Monday, 16 December 2013

The irrationality factor of sport

The three match ODI series between South Africa and India was supposed to be one of the most competitive this year. 
It was not.

South Africa dominated India in the first two ODIs and scored 301/8 in the third before rain prevented a result. SA won the series 2-0. In all three games Quinton de Kock (20) scored a century. He received man of the series for this.  

Quinton de Kock (20) scored his first century of the series in pink. aptly gave this photo the caption: "Baby-faced 'pink panther' Quinton de Kock takes Proteas to win in 1st ODI". Image taken from
This is why I love sport: Things happen that shouldn't.

Wigan beat Chelsea last season (football), Ireland nearly beat New Zealand this year (rugby), football players are judged to he worthy of extreme prices but profusely fail to live up to their designated values, and a 20 year old scores three consecutive centuries against the world number one ODI side (cricket).

These are all unpredictable occurrences that defy logic. Common sense cannot comprehend these events and has to turn its face away.

For English football fans this picture needs no explanation. For everyone else: A few years before Fernando Torres (29) came to Chelsea he was one of the best strikers in European football. Going to Chelsea, one of the better clubs in England, he received a contract worth 50 million pounds. Since then Torres has not been nearly effective. Image taken from

In this ODI series the Proteas batsmen actually played spin better than pace, dispatching the spinners all around the ground for numerous fours and sixes. I have never seen South Africans do so well against spinners, and against Indian spinners nogal! India does not just have world-class spinners, they have world-class spinners on the bench, or unselected. Think Ashwin, Jadeja, Mishra, Ojha, Chawla...

India were (and are) the number one ODI team. South Africa are currently tied fourth with Sri Lanka. The demolition of India in the ODI series demonstrates either two things: 

1) India are still very poor away from home and their success in cricket and position in the ICC rankings is primarily due to the abundance of cricket they play at home.
2) The Proteas were simply much better than the Indian team.

Why is it that in sport we see the best lose against the worst and the most unlikely and unpredictable things happen? 

Whatever the reason, this factor makes sport all the more interesting. 

Despite the ODI series going the way it did (illogically), I am still looking forward to the Test series as I think it will be more competitive.

One last thought: the Proteas' dominance of India was predominantly facilitated by the brilliance of Quinton de Kock. Why can't he be placed in the Test squad?

Thursday, 21 November 2013


In a game where false starts can end your international career before it really gets going.

In a game where media scrutiny and public criticism can smother one's self-confidence to the point of paralysis.

In a game where foul play and match-fixing abound and honesty is unexpected.

One man stood up as a shining symbol.

sachin little master
Image taken from

Sachin tendulkar (40) stood up to the challenges of cricket and prevailed as a symbol of skill, resilience and integrity.
Image taken from
Image taken from

Image taken from
Sachin Tendulkar is one of the best batsman the world has ever seen. He is the leading run scorer in tests and ODIs. He has scored 15,921 runs in tests at an average of  53.78, including 51 centuries and a best of 248*. He has scored 18,426 runs in ODIs at an average of 44.83, including 49 centuries and a best of 200*.
His ODI 200* was scored at the age of 36 against South Africa on 24 February 2010 and was the first ODI double century. Since then Virender Sehwag (219) and Rohit Sharma (209) have passed Tendulkar. 
A myriad of Tendulkar records can be seen on his website ( and at My favourite is that he has the record for most number of man of matches and man of series in ODIs and man of matches in world cups; because that shows how superior he is to other players.
Tendulkar was just as good away from India. He scored a record 8,705 runs in tests away from home, including a record 29 centuries. He scored 3,630 test runs at an average of 55.00 in Australia.
Tendulkar began his career at the age of 16 and was the third youngest player to make a test debut. He then played international cricket for 24 years. As his records show, he was a brilliant batsman. As a bowler Tendulkar also took 46 wickets in tests (ave. 54.17) and 154 wickets in ODIs (ave. 44.48).

