November 10, 2008

Dhoni drives, Sachin campaigns, Freddie keeps his shirt on

Cricket gets on the MVP bandwagon, Mahi takes the wheel, and Sachin hits the election trail

Where's my name on that MVP list? © AFP

England's latest export
MVPs in cricket? England's Professional Cricketers' Association gave the concept currency , and it has now been borrowed by Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket.

The MVP in cricket is a cumulative points system that rewards players for every run scored, every wicket taken, and every catch held. The points gained for batting, bowling, fielding, captaincy and winning add up to a player's total MVP points. Bonus points can be scored by getting batsmen in the top six out, having a good strike-rate and so on.

"It's a mathematical formula the creators spent hours developing," New Zealand Players' Association manager Heath Mills said. "The spreadsheet is massive and the computer guys at New Zealand Cricket are scratching their heads."

Both international and domestic players are rated using the tool. Last year Martin van Jaarsveld was the overall county MVP in England. It's also a tool that could be handy for team managements around contracts time. "It won't be the definitive thing because when you contract players there are some subjective things to take into account," Mills said, "but I can see players saying 'Well, look how well I did last year. The numbers stack up, the system's proven ...'

It won't be a surprise if IPL team bosses start using the tool soon to measure the value they are getting per buck spent.

This is your captain speaking
Shane Warne, and Ian Chappell before him, described the role of a coach as that of transporting teams to and from the grounds. Mahendra Singh Dhoni perhaps took leading from the front a bit too far when he decided to drive the team back to the hotel after the first day of the fourth Test against Australia in Nagpur. Known to be crazy about bikes, Dhoni decided to try the team bus on for size. It's unlikely the designated driver, obviously not a member of the team, would have refused Dhoni, but one significant question is: did he have the requisite license?

Attack of the clones
With retirements the flavour of the month, there's one option India's senior cricketers could consider: politics. At the moment it's their clones who are cashing in. Along with a few film stars, a Sachin Tendulkar lookalike is canvassing for votes ahead of the upcoming elections in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. A few households were pleasantly surprised to see "Tendulkar" at their doorsteps last week. "My nine-year-old son Rehan was thrilled when he responded to the doorbell Sunday morning to find Sachin himself standing with three friends," said one of those caught unawares. "I asked my son, 'How come Sachin is roaming here rather than playing cricket against Australia?' Then my husband said he was just the cricketer's lookalike.

The lady then went on to recount how "Sachin" was in a hurry and refused to wait for some food she wanted to offer him. "He just asked for tea and reminded us how our votes are important and advised us to prefer the BJP [the ruling party in the state]."

You can't take everyone around at one go on a bike, so why not the team bus? © AFP

Back to uncovered pitches
With droughts plaguing Victoria, the state's cricket association has instructed all its premier clubs to shun covers for their pitches, unless told otherwise, the Geelong Advertiser reports. However, rains the first weekend after the new rule was enforced ensured covers were back on. "There are a few bemused curators around because this rule has taken away one of their tools," Geelong administration manager David Barnes said. "The covers can be useful, especially when it's hot, because they can place them over and get a little bit of moisture from the sweating to roll into the wicket.

"It's a bit of a political situation with Cricket Victoria and Premier Cricket showing people that they're water-wise. Melbourne grounds have been very dry and they need as much water on them as they possibly can," Barnes said. The move is seen as the best way to counter the effects of the below-average rainfall through September and October, which has resulted in centre squares becoming hard.

England our favoured foes
Antigua hosted the Stanford 20/20 for 20 on its independence day, and the game, as well as a few other remarkable cricketing feats attained in the country, got mention in Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer's address to the nation. Following is an excerpt from his speech, published in theAntigua Sun:

The Stanford 20/20 Super Series is a dramatic punctuation mark to our 2008 Independence celebrations. The EC$54m prize money in the 20/20 game between the Stanford Superstars and England adds another record to the imposing list of international cricketing peaks Antigua holds.

Congratulations to the Stanford Superstars for an emphatic win and keeping the US$20 million in the Caribbean. Thirty years ago, the West Indies piled up 313 runs in a one-day international against Australia. In April 2004, the West Indies amassed a total of 751 runs in a single innings in a Test match. In the same Test match, Brian Lara scored 400 not out in a single innings. This followed Brian's earlier world record score of 375 not out in 1994.

Twenty-two years ago, Sir Vivian Richards smashed a Test century in 56 balls; the highest strike-rate (for a score above 100) in the history of Test cricket. It is notable that all of these West Indies conquests in cricket were achieved in Test matches against England. It should come as no surprise that a couple of days ago a British newspaper described Antiguans as the proudest people in the region.

"Congratulations to the Stanford Superstars for an emphatic win and keeping the US$20 million in the Caribbean" © AFP

Freddie won't show stomach for a fight
Sourav Ganguly recently said taking off his shirt and waving it around is something he will never do again. Andrew Flintoff, the man whose shirt-waving in Mumbai in 2001 provoked a similar reply from Ganguly at Lord's the following year, is also staying clear at the moment. "We will have to find some abs in the next few weeks," he said self-deprecatingly. If the two come head-to-head in the IPL, will the shirts stay on?

Barbados expects the best
Most first-class cricketers having represented their team for a season would expect to make it back, even if their performance has been only average. Not so in Barbados, where the selectors have come out with stringent guidelines for players. "All players seeking to represent Barbados at the regional first-class level shall maintain a First Division average of 40 or higher as a batsman or a bowling average less than 15 with at least 35 wickets as a bowler," the document said. The stipulation for one-dayers is that they should "maintain a batting average of between 35 and 40 or higher as a batsman or a bowling average under 20 as a bowler".

Those from the national side who don't perform will be summoned to appear before the director of coaching with their club coach. "If, after further monitoring, any player is not meeting the required standard, that player will not be considered for selection to national trials nor to the Barbados team," the Barbados Cricket Association said. Players have been advised that they must "demonstrate a commitment to, and respect for those elements of Barbadian cricket culture which are regionally and internationally recognised as the building blocks of sustained excellence and success".

Headline of the Week
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Mathew Varghese is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo