Archive for the ‘Cricket’ Category


April 2, 2011

To Dhoni and his men, for the consistency, for the team work, and the nail-biting finish!


Swinging the ball and other such manoeuvres!

January 13, 2009

Yesterday, I heard a nice lecture by Dr David James of Sheffield Hallam University on Sports Engineering in general, and on the engineering aspects of cricket, in particular. Here is a summary based on my notes (and, my understanding, of course!)

Dr. James began his lecture with an introduction to sports Engineering and how the idea to use the scientific and engineering ideas to understand sports related mechanics is not really novel — apparently, Isaac Newton talked about the irregular flight of tennis balls (though, a cursory google search to locate the article tells me that it is Lord Rayleigh who wrote a piece titled thus — see here for example). He went on to mention some other recent pieces of engineering work that had been carried out at his university and elsewhere — helmut and bike design specialised for individual athletes (as in UK cycle racing team which, I understand is winning almost all the competitions across the globe, thanks to such design philosophy). However, sometimes the sports traditions are at variance with the engineering goals; for example, he feels that the tennis racket design has probably damaged the character of the game a bit. Also, sometimes, the sports engineer and the sports regulation authorities might not see eye-to-eye on issues; for example, a piece of research related to determining the 3D position of a football by triangulation using six receivers placed at different locations with the transmitter being at the centre of the football was discarded when the relevant authorities did not show enough interest in pursuing it.

After the preliminaries, Dr. James discussed the engineering aspects of cricket: here, he spent most of his time in describing the dynamics of ball delivery, the flight of the ball, the bounce of the ball off the pitch and the measures that ground staff can take to make the pitches neither too batsmen-friendly not too bowler-friendly. He ended his presentation with a short discussion on bat technology. The entire talk lasted for about one-and-a-half hours (though, I did not realise that at that time).

The first interesting result is the recording and analysis of how bowlers bowl the ball in a live match; using a high speed camera that records 600 frames per second located perpendicular to the pitch and focussed on one end, Dr. James recorded a huge number of ball bounces off the pitch and measured the impact speeds. Schematically, the curve of the frequencies of bowling at various impact speeds looked something like this:

cric-ball-bowling-dataThe bowlers thus use three ranges of speeds: 45-60 mph for spin, 60 to 70 mph for swing, and above 70 till up to 95 or so for fast. In his experience, nobody bowled at more than 100 mph.

After mentioning Rabindra B Mehta (of NASA) as the authority on ball aerodynamics (many papers of whose you can get via a google search), Dr James went on to discuss the swing and reverse swing in cricket balls; he also showed a couple of videos of windtunnel experiments to support his conclusions. As I understood, the usual swing (apparently, it is called the magnus effect in sports engineering in general) is due to the differences in the surface finish — for low velocities, on the smooth side, the ball has a laminar flow with a boundary layer that separates from the ball surface relatively early, while, on the seam side, the boundary layer is thicker, hugs the ball surface much longer, and the flow pattern is turbulent — resulting in a wake behind the ball which is at an angle — resulting in swing. By the way, this need for turbulence so that the wake behind the ball is minimal (and hence the drag) is the reason why gold balls have dimples, football is made up of patches, tennis balls have felt on top of them and so on. On the other hand, for balls which are bowled at much higher velocities, even on the smoother side, the flow patterns are turbulent, and now, soemtimes, the wake could be such that it is at an angle which produces the reverse swing effect. Dr. james also described that in simulations they have observed an effect similar to this: if a football is kicked with very less of spin — say, one rotation for the full length of its flight — since in games other than cricket, it is the spin that gives rise to the magnus effect — the ball might traverse a zigzag path in air. I understand, in volleyball too, some players can produce a reverse magnus effect while serving.

The section on the ball bounce and the pitch properties of the talk concentrated on answering the question, namely, that whether the ground staff, with a set of given number of experiments, determine the quality of the pitch and modify it according to their requirements. Apparently, the answer is yes; it involves a prescription in terms of the rolling regimes for the pitch (which bascially determines how hard the pitch is going to be — affecting how the ball bounces off its surface) and the water management in terms of keeping just the required amount of moisture (which affects the coefficient of friction between the ball and the pitch). The idea here is to consider the ball and the pitch as a system of springs and dashpots; determine the constants for these springs and dashpots by dropping the balls on rigis surfaces and by dropping hammers on the pitch; from these values, using an empirical model (which is obtained by fitting curves to actual experiments of bouncing balls off pitches), we can determine the coefficients of restitution and and coefficients of friction. During these discussions, Dr James mentioned about using clay tubes that are nearly a few feet deep but small in diameter to repair pitches — basically, by using these clay tubes as some sort of nails. It was cool!

