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


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.

30 thoughts on “The Lyrical Gangster

  1. greyblazer Oct 19, 2015 / 8:03 pm

    Once Viru started to wear glasses the game was up, some brilliant memories though.
    The most entertaining his 195 at the G, the human catapult, smashing the bowling to smithereens.
    The best I saw for controlled aggression was in NZ 02/03 Auckland/Napier.


  2. Zephirine Oct 19, 2015 / 8:52 pm

    The comments on those two articles are just knuckle-dragging, especially the first one. What has the Daily Telegraph come to?
    I’ve just been wasting my time trying to explain to certain people at the Guardian that they don’t actually have to be self-elected leading members of the House Un-ECB Activities Committee, but I have to say they look almost civilised by comparison.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hatmallet Oct 19, 2015 / 9:06 pm

      Some strange comments, but not surprising. One of them is going “oh poor you” because of these hotel and traveling thing, despite the article saying KP thought the exact same thing before he had a family!

      I did have to explain to someone that the story they were repeating (that KP left SA because Amla was chosen over him) was completely wrong. In short, Amla made his competitive debut for Natal over 2 years after Pietersen left.


      • Zephirine Oct 19, 2015 / 9:13 pm

        Just as Cook has ceased to be a normal cricketer and has become a zen prince against whom no word can be spoken, KP has ceased to be even a human being and has become merely a target, an Aunt Sally at whom any rubbish can be thrown.


    • Fred Oct 20, 2015 / 12:19 pm

      You’ve been trying to reason with the Guardian? Wow.
      Once you’ve sorted that you can move on to the easy stuff like Syria and the Middle East.


      • Zephirine Oct 20, 2015 / 12:26 pm

        Not the Guardian itself, Fred, merely the BTL thought police.

        Actually, if you can ever get through to the G staffers such as mods or editors, they’re fine. But they have no time and are running a massive website.


  3. Mark Oct 19, 2015 / 9:45 pm

    I am not very good on my classics.

    But Here is a bit of ancient history. At Troy they wheeled in a giant wooden horse as a gift. It was full of hidden soldiers, and then when the greatful elites had taken delivery of their new shiny free toy, and partied all night long, they awoke to find their city had been captured.

    It’s a bit like the ECB and the ICC. The ICC wheeled in a great big imaginary horse that pretended that the ECB could have a say in running world cricket if they agreed to a sleazy 3 nation stitch up. But it turns out to have been a giant con. India have a veto on everything ,and the ECB are just token patsys

    “Individual teams play on pitches that may suit their own team, but certainly don’t suit the game as a spectacle.

    ” As usual Smith takes a loaded up , word heavy machine gun, and completely misses the target. Was he so concerned about home pitches in the summer? I seem to remember….. * crickets * from the pundit class about making pitches that barely lasted 3 days. All the talk was of moving to 4 day test cricket. That would have been a cracking four day test match at the weekend.

    Will Smith attack the guilty men at the ICC and the ECB! The hand that feeds and all that……


    • jomesy Oct 21, 2015 / 11:28 am

      I like history (much as I like your posts).

      Oddly I happen to be holidaying on the island where Calypso kept Odysseus captive for a number of years during his journey.

      I happen to be reading Cicero by Robert Harris. It was of course Cicero who is credited with the modern-day saying: to be ignorant of the past is to remain a child.

      There are many children in cricket. Is this what the ECB considers to be spreading cricket to children: turning adults into children?


  4. Mark Oct 19, 2015 / 9:52 pm

    “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. ”

    7? The truth is Cook just doesn’t sell. Hardly anyone pays to watch him bat on his own. They will take in a days cricket in which he might bat, but he doesn’t empty bars. Not is fault. He does what he does. It’s the stupid media who have tried to turn him into King Alfred The Great…..just so he can be used against KP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LordCanisLupus Oct 19, 2015 / 9:55 pm

      In the house paper of the establishment the readers world rather spout hatred of the enemy than celebrate the leader.

      And we are obsessed? Really?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. jennyah46 Oct 19, 2015 / 10:09 pm

    I always expect Cook to do what Cook does. Be steady as the north star and scores lots of runs. That’s what he is selected to do. No point in yelling it from the rooftop when he does it. That’s his job. Run of bad form very unfortunate but it happens to all. Much better since he was freed from the ODI.


  6. Rooto Oct 20, 2015 / 6:42 am

    I’m not a great intellect like him, but I reckon Ed Smith has messed up that game theory/ prisoner analogy.
    He says that the best result for the greater good is for both prisoners to rat on the other, er, I mean ‘defect’.
    He then says that, in isolation, that’s what each is more likely to do anyway. But he follows it up with saying that this “still works against the self-interest of both prisoners.”
    No, Ed. It works in their interests. Either you, Ed, haven’t understood, or you’ve deliberately chosen a counter-example to contemptuously toy with your audience.
    (Or, third possibility, I’ve got the wrong end of the stick.)


