Thursday, August 30, 2018

What do you do about a problem like Duminy?




When you properly introduce yourself to world cricket with an unbeaten half-century in a 414-run fourth-inning Test chase, and then embed yourself on world psyche with a 166-run run masterclass, the chances of you living up to the hype you would have created for yourself are understandably slim. Even with that caveat, JP Duminy's career has been rather disappointing. Historically speaking, for the last 40-odd years, the average Test cricket average has been around 31. Duminy's Test average was 32. Decidedly bang average. But that was his Test career. He has thankfully retired from that endeavour, not quite successful, but not really a failure. We have a world cup in 10 months, so we are here to talk about his ODI career.

Urbandictionary.com describes the phrase "finesse", as "meaning to make a profit off of someone by fooling them to buy something that is low quality or not real". When you look at Duminy's career average, it seems an acceptable, bordering on really good 37.84. When you look his creer average against the seven teams that qualified for the Champions Trophy this year (even ignoring the reality of Bangladesh having been pretty poor for large swathes of his career), this plummets to 29.97. Could you describe a man averaging 30 against top class opposition, having been an international for nearly 15 years, having played nearly 200 ODIs. Rarely, if ever has the phrase "finesse" been more applicable to an international athlete. Logic entails that to win a world cup, you need to beat the best teams in the world. Especially in this edition where there is only one team which could traditionally be called a minnow, Afghanistan. All the more worrying then when you take a closer look at JP's figures against top teams. How has JP failed against big sides? Let me count the ways.

In ICC competition, Duminy averages 31.29 at a strike rate of 90.32. Once again bang average, but on the face of it all just about acceptable. Scarier though, in ICC competition against the teams which competed in the 2017 Champions Trophy, i.e the top 8 teams in the world, he averages 16.73 at a strike rate of 74. But that's a bigger picture. How does it look specific to English conditions? Well, unfortunately, not much better. In English conditions, against the top 8 teams in the world, Duminy averages 22 at a 90s-esque strike rate of 71.27. Rarely if ever has a player flattered to deceive, or finessed, as well, for as long as JP Duminy. It is difficult, maybe even impossible for an athlete in the twilight of his years to properly recapture the magic from their peak years. It is in all likelihood beyond the realm of miracles to expect an athlete who never actually had the magic to 'recapture' a magic which he never even had.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Miller Time: Sometimes


David Miller. Sometimes known as Davey Miller, other times known as "Killer Miller". He is, with the retirement of AB de Villiers arguably the most destructive batsman in the Proteas set up when he gets it right. For the last three years leading into this year, he'd got it right more often than not. From 2015 until 2017, David Miller scored 1306 runs at an average of 52 and a strike rate of 110. You could argue that he was one of, if not the, premier #5 batsmen in world cricket for a spell. Of the active Protea members, only Faf du Plessis had a higher average than David Miller over the 2015-2017 time period. But that was then, and this is now. Right now David Miller looks like he could get cholera and end up constipated, such is his complete inability to get the runs. There are of course still flashes of the old nuke bomb Miller. As we speak, he has scored 129 runs without losing his wicket at a strike rate of nearly 200 in the Caribbean Premier League. He's basically in seek and destroy mode at #5 there, and it is working a dream. Unfortunately in the green and gold, one year away from possibly his last chance to lift a world cup, he's averaging 21.


 You can't keep someone who is having that barren a run, surely? Au contraire my comrades. Not only can we keep David Miller around, you see, we have no other choice. If we are to win the world cup next year (don't laugh), not only does David Miller have to stick around, he has to indeed be the standard bearer. You see, David Miller averages 53 in ICC competition. The great Hashim Amla averages 40. Quinton de Kock, promising as he is. gifted as he may be, averages 25. Our Captain. The grimmest man in cricket, Faf du Plessis, "only" averages 47. JP Duminy? It won't surprise you to know it's a not-quite saviour-worthy 31. There's really only one guy in South African cricket, with the bat anyway, who has a proven track record of being not just good... but elite with the bat at ICC competition. He can't buy a run right now, but if there's anything sport has taught us, it is that cream rises, and in the brightest lights, when the floor is heaviest and breaths are just that little bit tighter, David Miller shines harder, breathes better and moves better than any one else in that team.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Greatest South African cricketers: Jacques Kallis


