Associate and Affiliate Podcast: USA with Peter Della Penna
Russell Degnan

The associate and affiliate 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.

In this, the first episode, Peter Della Penna (@peterdellapenna) and I discuss the mooted ICC plan to have a pre-qualifying tournament for the WT20 in 2014; the state of US cricket administration (sadly CHALLC bailed on their proposed T20 after we'd spoken); the performance of the USA team in 2012 and their prospects for 2013; as well as cricket in Canada, Argentina and the Americas.

Direct Download Running Time 1:14. Music from Martin Solveig, "Big in Japan"

Idle Summers 31st January, 2013 02:03:59   [#] [0 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: CCLXXIII, January 2013
Russell Degnan

Spires and Domes. Taken January 2013

Melbourne Town 21st January, 2013 23:49:08   [#] [0 comments] 

Short stat: BBL versus Test attendance 2012/13
Russell Degnan

A special BBL final related graphic on BBL and Test match attendances. The only city in Australia this year to record fewer patrons to the BBL than test cricket: Adelaide. And that was a Strikers semi-final away from being toppled too.

Attendance at test cricket was approximated for several days, but will be correct to a couple of thousand, given the sparse stands. Total attendance 490k in 34 matches for the BBL, ~400k for test cricket over 26 days.

Idle Summers 19th January, 2013 18:47:05   [#] [0 comments] 

On tiers, Ratings 17th January
Russell Degnan

2nd TestSouth AfricavNew Zealand
Pre-rating1285.8865.8
Form+39.5+3.5
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 260 runs
Actual MarginSouth Africa by an nnings and 193 runs
Post-rating1303.1857.7
Series rating1432.7712.7

There is not a lot to say about this match. Amla, du Plessis and Elgar made tons, South Africa both scoring quickly, and being patient at the same time. When you Steyn though, you can afford to be patient. Even without Philander, South Africa had the bowling firepower to cause havoc. Steyn took 8/65 for the match, the others chipped in. The only real positive for New Zealand was Watling's pair of 63s, made while the rest collapsed around him. That and they were missing enough players that maybe this is merely a depression in a deep valley, rather than a crevice with no bottom.

The sheer abjectness of their performance, and the dominance of South Africa - and as the series ratings show, this was a pretty poor effort - led to an outbreak of calls for a tiered system in test cricket. I've covered this topic at great length before, but it is worth repeating a few points about tiered cricket. Firstly, we already have them, the second tier is the I-Cup. Secondly, unless teams play across tiers (in which case it is not really a tier) it will financially cripple the lower nations - by which I mean, they'll effectively have as much money as associates. Thirdly, tiers are very rigid, getting out of them is hard, and over the sorts of time-frames test cricket runs (4 years) whole careers might be spent moving a side from mediocre to the top, only to have the players retire and lose competitiveness. Fourthly, it risks losing the most well known and lucrative series, which isn't something fans actually want (leaving aside the administrators etc. who really don't want that). Finally, tournaments which stages are more interesting than leagues; the proposed benefits of tiering can be had without permanently segregating teams.


On the positive side, the proposal for tiers does at least seem to concede the idea that teams are not equal - that there is no long-term progress towards competitiveness - and that New Zealand, and others, with their limited population, are likely to be competitive with very good teams only intermittently. Likewise, it is good to see it recognised that the gap from the weaker test sides to the best is greater than that to the stronger associates. When schedules are devised to account for these inequalities, we might really get somewhere.


One last point, under the tournament structure I proposed in the link above, even blowouts as this series was retain an importance. Taking the first two matches of series amongst Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the past 12 months produces this table:

WLDPts+/-
South Africa41315+1065
Australia2228+62
New Zealand1414-1127

With Australia's games in New Zealand to be played, South Africa's victory would have ensured they topped the table, and equally would have required New Zealand to win both home tests to pass Australia into the automatic qualifying spot. In the event Australia had beaten South Africa in Adelaide, the magnitude of victory in this past test would have had significant ramifications for Australia's ability to either pass South Africa or to fall behind New Zealand. The fact that New Zealand aren't very competitive does not mean that in a properly constructed tournament their results can't have significance. Margins can matter, as can stealing a draw when a loss was all but certain. There is a world of difference between a mismatch in an exhibition match and one that carries with it some deeper meaning.


