Monday, April 25, 2011

India always loses when Tendulkar scores a hundred

It has become something of a given. People are happy that Tendulkar did not score a hundred. Because we all know that if he does, India (or Mumbai) will definitely lose the game. Entire prayers were for the world cup were based around Tendulkar not scoring a hundred in the knock-out games. The sigh of relief when he was dismissed early in the final was heard all the way in Sri Lanka, who were probably wondering whether India were trying to be more than gracious hosts.

So, how true is it? Does India really lose every time Tendulkar scores a hundred?

A quick check reveals that of the 48 ODIs that Tendulkar has scored a hundred in, India have won 33 of them and lost 15, with one tie and one no result. That means India have only lost 27% of the games in which Tendulkar has scored a hundred, which is certainly not bad. In fact, starting 2007, Tendulkar has scored 8 hundreds, and India have won 5 and tied 1 of those, with a failure rate of 25%, so discernable difference there either.

In tests, the hypothesis makes even less sense. Of the 51 tests in which Tendulkar has scored a hundred, India have won 20, drawn 20 and lost 11. The failure rate here is only 22%. In the last 5 years, the failure rate from 16 tests falls to under 19% (8 wins and 5 draws). In fact, the highest this number has ever been is 32% in 1999. The success rate (for wins) was always in the tens and twenties in the 1990s, and since 2002, has steadily gone up to almost 40%.

So, how did this urban legend of India's loss being caused by Tendular's hundreds come about? Probably due to sheer numbers. Most people score as many centuries as Tendulkar does in losing causes. Plus, some epic centuries by him resulted in losses due to the brain dead batting of the players who followed. Such things tend to stick in the memory longer. And good old confirmatory bias probably plays a part as well.

Next time, do yourself and others a favour. Stop this India loses whenever Tendulkar scores a hundred nonsense and just enjoy the game.

Mumbai Indians season review so far

This season is shaping up similar to last season when Mumbai went on a winning spree in the league phase. And if anything, they look even stronger. The middle order is now scarily powerful after the addition of Andrew Symonds and Rohit Sharma (something that Ian Chappell, of all people, thought was injudicious spending, so thank fuck he's not the coach), and even the opening pair, which was pretty good last season, looks formidable with the addition of Davy Jacobs. The bowling hasn't changed at all from last season, except for the swap of Munaf Patel for Zaheer Khan, which really hasn't hurt us one bit, especially since Munaf has learnt to become a craftier bowler.

However, the one aspect where Mumbai are far ahead of other teams is fielding. The wall of a Symonds-Sharma-Pollard-Saty.hish offside cordon is a hard one to break on just about any day, to say nothing about their contribution in terms of some absolutely brilliant catches. Add to this improved fielding from other members, such as Malinga, who ordinarily is only a languid fielder, a genuine keeper in Jacobs and the reliable hands of Tendulkar and Harbhajan, and you can almost get away with having Munaf sit in a corner somewhere, out of harms way. To be faThe Ryir to him though, even Munaf has been making a bit of an effort with his ungainly slides. It only adds to the pressure.

And so, Mumbai have been generally winning games at a canter. They were only seriously troubled by Kochi, who were aided by a couple of brilliant innings from McCullum and Jayawardene. Even Chennai, who threatened to make a game of it, crumbled in the face of the best ever fielding performance seen in the IPL.

Some observations and rants at the Cricinfo types:

  1. There really is nothing left to be said about Tendulkar that isn't already a cliché, and even this is a cliché. So I am going to talk about Rohit Sharma, my second most favourite player on the team - I do have a soft spot for players from Mumbai. A lot of people were questioning his price tag of $2 million, but as he has shown in the previous editions, he is a very consistent performer, at least in the IPL. I always thought that Deccan made a huge mistake in letting him go, but it was just as well for Mumbai, who were keen on getting him for the past 2 years. I really hope he can use this season as a launching pad for more consistent performances at the national level. While his talent is in no doubt, he even showed a willingness to grit it out in the Ranji Trophy last year. Hopefully this is the start of greater things for him.

  2. Cricinfo's quick evaluation that Mumbai's attack is heavily dependent on Malinga after the Kochi defeat, and its equally quick retraction after the Chennai victory was really irritating. Obviously, when you have a bowler of Malinga's caliber, you look to him to provide the early breakthroughs and soften up the opposition. But it does not follow that the team is a one man attack when the bowling is taken apart. The Kochi bowling performance was really just an off day. Sure Malinga's absense would hurt, no doubt, but it doesn't mean that there are no other bowlers capable of taking wickets or stemming the flow of runs.

