Associate Cricket: WCL 2 Review
Russell Degnan

Almost a case-study in how similarly matched teams tend to throw up exciting games and huge mismatches in similar measure. Namibia and the UAS emerged as the superior teams and the CC wil be hard-pressed to find reasons to look elsewhere when determining the two I-Cup spots. The UAE emerged victorious, having won both ties, the first in a thriller, and the second more comfortably, but with the top two wicket-takers, two of the top three batsmen, and a young side with good batting depth, they'll be confident of making an impact against better opposition.

Amongst the rest, PNG came third, as expected, but struggled against better opponents and could have been relegated as easily. Hong Kong put up the best performances against the finalists, perhaps lacking the experience to close out both games, but ultimately came away with only one win. But with 16 y/o Chapman and 18 y/o Nizakat Khan having a strong tournament again, they look to have a bright future. Uganda finished the table in last, but were a single run from beating PNG and relegating Hong Kong in their stead. Unfortunate for a team with a good pedigree, but not surprising; their poor showings against their fellow I-Shield competition was what ultimately cost them. Bermuda, with such a small population, may never reached such storied heights again, but they'll always have the 2007 world cup to look back on (if not aspire to again).

On another note, the ICC really ought to find someone to broadcast these games, setting up their own broadcast if necessary. In a world where I can get live streaming of the Korean Basketball League, the Indonesian Super Liga or the European Junior Badmington championships, I ought to be able to find coverage of cricket internationals between teams in the world top-20. Cricket will never expand in these countries without tv coverage.

Americas Division 2 went to Suriname as expected, but not without drama, or a lot of rain which seemed to ruin several games. Only the Surinamese victory over Bahamas preventing a 5-way points tie for first, but they dominated the 50-over final to clinch their place in AmerDiv1. Why exactly a 50 over game is being used to determine a 20 over tournament qualification is a little beyond me, but I assume it is trying to reduce the luck quotient of qualifying. Amongst the rest, Panama came second to contest the final, and Brazil was the only dissapointment, losing all 5 games fairly heavily, and being in some obvious need of some bowling penetration.

Idle Summers 17th April, 2011 16:28:36   [#] [0 comments] 

Hawkeye uncertainty and the UDRS
Russell Degnan

Always keen to prove themselves correct, Hawkeye recently released some of the data over the controversial Tendulkar LBW referral. What is missing are the raw numbers, and even the raw images, which would allow us to produce an accurate reconstruction. But we can work with what we do have, with appropriate caveats, to discuss a few pertinent matters in this case.

Reconstructing Hawkeye

I have taken the images from the PDF and imported into a graphics program to make measurements. The pixel at the left-most point of the ball in each mage has then been taken to get a distance for sideways movement. Although the camera angle foreshortens the distance, the ball seems to cover slightly less ground as it moves closer to the stumps. By taking a linear measurement, therefore, I am making the ball slightly (very slightly, maybe 2 pixels) less likely to hit the stumps.

One thing to note is that the edge defintion is often blurred. What I don't know is whether hakweye has substantially clearer images to take their measurements from. By taking the negative of consecutive images, the ball would be much clearer than in a colour image where it blends with the pitch, but on this evidence it is hard to see how the measurements could be improved by more than half a pixel.

Projecting the pre-bounce line down, and the post-bounce line up registers the bounce at pixel 239. There are then seven points to calculate the projection from at 243,254,264,275,285,295 and 305. In the following frame of the video the ball actually hits the pads and falls to the off-side, giving the impression that Tendulkar was hit more centrally than he probably was. Because we are projecting a curve, anything fewer than three points makes the projection impossible - you'd need to assume a linear projection which may or may not be accurate. The data given indicates a frame-rate of around 150 fps over the 3m between pitching and impact. That however would be problematic for fast bowlers pitching and hitting the batsmen inside 2m. Hawkeye claims to be using technology that can operate at "up to 500 fps" however. Since that would be too much data to analyse quickly, we'll have to assume that they are either a) not showing all the data they analysed in their PDF, or b) only analysing enough data to make a projection (which would be sensible). Giving them the benefit of the doubt that they do the latter, we'll move on.

