Couch Talk 189*

couchtalk-logo-2It. is. done.

I have decided to take an indefinite – and most likely infinite – break from Couch Talk Podcast.

The podcast started as a hobby and was something fun to do in my spare time. I had lost the fun quotient of it a few months ago but kept motoring on till the thought formed fully in my mind that I was done with it. Today is that day.

Thank you all for your wonderful support with your constructive criticisms, feedback, sharing and pushing me to do more with the podcast.

A lot of people played significant roles in the shaping and growth of the podcast, and in its visibility. I am grateful for that but I want to give specific thanks to Jarrod Kimber, Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, Kartikeya Date and Shrikant Subramanian for all they did for the podcast.

Thanks to all the folks that appeared as guests on the show. Without their generosity -of time and thoughts, the show would be nothing.

I cannot thank Bharathram Pattabiraman enough for all the tireless transcribing he has done over the years. His help was instrumental in Couch Talk finding a larger audience.

A huge thanks to Aravind Murali (now a National Award winning music composer) for composing the intro music in a matter of few minutes and letting me use it for all these years. Thanks are to Sunny Mishra for helping me set up the feeds on iTunes etc. Thanks to ESPNcricinfo for featuring the podcast on their site, first as a part of the Cordon blog and later as a Feature.

I had some ideas and reasons behind starting the podcast and doing it for nearly 5 years (The first episode was published on June 2, 2011). I knew I was doing something right when a former international captain said, “It’s a good thing you are doing. Keep it up.” But all things must pass.

It sort of feels sad but 189* is not a bad time to leave the game. The King will be proud.

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Couch Talk 189 with R Ashwin on T20s

ashwinIndian spinner R Ashwin discusses the role of spin bowling in T20s, the asymmetrical contest of bat v ball in T20, and states that people ought to consider T20 as a different sport and not even part of cricket.

 

Download the episode by clicking here or listen to it on SoundCloud.

Read the entire Transcript.

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Enjoy.

Credits:

Intro Music: Aravind Murali and Jaishankar, mixed at ‘Music from The Place’

Transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman

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Couch Talk 188 with Sanjay Bangar

bangarFormer India cricketer and currently their batting coach Sanjay Bangar talks about the responsibilities of his job, the influence of a great generation of batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid on the current side, batting plans in Tests vis-a-vis limited overs, and how he works with players going through a rough patch etc.

Sanjay is on Twitter as: @ImSanjayBangar

 

Download the episode by clicking here or listen to it on SoundCloud.

Read the entire Transcript.

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Enjoy.

Credits:

Intro Music: Aravind Murali and Jaishankar, mixed at ‘Music from The Place’

Transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman

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Couch Talk 187 with Anjali Doshi, “Tendulkar in Wisden”

srt-wisdenAnjali Doshi, editor of “Tendulkar in Wisden” talks about the idea behind the Wisden Anthology, the process of distilling 24 years of writing on Tendulkar in Wisden, her own experiences of covering Tendulkar and discusses the Sachin phenomenon that transformed from being about a great player to the level of infallible.

The book is available from Bloomsbury (LINK) and Amazon (LINK).

Anjali is on Twitter as: @anjaliadoshi

 

Download the episode by clicking here or listen to it on SoundCloud.

Read the entire Transcript.

Subscribe to Couch Talk:  iTunes    Sound Cloud   TuneIn Radio  Stitcher Radio

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Enjoy.

Credits:

Intro Music: Aravind Murali and Jaishankar, mixed at ‘Music from The Place’

Transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman

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Couch Talk 186 with Mike Hussey

Winning Edge Cover-1Former Australian batsman Mike Hussey talks about his new book “Winning Edge: Behind the scenes of elite cricket”, his coaching philosophies, the change in T20 batting approaches, and the various captains he’s played for, amongst other things.

The book is available here: AMAZON LINK

 

Download the episode by clicking here or listen to it on SoundCloud.

Read the entire Transcript.

The podcast first appeared on ESPN Cricinfo.

