Germany in Europe Division Two with Brian Mantle; Associate and Affiliate Cricket Podcast
Russell Degnan

In another Europe-heavy episode, German Cricket Federation CEO Brian Mantle joins Andrew Nixon (@andrewnixon79) to discuss their victory in European Division Two (11:30), rapid development and structural changes, and his hopes for men's and women's cricket. There is also WCLC to catch up on with Russell Degnan (@idlesummers) including Netherlands-Nepal (0:20) and Scotland-UAE (3:05). Ireland's woes against full-members continued against Pakistan (27:35), and we look at the Jersey-Guernsey inter-insular (31:40) and Singapore-Malaysia Saudari Cup (32:55). In news, there is news about the Asian Cricket Council, the expansion of the Hong Kong blitz, Afghanistan's tour of Bangladesh, and women's cricket in the USA (34:35). Finally, there are previews of Ireland's Intercontinental Cup match with Hong Kong (41:40) and their women's matches against Bangladesh (44:05).

Direct Download Running Time 46min. Music from Martin Solveig, "Big in Japan"

The associate and affiliate cricket podcast is an attempt to expand coverage of associate tournaments by obtaining local knowledge of the relevant nations. If you have or intend to go to a tournament at associate level - men`s women`s, ICC, unaffiliated - then please get in touch in the comments or by email.

Idle Summers 31st August, 2016 00:01:32   [#] [0 comments] 

Poor outfields and a bit of rain; ratings 24th August
Russell Degnan

4th TestWest IndiesvIndia
Pre-rating824.11197.5
Form-27.6+41.2
Expected MarginIndia by 96 runs
Actual MarginMatch drawn
Post-rating826.11195.4
Series rating863.31152.8

A debacle, frankly, but hopefully the West Indies get the money regardless of the overs played. India had alredy won the series, and remain number one on the ratings despite the small hit from an unfortunate draw. The West Indies have had a few of those lately, but they'll need wins to move up, and they never seemed terribly close to achieving one of those in this series. It is worth reiterating that India are an under-rated side at the moment.


1st TestSouth AfricavNew Zealand
Pre-rating1121.51028.4
Form-46.0-3.3
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 96 runs
Actual MarginMatch drawn
Post-rating1107.81031.6

Also a debacle, though commentators who blame it on the off-season would do well to spend five seconds googling the climate for Durban in winter: drier, with fewer days of rain than any ground in England in July, and any but Perth or Adelaide in Australia in January. A pity too, as the first innings total of 263 from South Africa had set up a match that might have gone either way. Steyn was in rare form when the match was curtailed, so there is much to look forward to in the decider. South Africa, still suffering from their form collapse, took a rather unfair hit with the draw. Though not so bad as if they suffered further losses.


Rankings at 24th August 2016
1.India1195.4
2.Australia1190.6
3.Pakistan1152.2
4.England1143.3
5.South Africa1107.8
6.New Zealand1031.6
7.Sri Lanka981.7
8.West Indies826.1
11.Bangladesh613.3
12.Zimbabwe534.8

9.Ireland637.1
10.Afghanistan622.9
13.Scotland396.1
14.Namibia306.5
15.Kenya276.4
16.Papua New Guinea228.1
17.U.A.E.225.9
18.Hong Kong183.6
19.Netherlands179.0
20.Canada147.9

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don`t play each other.

Idle Summers 24th August, 2016 16:24:28   [#] [0 comments] 

The performance outcome cliff of early professionalism
Russell Degnan

The last decade has seen professional contracts expand across both associate and women's cricket. The opportunities have improved player skills, and undoubtedly history will be kind to the first generation of professional players wherever that has occurred. But it also causes a problem. One that has manifested in many of the teams across the world over many years, both at international and first class level.

Namely: if you give a small number of elite players generous contracts to improve performance, the next generation won't be able to displace them until they are in steep decline.

It was a problem, misdiagnosed largely, when Australian first class cricket aged considerably in the early 2000s, with the Kenyan team of the same era, and more latterly, with the English women, and the Irish team, both of whom bemoan the lack of emerging youth.