Finally, he told why he does not think the bats will improve tremendously in the years to come — because of the restrictions — namely, that the blade should be of wood. The only thing that can be improved is by making the handles stiffer (and also energy absorbant — so that no vibrations are felt by the player — or, make it so stiff that the heavy vibrations are of such small amplitude that the player does not feel them either); however, the limitation here is the fact that the handle is to be connected to a blade which has very different stiffness properties.

After a couple of questions (and a discussion on how it is easy to tune pitches in places like Australia where you can put lots of clay and allow the sun to dry it to get the required pitch properties, which, can not be done in England given the weather conditions), we adjourned for refreshments.

PS: Dr. James has promised to send me some material that is in public domain — like his PhD thesis on pitches for example, which I will host in some page and leave the links here.

On inspiration

November 13, 2008

It comes in many forms. Arunn at Unruled Notebook gets it when he reads the online and newspaper columns of

Poet Pithamagar Peter ‘Split Tongue’ Roebuck.

A must-read post — to give you a flavour:

It goes like this in Sanskrit in India

Om, SuklAmbaradharam Dhonim, sasi varnam glovedbhujam, prasanna vadhanam dhyayeth, sarva cricket-vignaupashanthaye…

In English translation, it goes like this in all media that Peter pens, Indians read and Australians skip (like cricinfo):

Om, White Clothed Dhoni, the Beginner of Everything, Fair complexioned, Wielding Gloved Hands, Smiling radiant Faced, Meditate on Him for the Clearing of All (Indian Cricketing) Obstacles.

So I hope, no no, I expect you all realize the wisden, no wisdom of poet peter’s words. As an Indian cricket fan, after reciting the above chant throughout the cricket match and if possible three days after it is over, you will realize India victorious, Australia meritorious, Poet Peter Roll-in-bucks.

Now, if that is not inspired writing, you tell me, sister, what else is?

Cricket, democracy, and games without audience

June 22, 2008

Ram Guha quotes Ramu Gandhi in his latest piece in the Hindu:

Ramu continued: “Revealing the essence of democracy, undegenerate cricket at its heart is a many-voiced dialogue between bowlers and batsmen, supported and surrounded by fielders who draw out the dialogue without dominating it, an environing society which nourishes but does not queer the pitch of personal relationships. Cricket is the only game of significance and scale, I think, which can wholly do without an audience, because it has participants, the fielders, who are also witnesses, audience, delight and ideal of anthropology and logic, an intense factor of self-consciousness. And all batsmen, souls, enjoy a second innings, reincarnate! And double-angled double-umpiring brings to the ideal logic and metaphysics of cricket a realistic penal philosophy.

Take a look!

Ram Guha on Ponting’s and Don’s men!

March 14, 2008

Ponting’s men are a bunch of louts. Bradman’s men were gentlemen. None more so than Benaud’s three heroes in particular. Morris, Miller and Lindwall never sledged an opponent, never questioned an umpire’s decorum, never celebrated a victory to excess (nor mourned a defeat to excess, either). In other words, their behaviour, on the field and off it, was as immaculate as that of the great modern trinity of Indian cricket: Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, and Sachin Tendulkar.

Having said that, Guha, in his piece in the Telegraph, goes on to list the things that Indian cricketing administrators can learn from Australia:

For there are aspects of the game in which the Indians could learn from the Australians, rather than the other way around. I have in mind the game’s administration, which in India is in the hands of greedy men looking at filling their pockets in the short term, but in Australia is taken care of by visionary professionals concerned with the sustained success of their team. The boosters in the press have gone ballistic about India’s recent victory in the CB series in Australia. They seem to have forgotten that while Australia have won the last three World Cups, this is the first one-day tournament won by India in six whole years. Why, just a few months previously, Australia thrashed us in a one-day series in India. Even in this tournament they had much the better of the early games.

The truth is that in both Test and one-day cricket, India has a mediocre record, while Australia has consistently been the best team in the world. This difference is in part due to innate talent, and in part due to the way Cricket Australia is run. There are fine, focused academies to spot and nurture young talent; fair-minded selectors who are not subject to the pulls and pressures of nepotism or provincial biases; money managers whose dealings are transparent and, in both senses of the word, accountable.

The Indian Premier League is but the latest example of the malfunctioning of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Where else, but in India, would two senior officials of a sports body be able to float their own teams? Besides, we have far too much tamasha cricket already. Rather than make our top players take more trips on this merry-go-round, our board would have been better advised to make sure that they spend time playing the knock-out rounds of the Ranji Trophy. The Australians have demonstrated that the best, perhaps the only, way to keep talent flowing through the system is to cut down on one-day internationals, and ensure that the established players are matched against up-and-coming youngsters in the keenly fought Pura Cup (formerly the Sheffied Shield).