Subscribe to Couch Talk:  iTunes    Sound Cloud   TuneIn Radio  Stitcher Radio

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Enjoy.

Credits:

Intro Music: Aravind Murali and Jaishankar, mixed at ‘Music from The Place’

Transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman

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Couch Talk 185 with Graeme West, WI U-19 Coach

westWest Indies U-19 side’s coach Graeme West talks about moulding a side of young individuals from the different regions of the Caribbean as a unit, the game plans, the Keemo Paul Mankading incident and the fall-out from it, and looks ahead to the future of the under-19 players, among other things.

 

Download the episode by clicking here or listen to it on SoundCloud.

Read the entire Transcript.

The podcast first appeared on ESPN Cricinfo.

Subscribe to Couch Talk:  iTunes    Sound Cloud   TuneIn Radio  Stitcher Radio

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Enjoy.

Credits:

Intro Music: Aravind Murali and Jaishankar, mixed at ‘Music from The Place’

Transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman

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Should ICC Events be even hosted in India?

No

Omnishambles. That’s what the run up to and the qualifying phase of World T20 2016 being held in India currently has been. It took forever to announce the schedule and the venues. It took even longer for the tickets to go on sale, with their own restrictions. Even as of now, we do not know whether Pakistan will take part in the event. The venue for the India v Pakistan game (Men’s) has already been changed from Dharamsala to Kolkata.

It’s an ordeal to plan for cricket matches (Tests/ODIs/T20Is) held in India. Not till the last moment does one really know the actual dates, venues and the ways to procure tickets. The BCCI and the local associations are both to blame for the continued shitshow surrounding cricket events in India since times immemorial. I have traveled to India several times in the last few years and it is always a close-run thing with respect to tickets especially.

As it is, the fan experience in Indian Stadiums is easily the worst I have endured in my time of watching cricket around the world. The security is mind-boggling and unreasonable. There are hardly any decent concession stands and the comforts of the fans – in their seats and in the toilets – never seem to have figured in the Indian administrators’ minds. Really, why would they care? Their revenue is primarily predicated on TV and that, they have covered. So whether anyone comes to the grounds or what the experience of the few that actually make it is none of their concern.

To all that, add in the further complication of Pakistan in an ICC event. During the 2011 World Cup, Pakistan played all their games in Sri Lanka except for one game in Dhaka (vs WI) and vs. India in Mohali, which was the semifinal. With the 2016 WT20 exclusively in India, Pakistan were scheduled to play a minimum of 4 games (+Warm up matches) on Indian soil. That was always going to be a problem, and it has been proven to be so.

For the 2015 World Cup held in Australia & New Zealand, I booked my tickets for many first round games and knockout games including the final at MCG a year in advance. I even planned an entire world trip culminating at the World Cup final and pulled it off.

So, to get back to the question posed in the title of this post, the answer, again, is No. If this leads to a slight loosening of BCCI’s grip on cricket and ICC, it will be most welcome. In fact, I wish that PCB actually pull out of WT20 2016, and if that happens, the guaranteed loss in revenue for the broadcasters STAR Sports (read in a news report somewhere it could be in the ball park of 30-40%) might actually push the BCCI to do things the right away here on.

England, Sri Lanka, South Africa and to an extent Australia provide very attractive alternatives as hosts for ICC events, with timings that work for the billion-plus strong cricket following in the subcontinent. As of now, Champions Trophy 2021 and ODI World Cup 2023 are scheduled to be held in India. I for one sincerely hope that the goings on of WT20 2016 actually propels the decision makers (ICC, Member boards and the broadcaster) to shift those tournaments away from India. It will be great for cricket and more importantly, the fans.

 

“No” image from: http://neenjames.com/

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Couch Talk 184 with Shoaib Naveed, Project Manager, Pakistan Super League (PSL)

shoaib-naveedIn this episode, Shoaib Naveed talks about his journey from being a student-blogger to becoming the Project Manager of PSL, his position paper that envisioned the PSL, his entry in to Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the various hoops he and his team had to jump through to organize PSL, the various criticisms of PSL’s first edition, and the visions for its future, amongst other things.

