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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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

Leaders or just Managers?

Recalling an incident from 2007, it reminds me of the ideology of being “emotional for your work and company”. The phrase comes to mind – “Married to the company”.

In the past I have tried to be very emotional around my work, but a couple of discussions back in 2008 with a Senior Project Manager and a Director made me realize a few things. And now when I contemplate those things back and see similar things happening elsewhere too.

My assessment back then was that being emotional towards work and company (someone else) will only hurt me in the end. In the past I had worked almost twice the tenure with my company. For the 4 years I spent, my time spent working clocked to almost 8 years. No doubts that I was learning a lot, but the mistakes I did was that I was emotional about my work. I used to put that in front of everything else in my life. The rewards were good too – money, position etc. Until the day my project started to do South. A meeting that I had with a Senior Project Manager (Manish) around my future role on the project made me realize that he was going to sacrifice a human interest for the betterment of the project. He is a very successful manager in the organization and is very talented too.

A year later in 2008, another meeting made me realize that the company will choose to pay new hires more than what I am getting because I enjoy the Goodwill in the organization. I was not fully sure how to respond back then. But, I realize now that this is how every company operates. What I fail to understand is how that works out. A company/manager chooses to pay less to an existing employee who has done well for them and has generated results in the past; someone who knows the domain and the company. How can a manager/company let go of that person and go about finding a replacement only to give that new person a higher compensation and in the process spend a lot more on training and opportunity.

Maybe, this is a trait of a successful manager, I do not believe that this is a trait for a good leader. I have not done any MBA, but all these people who are running companies around me are MBAs from IIMs and other premier institutes. I do not understand the rationale behind it.

The World Cup is indebted to England

ICC Cricket World Cup trophy replica which is ...
Image via Wikipedia

The World Cup is indebted to England for the quality of contests they have produced. Also, if you think of it – England has been able to defeat stronger teams (SA and WI) and tie with India. If they can continue the same, they can actually win the WC 🙂

Why I am going to US?

In last few weeks, I have managed to turned my life into a living nightmare of some sorts. I guess it all started when I took up an assignment on July 2010 for a year. I came back into India for a period of 3 weeks to get Aabhya’s admissions in nursery and get her started on her 14 years of educational journey.

Here I am still in India – for a period of 12 weeks; way more than I could have ever thought about. I have canceled my travel plans twice now and I am staring at travel on March 25 – just 3 days away. And once again, I am going through a phase of seeing Preeti sad and will be seeing Aabhya crying when I am leaving for Airport.

Starting Feb 7, 2011 – till date; I have been thinking about going or not going and I have been oscillating back and forth many times and several times in a day. I had to cancel my trip early March because I just could not take the pressure and thought maybe I can stay back. I was risking termination because of my action of canceling at the very last minutes. However, all things turned out well and currently, I do have an option of saying No to travel for this assignment `at least`. But, once again I am inclined to travel.

Preeti says – she can only see one reason which is “Money” – that I want to earn more money. Well here are my reasons:

  1. Sincerity and Honesty: I have been always sincere in my work – never said something that I could not do and never lied. Until early March when I did lie so that I do not have to travel. And somehow, I have not been at rest since that day. I feel that good things have happened to me in past because I have been honest in what I did; but this time dis-honesty is something that is not cut-out for me. Somehow, inside of me I want to make amends and get done with the assignment that I committed 8 months back
  2. Complacent and Fear: I have reached a point when I have started to find excuses for my doing challenging work – This project makes me work with some of the worst people; who are very politically influenced. I knew this from the start and never wanted to work with them. Last time around, I was kind of forced by fear of termination into this project and when I reached the ground i did quite OK. But, this time I see a chance of getting out and I was inclined to get out of the mess and do something else.
  3. Practicality over emotions: Last week my decision changed because I was offered a set of responsibilities that will provide me an opportunity to work in areas where I have not worked before and may lead me to a promotion by end of this year. I told this to Preeti and she asked me – what are the alternatives; if you do not do this, how long will your promotion be delayed? – I think it may be about another 1 – 2 years. Preeti is right in some sense if I can not sacrifice 2 years for a promotion than leave her and Aabhya for a a period of 4 months. I do not wish to do so because I believe in taking decisions on what I see in front of me right now. I can not foresee any part of the future and hence do not know what is going to be offered to me in upcoming next 2 years. I may or may not get what I am getting now. I do not think I can deal very well seeing people around me grow at a rate faster than me because they lick their boss’s ass and I ca not do that. Hence, my options are fairly limited and this is one opportunity that is going to get me to that place – hopefully.
  4. Career move: After a lot of hunting around in Indian markets, I have realized that there is no future for Architects. That role does not exist in a leadership role – CTO or CIO unless you have your own company or know someone in that position in an Indian company. I have to move over to a Program manager role and the responsibilities I am being offered in my current role, provide me with a very lucrative opportunity to move into that role and still get promoted without loosing any time. If I was to switch into this role now as a PM, it would mean another 2-3 years before I get into a PM stream.

I do see the point that I am going to sacrifice 4 months of my life with my wife and daughter and I am going to loose Aabhya’s early school life. I missed her start of Kindergarten and I am going to miss on her 3 months of Nursery too. I will miss Preeti’s birthday and any other occasions and events that will happen during this time. I will be able to speak to them daily and do video chats as and when possible. I know from past it will not be too frequent given our schedule.

And this is where I get emotional and conflicted. Career over Family? I do not think I am choosing Career or Family. I do feel that I am still choosing my Family over Career because this is step is going to get me to a position in a company where

  • I can continue to work just 8 hours in any given day;
  • Reach a leadership role where travel is limited to once of twice a year for about 1 week at a stretch and;
  • I can not live by a lie and teach my daughter to be of a principle. Although, the lie was for my family  but is a lie nevertheless, a breach of my integrity and ethics. A legacy I do not wish to leave for my daughter. I hope when she grows old she understands me and is able to pardon me for not being for her.

It is not about Money; Money is just a bi-product of what is happening. However, it is an important bi-product and can not be taken out of the equation. In all ways, however I look at it – Family always comes first. Nobody gains by leaving their Family behind to become CEO of a company and get lots of money, big houses, fast cars. All those are crap if you do not have your loved ones next to you when you die. And by no imagination do I want to earn that kind of money and give up the opportunity to spend a life with my family. But, then I can not also ignore the part the there are basic needs and we are at a point when those basic needs have found a way of evolving by themselves and we can not control those – Dad is going to get retired some day, Aabhya is growing up and she will have her own demands. Mum, Dad, Preeti and I are getting older and our health will have certain demands too – both time and money. I am not at a place where I can afford to take an average path and still be able to satisfy all those needs. This is one opportunity that will take me to a Sr. Manager position and will put in a place / position where I can move ahead with a slight advantage and deliver what my Family needs from me.