Image taken from
As a person Tendulkar showed integrity and humility right up until his departing speech, thanking and honouring everyone involved in his development in cricket. He began his speech by thanking his father.
Cricket South Africa Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat said of Tendulkar, "Sachin has been one of the best role models the game of cricket could have ever wished for... we would all love our children to play the game in the same spirit that he does... I would argue there is no better modern cricketer in the complete sense than Sachin Tendulkar."
The few controversies Tendulkar was involved in can be found here

I believe that Virat Kohli will be the next super-batsman, not just for India but for world cricket.

Tuesday, 01 October 2013

James Anderson best bowler of this era? Nonsense. Ajmal and Steyn are better.

Wasim Akram has called James Anderson, a bowler for England, “ the best bowler of this era”. Firstly, Akram is a legend of cricket, being one of the best pace bowlers of all time (having taken 414 test wickets at an average of 23.62 and 502 ODI wickets at 23.52) so this is a huge statement. It is also huge when we realise that Dale Steyn (SA) and Saeed Ajmal (PAK) are both bowling in the same era. I am going to show you that Akram’s claim is nonsense.

James Anderson
James Anderson (31) of England is undeniably a good bowler, and I enjoy watching him bowl, but he is not the best. Image taken from
As on 01 October 2013 the ICC bowling rankings tells us that:
In tests Steyn is rated the best bowler in the world. Ajmal is fourth and Anderson ninth.
In ODIs Ajmal is third, Anderson sixth and Steyn is 15th
In T20s Ajmal is second, Steyn is 21st and Anderson is not even on the top 100 list.

ICC BOWLING RANKINGS (01 October 2013)

Test ranking
ODI ranking
T20I ranking

The full ICC rankings lists are available at
These rankings tell us that Saeed Ajmal is actually the best bowler in the world. Dale Steyn is undeniably the best in tests, and has been for a while, but in terms of consistency over all three formats Ajmal is the best.

I find it incongruent to compare pace bowlers with spinners. So let us compare Anderson to Steyn.

James Anderson is 31 years old
He has played 87 tests, 174 ODIs and 19 T20Is
In tests he has 329 wickets at 30.11
In ODIs he has 245 wickets at 29.11 (economy 4.97)
In T20Is he has 18 wickets at 30.66 (economy 7.84)

Dale Steyn is 30 years old
He has played 65 tests, 73 ODIs and 29 T20Is.
In tests he has 332 wickets at 22.65
In ODIs he has 102 wickets at 29.07 (economy 4.92)
In T20Is he has 39 wickets at 16.64 (economy 6.30)

Statistics show that Steyn has better averages in all formats and better economy rates than Anderson. Anderson only has a better ODI ranking than Steyn because he has been in superb form recently, England plays far more cricket than South Africa so their players can accumulate more points and Steyn has been injured lately so he has missed even more ODIs.

As prominent as Wasim Akram is in the cricketing world, statistics refute his claim. Saeed Ajmal is the best bowler of our era and Dale Steyn is the best pace bowler of our era.

By the way I am South African and might be biased in my evaluation if I did not use statistics as my primary tool of comparison. 

Friday, 23 August 2013

Should Jacques Kallis retire now?

It seems that in recent talk from Jacques Kallis, CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat and Proteas coach Russell Domingo that while they would all like Kallis's experience in the 2015 World Cup, form will be a factor. Thus they say they will monitor his performance "season by season". 

Read the story here  

Jacques Kallis acknowledges the applause as he walks back, South Africa v India, Only T20I, Johannesburg, March 30, 2012
Jacques Kallis (37) has made 11,498 runs in 321 ODIs for the Proteas. Image taken from

My Opinion

Kallis's performances for South African cricket cannot be described in words. When he is not playing, his presence is sorely missed and in theory it would be great having him play for SA in the 2015 WC to be held in Australia and New Zealand. However, do we know he will still be great, or worth his place, then? His choosing to not play in a few ODI series the last couple of seasons has probably been good for prolonging his career but has this been what's best for the team? It is hard to say. Certainly a better and refreshed Kallis is good now, but then we were weaker in the games without him.

