Deep dive | India’s route to Test#1

Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Adelaide Oval
Image via Wikipedia

I blogged about some stats and when i was cross checking I noticed something was off and I did the correction. Also, while i was doing the corrections, I wondered what attributed to India taking #1 position and how did Dhoni impacted that revolution. What I found was a revelation of facts that a lot of is was favorable and because of Australia and SA not doing their best and India matching up their worst or just being a little better.

To begin with the correction from earlier post is: India streak in tests not loosing a match is 14. Started on 10/9/2008 against Australia (Draw) and ended when they lost to SA on 2/6/2010. during this period India went from 3rd position (100 points) to 1st position (124 points). Also note that during period Australia dropped from 141 points to 116 and SA went from 116 to 120 points and were 2nd in rankings when they beat India.

Lets see how India, Australia and SA fared in this time period:

Played Wins Loss Draw Home Away Wins Home Wins Away Opponents – Home Opponents Away
India 31 15 6 10 19 12 9 6 SA, Aus, Eng, SL, NZ SL, NZ, Bng, SA
Australia 37 17 13 7 21 16 9 8 NZ, SA, WI, Pak, Eng WI, Ind, SA, Eng, NZ, Pak
SA 28 13 8 7 12 16 5 8 Ban, Aus, Eng, Ind Ind, Eng, Aus, WI, Pak
Home % Home Win% Away Win% Win % Loss %
India 61 60 40 48 19
Australia 57 53 47 46 35
SA 43 38 62 46 29

So a pattern clearly emerges – India played less matches in this period and their matches played at home were significantly high. They just played 4 series against Aus and SA and rest were against weaker test teams like WI and Bangladesh (note Australia was not winning enough either and were declining)

Australia were loosing heavily and given their better win rates in 2004-2007, they were loosing points because of the 3-year cumulative match in the ICC Ranking system. That how even in some periods where they were not loosing, they were loosing on points because they played lesser cricket and were playing against teams way below them compared to in 2004 where they were facing top teams.

South Africa were kind of neutral, but definitely played more matches abroad and had series against India and Australia consistently.

Also, note that India remained on top because their Loosing % is significantly higher than other two, while their win percent is almost same. This means they were drawing a lot more than others.

Overall, it clearly presents a case where India has been more conservative on their test playing strategies – playing less, playing at home, don’t loose and play safe to draw.

Now, if all that was played just as I can see all of those, good strategy to be number one. It is like saying “Let the others fight and diminish their resources and we will come on top because of their losses.”

Now – please tell me what did Dhoni do to take India here – it just happened. With a good team and safe strategy forces were in our favor. I am happy we are number one, but Dhoni did nothing in all this to happen. As a captain he could not do what all others in the past have struggled – improve our performance overseas. Change that – and then be called a Great Captain.

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India under Dhoni

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Indian cricketer. 4 Test...
Image via Wikipedia

A chat discussion came up with the following questions quoted to me

Unbeaten in test series, t20wc, one day wc, vb series etc can all be somehow attributed to dhoni’s luck ;). btw, which captain has won 3 world cups?

My response is as follows:

India lost a match just last year to SA. The best winning streak India has had in Tests is 2 maybe 3 matches in 2010. Their best not loosing a match (includes win or draw) is: 7 in 2008 and 2009 which is not close to Australia who have had streak of 16 wins  in tests twice – 1999 to 2001 and again in 2005 to 2008.

Also, since 2009 where they have won India has played more matches at home than abroad – something India has not been doing in the past.

Again, I dont want to degrade the test status or anything that India has achieved – simply conditions have been favorable for us in last 4 years and we have had a great team which has not changed in recent era. Something that even Ponting had at his disposal in last decade. This is not an individual effort and definitely our captain has not done  enough “just yet” in adverse of the situations. All the “handle pressure situations” we have found ourselves in has been a result of bad planning. Sure, we came out well – but if we see some of the choices during the match and hear what some of the experts have to say (at this point I am not referring to my analysis), a lot of those dont make sense to anyone. Now we can say – all experts are wrong and Dhoni knows something that no one else does – I wont speak another word on this topic ever again. However, Dhoni sure has best that India has had – no questions asked and no caveats presented.