Rankings at 17th January 2013
1.South Africa1303.1
2.England1235.7
3.Australia1181.7
4.Pakistan1125.8
5.India1023.3
6.Sri Lanka1016.5
7.West Indies961.4
8.New Zealand857.7
9.Bangladesh595.2
10.Zimbabwe543.7

11.Ireland553.3
12.Afghanistan522.4
13.Scotland444.9
14.Namibia425.3
15.Kenya297.3
16.U.A.E.212.2
17.Netherlands208.9
18.Canada147.8

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 January, 2013 01:09:55   [#] [0 comments] 

Short stat: Stosur`s results are opposition independent.
Russell Degnan

Anyone who has watched Sam Stosur lose might already know this, but graphing it is pretty amazing. Stosur has a career win/loss record of 59.1%. Petrova 62.6%. If they played opposition in a random order, or we modelled it as a dice-roll, then they'd end up with the modelled lines, gradually decreasing over time.

Clearly, obviously, with seeding, the standard of opposition player increases as you progress through the tournament. Hence Petrova has what I would consider a typical record in grand-slam tournaments. A consistent record of getting through round 1, before dipping below the model through the semi-finals, which she has never moved beyond.

Sam Stosur doesn't play better players. Sam Stosur only plays herself.

Idle Summers 17th January, 2013 14:37:31   [#] [0 comments] 

Gideon Haigh and the Fake Geek Girls
Russell Degnan

Cultural activities, be they sport, music, movies or geek-heavy activities always have their high priests and their gate-keepers. Over the last several months, the gate-keepers of the geek community world have been called out for the rampant sexism inherent in the notion of a "fake geek girl"; the notion that girls aren't geeks, and the ones who claim to be are merely pretending for the benefits of male attention. Even though this specific phenomenon is not the subject of this post, it is worth pausing here for albinwonderland to explain how massively offensive the claims are:

There are several factors a play here:
1) The problematic relationship geek culture has with women, their representation in that culture and continually questioned place as participants of that culture. Again, this is somewhat peripheral to this post, but cricket should take note. As this excellent podcast on female fandom notes quizzing and enforcement of acceptable ways to be "a fan" is equally intimidating for female fans of sport. And the representation of women cricketers is pretty bad.

2) The notional control fans have over the culture. A sub-culture that defines itself in opposition to the mainstream, ends up resenting new entrants as it becomes more popular. This is not an issue without foundations either; popularity entails an increase in the cost of access whether that is gentrification of suburbs or EPL football. Money can likewise homogenise the culture and shift towards the preferences of new entrants. Or in cricket's case, price national cricket boards out of the market for their own players.

3) The rejection or promotion of certain methods of fandom, based on the preferences of the gate-keeper(s), by acts of microaggression "that communicate 'hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults' toward people who aren't members of the ingroup". In geekdom this entails the labeling of "real" and "fake" fans according to their mode of engagement. In cricket, it does too, which is where we get to the guts of this post.


Gideon Haigh hates the BBL. He denies this, but it is somewhat undermined by stating "I hate the BBL" about 12 hours earlier. He is of course allowed to hate the BBL. I find one-day cricket nearly unwatchable, although I did go to a very good WNCL game last week. But he has hated T20 cricket for years, never missing an opportunity to scoff at it in any forum he has had a chance too. Jonathan Howcroft made a perfectly valid point that Haigh (and other writers) are out of step with a lot of the cricket being played this summer. Disliking the BBL means disliking a very significant chunk of the season. Aggregate Melbourne domestic T20 crowds will, for the first time, surpass that of the Boxing Day test match; despite being stuck on Foxtel, the total tv audience is larger as well. And cricket writers are not covering it in any detail: as I write the final game of the regular season, one which will decide the finals is tonight, and the relevant article is the twelth story on The Age. Similarly, Haigh's response comes across as objection for the sake of objection, in that he acknowledges that mainstream writers[1] are both focused elsewhere and critical of the BBL, while seeking to downplay the impact of his negativity by stating (correctly) that a diverse range of shills, reporters and online sources are available for fans.