  3. Everyone and his uncle has been tagging Ali Murtaza as the team's weakest link. He probably is not assured of his place in every game, but I think that the tag is patently unfair to him. For one, he is playing ahead of players such as Dhaval Kulkarni and Abu Nechim (though Nechim did get a look in ahead of Murtaza against Chennai and Deccan). For another, the guy bowls with a lot of heart, and has generally gone about his job in a quiet manner, often opening the bowling. In fact, he is at his best (in terms of economy rate) when he is bowling in the powerplay overs, conceding only 5.33 RPO at this stage. Quite a valuable asset to have then. One aspect of his game he needs to improve on, though, is on how he tends to fall away in the fourth over of his spell, conceding 9.50 RPO, as against an RPO of 6.60 otherwise. He is, however, not a death bowler, which perhaps explains this oddity, as most of his fourth overs have come in the last 5 overs of an innings. Still, when Mumbai need a second spinner, they could do far worse than given Murtaza an extended run.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Brilliant start to the season - Delhi Daredevils match review

There is always a lot of anticipation if you are a Mumbai fan going into a game against Delhi. While the rivalry today is not as intense as it was back in the '80s, it does have a presence even today, especially in the Ranji Trophy. The IPL is slightly different, with few local players lining up on either side, but for ardent Mumbai fans, this is always a must win game.

The excitement leading up to the game this season, however, was not very high, even if there was a sense of anticipation for the first game of the season - mainly due to the relatively weak squad Delhi have assembled this season. Even so, the game was a bit of an anti-climax with Mumbai easily defeating Delhi to hand them one of their worst defeats in the IPL. On the form of this game, I expect Delhi to struggle to remain competitive against similarly tough opposition.

The pitch looked like it had a bit of movement in it, though it was puzzling why Delhi did not go for a green top given that they have eight fast/medium fast bowling options in their squad. Maybe they were worried about the damage Malinga could have caused on such a pitch. As it turned out, they need not have bothered as Malinga absolutely flattened the Delhi batting with unplayable yorker after yorker. Indeed, it was only at the very end that he even needed a fielder to help him get a wicket. Five for thirteen, a great performance. No wonder he is loved so much in Mumbai.

Delhi were also not helped by some indecisive running, and Sehwag's run-out due to a brilliant direct hit by Tendulkar really knocked the stuffing out of them, as the rest of the batsmen hardly ever put up a fight. Naman Ojha and Venugopal Rao managed a brief recovery, but they were never allowed to run away with it with some good bowling by Murtuza accounting for Ojha, before Malinga came back to flatten the tail.

A target of 96 was never really going to threaten Mumbai. Delhi's bowlers worked up a lovely pace in response, with Ashok Dinda and Umesh Yadav surprising everyone by regularly touching the 140 mark. Even Irfan Pathan managed to get a smooth action going. Davy Jacobs came in with a lot of expectations at the top of the order, but he was beaten by a lovely ball from Morne Morkel who got one to nip away ever so slightly.

The small target afforded Mumbai the luxury of starting slowly. Tendulkar started scratchily with a few edges and a dropped chance at widish first slip. Though Rayadu also perished early, being run-out by a brilliant bit of fielding by Roelof van der Merwe, Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma ensured that there would be no hiccups in the chase. Rohit was very lucky early on, when umpire Saheba adjudged him not out to an Irfan Pathan delivery that looked like it pitched on, hit him in front of and was hitting the leg stump. However, he soon managed to get into the groove, and much as Tendulkar later remarked, he showed his talent by playing some lovely shots, including three fours in an over against Morkel. Tendulkar managed to step up the pace late on as well, and he even hit a six against van der Merwe. Sign of his approach to this season after a largely risk free batting performance last season?

So, while the victory does feel great, and Mumbai look like strong contenders for the title this season, the effects of a longish season of cricket need to be seen, even if that is true for all teams. Tougher opposition awaits, with Royal Challengers Bangalore the next hurdle. Of the two groups, Mumbai are in the easier one, with Delhi and Kings XI Punjab looking like whipping boys of the group, and they really should finish in the top two and make the newly designed play-offs at the semi-final stage.

Man of the match: Lasith Malinga (3.4-1-13-5)