The phenomenon is best demonstrated with a simulation. In the graph below, five careers overlap, with different starts, peaks and lengths. The blue lines represent the best outcome for a player (continually professionally contracted), the red lines represent a player contracted only if they were in the top two players in the previous year. They receive a 10% performance jump in the first year, and 25% in subsequent years, while contracted. The thick lines are the average of the top two players

In an optimum selection outcome, players A and B would be selected through years 7-12, A making way for C until year 14, B for D until year 16, C for E until year 18, when C returns for D at the end of their short but prolific peak. The selected pair maintaining an average of close to 50 from year 10 until 18.

In the selection outcome with limited contracts, A's declining performance is not matched by an under-developed C until year 14, when they are actually replaced by D. C comes into the side for B a year later, but the lack of experience means the average drops into the low 40s from year 13 to 17. E, similarly, does not emerge from D's shadow until year 19, causing another gap from optimum to selection to form.

The numbers in the simulation are made up - if hopefully in the appropriate ballpark. We don't know what the performance advantage of a professional contract is, and there is still a glaring hole in the research over peak performance years. But the general shape will be correct, and that points to a gap between potential performance and what teams get on the field.


This may not be the problem right now. There may be no players in Ireland with the potential to perform better than the golden generation in situ. But with only eighteen contracts on offer for the entire squad, there are certainly going to be young players that aren't getting the opportunity to reach their peak. Some, many, will drop out altogether, as non-professionals tend to do. Others will have a late career bloom as the simulated C and E did, but not achieve as much as they ought.

This is an under-appreciated aspect of professional development in sport. Across most sports a player will not reach that peak performance until their late-20s. Yet, their future must be decided by their early 20s, because they need to be in the system until they reach the top. Club programmes work through this via a process of drafting and recruiting, second teams and development leagues. They tend to be cut-throat, and not necessarily in a good way.

A centralised representative sport like cricket tends towards promoting only the top performers, letting late developing or second-tier talent drop off. Often this also manifests as the flip-side to letting talent drop: of prematurely promoting youth on potential, in the hope that they will develop faster in an elite environment.

Perversely, premature selection can be a good thing, as limited opportunities are best given to those with the greatest potential. But it will always be inferior to selecting the best option from a group that have all had the chance to reach their peak. The challenge for all teams, is ensuring they find, and more importantly, improve the talent they have available. Repeatedly, we've seen a strategy of giving contracts to the players you need now, and not the players you might need later, result in ageing stars wondering why noone was there to replace them.

Idle Summers 24th August, 2016 12:57:20   [#] [0 comments] 

Fulfilling expectations; ratings 18th May
Russell Degnan

2nd TestZimbabwevNew Zealand
Pre-rating546.01028.4
Form-29.2-8.0
Expected MarginNew Zealand by 191 runs
Actual MarginNew Zealand by 254 runs
Post-rating534.81029.7
Series rating479.31100.2

Both sides end this series with their ratings roughly as they started; their performances broadly matching what was expected; their reputations neither enhanced nor diminished. New Zealand's batsmen cashed in on the limited bowling attack, with only Nicholls failing to make 80 in the first innings. Zimbabwe only took 6 wickets for 748 across the two innings, but their greater sin was in conceding those runs in just over two days, leaving New Zealand ample time to bowl them out.

In this, the Kiwis laboured but persisted, as Zimbabwe faced 213 overs while still finding themselves 254 runs short. Ervine (146), Chibhabha (60) and Moor (71) all made good runs in the first innings, and they ultimately fell only three hours short of taking a well deserved draw out of the game. Sodhi (3/19) and Guptill (3/11), with more than a little help from the umpires, got through the middle order though, and the tail fell quickly. New Zealand remain sixth, despite Sri Lanka's rapid improvement. Zimbabwe the lowest of the Test nations, nominally twelfth, and still sliding.