Shoaib is on Twitter: @SillyTiddy

 

Download the episode by clicking here or listen to it on SoundCloud.

Read the entire Transcript.

The podcast first appeared on ESPN Cricinfo.

Subscribe to Couch Talk:  iTunes    Sound Cloud   TuneIn Radio  Stitcher Radio

RSS Feed

Enjoy.

Credits:

Intro Music: Aravind Murali and Jaishankar, mixed at ‘Music from The Place’

Transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman

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Nature v Nurture applied to Cricket

Is it nature or is it nurture? This has been one of the long standing debates in psychology relating to the extent of certain aspects of behavior being a product of either inherited or acquired characteristics. More than a century ago, John B. Watson of Johns Hopkins University conducted experiments – popularly known as the “Little Albert Experiment”, [Do read this Wiki link] and provided empirical evidence of classical behavioral conditioning that leant support to the idea of nurture having the major role in determining personal characteristics. Of course, there are the Pavlovian experiments that provide credence to the idea of behavioral conditioning as well. Several psychologists have criticized these theories for being one-dimensional and have noted that it does not account for other types of learning, especially learning that occurs without the use of reinforcement and punishment.

I was thinking about these in regards to batting in cricket: “Are we a product of our environment?” It has been conventional wisdom that subcontinental batsmen are good players of spin, are adept at using their feet to reach the ball and make full use of their supple wrists developed through a system of playing the spinning ball late and maneuvering it in to the gaps in the field to accumulate runs. The other side of this piece of wisdom is that subcontinental batsmen would struggle playing on fast and bouncy pitches when they travel abroad to Australia, South Africa etc. The reverse has been applied to batsmen from there as well, that they can handle the bouncing ball but struggle against spin.

Are these theories absolute? Most definitely not. We have seen subcontinental batsmen pile on the runs in conditions that are supposed to be alien to them and Aussie and Saffa batsmen register massive scores on turning tracks. With every passing year, we are observing batsmen perform feats that shred existing conventions. (Although playing on seaming pitches is still an issue, whether the batsman is from the subcontinent or somewhere else).

I used to open the batting for my House team (“Krishna”) in high school. Not because I was a good batsman or anything. To this day, my highest score in any form of cricket is 49. My batting has deteriorated so much that in the last 10-12 years, if I was sent in at 10 by my club side, I considered it a surprising promotion. My school side allowed me to open because I had a decent defensive technique, and I was able to deny the opposition early wickets from one end. That’s pretty much it.

Then I look back at my formative years of playing cricket in the backyard with my brothers. I had blogged about it too after I took my wife to India to show the places I grew up in.

My brothers and I would play in the cramped, narrow backyard. I’m reproducing the rules of our game from the prior post: “My eldest brother would chuck the cork ball from the far end and there were 2 fielders not too far from the bat (at silly point and forward short leg) and one at backward short leg and another at short mid on. The idea was not to make runs but survive for as long as you can. If you get caught, or bowled, or beaten three times in a row, or hit on the leg twice, or the ball hits the wall without bouncing on the ground, you are out.”

Since getting the batsman bowled was rare, getting them out caught close was the way to go, and hence the balls would be bowled just back of good length so that they bounce high enough for them to be popped up. To counter that, I generally went on the back foot, played with soft hands and dropped them down as close as possible to my feet. Since survival was the goal, I did everything I could to drop the ball to the ground right away.

Backyard where my batting was conditioned out of me

Backyard where my batting was conditioned out of me

This I have carried with me since. I can still defend and survive but playing the ball on its merit almost never entered my conscience. I suppose my batting method is entirely a proof of classical behavioral conditioning. If I didn’t defend the way I did, I would be punished with being dismissed and had to wait a long time to get another turn. The “nature” side of batting never really happened for me, being not blessed with the reflexes and analytical ability to chose the shots to play.

