By: Chinmay Vaidya
It is heard so often from commentators, players and coaches. Some leagues, like the IPL, even give out points for it. Sportsmanship is a complex thing to navigate in professional sports at the highest level. On one hand, there's a game to be won and careers to be built. On the other, there's a certain level of respect we expect from competitors towards one another even in a high-stakes environment.
At the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa, there were three major instances of where sportsmanship and the "spirit of the game" were brought into question. Two incidents occurred on the field while one took place on social media. There's won't be any judgements on what the right or wrong thing to do in each situation is, but we can look at the reactions from players, coaches and administrations to decipher how people in the game approach this complicated subject.
Incident 1: Australia's players take to Instagram
Australia's U-19 squad already dealt with some criticism for its on-field actions in a match against India, but the real problem came before that match on Instagram. Players took to Instagram to celebrate their berth in the quarterfinal and that's where things got dicey.
Oliver Davies, Liam Scott, Lachlan Hearne, Tanveer Sangha and Sam Fanning replied to Jake Fraser-McGurk's post in choppy English, seemingly aimed at non-native English speakers and potentially at India's players. The post was deleted and the players apologized, but the damage was already done. According to ESPN Cricinfo, Cricket Australia is considering sanctions for the players due to the post. The administration issued a statement on the incident, essentially saying it holds Australia's players to a higher standard. Australia would end up losing to India and Fraser-McGurk, who made the post, had to leave the team early and fly back home to get treatment for a monkey scratch while visiting a monkey reserve for a team outing. Call it karma if you wish.
At the end of the day, these are teenage kids doing typical teenage things. However, the sheer unnecessary nature of the action warrants a closer look. What seemed like good fun for the players could definitely have been taken the wrong way. It's a good narrative for people in the media and it'll get attention, but it's not the type of thing CA wants to deal with. The players weren't taking digs at their opponent's skills; they were going beyond that. This is where we cross the sport threshold and move into the humanity aspect of something. And once you've done that, you can safely say the actions of Australia's players have no place in the game.
Incident 2: Afghanistan's Noor Ahmad pulls a "Mankad" on Pakistan's Mohammad Huraira
This is a favorite among fans, commentators and ex-players. Ravichandran Ashwin, the "Mankad king", is inspiring a whole generation of players. There's several things to consider when looking at a "Mankad" incident. The first is whether is how the bowler took off the bails at the non-striker end.
As we can clearly see from the video, the bowler doesn't attempt to complete his delivery and back out halfway through to take off the bails. Ahmad does it in a quick motion when Huraira is outside of the crease. By the letter of the law, Huraira is out. And many people can get behind this. The batsman should stay in his crease until the ball is bowled so he doesn't gain an unfair advantage with a start. That's where we go to Step 2.
Huraira did not take off like a sprinter at the 100 meter dash. He's casually strolling outside his crease and by the time he's actually out, you could argue Ahmad's delivery would've been halfway down the pitch had the bowler continued his action. Huraira wasn't intentionally trying to gain an advantage. We know this because of Step 3: the game situation.
At the time of the "Mankad" incident, Pakistan was 127 for 3 and needed 63 runs from 134 balls to win the match. Huraira was the in-form batsman with 64 runs to his name. He didn't need to gain an advantage for a single run. Pakistan were fully in control of the match. Which meant Afghanistan had to do something to potentially win, even if it meant resorting to cheap tricks to get a player out in a way he couldn't see coming. After the game, Afghanistan captain Farhan Zakhil came clean to ESPN Cricinfo about the whole situation.
"At that time, we realised let's do something different to build pressure on Pakistan," Zakhil told ESPN Cricinfo. "To be honest, it was not in the spirit of the game. But we wanted to win. It was a very important game for us. The people of Afghanistan wanted us to beat Pakistan. But it's within the rules - and out is out. You have to stay within the crease. If you want to reduce the pitch length to 16 or 18 yards, then you're creating a problem for us. If you want to make runs and rotate the strike, you must respect the opposition, which is why we went ahead. If we were winning, we probably wouldn't have done it."
