Saturday, October 06, 2007

cricket commentary

Despite all the new activity in cricket -- new channels, two new leagues, a new world cup -- it appears to me that the sports reporting from India, and the commentary on the Indian matches, remains behind the times.

The biggest weakness, as far as I'm concerned, is not the commentators but the number crunchers "in the truck" (i.e. the guys who produce the broadcast on site). Though they do a great job of tracking the performances on the day, and the technology is great for stuff like the Hawkeye etc, their use of historical stats is very poor in comparison with the broadcasts for professional baseball, football and basketball. This is especially notable because cricket, like baseball, should be a game that lives and breathes stats.

One small example: Consider Sehwag, who stunk out the joint for match after match before he was dropped. I can't recall any substantial discussion of his stats, looking at his performances over, say, his last ten and twenty matches and taking into account the quality of the opposition. This allowed him to be selected for the World Cup when he was playing quite badly, and the same stat-ignorance allowed people to conclude that all was well after he blasted a few runs against Bermuda. Runs against bad bowling was never his problem. Consistency was. Armed with the right stats, the commentators should take the selectors to task for their poor decisions.

Which brings me to another point: Stats from domestic cricket should be picked over, analyzed and re-analyzed for hidden stories when the team brings in new players. What are the selectors using to make their decisions, if not numbers? Are they just looking at the guys and saying, "Hmmm. He looks good, and he's from Maharashtra?" Presumably, they have some basis for their arguments. But one gets the idea that they only wake up when a player has a breakout performance on a big stage--such as when Irfan Pathan blew away the opposition in the under 19 world cup a few years back. And that's a big problem for the team. Why else does a Mahendra Singh Dhoni "burst onto the scene" at such a late stage in his career? Did he suddenly become good at 27? I don't think so. He must have been doing great things in obscurity before. What were his stats? Where was he playing? Why was Patel selected and he overlooked? These are questions that should be part of the cricket coverage on an ongoing basis.

Maybe I'm wrong about the players I'm using as examples. I don't know. But if I was constantly bombarded with statistical comparisons--the way I'd be in a US sports broadcast--I'd know for sure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Jason,

Good post on Sports Coverage in India.

As with most things in India, where we try to ape the West, we tend to give precedence to some things over others.

In this case, we chose to Americanize Cricket - 20/20, cheerleaders, female commentators who know as as much about the game as is big list.

But, being Indians, we don't give much value to professionalism and personality cults have been the rage ever since some rishi munis got together and penned our first mythologies.

Currently, the cricket bosses' party line is:'Out with the Old triumvirate and bring in the 20-20 young guys'.

Well, that's the way with some things and sports lovers are the worse for it.

I have read your views on Delhi life for some time and sorry for not having commented upon your observant pieces before.

I liked your short one on Jim Thomson - small town, low-rent, middle-of-nowhere America and while the Grifters was a good Hollywood film, I was sad how they mangled The Getaway.

- Pramit Singh