From the x-coordinates taken above we can see the ball moves 10 or 11 pixels leftwards at each frame, averaging 10.33. From the overhead hawkeye projection and the side-on shots we can calculate the distance the ball travels per frame, the total distance the ball travels from bounce to impact, and impact to the stumps as follows:

Calculated Parameters
Impact -> Stumps1857mm
Bounce -> Impact3032mm
Distance per Frame424mm
Bounce -> Stumps Frames11.54
Sideways movement per frame14.9mm
Sideways Impact Point+0.33mm outside leg stump

By calculating the number of frames from bounce to stumps (11.83), we can calculate the total sideways movement for a linear projection 14.9mm and add it to the bounce point to find where the left-hand edge passed the stumps pixel 358.23. Because the right hand of the stumps lies at 358 it appears Hawkeye is approximately correct, and the ball does miss the stumps, albeit by (in real terms) 0.33mm. Hawkeye claims more than this, but never actually says how much more. The lesson from that: small changes in the measurement value can have impact the end result by several millimetres.

Error and the UDRS

The difficulty with this projection is that it ignores error. The measuring error at a 1 pixel level (and as noted, that is probably generous given the blur in some shots) is 1.44mm. The standard deviation of the sideways movement measurements is 0.52 pixels or 0.74mm. Across the 5.13 frames of projection, that makes the total error 3.82mm just on the projection (there are also measurement errors for the bounce, each frame measurement, and the edge of the stumps).

Taking the projection error alone, and given the projected point where the ball passed the stumps, the probability that the ball actually missed the stumps was a meagre 53%. Still in Tendulkar's favour, but (you'd think) not remotely enough to over-turn a decision. Given the closeness of the projection, in order to know with 90% certainty that the ball actually was missing the stumps Hawkeye would need to be some 15 times more accurate than the data they have presented. They probably aren't, given the 2.5m exists as a clumsy attempt to deal with the poor accuracy of projections over that distance. While in pure probability terms the right decision was (probably) arrived at, this almost certainly over-stepped the bounds of a remit to correct "obvious" mistakes.

Idle Summers 13th April, 2011 13:08:35   [#] [6 comments] 

Associate Cricket: WCL 2 Preview
Russell Degnan

"Confusing" is the best way of describing the context of this tournament; in a week it has gone from being a key plank in world cup qualifying, to something much less. The ICC preview tells us the teams are capable of "securing more funding in the world of cricket" which gives a good sense of their priorities. But the true prizes: - a chance to play against the division 1 associate teams, and most importantly, the last two places in the Intercontinental Cup (the only multi-day international cricket tournament there is) - are up in the air. Most likely, the top two place getters will proceed to the I-Cup, but there are rumours it may be done via committee, and may therefore consider the two I-Shield finalists (Namibia and the UAE) regardless of the final result. But there is definitely something to play for, even if the teams don't know exactly what they need to do.

Freed from the constraints of television networks - although it is an enduring mystery why the ICC can't find a network to broadcast associate cricket, satellite channels play anything - this is a short and snappy tournament. 5 rounds, then finals, 18 games in 8 days.

Of the teams, Namibia start favourite, with a youthful squad but the pedigree of I-Shield champions, and 2008 I-Cup finalists. They had a relatively difficult year amongst the amateurs of the South African second division, but were never outclassed and won enough to make an impression. Their batting looks to be the best in the division by far. UAE, at home, also I-Shield finalists, have a slightly better head-to-head ODI record against Namibia, and are likely to make the final as well; they have a tendency to collapse badly which could make them vulnerable to upsets. There is strength in the other team as well. Uganda have consistently challenged teams above them with recent a victory over Kenya. Hong Kong, won the WCL3 after looking to their youth, albeit with an inferior record at the group stage to PNG who could be the dark horses for the final. The only team I expect to struggle is Bermuda, still capably led by David Hemp, but slowly falling behind their larger associate opponents.

If "competitive" cricket was really what the public wanted to see this would be must-see viewing as there is very little between these six teams. Personally, I hope Namibia do well, as it was a travesty for them to be relegated to the I-Shield in 2009 after their performance the previous year. I also fear Uganda may be relegated, but hope otherwise, as their bright yellow uniforms and home-grown team is good to see.

In other news, the under-strength East-Asia Pacific region had their WT20 division 2 competition between Indonesia, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Philippines, and South Korea in Samoa. Samoa are on track to win, having topped the group over the Phillipines with some ease. The competition was relatively tight in below, with South Korea taking their first two wins in international competition. Indonesia were probably the biggest disappointment; given their population and apparent growth they ought to be one of the stongest sides in the region, not coming last behind the minor islands.

Also starting tomorrow, Americas WT20 division 2 between Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Panama, Suriname, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Brazil are the real demographic outlier amongst this group, and a nation it would be great to see take to cricket in a big way, but also probably the weakest team. Belize, having progressed from the lower league will have some experience in the format which will hold them in good stead, but although Suriname are probably favourites, there is nothing between the other sides, and any could make their way to the division 1 qualifier in July.

