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'Ask the umpires what they think' - Taufel

Thursday April 17, 2014
Simon TaufelSimon Taufel
Gallo Images / Getty Images

Many cricket fans of the 2000s would agree Simon Taufel was the best umpire of the era. The spry and wise Australian, who was only 29 when he umpired his first Test match, developed reliability and consistency based in his constant pursuit of high standards. Umpires are so often the authority that forces a batter or bowler to grin and accept a decision, but Taufel -- who is now the ICC's umpire performance and training manager -- reckons umpires can offer players more than they might think.

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A comparatively tame IPL 2014 Opening Ceremony

Wednesday April 16, 2014

The Indian Premier League is as much about what happens off the field as what transpires on it. And while an IPL opening ceremony is usually a reliable indicator of glitz, glamour, and excess, IPL 2014 began in comparatively tame fashion with a gala dinner in Abu Dhabi. Being the IPL, though, it wasn't without a slice of weirdness.

In 2012, American pop star Katy Perry closed a ceremony that also featured a poetry reading by Indian film legend Amitabh Bachchan and a series of dance performances by Bollywood heartthrob Salman Khan. 2013 saw US rapper Pitbull appear, as well as Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, and Deepika Padukone. These were large outdoor arena tamashas, with scores of dancers and major multimedia components, and the public were invited (as long as they could afford the ₹1500 ticket price).

Compared to all that, the 2014 edition was pretty low-key -- apparently a conscious decision by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) after a glut of recent controversies. Shah Rukh was there, again, but most of the rest of the entertainment at the small(ish) gala dinner was provided by the same cricketers that will provide the on-field drama throughout the tournament.

Before you start thinking there was nothing bizarre or over the top about the IPL 2014 opening ceremony, though, take a look at this photo of MS Dhoni and Kevin Pietersen. Pietersen is attempting to dance while wearing a lungi, a belt, and a trilby over casual evening wear, while Dhoni sitting on a chair with his wrists tied and grinning amiably.

Your guess is as good as mine. I suppose the suggestion is that we can expect the unexpected this IPL.

You can ciew more photos from the IPL 2014 gala dinner opening here. In the meantime, Kolkata Knight Riders thrashed defending champions Mumbai Indians in the opening match, with Jacques Kallis -- who I picked as a player to watch this year -- standing out.

It's IPL time, again

Wednesday April 16, 2014

Indian Premier League 2014, the seventh edition of the world's flashiest cricketing extravaganza, begins in the United Arab Emirates tonight. Whether you like the IPL and Twenty20 cricket or not, it's time to take a deep breath, because you won't be able to escape it until early June.

The IPL saga has gone through a lot of twists and turns since it started in 2008 with this stupendous Brendon McCullum innings, and the madness on the field has been rivalled by the ups and downs off it. Teams like Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Pune Warriors India have come and gone amid financial strife, while past winners Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals have been rocked by corruption scandals in the past year. What could IPL 2014 hold in store?

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South Africans could dominate this year's IPL

Tuesday April 15, 2014
Indian Premier League logo(c) BCCI

Gee, it's tough coming up with players to watch in the 2014 Indian Premier League. It isn't hard to pick out quality players, of course -- the IPL is stacked with much of the world's best cricketing talent. The problem is, where do you stop?

In my article IPL 2014: The Squads, and Players to Watch, I limited myself to one standout player per team. Perhaps this was a mistake. It took hours to settle on the eight players I think will be most worth keeping an eye through IPL 2014, and I had to cast aside countless names I wanted to include.

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Questions about the World T20

Sunday April 13, 2014

Love it or hate it, the World Twenty20 has had a major impact on cricket. Look at the wild celebrations in Sri Lanka after their team's victory in the 2014 final, for example, which were basically a 35km-long party. The impact of World T20 victory was even greater in India after its 2007 win, which led to the creation of the Indian Premier League and started Mahendra Singh Dhoni on his path to becoming arguably India's greatest ever captain.

But how do you feel about World Twenty20? Are you a T20 lover or hater? Here are few questions for which I'm keen to hear people's answers.

  1. How much of the World T20 did you watch, whether live or through highlights packages?
  2. Did you enjoy seeing ICC Associate nations play against Full Member states in the World T20?
  3. It's been suggested the celebrations in Sri Lanka were greater for the 2014 World Twenty20 win than for the 1996 World Cup win. Do you think the World T20 is as prestigious a competition as the 50-over World Cup?
  4. Do you think the World T20 could someday replace the World Cup?
  5. In terms of the nature of the contest, how much of an effect is Twenty20 having on Test cricket?

If you're in the mood, write your answers in the comments below!

The Single That Went For Four

Thursday April 10, 2014
Ellyse Perry at Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Sydney, 2011Ellyse Perry
Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images

Cricket Australia are reporting the Southern Stars, Australia's women's cricket team, are campaigning for Ellyse Perry to be awarded four runs for her shot that won the team its third consecutive Women's World Twenty20 crown.

It seems like a fair request. From the first ball of the 16th over, bowled by England's Danni Hazell, Perry smacked it to the boundary on the leg side -- which is usually signalled four by the umpire. However, the live commentary for the match indicates Perry was only awarded one, thus finishing the innings on 31 not out rather than 34.

To muddying the waters further, the ball didn't just run away to the boundary. In an apparent act of frustration, England fielder Natalie Sciver purposely kicked it into the rope (see the video in the Cricket Australia link above). Is this why Perry -- one of the biggest stars of women's cricket, by the way -- get her four?

