The Lyrical Gangster

Evening all.

Thanks for all the comments today. I thought I’d just link a few articles around the web and see where we go.

Never, Ever, A Team Man
Never, Ever, A Team Man

First up, because I’m totally obsessed with the man, and I’m like a broken record, and courtesy of Steve in the comments section, are two articles in the Telegraph on Kevin Pietersen. As if people haven’t noticed, he has a new book coming out, and he’s doing what all good sportsmen do, and plugging it (incidentally, Alan Butcher has one coming out soon, and I’ll be getting that, while Tim Cahill, a legend from my club, has one too – and he retweeted me yesterday, so I’m happy). Not sure who ghost wrote it with him, but I don’t think it was FICJAM (who wrote Flintoff’s latest).

OK. The two articles….

Why I Was The Wrong Choice As England Captain

and

They’ve Not Told Me Why I’m Dropped

There’s not a lot new here. A few meat on the Graham Gooch bones, a bit on not looking at the data, a bit on there was no-one else to captain. All pretty rehashed old stuff, packaged for the bilious. And my oh my don’t they go to town.

The humour here is that, as we’ve pointed out, the real rage, the real bile has been from those who are almost rabid in their hatred. It’s everywhere. I love how they all complain to say he’s an attention seeker (now that’s familiar) and why do the papers keep printing stories about yesterday’s man, then say Cook doesn’t get the attention (there are plenty of stories on him on the web after his 263), and then they take it in turns to prove just how much they hate him, in words. Lots of them.

KP’s two posts at time of writing have 120 and 40 comments. Cook on Rashid has 27. Celebrating Cook’s double hundred has 7. The papers are printing what gets hits, people. You keep feeding them, they’ll keep printing. We’ve moved on from the instransigence and stupidity of our selection process, you lot clearly haven’t. You’ve got what you want, why all the anger?

Next, let’s move on to the wonder of modern literature that is Ed Smith. Now I know we are all massive fans of the know-it-all Eddy, but this latest work on Cricinfo is in need of a serious look. In trying to show how clever he is, how well read and educated, he manages to bury in a sea of orgiastic self-indulgence the point. That cricket is absolutely nuts, and it doesn’t take Einstein, or indeed Ed Smith’s intellect, to sort it.

Let us begin. With the classics. He’s a classics student, isn’t he?

Homer’s Odyssey describes the ordeal of Odysseus as he tries to return home in order to be reunited with his wife, Penelope. It takes Odysseus ten years but he gets there in the end. So the analogy with this Test match only half-fits. The first four days of tedious cricket in Abu Dhabi certainly felt like a ten-year ordeal. But when nirvana approached – in the form of an actual competitive match with the prospect of a result – both sides were ushered off the field and a draw was pronounced.

He so desperately wants to shoe horn in a Greek literature reference that it hurts. In the end it goes nowhere. Tickers was all over that, and loved it so much, he missed the next. An all time classic… Swiss Toni in the house…

It was like pursuing a beautiful woman around the world for ten years, finally persuading her to have dinner, only to announce after the starter course, “Sorry to leave early, but I pre-booked a taxi home at 9pm. Bye.”

My sides were splitting.

I’m not going to fisk the rest, because, frankly, I want to put the TV on, but I’ll save you the bother of clicking a link for this tortuous piece of analogy that had me thinking of the scenes in Airplane where Ted Stryker tells his life story to a passenger he’s sitting next to.

So why does cricket continue to get bogged down by the problems that beset the first Test here? The explanation was provided in 1950 by Albert Tucker, the Princeton mathematician and game theorist. He formalised “The Prisoners’ Dilemma”. The theoretical experiment explains how when two agents pursue narrow self-interest it can work against the long-term benefit of both parties.

Imagine two members of the same gang are imprisoned in separate cells. They are not allowed to communicate. But there is insufficient evidence against them. To try to force a confession, the police offer each of them the same bargain – known as Defect or Cooperate.

Admit that your partner committed the crime – and if he stays silent – then you will go free and your partner will get three years in prison.

But if you stay silent and your partner testifies that you did it, you will face prison for three years and he will walk free.

If you both betray each other, you both go to prison for two years.

If you both stay silent, you both get only one year in prison.

What is the best strategy, defect or cooperate?

The best outcome, in terms of combined punishment, is obviously for both prisoners to cooperate – to remain silent. The combined punishment would be two single-year prison terms.

But that isn’t what they do. Because they cannot communicate, the rational response is to anticipate what the other prisoner will do. If you think the other prisoner will stay silent, the rational response is to defect – and hence walk free. If you think the other prisoner will defect, the rational response is still to defect – and hence serve only two years in prison rather than three. The playing out of the game is both entirely rational and yet still works against the self-interest ofboth prisoners. Here is a short video summary.

The point is very simple. There are some circumstances in life when the failure to communicate and agree to a collective response leads to a series of rational responses that ultimately work against everyone’s interests.

Cricket is currently suffering its own versions of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Individual teams play on pitches that may suit their own team, but certainly don’t suit the game as a spectacle.

Bloody hell. Get to the point man!

There’s plenty on the net about the ICC and IOC meeting, including mention that the form of cricket to be played might be the indoor version. The IOC will take two minutes consideration before booting that one out. The impression from afar is that the ICC aren’t serious, and when the prime movers (India) are pretty much motivated by internal short-termism (and the decision today to allow Aleem Dar to step down as umpire for the current series is an absolute utter disgrace and they ought to be ashamed of themselves) that isn’t going to change. You all know how I think Clarke will play it in this International Ambassador role he has. The game needs to grow more than it needs to worry about the odd batting track being skewed in favour of the home team, and this provides an opportunity. A long-term eye rather than a short-term blindness might help. As soon as Dave Richardson gets wheeled out, I know we are in for disappointment.

Viru - The Oval - 2011. Hitting the ball for four.
Viru – The Oval – 2011. Hitting the ball for four.

Finally, lots on the wires that Viru has retired from international cricket. Aside from the fact that I doubt he’d be picked again for his national side, you have to say “what a player”. Sadly, I never saw him really score any runs. He was undercooked (putting it politely) in 2011 and didn’t play in 2007. It is close between him and Dravid for my favourite Indian batsman, but when it comes to being entertaining, there was no-one better, and no-one more scary. And judging by that selfie last year when playing for the MCC, not someone who took himself too seriously. He is missed, and the formality of the announcement, such as it was (so he can play Masters Cricket) brings back the memories. Two test triple hundreds. The strike rate. A 290 odd too. The foot movement (!). Much loved, Viru. Much loved.