I think that I tend to over-analyse situations, but here I go. Kallis wants to prolong his career so he can play in 2015. But we don't know if he will still be good then. Domingo has said that no one is guaranteed a place in the WC, it all depends on fitness and form. Domingo has also said that Kallis must play enough ODI cricket if he wants to play in the WC. This sounds wise to me.

Although, if Cricket South Africa think that Kallis will still be good enough to play in the WC in 2015, even if he has to miss half of the series before then, I would say let it be. Kallis is a great after all, likely SA's best ever cricketer.

But if Kallis is perceived to be getting worse and less fit to be able to play, of which there is no shame as it happens to everyone over time, CSA should make the hard decision and put in place a succession plan for him before 2015. I am not saying that Kallis must retire today, but if CSA thinks he will not be able to compete effectively at 2015, they must start looking for a replacement(s) in the ODIs from this season. In test matches a Kallis replacement should be a batsman and in the ODIs, with Duminy back, we probably would also only need to swap him with a batsman.

Kallis says,  "It remains my aspiration to be available for the 2015 World Cup but, at the same time I know as an allrounder approaching my 38th birthday, I will need to assess my future in the game season by season." 

I think CSA need to monitor Kallis closely in this upcoming cricket season (and by the way let's hope that this scrutinising does not add detrimental pressure to Kallis), and make a decision that will be best for the team.

Cricket legends are given too much agency about when they* would like to retire. This can sometimes hurt them as well as the teams they are in. Your thoughts?

Kallis's cricket averages (Taken from on 23 August 2013) 
Batting and fielding averages
List A4173996514764155*44.20231081560
Bowling averages
List A41713559106503485/305/3030.604.7138.9330

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The first Ashes test was one to remember

Champagne moment: James Anderson was man of the match in England's win over Australia
James Anderson  (30) took 10 wickets and man of the match. Image taken from He is really the bowler with the best form in the world right now, following his success at the Champions Trophy.
England were the strong favourites going into the game at Trent Bridge and were dominating before the Australian number 11, Ashton Agar, came to the crease. England made 215 in the first innings and Australia were on 117-9. Agar and Phil Hughs made a record 10th wicket partnership by any team (163 runs). Agar produced the record number of runs by a test match number 11 (98).

A number 11 making 98 runs does not happen in cricket. Yes, amazing acts of determination and defiance take place, but number 11 bowlers do not make scores like 98. Include the fact that Agar is 19 years old and this was his test debut, and a cricket fan like me cannot compute the possibility that this happened. Of course he moved up the order in the next innings.

Australia managed to get 280 (Agar 98, Hughs 81), a lead of 65 runs. England had a very good second innings thanks to an Ian Bell 109. They made 375 all out, leaving AUS with 316 to win. The Aussie openers made good scores, giving AUS a chance (Watson 46, Rogers 52). However wickets fell and Australia needed 80 runs with one wicket left.

Such was the determination of the last batsmen (Brad Haddin and James Pattinson) that before lunch on day 5, England were scared. It was visible that they were doubting they would win. England eventually got Haddin’s wicket and won by 14 runs. Haddin (71 off 147) and Pattinson (25 off 57) nearly stole the game for Australia.

Defiant: Ashton Agar (19) stunned everyone coming in at 11 and scoring 98. If his bowling can become as good as his batting he will go far. Image taken from

The match was filled with as much controversy as I’ve ever seen in a test. First Ashton Agar was given not out by the third umpire when he should have been given out stumped. His foot was not behind the line [England lost out because of this decision due to Ashton making another 92 runs]. Then Jonathan Trott was given out LBW because all the available technology pointed to him being out, but the side-on hotspot could not be utilised because of a technical glitch. The ex-England cricketer and commentator Sir Ian Botham felt certain it was an edge onto the pads [England lost out again]. The umpires later apologised for this!