India plays far too much cricket already. One consequence of a schedule that is so full is that our younger players (and the fast bowlers in particular) break down at regular intervals. Not long ago, Sreesanth was out due to injury; he was back, playing in Australia, while Zaheer Khan and R.P. Singh had returned home with injuries. The oohs and aahs that now meet every ball bowled by Ishant Sharma will turn to moans and groans when he breaks down, as he surely will, and probably quite soon.

Take a look!

Sunday morning lit links!

January 6, 2008

Ravi Vyas in the Classics Revisited section of the Hindu Literary Review recommends C L R James’ Beyond a boundary in the strongest possible terms:

Great claims have been made for (Beyond a Boundary): that it is the greatest sports book ever written; that it brings the outsider a privileged insight into West Indian culture; that it is a severe examination of the colonial condition. All are true.

From the blurb of C.L.R. James’ Beyond a Boundary

Someone who has written virtually hundreds of blurbs knows they are nothing more than self-serving hyperbole but in James’ Beyond a Boundary it cannot be dismissed as so much hot air. Two Nobel laureates have written about it: Derek Walcott called it “a noble book” and V.S. Naipaul rejoiced at “one of the finest and most finished books to come out of the West Indies”. But that too is not enough; and to say that it is pifflingly inadequate praise is also not enough because the book goes beyond the concrete details of the game into broader historical and philosophical issues. The themes of the book reach, as the title suggests, far beyond the boundaries of the cricket field and no detailed knowledge of the game is needed to appreciate its implications. (Though if you know the nuances of the game, so much the better.) It is a book that captured the interconnectedness of things and the integration of human experience. It expressed in a fundamental way the elements that constituted human existence, combining as it did spectacle, history, politics; “sequence/tableau, movement/stasis, individual/society.” Cricket was whole.

M S Nagarajan recommends Bill Bryson’s biography of Shakespeare:

This brief and informative biography does contain some attention-grabbing details that satisfy our intellectual curiosity. In Elizabethan times, a box used to be kept in the office for the theatre goers to drop in their admission fee, a penny, which provided the cheapest seat in the theatre. Whence come the term box-office! Bryson’s Shakespeare is the outcome of serious research. He effectively debunks and explodes myths and theories unsupported by any viable evidence. The book is a welcome addition to Shakespearana!

Pradeep Sebastian ponders on the ritual of trimming one’s book collection:

This entire exercise of trimming one’s library now seems to me not about downsizing the books but really about getting to know them all over again. To pick one from the shelves, remember where and when you bought it, and recall the pleasure acquiring the book gave you is why a book collector gets all her books off and on the shelves ever year. Before you put them in a box to be given away, you are curious to flip the pages and see if you’ve stuck something in there — a note, a favourite bookmark, a photograph. At last I am done with sorting the books. And I’m happy to note the box of books leaving my library is really quite small — elegant in their economy even. It is not the end of my days as a bibliomane, after all. My philistine relatives will simply have to accept, as they skip and hop over them, that books will furnish my apartment.

Take a look!

Cricket and America!

September 30, 2006

Here is a Cricket 101 piece; take a look at this story, if you are wondering whether you want to read the piece or not:

Thousands of Americans have gone to Lord’s, cricket’s London headquarters, and retreated in bewilderment. The most eloquent was Groucho Marx, who reputedly watched for an hour, and said: “This is great. When does it start?”

Did you know?

Cricket—now played by millions of people in 92 countries ranging from the Caribbean to Europe to Africa to South Asia—was once the national game of, yes, these United States. And one of the first outdoor sports to be played on these shores. An 1844 cricket match between teams from the United States and Canada was the first international sporting event in the modern world, predating the revival of the Olympic Games by more than 50 years.

There also seems to be a CC Morris Cricket Library and United States Cricket Museum at Haverford College, Haverford, PA. Take a look at this article for more infromation!

Guha’s guilt!

February 27, 2006

Here is Ram Guha on my favourite cricketer, divided loyalties and assuaging his guilt!

Feminist economist and the history of hat-trick!

February 3, 2006

What are the social and personal experiences that made Amartya Sen the feminist economist that he is? What are the feminist texts that influenced his work? These questions (and much more) are addressed in this excerpt published in the Hindu op-ed column today. I especially liked this:

Mary Wollstonecraft was also ahead of the `human rights’ thinkers who, while differing from Bentham’s legalism, saw human rights to be, as it were, `legal rights in waiting,’ that is, as ethical claims that must be legalised for them to be effective. Wollstonecraft’s analysis of the variety of processes through which subjugation and deprivation come about pointed to the constructive role that `recognition’ can play (even without formal legalisation).

In my opinion, legalisation is of no use if recognition is missing, though, legalisation is much easier to achieve than recognition.

The op-ed page of the Hindu also carries this editorial about the recent hat-trick of Pathan, which is well worth reading since it tells you the reason behind the name hat-trick, and the first time it appeared in print, and such other stuff — Hindu — oh, it is so…educational 😉