Batting for the Scorer

April 30, 2006

by Aparajith Ramnath 

Peter Roebuck writes in The Hindu of how cricket is more than just statistics. No-one in their right mind would argue with his central thesis, that “to concentrate on averages is to miss the power, the poetry and the passion”. Indeed, it is difficult to state it more succinctly.

However, the article has some rather uncharitable (to say the least) things to say about scorers and statisticians. It calls them, in different places, “those whose main attribute is an ability to count” and “these dismal creations.” Scorers and statisticians are, in fact, a largely unsung breed of people who spend hours in fierce concentration doing a job that ordinary folk would shy away from, performing a duty that is essential to the progress of the game. Anyone who has scored for a local friendly knows that it is far from easy. Certainly “an ability to count” is only the least of the attributes required to be a scorer or statistician. The statistician requires a mind that unifies, that spots similarities and differences, a mind that sees patterns. The scorer requires patience, precision, and the ability to multi-task. Despite this, in many cases, cricket scorers are underpaid and do their job merely for the love of the game.

Moreover, some scorer-statisticians have been among the keenest followers of the game, scoring for decades. “A scorer by the name of Bill Frindall” is, in fact, one of the most respected figures in the world of cricket. He has scored upward of three hundred Test matches and has even devised a scoring system.  

Statisticians perform a vital function. Whether we give more importance to statistics than to watching the game is up to us. But that does not detract from the importance of their vocation.

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by Amit Goyal

Formula 1 has seen such a deluge of rule changes over the past couple of years that it has left many fans (including yours truly) greatly miffed and confused. The qualifying session has been changed so often that I am sure the drivers must be confirming the rules before every race. Moreover, an F1 car with a 2.4lt V8 engine is a joke! This one gives 750 bhps compared to the 950 of the V10s. F1 is the only sport that is stepping back on technology. Also, teams are now trying hard to push the V8s to their limits for more power which I think increases the risk of an engine (that is supposed to last for 2 races now) failure.

When I sit down to watch F1, I want to see the fastest cars being driven around by good guys to the limit where speed is all that matters. All the rule changes are being made to make the game cheaper and safer. Cheaper! I don't think that these companies care about a few million here and there. They say that it will attract more companies to race as costs go down and the competition becomes close. It’s like telling Superman that you have the cape but you are not allowed to fly because others can’t fly as fast. And safer. F1 has the most stringent laws concerning driver safety. What was the last accident you heard about in F1? I think it was Ralf Schumacher at the US Grand Prix in 2004. That was due to a split tyre, and he still missed some 6 races only. The crash was one of the worst ever in the F1 history, but the car kept him safe. These cars are safer than any other road cars.

Here are a few (ridiculous to say the least) rule changes F1 is about to see.

– Same car for the years 2008-2010. A tech freeze. There goes the entire development concept.
– Four race gearbox.
– Single tyre supplier (Bye-bye Michelin! We will miss you.).
– Testing limited to 30,000 kms per year.
– No tyre warmers. You want to save money by doing away with them? Seriously!
– No spare cars.
– Entry fee lowered from USD 48mn to 300,000 Euros.

I say give them the fastest cars and let them race. Also there is a talk about reducing the downforce (technically F1 cars can race upside down on ceilings!) on the cars for more overtaking. But then again that increases the risks. Wait! FIA has a solution. Keep the drag force the same. Which basically means you will have to slow down the car to make it stable. Sucks!

But the good news is that with the entry fee cut down and performance being no criterion, we might once again see our very own Karthikeyan back on the track.

What did you say? Indicators on F1 cars! Well, you never know.

Tennis Quiz

April 30, 2006

compiled by Hrishikesh

Here are some interesting tennis questions. Answers to the quiz will be put up this Thursday.

Please leave your answers in the comments section. 

1. This famous club is credited with making significant rule changes to the game of Tennis. They added Deuce, Advantage, and 2 chances per serve. The hourglass-shaped court (as it was then) was also changed to a rectangular court, identical to the measurements that are being used today. Name the club.

2. Tennis legend Spencer Gore told the media, "Lawn tennis is a bit boring. It will never catch on." What distinction does he hold in the world of tennis?

3. Sir Norman Brookes's wife, Dame Mabel, was quoted as saying, "He brought the Cup back in his luggage with his other cups. You had to do everything yourself in those days. Nobody much wanted the Cup. It used to sit on our sideboard, and it was so big, it dwarfed everything else. Nothing looked any good at all alongside that darned bath. We put red peonies in it." Which cup was she referring to?

4. Known as "The Redhead" and the first man, and the only man besides Rod Laver, to win the Grand Slam. According to New York Times reporter Allison Danzig, he apparently turned down a professional contract that guaranteed him $50,000 or more to compete for his country as an amateur for one last year to regain the Davis Cup. Who is this tennis legend?