Twenty-two. That is the amount of players in all of cricketing history who have taken more international wickets than Jacques Kallis. Four. That is in totality the amount of players in all of international cricket who have scored more runs than Jacques Kallis. No other player appears in the top 25 in both lists. In fact, no other player appears in the top fifty. You could expand that into a top 100 list, and the only player not named Kallis to feature would be Shahid Afridi. A mildly surprising fact, I suppose, but there you go. Of course, an achievement like this is inherently related to longevity, as well as continued health, but much of that longevity has to do with the fact that Jacques Kallis was for 15 years the undisputed best all-rounder in the game, especially when all formats were considered. Do you know who wasn't the best in their art for 15 years? Michael Jordan. You know who else? Tiger Woods.

In Jacques Kallis, South Africa had arguably the most statistically dominant athlete in their chosen profession and skillset since Don Bradman himself. Any man who scored 45 Test centuries would be a shoo-in for being the greatest batsman in that country's history. Don't believe me? Here is a list of players with 40 Test centuries:
Sachin Tendulkar
Ricky Ponting
Jacques Kallis
Kumar Sangakkara

With the exception Ponting, who is probably behind Bradman, all these individuals are most definitely the greatest batsmen in their respective country's history. But of the man in that hallowed circle, only Jacques Kallis could then arguably be argued to be one of the top 10-15 bowlers in their nation's history.

It is a criticism of Kallis that he wasn't a great match-winner, like Tendulkar, or Botham, or whoever else you may see as a match-winner. But how can you doubt the works of a man with 82 Test victories? Only three players have more victories? How can you doubt the works of a man with the third-most runs on Test victories in history? We live in a Style-based society. That is how. People see a man score slowly and they think it's detrimental. Ladies, and gentlemen, you have five days, fifteen sessions and 450 overs to win a Test match. A man scoring a hundred in 220 deliveries compared to 60 in 90 has almost never been the cause of a victory denied. As a nation, South Africa doesn't really do hero worship. If we revered athletes the way Americans or Indians do, Kallis would undoubtedly have a sneaker deal, or a book deal or something. But we don't so he doesn't. All he got is me writing an okayish blog entry extolling the virtues of the GOAT.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Greatest South African cricketers: Graeme Pollock

 If averages is your gig, then there can be no doubt that Graeme Pollock presents a very compelling case for being South Africa's greatest ever cricketer. In fact, he was voted just that in 2000, and it is debatable whether anything has happened since to bring that finding into disrepute. A crunching left-handed batsman. he had it all. The cover drive, the leg glance, the pull, the hook the cut. The ferocity. Before Viv Richards had the temerity to not wear helmets at bowlers bowling at 90mph, you could argue that Graeme Pollock was the original Master Blaster. Standing at 6'4, with a "road sweeper" for a bat, he certainly could make his presence felt. Many say Barry Richards is the greatest South African cricketer to ever lace them up. He certainly played well enough to back up that assertion in the limited opportunities he got. However, any man who played an innings Bill Lawry called the greatest knock he'd ever seen, or is acclaimed as the best left-hander ever seen by The Don himself has a particularly strong claim to being the Greatest.

PROS: His 274 vs Australia is arguably the greatest knock ever played by a South African, and if you disagree with that then there's a chance you may find his 140 vs England to be the greatest knock by a South African. It's hard to argue with the greatness of a man who only put together two all-time tons in a very abbreviated career. Even more so when that career ended with an average of 60.97.

CONS: Unfortunately, a short career means you had a short career. Sounds obvious, I suppose but it's important to note when calling someone the greatest. How often has a player who only played 12 games in a 38-game season won player of the season, no matter how incredibly superlative that season was? That's the largest drawback. Secondly, when you look at Pollock's list of opponents, it does, unfortunately, have absolutely a suspicious deficit when it comes to subcontinental opposition. Not his fault of course, but his mastery of different conditions will forever remain.

The old man isn't in the greatest health at the moment, but he certainly was the cricketing equivalent of Thor when he dropped his Mjolnir.

To the couch for Bouch

There is an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, we will tolerate you until we can replace ...