fairly impressive 170.83. He has hit 42 sixes and 47 fours off only 360 deliveries. That's basically a boundary every 4 balls. He's done all this while averaging a respectable 20.

But he's not just a lucky slogger. It has been in the longer formats where he has really excelled. Last season he averaged over 70 in first class cricket, and 43.8 at a strike rate just over 125 for Auckland in the list A matches. In a lot of ways his List A and First Class numbers show how good a player he actually is.

These numbers led me to write a post about his selection for the New Zealand team pointing out that they had picked him for the wrong format. However, when those two games got to the super over, I was wishing we had CdG in the side.

The fact that he is playing for New Zealand at all is a story in itself. He was born in Harare into a Zimbabwian cricketing dynasty. Both his father and grandfather represented their nation (Bunny for Rhodesia and Laurence for Zimbabwe). He looked set to follow in their footsteps, having played for Zimbabwe under 19's (alongside Brendan Taylor, Elton Chigumbura, Tino Mawoyo, Prosper Utsya, Sean Williams, Graeme Cremer and Ed Rainsford) before going on to play first class cricket for the Zimbabwe A and Zimbabwe under 23.

However he had different ideas. Realising that Zimbabwe was not quite the land of opportunity that it had been, de Grandhomme moved to Auckland in 2006.  It took a while for the move to pay off, but now "dutchie" makes the Auckland crowd move to the edge of their seats whenever he saunters to the middle.  If he gets going in the Champions League T20, I would definitely recommend moving to the edge of your seat also.

If you want a brief introduction to his (rather understated) personality, watch this video.

Saturday 6 October 2012

CricketGeek Player Profiles: Samuel Badree

© WICB Media - Pal Pillai
I had intended to write a profile on Badree before the tournament started, but school work got in the road. Samuel Badree is possibly the most under-rated player on the planet right now. While his Trinidad and Tobago team mate, Sunil Narine has attracted all the headlines with his funky hair style and mystery deliveries, Badree has avoided the attention, despite also taking wickets and not conceding many runs.

Narine looks special. He holds the ball in a strange way. He flicks his wrist when bowling off spin. He turns it both ways. When he is bowling drama is in the air. It's totally absorbing. Badree is almost the opposite. He does get some turn, both ways, but it's not particularly exaggerated.

Badree is instead the master of line and length. He has enough variation that the batsman can't settle down, but enough consistency that if they wait for the bad ball his whole spell might have gone by and they've only had one ball to hit. For a leg-spinner that is exceptional. Narine is someone who you can't take your eyes off. At the end of a Badree over it is hard to remember anything happening. He bores the batsmen into submission. And he does it well.

His boringness is part of why it has taken so long for him to reach international cricket. He played his first match for Trinidad and Tobago in January 2002. It took until June 2012 before he made his international debut. 10 years is a long time to wait for a call up, particularly in the West Indies who seem to go through spinners faster than Hollywood celebrities go through spouses. In that time there have been 25 other players bowl at least 10 overs of spin for the West Indies.

He's only played 5 T20 internationals, so it is hard to draw much from his statistics in the international game, but he has played a lot of matches for Trinidad and Tobago, and his record for them is remarkable.

Career Economy Rate - minimum 100 overs

The most important question is really how many runs does a bowler concede.

We can see that he is unmatched in this arena. He is so miserly that if Daniel Vettori bowled 3 overs per match, and Badree bowled 4 overs per match, Badree would still average less runs per match than Vettori. Or Steyn, Ajmal, Swann, Malinga, or anyone else with an economy rate over 6.2.

Career Bowling Index - minimum 100 overs

The bowling index is found by multiplying the runs per ball and the runs per wicket. It is one of the best guides to the effectiveness of a bowler.

This time Badree is second. He's got the second best bowling index of anyone who has ever played, and the only one ahead of him, Narine, is yet to suffer second year syndrome, when he has to adapt to players figuring him out. There are a lot of very good bowlers behind him in this list.

Career bowling Contribution: - minimum 100 overs

Every wicket is worth about 5 runs to a teams total. So I subtract 5 runs per wicket, and then work out the economy rate. For more info see this post:

Again Badree's numbers are better than anyone else.

An argument can be made, of course, that it's one thing to succeed at the lower level, against players who are not very good against spin. How does he go against higher class opposition.

To answer this I looked at just his statistics in matches against teams with a heritage of spin, or from an area known for spin bowling. Generally a player who has grown up in one of these areas is likely to have developed a better technique against spin bowling. The teams that I have counted as good against spin are Guyana, Deccan Chargers, Ruhuna, Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Bangladesh A, India A.

Against these teams he has bowled 36.5 overs and taken 8 wickets for 202 runs. That's an economy rate of 5.48. Worse than his career average, but still remarkably good. Of the bowlers who have bowled more than 100 overs, only Sunil Narine has a lower economy rate.

Likewise if we only look at his numbers against international teams he has bowled 35 overs, (some for West Indies, some for T&T in tour matches) and taken 7/182. That's a economy rate of 5.2. This would put him ahead of Narine, despite only counting matches against international teams.

Before the match Australia said that they were going to try and target Badree. That resulted in both of their openers ending up back in the shed. Bowling to Sri Lanka is a different prospect to bowling to Australia, but going by current form it seems unlikely that even the might of Sri Lanka will have an answer to scoring quickly off Samuel Badree.

He might be boring, uninspiring and easy not to notice, but his numbers are remarkable. At the end of the day a bowler's job is to take wickets and not concede many runs, and this is exactly what Badree excels at.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Group 2 Net Run Rate calculator

Here is a net run-rate calculator for group 2 of the World Twenty 20.

There are two possible scenarios where net run rates (nrr) will come into play. Firstly if India and Pakistan both win then there will be a 3 way tie between India, Pakistan and Australia. Nrr will decide 1st, 2nd and who goes home in this situation. The other situation is if Australia and South Africa both win. Here Australia will go through as the top qualifier, and it will come down to nrr to decide which of South Africa, Pakistan and India go through.

There are some instructions inside the frame, but you may need to scroll around. Once you type in some number the net run rate will automatically change on the right. Again you might need to scroll to see it.