After the experiments were completed on Little Albert, Watson apparently did not have the time to desensitize him from the conditioned fears, and so it is assumed that those fears continued post-experimentally. I am glad that towards the end of my high school years, I began to bowl medium pace which has allowed me to play cricket and enjoy it to this day. In my U.S. University playing days, I bowled the inswinger which came naturally, but learned the outswinger as well so much so that it became my stock delivery. So, then, in some ways, I guess it is all a combination of both, nature and nurture.

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It Looked So Out…

“You don’t often see a batsman walk… for an LBW” screams Michael Slater even as the Blackcaps whoop it up in the background. It was Ricky Ponting that decided to walk without really waiting for Umpire Nigel Llong’s decision off a delivery from Tim Southee during the first innings of the Hobart Test in 2011, which New Zealand went on to win by 7 runs.

Ponting was woefully out of form coming in to that series and chose to play an ugly across the line swipe for the delivery that jagged back in to trap him in front. Even before Southee could turn around and appeal for the LBW< Ponting was on his way.

Another instance of a batsman not really waiting for the umpire decision because he knew he was done for, was MS Dhoni during the 2007 Cricket World Cup first round match vs. Sri Lanka. Muralitharan bowling from around the wicket made the ball straighten and hurry on to the batsman. This time it was Aleem Dar that was preempted by the batsman. India lost the match and were kicked out of the tournament.

On Tuesday, a similar situation arose in the India v Sri Lanka match in the Asia Cup. After being hit for a monstrous six by Thisera Perera earlier in the over, off spinner R Ashwin tossed the ball wide and made the left hander over-extended himself and Dhoni, still the owner of quickest pair of hands behind the wicket in cricket, completed the stumping.

(Video Downloaded from Cricingif.com)

The umpire at square leg, Shozab Raza adjudged the batsman out – a rarity in these days of video replay assistance from the third umpire for almost every line calls. On first look, it seemed that the batsman was caught well short of the crease – after all he was dragged wide and out by Ashwin for proverbial miles. The delivery was so far from Perera that the straight umpire Anisur Rahman called it a wide. The fielding side seemed happy with the appeal and the decision, and it looked to be that so was Perera who walked off without any hesitation or remonstration. He looked so out. It was only when slow motion replays were shown later on that it became apparent that Perera may have regained his ground. If Umpire Raza had sought the assistance of the TV umpire, in all likelihood, Perera would have continued batting.

Should umpire Raza have sought the help of replays to make the decision? It’s a no win situation for him. When umpires seek assistance for front foot no balls, run outs and stumpings for decisions that seem obvious on slow motion replays, the observers of the game complain. Here, umpire Raza had chosen to back his initial instincts but has been shown up by slow motion replays to be wrong. From his vantage point, it must have appeared to be a clear cut decision that the batsman was well short of the crease, and so he had decided to back himself, and I tip my hat to him for that.

We – the fans and armchair experts – cannot have it both ways. We cannot and should not crucify an umpire who is willing to trust his senses to make a decision on the field, while at the same time mock and pillory them when they want the help of third umpire for what might be shown as an obvious decision. These umpires are amongst the best officiating the game of cricket and the sport – administration and the observers – should look to empower them more by having them make more decisions on the field. Of course, they are humans and will make mistakes but that’s part of the game. Remember, it is a game between two teams. The umpire has no horse in this race. He is an unbiased adjudicator.

At any rate, that decision did not really have a major bearing on the outcome of the game as it came towards the end of 19th over of the Sri Lankan innings. India coasted to their win by 5 wickets.

I leave you with another instance from history of a batsman being so out.

“Vic had made no attempt to scramble back. He knew the ball had beaten him and was prepared to pay the penalty, and although he had little chance of regaining his crease on this occasion I think he would have acted similarly if his back foot had been only an inch from safety. As he walked past me he smiled, patted the back of his bat and said, ‘It was too good for me.’”

That’s an extract – a beautiful one at that – from former Aussie spinner Arthur Mailey’s book “10 for 66 and All That” where he defeated the great Victor Trumper. On dismissing Trumper, Mailey said he “felt like a boy who had killed a dove”.

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