The key phrases in that quote are "let's do something different", "we wanted to win" and "if we were winning, we probably wouldn't have done it". Zakhil admitted the action wasn't in the "spirit of the game", but said the team went ahead with it because it needed to get back in the game to possibly win it and had basically run out of all other options. Huraira wasn't getting out in normal gameplay so the Afghanistan team had to try something else.
The "Mankad" is nothing new. It's been done before and will be done again. The problem is that it's used at a time where everything else has failed and players admit it's a "bush league" tactic that doesn't fall within the flow of the game. You don't see players use the "Mankad" sporadically throughout the game. You only see this stuff being done when the chips are down and the win is more important than anything else. For me, the circumstances surrounding the "Mankad" are enough to say it's an unsportsmanlike action and should be removed from the game. The rule is what it is, but we'd see this far more often if the players thought of it as just that.
Incident 3: Bangladesh's players get in a scuffle after winning the U-19 World Cup
Here's a video of what happened when Bangladesh knocked home the winning runs in a rain-shortened final against India courtesy of UnBumf's Sameer Allana.
Whether Bangladesh's players intended to rub the win in India's face or not, storming the pitch and getting in the opponent's faces is a surefire way to get a reaction. India's U-19 captain Priyam Garg called the reaction "dirty". Bangladesh U-19 skipper Akbar Ali apologized for the incident, saying "it shouldn't have happened" while also commenting on the circumstance in which it happened.
Garg commented on the team's reaction, which came after WINNING A WORLD CUP. Whether or not words were said (and I'm sure there were words said), this seems normal. Just like the "Mankad" situation, here's where the competitive nature of players and winning comes before a sense of sportsmanship. Did Bangladesh's players have to get in the opposition's faces? Probably not. Does it mean they were attempting to degrade them? Most likely not.
Once again, these are teenagers celebrating a World Cup win against a major rival. There are very few times Bangladesh gets the upper hand on India in cricket. For some of these players, winning a U-19 World Cup will be the highlight of their professional career. They may not make it to a World Cup with Bangladesh's top team. This might be the best they do. They have earned the right to celebrate by winning the match. If India didn't want them to celebrate, they should've won the match themselves.
England's players ran around the pitch after a thrilling Super Over win in the 2019 World Cup final against New Zealand. This celebration from Bangladesh's players is no different.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
Death, taxes and Australian middle-order batsmen. Just when it seems like one is fading, another steps up to take his place. From Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh and Michael Hussey to Michael Clarke, George Bailey and Steven Smith, Australia's middle order is always a force to be reckoned with. At the 2019 World Cup, however, Australia failed to capture its middle order magic in key situations en route to a semifinal exit.
Enter Marnus Labuschagne, Australia's next great middle-order batsman.
At least for the time being. After Labuschagne dispatched Pakistan and New Zealand in a home Test summer which saw him rack up a double hundred, four centuries and three half-centuries, it's hard not to see him as a future stars in limited overs cricket. Add to the fact his desire to master all formats of the game and you've got the makings of a true superstar. But how does Labuschagne's start in Tests compare to recent Aussie greats?
Here's how Labuschagne and four other Australian batsmen fared in their first 14 Test matches, respectively. The batsmen selected have not only demonstrated strong production across multiple formats of the game, but also fit closest to the era of cricket Labuschagne will be entering.
