Monthly Archives: June 2012

Wasim Akram on Gilchrist

Part of an excellent series on Wasim Akram’s favourite cricketers, here he gives his views on the great Adam Gilchrist, well worth a few minutes.

Fastest bowlers of the 1970s

Following on this post, I’ve just found some videos about the quicks of the late 1970s.

There was a fast bowling competition in 1979, won by Thommo:

…but there was also another timing session around the same timel where Thomson was recorded at 99.9 mph. That I knew – what I didn’t know, and is revealed in the Thommo/Imran chat here, was that the way they timed those deliveries means you have to add about 10% to compare them to the moderns, whose speed is measured 5 feet after release, not when it gets to the batsman’s end after pitching. Wow.

Just look at how the last ball at 8’06” is climbing like a rocket as it hits the keeper’s gloves:

Is Murray’s grip the problem?

The piss-poor standard of tennis commentary constantly annoys me, especially as TV tennis commentary seems easy compared to many sports – it’s not particularly complex to explain what’s going on, and there are plentiful breaks between points & games. (Radio tennis commentary seems very hard, in fact the game is simply too quick to describe every shot in real time).

Yet how often do you ever hear something from the expert commentators that isn’t blindingly obvious? Hardly ever, apart from the superb Mats Wilander. Having said that, Jim Courier isn’t bad, and here he makes an interesting comment on Murray:

ITV has assembled a very able squad of tennis buffs of which Jim Courier has been the major signing. … Twice a winner of the French championship himself, of course he speaks with considerable authority and his analysis this week of Murray’s play was enlightening. Courier admits Murray is able to adapt his game to cope with most opponents even after apparently being near to quitting with back pain but when it comes to the big guns, “he simply does not have the ‘killer’ shot which will damage them.”

Courier reckons Murray can’t hit a ‘down-the-line’ winner with maximum power because of his very orthodox grip on the racket. It means he ‘spoons’ the ball, rather than hitting it flat. It is effective across court but, for down the line, the shot is limited and Courier tells us that the ‘big three’ know it.

If this was cricket they’d have video analysts swarming all over it, showing super-slow-mo and split screen comparisons between players. But as it’s tennis, the thought will probably disappear and never be mentioned again.

DRS makes wicket 70% bigger

Decision Review System made wicket 70 per cent bigger
By Simon Hughes
Daily Telegraph
25 Mar 2012

There were 43 batsmen dismissed lbw during the Pakistan-England Tests, easily a record for a three-match series. LBW represented 42 per cent of the total dismissals in the series. That was about twice what it usually is in Test cricket.

Why? Various theories were offered. Batsmen with “poor technique” who use their pad too much and play around their front leg, was one, another was England’s inability to read Pakistan’s excellent spinners. But that explanation is muddied by Pakistan suffering 21 lbw verdicts (to England’s 22). Were the umpires trigger-happy?

Well yes. With good reason. The increasing use of technology in lbw verdicts has actually made the wicket significantly higher and wider. Or more precisely, the umpire’s perception of the wicket is larger than it was. The introduction of Hawk-Eye to help adjudicate lbws has enabled, even persuaded umpires to give batsmen out when the ball was predicted to barely graze the top or outside of the stumps. Stuart Broad and Kevin Pietersen both suffered such a fate in Dubai. Both reviewed their dismissal, believing they had tried legitimately to work a ball that was missing the leg stump only for Hawk-Eye informed us that the ball was clipping the top of the leg bail by 2mm. The batsmen looked aggrieved, but they had to go.

The wicket in the umpire’s interpretation – backed up by Hawk-Eye – has become higher and wider. In other words 30.5 inches high (instead of 28) and 14 inches wide instead of nine (an extra cricket ball’s width on either side). It has increased the bowler’s potential target area by a remarkable 70 per cent (much to the chagrin of many a retired bowler: 30 per cent of Swann’s test wickets are lbw; the corresponding figure for Derek Underwood, a phenomenally accurate spinner who took 297 Test wickets in the 1970s, is eight per cent). This ‘expansion’ of the wicket is the biggest change in any of the game’s fundamental properties since the third stump was introduced in 1775.