Idle Summers 8th April, 2011 23:19:58   [#] [0 comments] 

Calming Down, Moving Forward
Russell Degnan

Needless to say, I am extremely angry at the decision to exclude associates from the next world cup. Not because I have a great love of the world cup. I even suspect it may be the well-deserved death-knell for the 50 over game, given in four years time T20 will have not only the larger domestic and international crowds, the larger tv audience, but the larger, more inclusive world cup. But there is a principle at stake, one of natural justice and good governance.

The news that the size of the world cup would be reduced was not surprising, albeit disappointing; the news that there would be no qualifiers, for the first time in 40 years was a shock. Even coming from the ICC, the most elitist, money-obsessed governing body in world sport. The righteous indignation from almost every corner of the globe shows how far wrong the ICC is, but that indignation needs to be channeled, if something is to be done.

Here are my thoughts on that...

1. Help create and join a formal supporters group

If people are to make their wishes known, blog comments are not sufficient (pity, but true). The ICC and its members respond to marketing surveys, formal presentations and shows of strength. A supporters body that surveys its members, expresses its opinion, and has a voice can challenge not just the administrators, but the past cricketers whose love of the game is not in doubt, but whose decisions are not always very good. Cricket's administrative turpour is, after all, not just limited to this decision: meaningless fixtures, unequal scheduling, financial inequality between members and the vexed question of test expansion are all far more serious and important. It is well past the time when the game's supporters made their voice heard.

2. Protest widely.

Writing and petitioning the ICC is important, but realise tht the ICC executive is comprised of the ten full members, and three associates. By all accounts, this decision was instigated by Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board, as a way of raising more money - notably because India will play more games. The decision to remove qualifying was a political one, taken by the other full members to protect their place at the tournament. It was greedy and shameful, but also rational. Cricket is a pyramid however. Cricket Australia is not a commercial entity but a representative one, of the state boards, their clubs, and those clubs cricketers. Make your voice heard at every level of the pyramid. Write to your county/state and national organisation. Ask them why they voted against the wishes of the vast majority of the people in the sport they represent.

3. Protest where it hurts

This decision was a purely commercial one. Modern cricket boards seem only to respond to commercial imperatives. Protesting sponsors can exact some leverage, but nothing hurts more than the revenue stream of the boards themselves. For a long time now, people have complained about bloated ODI series and pointless games. More recently there has been comment that associates ought to be given more opportunities, at the expense of those pointless games. If we are to make ourselves heard, we ought to show that our spectating cannot be taken for granted. We should boycott the 4th ODI in every bloated series, don't attend, watch, tweet, blog or comment on the game. If enough people did so then the administrators will take notice. For reference, here are the proposed 4th ODI games in the next several months:

Sun May 1st: West Indies vs Pakistan - Bridgetown
Mon Jun 13th: West Indies vs India - North Sound
Wed Jul 6th: England vs Sri Lanka - Nottingham
Sun Sep 11th: England vs India - Lord's

The last is by far the most important.

4. Support associate cricket

This is most important of all. Although things have improved substantially in the past 12 months, it still seems sometimes that CricketEurope fights a lone hand for the associate cause. If associate cricket is to grow it needs market value, which means attention. The cricket might be of a lower standard, but it is meaningful and competitive. Ask your tv provider to broadcast associate games, attend tournaments in your vicinity, blog and comment on what happens in them. Associate cricket won't grow if people don't take some interest in it. The World Cricket League 2 starts on Friday in the UAE. At stake, for the top two sides is a place in the Intercontinental Cup: for the top four, the World Cup qualifiers some sort of ICC competition. Outside the ICC world cup and a small handful of bilateral series, these are the most meaningful and competitive matches in world cricket.

Update: The most frustrating thing about this decision is it comes on the back of a World Cup that seemed to garner more attention in cricket's most important secondary markets than any previous edition. From Wright Thompson's pair of colour pieces on subcontinental cricket to comments by associates of Faraz Sarwat that this was the first time they'd taken in the sport. The second of those, by Cathal Kelly is worth quoting from:

[I]ts antithetical to basic sporting values. The games we play reflect a common human value inclusiveness. The idea that no one but a select few may play in a given event is an anti-sport philosophy. Who wants to join a club that wont have them?

Never mind that its hallucinatory to think that any sport can remain in permanent stasis. Ask the Americans about basketball.

Mainly, its just sad. I was only beginning to appreciate one of the worlds best loved pastimes. Now a few short-sighted bureaucrats have decided that theyd rather I didnt care after all.

World cup participation is not a sufficient condition to grow a sport in an emerging nation, but it sure helps.

Idle Summers 6th April, 2011 22:45:56   [#] [3 comments]