Marnus Labuschagne: 23 innings, 1,459 runs, 4 100s, 8 50s, 63.43 true average, 215 highest score
Ricky Ponting: 22 innings, 889 runs, 2 100s, 5 50s, 40.41 true average, 127 highest score
Michael Clarke: 21 innings, 841 runs, 2 100s, 3 50s, 40.04 true average, 151 highest score
Michael Hussey: 24 innings, 1,554 runs, 5 100s, 8 50s, 64. 75 true average, 182 highest score
Steven Smith: 28 innings, 825 runs, 1 100, 5 50s, 29.46 true average, 138 highest score
Labuschagne and Hussey got off to flying stars in their Test careers while Smith was still slogging as an all-rounder before blossoming as a batting superstar. Ponting and Clarke were strong, but not spectacular. To get a better idea of how reflective these early numbers were of each player's career, let's dive into conversion rates for centuries and half-centuries. Here are the same 5 batsmen's century and half-century combined conversion rates in their first 14 Test matches.
Labuschagne: 52 percent
Ponting: 32 percent
Clarke: 33 percent
Hussey: 54 percent
Smith: 21 percent
Now compare those numbers with their overall Test combined conversion rates.
Ponting: 36 percent
Clarke: 28 percent
Hussey: 35 percent
Smith: 42 percent
Smith has absolutely taken off since his early career while Hussey and Clarke slowed down significantly in making big scores. Ponting stayed relatively consistent over the course of his career. Now let's look at these players' ODI combined conversion rates. Labuschagne hasn't played in an ODI yet, but his Test start can still help us get an idea of how he'll look as a one-day player.
Ponting: 31 percent
Clarke: 30 percent
Hussey: 27 percent
Smith: 30 percent
The average change in combined conversion rate from Tests to ODIs for the four players is 6.75. If we eliminate Smith, who is a somewhat rare case in this scenario, the average change drops to 5. Take out Hussey, a mercurial middle-order player in the limited overs format, and the average change sinks to 3.5. If Smith had played in his current role for his whole career, it's likely his conversion rate would fall somewhere in line with Clarke's and Ponting's in terms of average change.
Labuschagne obviously isn't going to keep up his ridiculous home summer over the long run. The question is whether his game will ultimately translate to the limited overs format and his combined conversion rate will be a good indicator of that. He might be a streaky player like Hussey or a consistent rock like Smith, Clarke and Ponting. Either way, Australia's next middle-order star looks to be here.
By: Chinmay Vaidya, Aneesh Tyle, Aashay Chavan and Paarth Joshi
Big Bash 2019-20 is here with two big twists: an extra team will make the playoffs and the playoff format will reward teams with the best record during the regular season.
In all its previous editions, the Big Bash selected the top four teams for the playoffs. This is no different from the rest of the world's domestic T20 leagues, but there was a catch. In the Big Bash, there were previously no qualifiers or eliminators. It was two semifinals and a final. The top teams in the regular season didn't get multiple shots at the trophy. One bad game and you were gone.
This time, the Big Bash playoff format has been tweaked significantly. For starters, a fifth team will be added to the playoff pool. This has already caused some skepticism, especially since there are only 8 teams in the Bash to begin with. It's very possible a team with a losing record will get a chance to win the whole thing.
With a fifth team in the fold, this means there's an extra elimination game. The first and second place teams from the regular season will play a qualifier with the winner going directly to the final. The fifth place team plays the fourth place team in the first eliminator, which the Bash is calling "The Eliminator". The winner of that game plays the third place team in "The Knock-Out". The winner of "The Knock-Out" plays the loser of the first qualifier in the second qualifier, which the Bash is calling "The Challenger". This is more in line with the world T20 league formats, but with an Australian twist. Here's The Follow On crews' predictions for the 2019-20 Big Bash season.
WHO ARE THE FIVE PLAYOFF TEAMS?
Chinmay Vaidya: Brisbane Heat, Hobart Hurricanes, Melbourne Stars, Perth Scorchers, Melbourne Renegades
Aneesh Tyle: Brisbane Heat, Melbourne Renegades, Melbourne Stars, Perth Scorchers, Sydney Sixers
Aashay Chavan: Sydney Sixers, Melbourne Stars, Melbourne Renegades, Hobart Hurricanes, Brisbane Heat
Paarth Joshi: Adelaide Strikers, Brisbane Heat, Hobart Hurricanes, Melbourne Renegades, Melbourne Stars
WHO IS THE PLAYER OF THE SERIES?