There is however a significant difference between a journalist criticising the BBL based on facts and research[2], and demeaning the competition, and by extension its fans at every juncture with acts of microaggession and outright hostility.

Haigh's ridiculous claim that a pair of serial aggressors with records of drug-cheating and gambling associations have either the wherewithal or self-control to stage an altercation on CA's behalf is based not on reason but the conceit that anyone - player or fan - might care for a franchise or its matches. Hence the Renegades-Stars match "representing two made-up teams" was "crap" even though few in the crowd left early, a respectable score was posted, and only late in the chase was it apparent that the Stars bowling had failed to take the wickets it required; or that the winner-take-all Strikers-Scorchers match "ever had much" interest[4] when clearly anyone interested in the make-up of the finals would take heed; likewise, Haigh will condescend to say that watching Ponting is "cool", Malinga and Muralitharan "thrilling" and Warne "fun" but not acknowledge the existence of team support.

Because the franchises are invented, the players cannot possibly care; even if players in any other sport regularly move teams one day and kiss the badge the next when the fans cheer. Nor can fans, even though those of OKC Thunder are feted as he best in the league only three years after creation, Melbourne Heart fans show plenty of passion for their club and against their cross-town rivals in their second year; and finally, many people at the ground were exhibiting fan-like behaviour whether buying the shirt, painting their face, or cheering their team. Haigh's hatred blinds him to the many reasons Renegades fans might have for not supporting the Stars (Warne, Eddie and the extra marketing shill for a start) or for supporting their own (at least this season, but I liked Afridi). The fact that derby crowds are higher is prima facie evidence that people are following specific teams, not just attending an exhibition where the participants don't matter.


The implied subtext is that there are right ways to consume cricket, and wrong ones. That test cricket is "real" cricket[5] while the marketing that drives the BBL makes it "fake" cricket; and by extension, any fans of it either fake or deluded. Merely pretending to like cricket for the social cachet that comes from hanging around an ageing, mostly white male crowd mixed of elitist nerds and true bogans.

Cricket is a much broader church than that. Few, very few, people get to play test cricket, millions play at clubs, indoors, on driveways, in parks and on beaches. All of these are cricket, because they all combine the fundamental contest between bat and ball that makes cricket the game it is. And thus to paraphrase albinwonderland:

"There is no such thing as fake cricket fans. There are only fans who are at different varying levels of falling in love with cricket. We all started somewhere."

[1] Curiously Haigh doesn't seem to think he is mainstream, as his regular column is pay-walled - even though a 5-year-old can break it in about 10 seconds - and his other media spots include a featured blog, a semi-regular tv spot and a guest podcast on the world's largest cricket site.
[2] There is a perfectly sound business case for the BBL, but despite being from that background Haigh appears completely ignorant of it in his complaints about quality. Stars drive league attendances, as does some level of competitive balance (though less than imagined). Journalists who travel to every game can rightly complain about too much cricket, but fans who see a team full of stars a couple of times per year are not served well by international cricket.[3] A steady flow of individual stars surrounded by lesser team-mates throughout the season generates much more revenue, and many more opportunities to watch and be engaged with a team. The economic literature on this is quite clear. There is a reason cricket has the smallest aggregate attendance and smallest professional base of any major Australian sport despite being both national and immensely popular. The international economic model suits tv stations and monopsony employers working within an international cartel. Similarly, CA would be mad to depend on overseas tv rights and the whims of the BCCI beyond the next decade. Shifting revenue to an under-developed local market is common sense.
[3] A number of authors make the claim that T20 is cannibalising international cricket, built as it was on the test match. This is a perverse reading of history given that the 1880s were full of complaints that the tours were cannibalising first club, and then first class cricket. Far from building cricket, test cricket is a parasite in economic terms, one that eventually made its host dependent on it to survive.
[4] The other curiosity in that post is the utter failure of mathematics and logic, claiming that 50% of participating teams making the play-offs is too many, even though that is (or was) the norm in AFL, NRL, NHL and the NBA, to name a few relative successes; and that teams should win more than 62.5% of games to make said play-offs, even though Tasmania won only 5 (drew 2) of 10 Shield games last season. Binomial distributions are awesome, and informative in the middle and on the margin, as is the basic addition required to realise there is at best 1 new player per team, once overseas and pensionable but very servicable players are taken into account.
[5] As argued before, this attitude will eventually lead to "real" cricket resembling "real" tennis. Elitism is bad people.