3rd TestWest IndiesvIndia
Pre-rating835.51181.4
Form-18.9+36.3
Expected MarginIndia by 123 runs
Actual MarginIndia by 237 runs
Post-rating824.11197.5

India's return to the top of the rankings has been rather more as a claimant to a vacated throne than conqueror. Yet within a run of form that has encapsulated victories over Sri Lanka, South Africa and the West Indies, they've managed to win in several different ways. Ashwin's spin and Kohli's batting have been the more consistent standouts, but they get contributions from all over. Here it was Shami and Kumar with the ball, and Ashwin, Saha and Rahane with the bat.

They had to work for this win, but the West Indies did themselves no favours. Gabriel and Joseph ripped through the top-order on the first morning and with better catching they'd have got into India's long tail with only 140 on the board. Instead there was a 213 run interlude between Ashwin and Saha that pushed the tourists back in front. The loss of the third day made a draw the most likely outcome, but Cummins 6/48 in the second innings wasn't sufficient to stem the flow of runs, or the declaration that left the West Indies most of a day to bat. Bravo aside, they never looked like achieving it, capitulating to a 237 run loss.

It was, in a sense, a typical West Indies performance over the past decade. A shuffle forward with some talented and pacey young players, a few steps back with a lamentable performance where they seemed outclassed. For India, number one, and a long string of home matches to cement their status, but noone wins a kingdom from the confines of a castle.


4th TestEnglandvPakistan
Pre-rating1155.01131.6
Form+26.0-19.4
Expected MarginEngland by 62 runs
Actual MarginPakistan by 10 wickets
Post-rating1143.31152.2
Series rating1185.71101.3

As with all the Tests played this week, a very typical performance from the two sides. England's top-order failed as Cook and Root failed, but they managed to stay competitive thanks to Moeen Ali's 108 and some support from Bairstow and Woakes. Or would have, had Younis Khan not picked an opportune moment to find form. His 218 turned a good start, but one that might have ended with a small lead and final day jitters, into an unassailable lead and easy victory. Yasir Shah (5/71) did the bulk of the heavy lifting in the second innings, and while Bairstow (81) made runs, few others did.

The series rating indicates that England, overall, had the better of the series (by an average of 40 runs), but they failed at key moments to deal with Yasir Shah or the ageless Younis and Misbah. There is an enormous amount of potential in the English side; they bat a long way down, and they bowl well with seam or swing. But the top order is shallow, and the spinner gives away too many runs. Stokes helps, but by exacerbating both their strengths and weaknesses. They verge on greatness, but are missing some key elements.

Pakistan, by contrast, seem to have finally settled on a decent opening combination and number three bat, and they bring a varied and capable attack. But how long their middle order will remain in situ is an unknown. They may reach the heights only to need a rebuild just as soon. Flawed then, like all the top teams, but more consistent from place to place.



3rd TestSri LankavAustralia
Pre-rating967.61204.6
Form+32.2-31.8
Expected MarginAustralia by 68 runs
Actual MarginSri Lanka by 163 runs
Post-rating981.71190.6
Series rating1252.0920.0

Six horrific collapses and a 246 run partnership. Marsh and Smith's effort was utterly incongruous, towering over the other partnerships like the Eiffel Tower in central Paris's otherwise low-rise skyline. If anything, Marsh performing well in Asia, where he has had most of his success, merely muddies the water over Australia's selection policy for the Test matches at home. Across the board failures allow a fresh slate; the success of someone they weren't sure they want to play leads to headaches. Starc excepted, though his erratic offerings once the ball was old, and his pace less furious were a problem, across the board failure is what Australia got. Their most experienced players found something towards the end, Warner and Smith with the bat, Lyon taking 7 wickets at a much lower economy-rate with the ball. But the collapses, losing 9/113 and 9/60, were as bad or worse than those of the previous two Tests.

Herath, whose 13/145 while injured was merely one more tale to tell in an ever more glorious career, persistently got through the Australian defences with the ball that went straight on. His subtle changes of flight, direction, spin and trajectory keep knocking on the door, and the Australian batsmen guilelessly opened it time and time again.