On the low-bouncing pitches of the subcontinent … [b]ecause the Hawk-Eye projection has only got to show the ball clipping the stumps to support an lbw decision, umpires think “out” more often than not. Batsmen who think it is their divine right to be spared lbw unless they are struck on the ankle plumb in front are now being summarily dismissed at the merest whiff of an lbw shout. It is quite a wake-up call.

It has also had a knock-on effect. Bowlers are getting closer to the stumps and trying to bowl more wicket to wicket and to get the ball past the inside, rather than outside, edge of the bat. Batsmen, brought up to play with bat and pad close together, are now anxious to keep their pad out of the way. Several England batsmen were bowled playing too far inside the line – trying to avoid being hit on the pad.

A thorough scientific analysis of Hawk-Eye is in progress to assess its accuracy (the MCC conducted an assessment in 2009 and declared Hawk-Eye accurate to 2.5mm). It may be decided that, in future, at least half the ball should be predicted to hit the stumps to guarantee an lbw decision. n the meantime, expect to see batsmen playing straighter than before, keeping their legs out of the way or skipping down the pitch.

Marty Reisman, Ping-Pong Hustler

Highly entertaining article about a genuine character. Hat tip my Uncle Gerry for the find.

To whet your appetite, here’s a clip of Reisman defeating the great Victor Barna in the 1949 English Open:


Marty Reisman, Ping-Pong Hustler
by Mark Adams
Men’s Journal
Mar 20, 2012

Marty Reisman’s athletic career may have peaked during the Truman administration — but that hasn’t kept him from living every day since like he is champion of the world.

Men in dashikis and turbans walk past the open windows, but it’s Marty who turns heads — dressed head to toe in custom-tailored black, wearing both aviator sunglasses and a Panama hat indoors. Even in Manhattan, octogenarians don’t typically leave the house dressed like Huggy Bear’s Caucasian twin.

Marty plays classic hardbat ping-pong, with a hardwood paddle covered by only a thin sheen of rubber. (“Table tennis” and “ping-pong” are just different names for the same sport.) This is what Marty calls “the witty game,” an urbane dialogue between two players that unfolds like a chess match, as hardbat grandmasters set up their winning shots several moves in advance. Games can stretch on for hours to the hypnotizing, metronomic plick-plock of the plastic ball, as soothing as rain on a tin roof. Hardbat bears about as much similarity to modern table tennis as “Folsom Prison Blues” does to “Achy Breaky Heart.”

Hardbat saved Marty’s life. He was a neurasthenic kid from New York’s dicey Lower East Side, who by the age of 10 had survived the collapse of his parents’ marriage and a nervous breakdown. “We were in a school assembly, right after singing ‘The Star-­Spangled Banner’ and about to say the Pledge of Allegiance,” Marty recalls, “and I was overcome with panic that I was going to die. I let out a tremendous scream in the middle of the assembly.” A nightmare month in the infamous Bellevue mental hospital followed. At 11, Marty picked up a paddle at a local community center and discovered his hidden talent. “I have no memory of ever playing poor table tennis,” he says. His wicked 115-mile-an-hour forehand kill shot would be dubbed the “Atomic Blast” by the ping-pong press. (Yes, such a thing once existed.) There was no Nick Bollettieri academy for promising pongers; Marty cut school to play 10 hours a day for nickels and dimes against shady characters in city parks. One notorious pedophile would bet boys double-or-nothing, until the only way to pay off the wager was through a noncash transaction. Marty quickly picked up the cardinal rules of the ping-pong hustle. Never suggest the game yourself — let the mark do it. Ditto on the price of the wager, in case the sucker senses he’s being set up. Keep the score close so that your winning looks like a fluke. By 14, Marty was supporting himself financially. “I only bet on a sure thing — myself,” he says.