    • Rooto Oct 21, 2015 / 11:08 am

      It’s option three, I realise. Damn!


    • Fred Oct 20, 2015 / 12:04 pm

      Kimber’s quite unlike anyone else, generally a pretty good read. This is my favorite line from that piece, it captures everything:
      When you bowled to him, you weren’t bowling to a batsman; you were bowling to a belief system.


      • Zephirine Oct 20, 2015 / 12:39 pm

        “I feel hitting the ball is the most important thing in batting. Picking the ball early is important. If you are picking it early and hitting the ball, I don’t think it matters much whether your feet are in the right place or your head is in the right place. Till the time you are hitting the ball down the ground, meeting the ball nicely, and you’re hitting fours and sixes you are okay. Players, generally, watch their videos to find out their mistakes. I was watching my videos just to enjoy my boundaries.”

        “I am not bothered about the crowd. People come to watch me. They are coming with a risk. Before they reach the stadium, Sehwag might have gotten out and gone into the dressing-room. It happened many times. Why should I bother? I didn’t invite them. I invited my friends during the World Cup. I scored 30-odd runs. I should enjoy my game, try to score runs and concentrate. I should control my mind rather than think about people and my reputation.”

        What a guy. But he wouldn’t have lasted long with England….


        • LordCanisLupus Oct 20, 2015 / 12:53 pm

          That’s a one way ticket to the naughty step. I think someone like Jos Buttler might benefit from some clear thinking like this.

          Of course individual achievement in a team setting is only allowed if accomplished by old fashioned virtues of hard work, compliance and dutiful acceptance of the prevailing doctrine in our fair land. To be a maverick is to be a threat. In all forms of life, not just cricket.


    • Arron Wright Oct 20, 2015 / 4:53 pm

      Did you keep your lunch down after reading the “you wonderful old pros have improved The Spin” post?


  7. Arron Wright Oct 20, 2015 / 5:28 pm

    Aleem Dar story at the G. Photo up. Guess who’s behind him in the photo.


    • Fred Oct 20, 2015 / 5:43 pm

      That’s really funny. I think they’ve hired Vlad Putin’s PR people to look after Cook too. Expect to see him bare chested on a horse very soon.


    • Fred Oct 21, 2015 / 6:39 am

      This isn’t about Cook, but rather Corbyn, however I thought it summed up well the role of the media in creating context by which eveything else is judged.

      “But that isn’t how influence works. The media do not merely generate the political weather. They play a large part in creating the climate in which information is received and understood. A notion such as ‘electability’, to take the example at hand, is unthinkable without the media, which, in their every representation of a political leader, ask (and supply the authorities to help us decide) not only who is and is not electable, but what should be the criteria by which electability is judged.”

      Just swap the word “electability” for “selectability”, and it applies to cricket.
      Hence when the runs weren’t forthcoming, a range of other criteria were brought to the fore (steely, attractiveness, hard worker, family, leadership, character, toughness, and best of all, lack of sweat).


    • Fred Oct 21, 2015 / 4:40 pm

      Yossarian is one of the increasingly few usually worth reading, and it’s not the first time he’s weighed in with some actual sports science rather than opinion. I saw that comment, and found it interesting but by then was beyond replying, since I had been earlier gagged. Tellingly, he didn’t get a single reply, facts being too boring, he wasn’t opinionated enough.

      I used to see a West Indian do this too, forgotten his name, he used to regularly bring out facts in the face of prejudices regarding that team.

      News as entertainment or news as opinion means the facts don’t need to be examined, we can jump straight to conclusions. Cook, and the English team in general, have been a classic example of the narrative being more important than the facts.


      • BoerInAustria Oct 21, 2015 / 5:16 pm

        Bumboclart? Brilliant poster imo


      • Fred Oct 21, 2015 / 5:41 pm

        Yes, that’s him. A bit grumpy sometimes but cuts through the nonsense.


  8. BoerInAustria Oct 21, 2015 / 4:44 am

    Is it just me, or is it almost impossible to read anything on cricket except on these pages? Selvey has lost it, and Ed is now beyond parody.

    Or maybe I should study more Greek mythology on young broad jawed Spartans.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. SimonH Oct 21, 2015 / 1:32 pm

    Good point from Andrew Nixon on Twitter that the reason the IOC are interested in cricket is to break into the Indian TV market – so any cricket format that doesn’t involve the top Indian players is going to be rejected.


  10. d'Arthez Oct 22, 2015 / 3:11 am

    Sharda Ugra writes on cricinfo, and provides some context regarding the farcical decision to remove Dar from officiating duties. It is worth a read – and a useful reminder that everything is not well in India.

    Oh, and Tahir can play, even though of course he is a Pakistani by birth. So apparently protecting 30-odd players is doable, but protecting one umpire is not. Total farce.


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