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Saturday, October 12, 2019 1:46:32 PM


United States vs. Guyana

Since this hypothetical situation is set in the world of cricket, India happens to be at the centre of the universe. Therefore, this time, we will imagine that a big spaceship landed in the middle of Madhya Pradesh rather than somewhere in the US as Hollywood portrays all the time.

In , citizens are waking up to newspaper editorials bemoaning the absence of a genteel, father figure-like Virat Kohli from the Indian team and are wondering what the world has come to with the boisterous, unruly bunch dotting the lineup.

Bangladesh have become the second-best team in Asia and are challenging the big teams regularly in all formats. The structure of international cricket has changed, with the BCCI pulling the plug on international engagements and expanding the IPL to include Test and one-day formats.

The international game now has friendlies and the big tournaments; T20 is still king of club cricket though. The Royal Challengers Bangalore are yet to win a title—both sets of fans their supporters and their opponents give vent to their contrasting feelings through communal drinking.

Somehow, in the midst of all this, and rather incredibly, the ODI format is still in vogue. It has withstood the onslaught of the shorter format. And since the aliens wish to be taken very seriously, they make sure that they go through the Supreme Court lest their intentions are mistaken to be frivolous.

The stakes are high in this hypothetical series.

The all-powerful aliens would spare Earth of its subjugation if the earthlings were to win—teen guna lagaan and all that. Since this would be mediated by the Supreme Court, it is perhaps more appropriate to call it the Justice League.

Could we use analytical techniques to arrive at this bevy of bewitching batsmen? What do we already know about ODI batting? It is hard to imagine today's ODI openers having the same approach.

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Run rates have been on a continuous upward climb since the World Cup, and so have been the attitude of batsmen at the top of the order. An ODI batsman has to master two variables during his stint in the middle: one, the wickets remaining; two, the balls remaining.

For a batsman facing a target, the runs to get forms the third variable which determines his approach. Therefore, in general, the effectiveness of an ODI batsman is determined by how many runs he scores per dismissal batting average and how fast he scores his runs per balls strike rate.

The product of the two—labelled the batting index BI —has been used by ESPNcricinfo and others as an index to benchmark batsmen against the average batsman of their times.

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By dividing a batsman's BI with the corresponding product of an average batsman positions 1 to 7 during their career BI baseline , a BI ratio has been used to ascertain the various levels at which various batsmen outperformed their peers in a particular era.

As it can be seen in the below tables, the BI baseline has seen a continuous increase with each era at all batting positions. Expand Additionally, the analyses from the first two parts revealed several other insights.

Firstly, it has shown that chasing a target and setting one are two different propositions with respect to the BI. Secondly, in the first three eras of the ODI, the middle order was the best place to bat.

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In the present day, the BI values are more or less flat across the top five. Expand In the previous two exercises, this BI concept was further developed to see which batsmen dominated the world with their performances during different ODI eras nine in total by computing and comparing BI ratios while setting and chasing ODI targets.

A BI ratio of 1. A BI ratio level of 1. Many batsmen have shone in one particular era but have struggled to maintain their lofty heights in other eras—barring a few batting maestros. A champion batting team has boasted of a handful of these players—in the form of their lives—and has generally tasted international success during the era.

Now would this ODI series be played with fielding restrictions? Under lights?

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Two balls? Will Tendulkar be marked as the marauding player of the late nineties or as the player who would time the ball and nudge around for boundaries in the mid-noughties? Would this ODI series be played with fielding restrictions?

Fifty overs? Would Rohit Sharma be considered as an opener or as a middle-order player?

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Why is he considered at all? So many questions. Therefore, any exercise that compares a player from say, 20 years ago, with a current one is fraught with difficulty and some ground rules must be set.

Rather than just ground-breaking statistical peaks, the duration for which the batsmen dominated the rest of the field will be given its due readers can peruse era-centric values in the earlier pieces unless the lofty peaks cannot be overlooked.

And the analytical criteria has to take the vagaries of setting and chasing, ODI eras and the batting position into consideration. The method used in the first two parts of this series using a common BI baseline across the board for a particular era is a good first cut, but it heavily favours the middle-order batsmen.

The BIs of batsmen batting at 6 and 7 are especially lower than the top five, and hence are under-represented in the various tables in parts one and two.

So what about players like Kapil Dev, who batted at the end of the middle order for most of their career? Hence, a tweak has to be applied to the BI baseline, which is based on the batting opportunities that the batsman got during his career.

The average batting position ABP is a number representing the average of all the batting positions batted by the batsman. Now to the selection of the batsmen. Up until 31 December , an ODI match has produced about 54, wickets in about 2 million deliveries bowled—or a wicket every 37 balls.

Top ODI batsmen average about runs per dismissal at a strike rate of about 90, and hence seven such capable batsmen would suffice for the heavy lifting. Ideally, the batting order should comprise of seven competent batsmen with one of them being a wicket-keeper and one of them should also serve as the fifth bowler and two more in the batting order should be able to bowl a few overs as backup.

The seventh player could also be a bowler or a bowling all-rounder, but for the purpose of this exercise we will be looking at all-rounders who were primarily known for their batting prowess but could also bowl the full quota of their overs.

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The selected batsmen would mostly bat in and around their most popular batting positions. The selection will be divided into different phases—openers, numbers three and four and numbers five, six and seven, based on BI baseline similitude in different eras. Expand The peerless Sachin Tendulkar leads the way among batsmen who have batted primarily in the opening slots.

His overall performance is nearly 1. What is even more remarkable is that Tendulkar had a middling record as a middle-order batsman until , and his overall numbers have to be seen in this context.

A notch below him are Greenidge and Hashim Amla, separated by the third decimal point. Expand The number three batsman needs to be a pivot onto the middle order, and be able bat in a variety of ways; if an early wicket should fall, he must be able to compensate by scoring big, or if given a good opening stand, provide a stable platform and take the match to the end.

Scoring ability and way to keep the scoreboard ticking are key attributes. In a relatively short career span, Virat Kohli has separated himself from the rest of the chasing pack, followed by Dean Jones.

Kohli towers over contemporaries such as Kane Williamson and Joe Root, who have good credentials at number three. Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Jacques Kallis have excellent numbers in spite of their lengthy careers. Expand The middle order is backed by two batting bulwarks who select themselves without a semblance of a contest.

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