Idle Summers 12th January, 2013 04:24:40   [#] [0 comments] 

A couple of arguments for handicapping, Ratings 10th January
Russell Degnan

3rd TestAustraliavSri Lanka
Pre-rating1182.11016.1
Form+19.2-38.1
Expected MarginAustralia by 133 runs
Actual MarginAustralia by 5 wickets
Post-rating1181.71016.5
Series rating1334.3866.5

The most interesting game of the series, at least in part because Australia chose to play a batsman short, play completely irresponsibly, and bat last on a turning pitch. The last would have bee perfectly forgivable if they'd not the first two - it would have raised the chance of a result in their favour - but in a four day match it was reckless.

Sri Lanka played better. Herath finally took some wickets, or rather, his team-mates finally took some catches. Thirimanne (91), Karunaratne (85) and Chandimal (62*) gave some hope that there is life after the old guard move on. It isn't clear when Sri Lanka will return to Australia and at least half their side won't be back. At least for tests. They've been over three years running for ODIs. But they still lost, and although they beat the margin by taking the fifth wicket, and could certainly have won had they batted less recklessly themselves or prevented Wade from adding 151 with the tail. But they didn't, and as the series rating shows, they lost every match by a wide margin.

Australia ought not be too pleased by the result. Wade made runs, very good and important runs, but struggled again with the gloves, standing too far back, and up too early. Lyon's own problems are probably over-stated - the list of successful off-spinners in Australia in the past 30 years is pretty short and doesn't include any Englishmen - but he is not helped by Wade's fumbles. Warner and Hughes batted very well, as did Clarke, but the dismissals were awful. Whether this was mere laziness or something else is a good question. Against better opposition the top three needs more runs, and none give the impression they'll score big, or play spin or seam well.

Starc and Johnson still come and go with their economy, but they took good wickets. Bird was again the standout though, taking 7/117 for the match. If Australia can get Cummins and Pattinson onto the field with Bird and Siddle then the bowling will be very capable. In the short term though, the most pressing concern is a replacement for Hussey, who guided the chase home in his typically efficient way. That attribute is most likely found in Khawaja or Doolan, though I suspect the selectors will want to keep Watson around, regardless of his weak average and discarded bowling, or bring in Maxwell whose spin will be useful, if very part-time. A very interesting twelve months in the offing.


1st TestSouth AfricavNew Zealand
Pre-rating1272.3866.9
Form+50.0+7.6
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 253 runs
Actual MarginSouth Africa by an nnings and 27 runs
Post-rating1286.0865.6

A quite close result, if being compared to the expected margin, as South Africa beat it by a mere 24 runs, and only then thanks to a late New Zealand collapse. Something not quite like a close result on the scoreboard however. South Africa found themselves so far ahead b stumps on day one (some 207 runs and 7 wickets) that they seemed to sit in cruise for the remaining day and a half. New Zealand bowled reasonably well to restrict South Africa to 8/347 but four players passed 60 without going past 106, so it might have been many more. Similarly, Brownlie's debut century was a counter-attack of some class, but he was dropped multiple times early on. A ruthless South Africa would have won by many more.

Let that not imply that South Africa will beat their margin in the next match however. Even New Zealand can't be expected to repeat the disaster that was their first innings. Philander, who blessedly for them is also now injured, found just the right amount of movement, and just the batsmen to use it on, taking 5/7 off 6 overs, before Morkel stepped in to finish the job. It is not entirely clear what point - beyond obligations - this next test will serve though. The series is effectively decided as New Zealand have little to no chance of winning, and it stands for nothing other than the odd rating point. Mismatches aren't so bad, amongst other things it is a good reminder why the best teams are the best. But it would be better for New Zealand cricket if there was mor riding on this result than just pride.