CV: AB de Villiers, Brisbane Heat
AT: AB de Villiers, Brisbane Heat
AC: Alex Carey, Adelaide Strikers
PJ: Alex Carey, Adelaide Strikers
WHO SCORES THE MOST RUNS IN BIG BASH 2019-20?
CV: Ben Dunk, Melbourne Stars
AT: Callum Ferguson, Sydney Thunder
AC: Marnus Labuschagne, Brisbane Heat
PJ: Marnus Labuschagne, Brisbane Heat
WHO TAKES THE MOST WICKETS IN BIG BASH 2019-20?
CV: Jhye Richardson, Perth Scorchers
AT: Rashid Khan, Adelaide Strikers
AC: Sandeep Lamchhane, Melbourne Renegades
PJ: Chris Jordan, Melbourne Stars
WHO WINS BIG BASH 2019-20?
CV: Brisbane Heat
AT: Brisbane Heat
AC: Melbourne Renegades
PJ: Adelaide Strikers
By: Chinmay Vaidya
David Warner was unstoppable.
No matter what Pakistan tried to do, Warner had an answer. He led the Australian run-scoring machine with 335 runs and stayed not out, securing the highest score at Adelaide in a Test match and the second-highest Test score by an Australian batsman in the process. With that triple hundred, Warner inches closer towards the ultimate legacy: a superstar in all three formats of cricket.
Warner has just over 6,900 Test runs, just under 5,000 one-day runs and just over 9,000 T20 runs. He's had to wait his turn in the one-day ranks due to Australia's dominant top orders, but Warner picked up the pace when he got his shot. He's tied for fourth in fastest to 4,000 ODI runs with Virat Kohli, taking 93 innings to reach the milestone. He has 41 international centuries across all formats, tied for 13th of all time. And now, his individual Test milestone allows him to check one more box.
It has been an interesting 24 months for Warner. He was dominating the game as usual before the infamous ball-tampering scandal kept him out of cricket for 12 months. Warner returned for the 2019 IPL and picked up right where he left off, accumulating 692 runs in 12 matches. That was 99 more runs in two less games than KL Rahul, who finished in second place. Warner continued his brilliance at the 2019 World Cup, but Australia failed to defend its title. Then, he had a horrendous Ashes series before returning to home soil and dominating.
As Australia gears up for a huge Test series with New Zealand as part of the World Test Championship, Warner's chase for ultimate greatness comes into focus. He's 33 but looks good to play at least through the 2023 World Cup, a tournament he excels in. Warner put up 345 runs in Australia's 2015 triumph at a ridiculous 120.20 strike rate. He poured in 647 runs in 10 2019 World Cup matches, albeit at a strike rate of 89.36. His three centuries and three half-centuries were big improvements from the 2015 campaign.
Warner is one of 10 players currently holding more than 8,000 T20 runs. Factor in 8,000 one-day runs and that list gets trimmed to four. Add in 8,000 Test runs and AB de Villiers stands alone but Kohli and Warner are close. To be one of only three players to cross the 8k plateau in all formats would be the capper for a player who has already won a World Cup and will likely get two more chances at the T20 World Cup, one more World Cup and a World Test Championship. Ironically, Warner and Kohli's race for these accolades comes at the same time.
To realistically have a shot at crossing 8k runs in the Test and one-day arenas, Warner will have to play through the 2023 World Cup. That'll give him three more seasons and a tournament he historically does well to cross both thresholds.
Warner has 149 Test innings to date with an true average of 46.6 runs per inning. To reach 8,000 Test runs assuming he keeps the same pace, Warner will need just 23 more innings. Throw in some chunk scores and he could cross the milestone even quicker.