Then the most memorable moment in the test came. Stuart Broad clearly edged a ball to slip. The umpire gave him not out. Australia had no reviews left. Whether the umpire had just made a mistake, was not concentrating or was trying to make up to England for Trott’s dismissal, it is unknown. In the end a lot of people have voiced their frustration at the incident. Many say that Broad should have walked, the ex-West Indian great and commentator Michael Holding said that Stuart Broad should be banned from cricket for not walking, calling Broad’s actions “contrary to the spirit of the game.

The incident occurred when Broad was on 37. He finished on 65. This means that he made 28 more runs than he should have, twice the amount England won by. One way to look at it would be that England won because Broad stood his ground. Although, both the controversies involving Agar and Trott cost England more than 28 runs.

In my opinion if the umpire was really just giving Broad a lifeline because of the mistake involving Trott then Broad should have walked. If the umpire thought Broad was not out then I think it would be fine for Broad to stand his ground.

There are five test matches in this Ashes series. England are 1 – 0 up and the second test starts this Thursday at Lord’s in London. The other tests are on 01 August, 09 Aug and 21 Aug.

Monday, 01 July 2013

What has happened to Australia?

The Proteas' next series is three weeks away (in SRI: 5 ODIs, 3 T20Is). Even more prevalent though is the question: what has happened to Australia?

It is in disarray. The cricket team of course, not the country.
George Bailey (30) was run out for 4 against SRI in this ICC Champions Trophy. Image taken from:
When I was growing up I watched Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden fiercely dominate any bowling attack they played against. Now there is only Shane Watson and Michael Clarke.

When I was young I admired the sheer brilliance of Glenn McGrath, the tenacity of Brett Lee and the wit of Shane Warne. Now there is only Mitchell Starc and the tired Mitchell Johnson.

What has happened?

Can you just blame poor succession planning?

Was it perhaps just a coincidence that the next generation of Australian cricketers could not live up to the past one? Was it is just life, just something that happens, that the Australian cricket team has lost quality over time?

I am sure they have not always been good. I think every country has its good periods and bad ones.

But the fact that Australia is going through one of its least successful periods now, that it has just sacked their coach Mickey Arthur and replaced him with Darren Lehmann and that it is facing discipline issues leaves me wondering if something is causing the country's cricket to deteriorate.

Don't get me wrong, Australia is still decent. But compared to how they used to be...

If there is something hurting Australian cricket it may go deeper than the players. Officials, bureaucracy, politics, the food they eat, I don't know. Something.

For the champions to get knocked out in the group stage, and not only that but be last in the group and leave with only one point in three games thanks to a no-result against NZ, something must have gone wrong.

Michael Hussey retired from international cricket last December, the last great Australian batsman I think, apart from Michael Clarke, at least as far as I can tell for a while.

As a rule in South Africa, that we can't support Australia and should even despise them, I grew up anti-Ausie. However it was a love-dislike relationship. I loved to dislike Australia. Things have changed now for two reasons: as a journalist I try to play down my personal preferences in everything and I just feel sorry for Australia. They were our arch-nemesis. A bit like Vageta was to Goku, so Australia was to us. The 'villain' was stronger than the 'hero' for ages until the villain joined the good guys. Then he became undoubtedly weaker than the 'hero'.

Why can't Australia get better again?

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Can SA win the last Champions Trophy?

Clearly not... This is what one may have thought after the Proteas lost to Pakistan by six wickets in a warm up match and then to India by 26 runs in the first game of this year's (and the last) ICC Champions Trophy. However, since then the Proteas beat Pakistan by 67 runs and tied with the West Indies. This means South Africa is through to the semi finals.

As a South African cricket fan I can't deny that this tournament has suddenly become very interesting to me. Can we go all the way? Do we have what it takes? Equally important is the question: do the SA players have the hunger to win? 

None of the other teams have shown the consistency that India have displayed. Regardless, it takes four teams to make two semi-finals. Four teams have a chance for glory, to win the last Champions Trophy. 

