Jan 24 2012

Squad vs squad

So, the NZ home international season has now started, with the NZ XI–Zim warm-up match completed.

You’d like to think that a warm-up match – particularly one with most of the home test squad playing – might tell you a bit about the players’ current form and how they might play against each other in the upcoming matches. Unfortunately, a match where 4/5 batsmen in an innings retire and the other team lose loads of their wickets to a player who doesn’t even qualify to be in the test team, is not going to have great predictive potential.

Instead, let’s compare the two squads.

New Zealand

Here’s the squad most of whom played in a team good enough to beat Australia:

Zimbabwe

And the team that came close to beating New Zealand:

So

Looking at those two lists, NZ clearly have the wood over Zimbabwe. That Zimbabwe squad is looking very shabby and full of holes, even compared to a NZ squad with more mediocrity than class.

Still, this is the 8th ranked team playing against the de facto 9th ranked team. It isn’t an even contest, but it would hardly be an upset if Zimbabwe made it competitive.


Apr 23 2010

Can my man get a run?

The Compton Cricket Club:

Very cool.

It isn’t new or anything, but I have just recently been directed to it, and I was most surprised to see what must be Daniel Vetorri in his beardy phase playing drums. Here he is, the original left-arm orthodox gangsta:


Apr 22 2010

IPL NZ round up

With Bangalore eliminated in the first semi final, the NZ contribution to the IPL is done. (Okay, except for the 3rd place play off, and Fleming’s work as Chennai coach.) Just as I turn my attention to the competition.

Oh well. Time enough for me to summarise the NZers achievements before the whole thing wraps for another year.

Only four NZ players in the comp this year. Some were missing from injury – Ryder, Oram, Mills – and Styris was simply not wanted.

Brendon McCullum

114 runs in 5 innings. Half of those in his last. Ho hum. But of course, after his very first IPL innings, it was always going to be downhill for Brendon.

Ross Taylor

88 runs from 7 innings. Dear me!

Daniel Vettori

33 runs from 3 innings. And just 2 wickets, going for over 8 an over.

Shane Bond

1 run from 2 balls faced. A credible 9 wickets at an average of 25.

Nothing to write home about – pretty sorry in fact – but recorded for the record.


Dec 16 2009

Washout

Dammit dammit dammit dammit!

Dammit that the test had to finish like this.

Dammit that nearly five days of cricket, including O’Brien’s spell of awesome, Vettori’s century, Tuffey’s out of the blue 80, Pakistan’s fight-back, Guptill’s fight-back-back, was washed away by a scant hour of rain. In fact, that trivial shower of rain in the deciding hour of the deciding test of the series has made irrelevant the two tests that preceded it.

Dammit!


Dec 13 2009

Averaging averages

Daniel Vettori has just now been dismissed for 134. That is a stunning return on the decision to promote him. And it’s not just his own score of 134 that is worth celebrating. Vettori came in with the score at 136/4, with a first-innings lead in the balance, and departed with the score at 408 and a humongous first innings lead of 185. At 6 he can not only save an innings, he can also build big innings. This also allows Tuffey to fill the roll shepherding the lower order.

This 134, by the way, has pushed Vettori’s average over 30 for the first time (excepting his first few matches). It also pushes his average in the no. 6 spot up to above 40.

An average in the 30s is great for a bowler, good for an all-rounder, but pretty average for a batsman. So it is disheartening to note that 4 of the 5 batsmen that bat above Vettori have averages in the 20s. (Taylor, currently the world’s 9th best batsman, is the exception).

Of course, all of the junior batsmen have played so few tests that their averages are pretty volatile. Daniel Flynn for example has only dropped below 30 in this series and would be back up again if he scored a century in the next innings. Though the more innings they have, the more confident we can be that their average reflects their ability.

There is a statistical value that can measure how confident we can be about an average, called the standard error of the mean. The larger the sample size (in this case, the number of innings), the more accurate the mean (batting average in this case). The standard error of the mean is calculated (assuming several things about the statistical distribution) by dividing the mean by the square root of the sample size. So we should be able to get a measure of the reliability of a batsman’s average by dividing it by the square root of the number of innings played.

So Daniel Flynn’s average of 28.7 off 29 innings has a standard error of about 5.3. My very rudimentary and rather naive interpretation of this sort of standard error is that we can be only 63% certain that he is not batting at an average of 30 or higher and has just been unlucky.

For Guptill (avg. 23.5, 14 innings) we can be only 93% certain that his average shouldn’t be 30. Whereas for McIntosh, we can be only 79% certain that he is not hiding an average of 30 behind his current average of 26.41 off 18 innings.

Now, B-J Watling, this test’s debutante, has scored a mere 18 runs, giving him a disappointing average of 18. However, the standard error of this average is itself 18. This means that even with this poor start to his career, we can only suggest with 83% certainty that he won’t score 30 runs in every innings here on in.

(Any of this make sense?)

By the way, we can be 99.8% certain Flynn shouldn’t be averaging 40, but only 96% certain for Watling. Two ways of saying “definitely” I suppose.


Dec 11 2009

To be the best no. 6

You may have heard that Daniel Vettori is the best ever no. 8 batsman. He has scored 2072 runs in that position, which beats everyone including Shane Warne and his 2005 runs.  His average of 42.28 is handsomely superior to anyone else who has played at least 20 innings in that position.

So what do we do with this marvel of the lower order? We move him to the middle order. No. 6. Where he has an average of 18.25. That puts him a long, long way down the list of no. 6s. If he is going to move up high on the list of successful no. 6s he is going to have to push that average up. If he doubles it, he’ll get into the top 40. But to get to the top, he is going to have to leapfrog such names as Inzamam-ul-Haq, Jeremy Coney, Garfield Sobers and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, currently topping the list at 65.73.