In the one-day game, the equation is a bit tougher. Warner arrived late to the party, but still crossed 4,000 runs in 93 innings. He'll likely cross 5,000 the next time he appears in a one-day game in inning No. 115. So how many innings will he need to hit the magic 8k, assuming he hits 5,000 in the next ODI match he plays?
Here's what Warner did to reach 4,000 and 5,000 runs, respectively. Using those scoring rates and factoring in potential decline with age, we can predict if Warner is likely to hit 8,000 one-day runs.
Warner crossing 4,000 runs: 93 innings, 43.01 runs per inning
Warner from 4,000 to 5,000 runs: 115 innings, 45.45 runs per inning
Because Warner arrived late to the one-day party, his production curve isn't exactly typical of someone with these volume milestones. Warner is still scoring at a similar rate despite entering his mid-30s, a good sign for his chase. Still, we should factor in some decline. Let's assume Warner takes roughly 10% more time to reach each of the next milestones. Here's what his inning count would look like and how many runs he would score per inning in each thousand run band.
Warner to reach 6,000 runs: 139 innings, 41.67 runs per inning
Warner to reach 7,000 runs: 165 innings, 38.46 runs per inning
Warner to reach 8,000 runs: 194 innings, 34.48 runs per inning
To hit 194 innings, Warner would have to add 80 attempts to his current tally. A World Cup would take between nine and 11 away from that number in a short span, but that still puts Warner in his late 30s attempting to cross 8k. If he scores at 45.45 runs per inning with zero decline, he'll project to hit 8,000 ODI runs in by inning No. 180.
The 2023 World Cup will be key in Warner's chase. If he can repeat his 2019 performance, that would shave off significant runs from his ultimate chase. He'll hit the Test milestone and his T20 record is already set, but will Warner cement himself as one of the all-time greats across formats with his ODI performance?
By: Chinmay Vaidya
The Hundred has finally arrived.
ECB's long-awaited domestic cricket competition is finally getting up and running. The Hundred will likely replace the Vitality Blast as England's top domestic league and it is taking conventional cricket for a spin.
As you can probably guess, each inning will consist of 100 deliveries instead of the 120 in a typical T20 match. Here's where it gets odd. Each bowler can bowl up to 20 balls in the innings in increments of five or 10 balls at a time. Players will change ends after 10 balls are bowled. This will lead to different strategies and bowler management from your typical T20 match. It'll also likely create some awkward situations initially with players used to an over being six deliveries instead of five or 10.
There were significant conversations on both sides regarding The Hundred, but the player lineup looks outstanding. Aside from the Indian powerhouse names, the rest of the world's stars are set to compete. On a surface level, The Hundred is a cheap innovation of T20 domestic cricket. But this competition was never designed to be just another league.
Differentiation is the key to success when attempting to draw viewers and England has surprisingly struggled to create excitement around cricket, despite the national team's thundering success over the last two years. That could change with the new format. Although the county associations won't stick in this league, people will tune in. The format has intentionally been modified to attract a new audience, not just bring in the old cricket fans.
The Hundred will also allow England's young players to showcase themselves against top international talent, an opportunity they wouldn't have gotten in the IPL, BBL or CPL. This will further help the sport grow in the country with locals coming to cheer on hometown heroes making a name for themselves. There will be at least one player every year fans don't see coming. These domestic leagues can springboard a cricketer to international fame. The Hundred gives England's youngsters that opportunity.
The first Hundred player draft took place Oct. 20 and the eight teams have filled out their roster. There will be changes as players find out their availability, but there is already some shakeup. Chris Gayle and Lasith Malinga, two all-time greats in the shortest format of the game, weren't selected in the initial process. They'll likely find a way to get in as the tournament nears.
The competition will be heavily scrutinized in its initial season and that's good for the sport. People will want to see whether this format is actually fun or just cheap innovation. The Hundred is not conventional cricket by design, but it should attract large viewership and create brilliant moments just the same. Time will tell if the format is here to stay, but the competition has already done its job without a single ball being bowled.