Yet for Sri Lanka, the series may well go down as a triumph of youth. Dhan de Silva's 129 and 65* were glorious knocks: composed in an untenable situation (5/26) in the first innings, aggressive and confident setting a target in the second. While the more experienced Chandimal made 132, it was comparably painful, full of mistimed shots and ground out singles - over 356 balls no less. Add in Sandakan, Mendis and Perera, and the future looks considerably brighter for Sri Lanka than a few months ago.


I-CupScotlandvU.A.E.
Pre-rating408.0221.0
Form-24.3-33.7
Expected MarginScotland by 144 runs
Actual MarginMatch drawn
Post-rating396.1225.9

Some rain. Then more rain. Then enough rain they called the game off without Scotland having had a chance to bat. Doubly unfortunate for the Saltires as they have had few opportunities to prove themselves in this edition of the competition. But not much to write about.


2 TestsSouth AfricavNew Zealand
Pre-rating1121.51028.4
Form-46.0-3.3
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 96 runs

South Africa enter this series down to seven on the ICC ratings, and with form so bad that a loss to New Zealand is certainly possible. Without de Villiers or Morkel, and further question marks over Philander and du Plessis's form, who South Africa play, let alone how they will perform is a good question. New Zealand are far more settled, and in Williamson, have someone they can rely on to score heavily. If South Africa cannot lift, it could be a close series. New Zealand have already had a series this year they were expected to beat their rating and compete in, and Australia defeated them handily. There are a lot of uncertainties in cricket right now, but you should still expect the home side to prevail.


Rankings at 17th August 2016
1.India1197.5
2.Australia1190.6
3.Pakistan1152.2
4.England1143.3
5.South Africa1121.5
6.New Zealand1029.7
7.Sri Lanka981.7
8.West Indies824.1
11.Bangladesh613.3
12.Zimbabwe534.8

9.Ireland637.1
10.Afghanistan622.9
13.Scotland396.1
14.Namibia306.5
15.Kenya276.4
16.Papua New Guinea228.1
17.U.A.E.225.9
18.Hong Kong183.6
19.Netherlands179.0
20.Canada147.9

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don`t play each other.

Idle Summers 18th August, 2016 01:48:00   [#] [0 comments] 

European Cricket with Tim Brooks; Associate and Affiliate Cricket Podcast
Russell Degnan

Associate cricket writer Tim Brooks (@cricketatlas) makes a return to the show to discuss his forthcoming book "Cricket on the Continent" on the development and future of cricket in Continental Europe (21:30). Andrew Nixon (@andrewnixon79) joins Russell Degnan (@idlesummers) to discuss a wide range of cricket occuring in Europe. There are reviews of Afghanistan's victory over Netherlands in the I-Cup (0:32) and their tour of Ireland (4:28); the women's world cup qualifiers in EAP (9:00) and Europe (10:35); and the women's European tournament won by France (11:40); the Irish women's matches against South Africa (14:20); the U-19 divison 2 European World Cup qualifiers (16:30); a European U-15 tournament in Guernsey (18:10); and the Nordic-Baltic Cup in Finland (20:15). Some news from Spain regarding the La Manga facility (46:45), the CPL and US cricket (47:30) and on the Olympics (52:00) and the ICC Test championship (55:10). Finally we review the forthcoming WCL matches between Netherlands and Nepal (57:45) and Scotland and UAE, Ireland's matches against Pakistan (60:50), and the European Division Two T20 tournament (62:15).

Direct Download Running Time 64min. Music from Martin Solveig, "Big in Japan"

The associate and affiliate cricket podcast is an attempt to expand coverage of associate tournaments by obtaining local knowledge of the relevant nations. If you have or intend to go to a tournament at associate level - men`s women`s, ICC, unaffiliated - then please get in touch in the comments or by email.

Idle Summers 14th August, 2016 20:51:05   [#] [0 comments]