And maybe it is not Dhoni’s luck – it is simply India’s destiny/luck and Dhoni is in middle of all of this just like every other player is. However, I see other players perform on the field and Dhoni is so patchy with his batting and wicket keeping. Even in the World Cup, everyone around me had lost hope he will do anything and then one day he hits a big one – he has been so inconsistent recently – now that is a result which we cant debate. WC is a classic example where until the elimination round, India was hitting itself in every pressure situation – England, Ireland, Dutch, SA – also 2 cases I can recall clearly were in bowling department where we went down in pressure. In elimination round we did good but it was all in batting department and in those too Dhoni went down to pressure in 2 matches against Australia and Pkistan. It was Yuvi and youngsters that got us thru. Finals – he did very well and he was brave or desperation to do something. Whatever it was is was good as the result was good.

I was referring to Ponting who took Australia to 2007, 2003 and 1999. I checked and found 1999 it was Steve Waugh. So I am back to 2 WC and 25 match winning streak (1 match led by Waugh remainder by Ponting).

India’s Test Results from last 2 years

Year Opponent Result Where
2010 Bangaladesh Won Away
2010 Bangaladesh Won Away
2010 SA Lost Home
2010 SA Won Home
2010 SL Lost Away
2010 SL Draw Away
2010 SL Won Away
2010 Aus Won Home
2010 Aus Won Home
2010 NZ Draw Home
2010 NZ Draw Home
2010 NZ Won Home
2010 SA Lost Home
2010 SA Won Home
2009 NZ Won Away
2009 NZ Draw Away
2009 NZ Draw Away
2009 SL Draw Home
2009 SL Won Home
2009 SL Won Home
2008 Aus Lost Away
2008 Aus Won Away
2008 Aus Draw Away

Dhoni is the best captain but not the Greatest

Dhoni keeping the wickets
Image by pulkitsinha via Flickr

Yes he is Period.The stats say is all – 2007 T20 WC victory, #1 Test status and now prestigious WC in 2011. No one else has done it in the past. He is the first one to do it. Dhoni is the best captain India has ever had; but he is not the greatest. He needs to prove himself. This is just the beginning.

But my debate does not end here – the question that everyone really wants to ask is “Why is Dhoni the best captain?” Many don’t want to get into this debate even. Some are avid fans and others don’t know how to think and rationalize. I can understand the fan because that’s what passion is all about. But either ways if a ration debate happens it will become clear that what Dhoni does is pure luck. Don’t get me wrong, I love this man and respect him for his results but not his ways. But, why he is the best captain has many things behind it than a simple fact:

  1. He has the best team ever that India has played in cricket. I cant recall a time when India had a strong bench in every department – bowling , batting, fielding, all-rounders. This is the period when we have bench in every department and people who are capable of replacing one another.
  2. Australia saw some major retirements in last few years – Gilly, Hayden and may more. Pointing is not playing well. But Australia is no longer invincible. Everyone is beating them left-right and center. England beat them in Ashes in Australia. Why is Dhoni great? If this logic applies, every captain should be a great captain because Australia is no longer in shambles.
  3. We played in SA and lost 3-2. What did he do? Nothing. because he could do nothing. We do not perform well in foreign pitches and we did fail again. In last 4 years we have played more matches at home than abroad. Last 2 T20 WCs we did pathetic – why because they were not played in India. What has Dhoni did to improve the team to play well abroad. Nothing. Where is his foresight and captaincy.

Now lets look at the decisions he made in the WC and lets understand the rationale behind it

  1. Bring Piyush Chawla in the squad when he was not performing. We had 2 spinners with same spin type who were performing better. Eventually the next series after WC Piyush has been dropped and others come in. Then during the WC campaign, Dhoni quoted – “I am playing Chawla because he needs the match more than the team”. With Ashwin going into the SA without any match practice – is that a rational decision. Not but Ashwin did great and it was his capability and Dhoni’s luck. Remeber Chawla never played another match after that. Why did he need another game?
  2. He brought in Sree in finals quoting – “Sree is lucky for us. We won T20 WC with him on the team”. I need not say more
  3. Yuvi was in the squad for his vintage. yuvi was in no form for a WC squad and there were players sitting on bench in much better form. Where was his captaincy to call out lets sit Yuvi out (if not for the WC at least a match or two). But, he went with what was safe and took a chance. Yuvi was man of the series; lucky for Dhoni. But not a rational decision.