Dec 3 2009

Cheer up Crucket, it’s not as bad as all that

I feel I was far too pessimistic in my last post so I’m going to look on the bright side as the kick off for the 2nd test approaches.

Losing Shane Bond was a big blow, no doubt, but the bowling attack that we’ll take into the Basin test, Martin, O’Brien, Tuffey and Vettori most likely,  is still strong. The strongest in the country excepting Bond. There shouldn’t be much doubt they can take 20 wickets, particularly at the Basin. So if they get 700 runs or so out of the batsmen across the match, we’ll be in with a good chance.


Oct 23 2009

General Vettori, Emperor Moles

Ever since seeing this picture

Vettori Moles

I have been haunted by its similarity to this famous photo

McArthur Hirohito

On the surface, the only parallel between the first photo – Vettori and Moles watching a rained out ODI at Christchurch – and the second – General McArthur and Emperor Hirohito facing up to the press after Japan’s capitulation at the end of the Second World War – is the angles of Vettori’s and McArthur’s respective elbows.

Perish the thought, but could the developments of the past few days deepen the parallels?


Aug 9 2009

Balance of talent

You have to love the Otago Daily Times and their eternal optimism. From any number of press-conference sound bites, they chose ‘NZ has talent to win’ from Vettori as their headline.

It’s nice to believe that Vettori has faith in his players, but the quote the ODT article uses is just an empty throw-away platitude. If the Black Caps are going to succeed in Sri Lanka, they are going to have to do it by hard graft and good strategy. I don’t want to run down the ability of our players, but except for a couple of exceptions, natural talent is not our greatest strength. (It is a fair point that lack of experience is one of our weaknesses though.)

In contrast, Sti Lanka is overflowing with naturals. Their batting line up is lead by the eminently talented Sangakarra, currently the number 1 batsmen in test cricket. With him will be Jayawardene, another fine, fine player. The series against Pakistan has also unearthed another natural talent, Angelo Mathews, who scored 191 runs in the test series and bowled a good few overs as well.

I’m not sure where he is injury-wise, but if Muralitharan plays he will of course be the greatest talent on the park. However, the latest bowling wonder in Sri Lanka has been Ajantha Mendis. He’s still finding his feet, but if he is going to break through against any team, it’s likely to be the Black Caps. He gave us a lot of trouble at the World 20-20, the results of which give him a 20-20 bowling average against NZ of 3.

Against this, New Zealand has potential top-20 talent in Taylor and Ryder, McCullum has a gift for the limited-over formats and Vettori carries much of the team’s talent. For the rest of the team though, while there is plenty of ability there in the likes of Guptill and O’Brien just as quick examples, match-winning talent is a bit short at present, if you can see the distinction I am making.

The facts are, Sri Lanka are a better team than us by a long way. If we are going to succeed in this tour, we are going to have to play very well.


Jul 27 2009

Contract battles

Country first, cash second” claim the headlines after the NZ IPL contractees deigned to sign their NZ Cricket contracts. The headlines naturally simplify the issue greatly, but mange to be extremely generous to the players.

The story is that the six Black Caps who are contracted to IPL franchises weren’t keen to sign their NZC contracts until they were assured that their international obligations weren’t going to get in the way of them turning out for their franchises. They were given until last Friday to sign, which they all did in the end.

Let’s name these six:

  • Brendon McCullum
  • Daniel Vettori
  • Ross Taylor
  • Jesse Ryder
  • Kyle Mills
  • Jacob Oram

That all six IPL players who were offered national contracts were holding out on signing, it was clearly a joint decision, probably organised by the Players’ Association.

Before Friday I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. In contract disputes, “employees” generally have only one bargaining chip, withdrawing their services. So you shouldn’t take such threats too seriously. The threats have to be made of course, but they are more a bargaining position than a real likelihood. My feeling was that the delay in signing was just a message to NZC that they should give more concern to the players’  positions.

However, the statements coming from the players since signing have got me very concerned. Reports are that the players’ have got pretty much all they could have hoped for. The test series with Australia has been shortened by a whole test so that the tour will finish by 31 March, allowing the IPL players to be available for half the IPL tournament. That is a massive win for the players and a serious blow to the summer’s cricket. And yet the players continue to threaten to pull away from international cricket in favour of the IPL and talk about the decision to play the Aussie series to be a big decision. We’re also being told that Vettori had to convince some of the others to sign. Could they actually have seriously been considering not signing their NZC contracts? Was it more than just bluster?

And on top of that, we are being asked to applaud these players for their magnanimity, despite them having sabotaged the Aussie series and threatening to sabotage future tours. Well maybe some people will. The best I can say is that I am not as disappointed in them as I might have been.

And please everyone, stop talking about families. I have a family and it doesn’t cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Jonathan Millmow has had his say in today’s paper, expressing his disappointment and covering a few other issues.

Amongst all the talk of the sacrifices made by the IPL Black Caps and their loyalty and priorities, consider these aspects:

  • We’re missing out on a test against Australia this summer. That’s not solely the fault of these players, but is certainly due to the IPL. That’s a big sacrifice NZ cricket fans are being forced to make – there is a huge difference between a 3-test series and a 2-test series. NZC may also be making a huge sacrifice here, assuming tests still make money. It also means less match fees, which is a sacrifice for the non-IPL-contracted test players.
  • The IPL is for current players or retired players, not for uncommitted players. As I understand it, every player in the IPL needs a non-objection certificate from the player’s home board. So choosing money over country wouldn’t have been that straightforward anyway.