Rankings at 10th January 2013
1.South Africa1286.0
2.England1235.7
3.Australia1181.7
4.Pakistan1125.8
5.India1023.3
6.Sri Lanka1016.5
7.West Indies961.4
8.New Zealand865.6
9.Bangladesh595.2
10.Zimbabwe543.7

11.Ireland553.3
12.Afghanistan522.4
13.Scotland444.9
14.Namibia425.3
15.Kenya297.3
16.U.A.E.212.2
17.Netherlands208.9
18.Canada147.8

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 11th January, 2013 00:07:28   [#] [0 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: CCLXXII, January 2013
Russell Degnan

Junction Oval. Dilapidated, but still a nice place to watch an excellent win by the Vic Spirit. Taken January 2013

Melbourne Town 8th January, 2013 21:04:12   [#] [0 comments] 

Short stat: run-outs per run-run by team
Russell Degnan

A very short statistic today, in honour of Australia's top-3, who've recently made a habit of running each other out. A graph of run-runs (runs minus boundaries) per run-out, by decade and team for the top-order (positions 1-7).* Notice Australia are getting run-out at the highest rate since WW2:

On another note, New Zealand can ill-afford to be consistently the worst running team in test cricket.

* Excluding innings with no boundaries recorded, which is the easiest way to discount scorecards where it is not recorded.

Idle Summers 4th January, 2013 11:20:23   [#] [2 comments] 

A mauling, and a likely one, Ratings 1st January
Russell Degnan

2nd TestAustraliavSri Lanka
Pre-rating1167.01033.8
Form-14.7-10.9
Expected MarginAustralia by 117 runs
Actual MarginAustralia by an innings and 201 runs
Post-rating1182.11016.1

Few test matches can have ended with a larger hollow feeling amongst victorious supporters in recent times. Although Sri Lanka struggled in Hobart -as they have always done in Australia - this effort lagged well below even that, and it was something of a mercy that the match ended as early as it did: a mere 203 overs after it began. Injuries didn't help, but most of the damage was done on the first day as Australia ran through the Sri Lankan line-up. Johnson ended with the best (if most expensive) figures, but it was Bird and Siddle who knocked out the top order, with only Sangakkara (58) offering anything but meek surrender.

Within an hour of the Sri Lankan innings ending, Warner had put Australia within reach of their score, with a dismissive display. Quick wickets offered some hope of a more even contest on the second day, but Clarke (106) and Watson (83) eased Austraia away with more than a little help from the Sri Lankan fielding, leaving Johnson (92) to put the nail in the coffin. The final innings lasted only 24 overs, although Australia only took 7 wickets, and even that period seemed long after they slumped to 4/13. Bird was again very impressive with his Pollock-esque lines and high-arm. The selectors would like to see him against better opposition though as the Sri Lankans capitulated twice to an array of awful shots and disinterested fielding. A few years ago Jayawardene and Sangakkara penned pieces lamenting their lack of test matches at the MCG. Afer this result they may wish that it had stayed that way.


2 TestsSouth AfricavNew Zealand
Pre-rating1272.3866.9
Form+50.0+7.6
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 253 runs

When one of the weakest test nations plays against the world's best, in a nation where they've previously struggled badly, it needs to be close to full strength. Missing two of their best batsmen and surrounded by controversy over a change in the captaincy, is not that. New Zealand have hinted at reasonable results recently, with victories away to Australia and Sri Lanka, some close contests in West Indies and India, and some good finds in the bowling department, who ought to relish South African conditions.

But it is near impossible to see the putting on enough runs to challenge the Proteas. With the weather likely to be fine, and South Africa in excellent form as they find their footing as the number one team, this series will likely be as one-sided as it is short. The ratings certainly don't indicate a close contest, with New Zealand likely to lose by an innings, if not more if recent form holds. South Africa may struggle to meet their expected margin; for the punters, that may be the only point of interest.


Rankings at 1st January 2013
1.South Africa1272.3
2.England1235.7
3.Australia1182.1
4.Pakistan1125.8
5.India1023.3
6.Sri Lanka1016.1
7.West Indies961.4
8.New Zealand866.9
9.Bangladesh595.2
10.Zimbabwe543.7

11.Ireland553.3
12.Afghanistan522.4
13.Scotland444.9
14.Namibia425.3
15.Kenya297.3
16.U.A.E.212.2
17.Netherlands208.9
18.Canada147.8

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 1st January, 2013 22:34:45   [#] [0 comments]