5. Bunny Austin was the first man to ever wear a pair of shorts on court at Wimbledon in 1933. What unique distinction does Yvon Petra hold?

6. In 1976 the United States Tennis Association denied Renee Richards entrance into the US Open and she challenged the ban, and the New York Supreme Court ruled in favour of her in 1977. What prompted the USTA to deny her entrance into the open?

7. There are many different terms used in tennis. What does a Double Bagel mean?

8. One of the largest-selling disco singles of all time, "Philadelphia Freedom" by Elton John is a dedication to which Tennis great?

9. Goran Ivanisevic said this back in 1992. “He's never going to be a great player on grass. The only time he comes to the net is to shake your hand.”  Who was he referring to?

10. Born in Arak, Iran, his initial progress was halted as the Iranian regime banned competitive sports in the late 1970s. He played most of his professional tennis in France and finished as the runner-up in the French Open Men’s doubles event in 1989. Later Connors invited him to join his then-fledgling senior circuit in 1994 and now is a regular on the senior’s tour. ATP Tour's International Tennis Magazine in its August, 1997 issue rated him as probably the best known player that no one has ever heard of. Who is he?

11. The WTA passed a rule which prohibits abusive conduct on the part of players, coaches and relatives. This rule is commonly referred among the players and the media as the ‘___ ______ rule’ after the name of the father of which tennis player?

12. Which tennis player filed a suit in a state court in Manhattan, seeking compensation from sportswear company Sergio Tacchini for $40 million for product liability, breach of contract, negligence, and breach of warranty alleging that the company "ruined her feet"?

13. “If we start implementing a tiebreaker, instead of a third set, in mixed doubles, eventually it's going to go to men's doubles and women's doubles and, in the long term, singles as well. And then tennis is no longer a true test of skill, and nothing like we've known it. We have a successful scoring system, and we're changing that. What they're doing to mixed doubles now is the beginning of the downfall of the whole game."  Who is this all-time doubles great presciently predicting in 2001, when the Australian Open implemented a tiebreaker in lieu of the deciding set in mixed doubles, that the ATP would eventually make the same rule change in men's doubles, which the ATP is doing—along with adopting No.Ad scoring—starting in 2006?

14. His two elder brothers, Marinos and Petros, have also played Davis Cup for their country and they hail from a small village called Paramythos (meaning fairytale in Greek). He has had a truly fairytale run recently. Who is he?

15. This is what you need to have to beat Roger Federer at the moment. "Well, if you take Roddick's serve, Agassi's return, my volley, and Hewitt's speed, you've probably got a chance." Who said this?  

by Aparajith Ramnath

England cricket coach Duncan Fletcher apparently knows more or less whom he would want on his squad for the 2007 World Cup in the Carribean. India is busy trying to develop a squad of multi-talented cricketers who would be a force to reckon with in the quadrennial gala. All the cricketing world, it seems, is walking as in a trance towards that sacred tournament, taking in the various international series that dot the path towards it as a traveller to the Lighthouse of Alexandria might view the streetlamps of Cairo.

Pretty soon, India will travel to the West Indies for a full-fledged tour with Tests and ODIs. England has another Ashes series this year. Both are very important tours; an Indian tour of the West Indies comes along once every five years or so at best, and the Ashes has historically been one of the most intense of rivalries. And yet, reading all the reports in the media and all the sound bytes that are thrown around these days, you would think that these are but incidental events, almost practice grounds for the hallowed World Cup next year. Granted, there is some merit in having a long-term vision and working towards it. And yet, is not winning the best preparation? And to this end, it is important to concentrate on the task at hand, which is to win the current series. That would mean not going blindly with clichés like ‘developing a team for the future.’ As Asterix fans know only too well, tomorrow never comes. When the future arrives, it will be the present. One thing that this tells us – or rather emphasises, for it is a fact that we know well – is that there is too much cricket being played. If an international tour starts looking tame and uninteresting, if teams look at a one-day international as the laboratory for their alchemical – read World Cup – pursuits, why have the match in the first place?

That of course, is an idealistic question. The pragmatist will point out that this is the way of the cricketing world, that the jam-packed calendar is here to stay. Well then, if that be the case, it is important that teams learn to look at every match as a separate and important entity. The prevailing eye-on-the-future attitude, I think, mirrors a general trend that is to be found outside of the sport as well. It is an all-too common phenomenon, especially among my generation, to plan obsessively for the future to an extent that one forgets entirely to savour the present. Everyone has lofty ambitions; ambitions that are the real-world equivalent of wanting to win the World Cup. CEO by thirty-five, billionaire by forty – that kind of thing. Indeed, this might be admirable. But it should not preclude stopping to smell the roses.