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Prizewinning photo evokes Sachin's glory

Wednesday April 9, 2014

I can't show you the Wisden - MCC Photo of the Year for 2014 -- copyright restrictions and all that -- but I can tell you that it shows Sachin Tendulkar emerging from the pavilion at the Wankhede Stadium as he prepares to bemagin his final Test innings.

Okay, hang on. That gives you no sense of what Mid Day photographer Atul Kamble's amazing image evokes. Let me try and describe it in a little more detail.

More than half of the photo, from its left edge to a little right of the centre, is a clamour of cricket enthusiasts jostling for position alongside the pavilion steps. They stand in the shadow of the stand, meaning the colours they wear -- apart from a few bright blue India one-day cricket shirts -- are grey shades of themselves. Almost all of these people are holding up cameras, or their phones, and pointing them at the top of the steps.

The subject of their adulation is Sachin Tendulkar, and with a television audience of countless millions watching around the world at that moment, they stand in for cricket fans everywhere.

Tendulkar himself, padded up and putting on his gloves as he walks, is barely one step out of the pavilion. His bat, with its tricolour handle, is under his arm. The last of the afternoon sun reflects off the grille and India badge of his helmet.

Before he turns to his left to head down the steps and into the arena, Tendulkar looks in the direction of that sun, which is setting on his epic career. Beyond the crowd, a concrete wall is struck yellow by that sunlight. That's where he's headed: off into the distance, away from the idolatrous gaze of a nation. Just after one last job.

Atul Kamble clicks his shutter, and captures the moment for those clamouring masses. Beautiful.

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A 35km victory parade for Sri Lanka

Tuesday April 8, 2014
Sri Lankan cricketers with World T20 trophywww.flickr.com user himanisdas

Sri Lanka celebrated its 2014 ICC World Twenty20 win with its supporters as it arrived home on 8 April to a hero's welcome.

After being greeted at the airport by dignitaries and a sizeable band of supporters, the Sri Lankan team -- including retiring legends Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara -- hopped on an open-top bus to be taken to Galle Face Green in Colombo city. This was a journey of over 35km, but it was lined the whole way by fans desperate for a sight of their champions.

Jayawardene and Sangakkara live-tweeted the celebration. I've collected a few of their tweets and photos to give a summary of the occasion : see 'Sri Lanka's 2014 World T20 Parade in Colombo' on Storify.

ESPNcricinfo's Andrew Fidel Fernando offered a first-hand account of the parade, too:

"For many -- even adults -- this would have almost certainly been the grandest public occasion since the end of the war eased bomb-blast fears. [...] The Sinhala, Tamil and English pop played late into the evening, the people stayed and danced. It was another Sri Lankan party. The biggest one you've ever seen.

Congratulations, again, to Sri Lanka for breaking an 18-year trophy drought and giving their fans something to cheer about. Not bad for a conflict-stricken country of 20 million people.

The Match-Losing Innings

Monday April 7, 2014
Indian cricket player Yuvraj Singh.www.flickr.com user Slugpost

Yuvraj Singh's painfully slow innings in the final of the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh was an example of the 'match-losing innings', a speculative cricket phenomenon that's been around a while but has been brought into sharp focus by the broad stream of live commentary via social media. From the hashtag #matchlosinginnings on Twitter, there was a raft of updates mentioning Yuvi:

  • "Safe to assume Yuvraj played last game for India? @ZaltzCricket #matchlosinginnings" -@LovellLowdon
  • "Very strange innings from India. Yuvi has almost definitely played a #MatchLosingInnings, unless Sri Lanka bugger it up #wt20final" -@CricCentral
  • "#MatchLosingInnings from Yuvi" -@JackMendel4

Cricket is a game played by teams of eleven people, each of whom has some impact on the eventual outcome, so the phrase 'match-losing innings' is always something of an exaggeration. However, when one declares an innings to be 'match-losing', one aims for feasibility rather than truth. It's more a question than a statement, daring to be refuted: couldn't that have been a match-losing innings? If it weren't for that player's batting performance, couldn't their team have won the match?

Yuvraj has been a talisman in major cricket tournaments for India in the past (see his astonishing six sixes in an over in 2007, or his nerveless run of match-winning performances on the road to glory in 2011). Against Sri Lanka, he limped to 11 runs from 21 balls, and everyone cringed -- except, perhaps, the triumphant Sri Lanka players and their supporters.

We'll never know what might have been had someone else been sent in ahead of Yuvraj Singh. But in his conspicuous failure, he gave the cricketing world a scapegoat on which to pin India's defeat. In doing so, Yuvraj joined other Indian luminaries including Sunil Gavaskar and even Sachin Tendulkar, whose hundredth international hundred (against Bangladesh in 2012) was considered by some to be unnecessarily sluggish.

There's no doubt the epithet will live again. Fans know a match-losing innings when they see one.

Sri Lanka Win 2014 World Twenty20

Sunday April 6, 2014
Sri Lanka's players celebrate after winning the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.Scott Barbour / Getty Images

Sri Lanka ended its 18-year title drought in world cricket tournaments by defeating India in the final of the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.

It was a comfortable win for Sri Lanka in the end as it overhauled India's below-par total of 130 with 13 balls in hand. The legendary left-hander Kumar Sangakkara was there at the end to close out the chase, which gave he and fellow Sri Lankan superstar Mahela Jayawardene a fitting send-off from international Twenty20 cricket.

"We'd been disappointed four times before," said Sangakkara after the win, referring to Sri Lanka's lost finals in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups and 2009 and 2012 World Twenty20 tournaments. "It's hard to describe exactly what you feel, but you feel humble. [...] It's time to walk away, and to walk away like this is even better."

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