I am happy that all is going well for India and I am happy for it. But, please stop propagating how “Great” Dhoni is. He is damn lucky and I am glad for it.Dhoni is where Tendulkar was in 1996 just starting to prove himself. He has at least 12 more years to go to show what he can do for India. Ponting did it for Australis over a long period and it is just getting started for Captain Cool. But it is a long road and I wish he does well and starts to do what makes sense; eventually luck will run out – Sachin, Yuvi will retire; Zaheer and Bhajji will loose their speed and turn. I would like to see what he does to prepare the team for that day. If we make Dhoni the captain of Bangladesh team he wont do that good, but he can be greatest given what he does around him with a sub-optimal team. Time will test him when great guns retire and it is then he has to come on top. It is then the luck will expire and leadership will come out.

IPL 4 | A twist in the fairy tale

MI have led the points table for almost all of the tournament, until today when they found themselves loosing 2 matches in succession (first time this season) and in the process they are stranded on 3rd position and still not qualified.

I posted a few days back some of the very interesting matches and how the tables stand, and a lot of those permutations are coming alive. Top 4 teams have all played 12 matches and standings are RCB, CSK, MI and KKR with RCB clear by 1 point (17 points); CSK and MI tied on 16 and KKR behind by 2 points on 14. KKR have bigger worries – KXIP winning all matches and tying on 16 points or maybe overtake them.

With the following matches that can change the course of playoffs it is open table for RCB, MI and CSK.

  • 5/15: KXIP vs. DD
  • 5/17: RCB vs. KXIP
  • 5/18: CSK vs. KTK
  • 5/19: PW vs. KKR
  • 5/20: MI vs. RR
  • 5/22: RCB vs. CSK
  • 5/22: KKR vs. MI

But the matches RCB has against KKR and CSK are the most important. I still do not have all of KXIP’s matches because I still feel they will loose their next match against RCB and then it will back to these 4. Also, the match against KKR and MI being the last one in this set may hold a huge bearing on the end and also knowing where they will be at that point.

This is getting more interesting; will MI or CSK have a fairy ending tale??

IPL4 – RCB is a force to reckon

So with today’s win RCB move to 2nd spot and equals MI and RR with the most consecutive wins in IPL.

The top 4 teams have now played 11 matches and the standings are MI, RCB, CSK and KKR. With 3 matches to play, and separated by just 2 points (MI: 16, RCB: 15, and CSK/KKR: 14); they are playing for top 2 positions. In terms of matches RCB has the most difficult of matches and also the ones that will decide where they finish compared to CSK and KKR. Also, it will be a real test of their mettle against those teams.

The matches that I am waiting for that will decide the fate of playoffs and will also tell us in a way who may win the IPL 4 are:

  • 5/12: CSK vs. DD
  • 5/14: RCB vs. KKR
  • 5/14: MI vs. DC
  • 5/17: RCB vs. KXIP
  • 5/18: CSK vs. KTK
  • 5/19: PW vs. KKR
  • 5/20: MI vs. RR
  • 5/22: RCB vs. CSK
  • 5/22: KKR vs. MI

House of 1000 mirrors

Long ago in a small, far away village, there was place known as the House of 1000 Mirrors. A small, happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit. When he arrived, he bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house. He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. To his great surprise, he found himself staring at 1000 other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and was answered with 1000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the House, he thought to himself, “This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often.”

In this same village, another little dog, who was not quite as happy as the first one, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door. When he saw the 1000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see 1000 little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, “That is a horrible place, and I will never go back there again.”

All the faces in the world are mirrors. What kind of reflections do you see in the faces of the people you meet?

Negotiate with feelings

This dawned on me about 3 years ago.

“What is the first emotion that you face, when you do not see something happening as you desire?” – when ever I have asked this question to a few people, the people the answer that I get is anger, dis-appointment, sadness, etc. I have felt the same way most of the time in my life.

It was back then when I started to practice something that I like to call “negotiate with feelings” and a quick assessment now shows it has been particularly helpful.

I try to isolate myself with an incident that has any impact on me. I just give myself some time to absorb what has happened. Sometimes, it takes a few hours and other times it may take a while. But once I am done absorbing, I clear my mind and start thinking what next needs to be done – remedies, action plan and ensure that I have that on track.

The next step for me is to understand why it happened in the first place. I do not do a root-cause of everything; only those that had a big impact and I wanted to make sure that the chances of it happening ever again are diminished greatly.

The result is not many times, I find myself  “not getting angry” and understand why “am I dis-appointed” or “why am I sad”? and rather than holding on to the feelings for a longer duration and nurture them, I am able to go about providing a fix and get on with business as usual.

It has also helped me as a person in certain areas because now as I have been able to negotiate with my feelings, it helps me in framing a more fruitful discussion with people.