The Proteas' performance has been up-and-down lately, but there has been an improvement. The team suffered the loss of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn. However Steyn is back and the others have been replaced. I believe Chris Morris has brought more dynamism to the team than there was before. 

I have been thinking recently about what is more important to a sports team: talent or hunger to win. Skill is not everything, but an average person cannot walk onto a sports field and excel. Both are required. India look like they have both, and Shikhar Dhawan is playing absolutely brilliantly. They must be the favourites to win the tournament.

Shikhar Dhawan celebrates his maiden ODI century
Shikhar Dhawan (27) scored his maiden ODI century against SA on 6 June. He was awarded the man of the match, scoring 114 (94). Nice picture. It was taken from

However, for the Proteas Ryan McLaren has been quite good and consistent, and our bowling and batting attacks are both looking more determined and clinical with each game. Colin Ingram's 73 off 63 deliveries against the West Indies stands out for me as a demonstration that South Africa are still fighting. His man of the match performance, especially coming from a man who has not been very authoritative in his batting lately, reveals that the team wants to win and, as I can't think of a better way of saying it, will transform themselves, sacrifice their comfort, to do what they must to win. It is possible SA can do it.

Colin Ingram pulls to the leg side boundary
It was nice seeing Colin Ingram (27) play so confidently and aggressively against the West Indies on 14 June. Image taken from
We are less consistent than India right now, but recent displays and the fact that some of our brilliant players have been dormant means that our true potential has yet to be realised in this competition. Has everyone forgotten that we have the two best batsmen in the world in ODIs, at least according to the last rankings I saw, and the best bowler in tests? On a side note, who would have thought that after two games Australia would be at the bottom of group A (which consists of NZ, ENG and SRI)?

If anyone is a soccer/football fan the Confederations Cup should be good. Brazil look great, I will probably support them and Nigeria.

Monday, 27 May 2013

A West Indian IPL?

Unfortunately I missed the IPL final last night (on 26 May 2013). However I watched the highlights this morning. After Chennai beat Mumbai in their playoff to go straight into the final, Mumbai defeated Rajasthan in another playoff and then went all the way and overcame Chennai in the final. Mumbai won the final by 23 runs, their first IPL tournament win.

The West Indian cricketers have proved in this IPL that they are a powerful force in T20 cricket. Chris Gayle made the highest T20 score for a batsman (175*) and Dwayne Bravo took the most wickets in an IPL season (32). Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith, Darren Sammy and Sunil Narine also had a great tournament. For me Kieron Pollard was the best player in the tournament as he made big knocks in the playoffs as well as the final. I can see now that West Indians are fantastic in this format and the WI teams will be a great threat in the Champions League T20 later this year.

IPL 2013 final: CSK 125/9 (20) MI 148/9 (20). Kieron Pollard (centre) hit 60* and got man of the match. Image taken from

Cricket in England

I really enjoy watching cricket played in England. The picture on the TV screen is always clear and green, the commentary is really nice and the England test team is a good unit. The England team always seems to back each other. They believe in each other, and take on the best teams in the world; especially when they play in England. Their fans are also very supportive, chant and sometimes dress up for matches. The fans are also impolite at times - which makes it more entertaining.

The conditions in England will favour seamers and batsmen. So next month's ICC Champions Trophy will be exciting for me. I love watching seamers in action. Fast bowlers are far more interesting than spinners. England will probably play well. They are dominating New Zealand right now; and having their fans behind them and playing on their own conditions in the tournament will also help. England will be a team to watch out for, and certainly Australia and Pakistan. Of course I am hoping SA can do well.

Coming from a great IPL, I hope this Champions Trophy will be just as exciting.

Stuart Broad (26) of England. He will probably be the best English pace bowler for a while, and he can bat a bit. Image taken from
Broad's stats are as follows: (Taken from on 27 May 2013)
Batting and fielding averages
List A113571846245*11.8464271.9600286220
Bowling averages
List A113567949301775/235/2327.855.2032.0910