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Thank You, Team India for a Golden Era 2007-11

The Perth Test is over and India have lost 0-3. Well played Australia. 

Thank you team India for the great time in the last four years. 
A golden era in Indian cricket has ended, albeit on a somber and unpredictable manner.

But what was predictable is the response of the fans- those who watch cricket for entertainment but pass comments about the competitiveness. We lost badly- our pride is hurt… now that we lost, we should never have selected our seniors? Lets give the younger generation a chance, any way we lost… 

Yes, we failed, but this was the best team we had. 

The job of selectors is to take the best, irrespective of age. Why? Because of that very same national pride- which comes before giving an unproven player a chance. Which is why Ponting and Hussey are still in for Australia.  Just that the selectors have to do so before the the event. Sure, if youngsters had seized their chances, they would be preferred. Not happening in world Test cricket (Tendulkar, Dravid, Kallis, Hussey, Sangakara, … still amongst the top run makers).

Respect our guys who have done us proud. They tried to make a last bid to take on Aussies on their turf, but played well in patches. (We actually were ahead in Melbourne, but their tail wagged better, and only the seniors played well). In hindsight we all look like pundits. 

Viru-Gambhir have been the best opening pair so far as I can recollect since many decades (although I prefer Sehwag not to open overseas). Dravid had a resurgence with 5 tons last year. Laxman cannot be dropped against the Aussies. Tendulkar just failed to make a 40 for the first time against Aus after 12 matches (6 home, 6 away- a double ton, two 150s, a ton (98), two 80s, two 70s, two 60s). 

The youngsters who are good- Yuvraj, Raina, Kohli are yet trying to replace Ganguly’s spot since ’08. Perhaps Rohit Sharma can move into tests, after being out of the World Cup ODIs. Murali Vijay, Abhinav Mukund, Pujara had limited success overseas at top order, but are possible options, with Rahane.

As far as bowling- the good news is Umesh Yadav is looking good. Soon Rahul Sharma will be a good leg-spin option next year. Ashwin has a good attitude and will learn overseas. Hopefully Zaheer Khan will remain fit for a few years more.

As far as fans go- if we want better, ask your kids to get off that angry-birds nonsense and go to the nets. Play cricket or even help grow some grassy pitches at home. Oh yes, fill up the empty stadiums in Test cricket, it is still a good form of the sport to learn from. Missing a day or two at school will not hurt, if you are sincerely interested in cricket. If you are not, you perhaps made a mistake reading this. Sorry.

The aging players are not going to be around too long. But then it is not certain if Test cricket might survive either. So soak up whatever comes along, especially from the veterans, as they are yet the best ambassadors for the future of Tests.

Saumil
Mumbai, India

THE MATTERS OF A LEGEND #lessons along Tendulkar

THE MATTERS OF A LEGEND #lessons along Tendulkar

An ebook about lessons learnt by @saumilzx, following Sachin Tendulkar over the past decade(s). 

A book by a fan for the fans! 

In my view, fans must participate more constructively and support their favorite sport in direct ways, such as wiriting an eBook. It may be tough to find time, but sports and other forms of entertainment consume 10-20% of our day. If we improve, our sport does too! 

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For whom: apart from cricket and Tendulkar fans, there are many aspects which relate to sports as such- from which cricket issues are derived. To simplify matters, the book uses twitter style hashtags for basic concepts and rules and interesting anecdotes. 

Availability: it was intended for 2008/09. But Tendulkar kept teaching us more in 2010. Finally, when India drew the test series in South Africa, (Jan 2011) and got a par/surplus home-away record with every test nation, I decided to put it together. Hopefully, it will be done by May 2011. Will be available on Amazon.com as a Kindle ebook, which can be read on Macs, PCs, iPad, and other mobile platforms. 

Sachin Tendulkar (Career x 0) if we do not win this World Cup?

Sachin Tendulkar (Career x 0) if we do not win this World Cup?
And if we win it, it will be (Career x 1)?

1. If that is what you think, there is a simple advice- do not put your kids into cricket or any team sport. You will only create nuisance for others. 2. If you see India in World Cups since ’92, we have never topped a league phase. We were typically 4th/5th overall. So Saurav Ganguly’s team was a success (2nd in 2003). Even if do win this WC, we have a long way to go to be a #1 ODI team. These knockouts are not extensive tests. (poor format to find a World Champion).

3. If you think the World Cup matches are the only few which matter then were we so stupid to critiicize or watch other 400-500 odd matches India played in two decades. Sure, these are important, but Tendulkar’s frquency of 50s (abt 50%) is about twice that of Ponting or Richards (25-33%), not any more unfortunately. ya, ya, matters and all that… wait for my book!

For quiz and my new book, visit http://www.shotzx.com

@saumilzx

An iPhone nano? Yes, if the price is right.

The iTwiverse is abuzz with rumors about Apple launching an iPhone nano- a compact version of the iPhone at a cheaper price. Technically, it does sound achievable, because the Retina display can pack twice as many pixels as the original iPhone. That in itself does not make it easy to build a smaller touch device, as the contact areas for buttons, keys etc., are reduced as well. But if a squarer aspect ratio is chosen, the keyboard can remain the same size as the present iPhone, with few lines of text visible above it. Besides, you can trust Apple to come up with UI adjustments to pull off a nifty smaller touch device (voice navigation?). The iPod-nano is already a good example but with limited apps only. 

But skeptics argue that a smaller iPhone would perhaps be needless, offering no real value over the present iPhone- which is already small enough to carry. But so is the iPod Classic small enough to carry. But Apple has created an attractive range of colorful iPod variants- shuffles, nanos which allow users to step-in at an attractive price range from $50+. The Classic at $249 for 160Gb is still the best value for money, though.

So if Apple plans nano variants of an iPhone, pricing needs to be spot on. A contract free iPhone is about $599 in most countries. Now here is a reason,-a very big reason- why a smaller or cheaper phone will be critical in India and many other Asian countries.

From my personal experience creating travel guides and programs in South East Asia, I can say that the mobile phone has done wonders in keeping the travel industry connected to providers at all levels- cab drivers, souvenir shops to exclusive remote island resorts, irrespective of level of education, salaries, and language barriers. The typical salaries at grassroots start from Rs 7500 (about $150+) per month, to about twice or thrice that amount for fresh graduates.

The three entry level mobile categories in Asia: 

So here is how an average Asian buyer goes about buying a mobile phone: 

1. I *need* a phone, even if I use it more for incoming calls from potential customers or emergencies. An FM radio never hurts as an added feature. $50 Nokias are damn popular in this category of semi-educated masses, and the not-tech-savvy senior citizens.

2. If I can get a phone, with a decent camera, so that it takes pictures of family & kids (maybe in a village where neither many have a landline phone nor own a camera). Each time I talk too my old cab-mates in Thailand, and ask about their family, the first thing they do is pull out their cell phones and prove that they are keeping their kids happy. So a $100-150 mobile, is the next level, which a lot of folks have to plan and save up for. 

3. The third level- you perhaps guessed it- is a phone for the new generation of Facebook teens, Twitter centric graduates. It must be understood that the average student in Asia, may not own a laptop or a desktop, and if they do, it will usually be a shared machine at home. So FB and Twitter on a phone become a pre-requisite in this trendy but ever expanding category, looking for their own personal space. Perhaps upto $200 is what they can justify, with help from their parents. 

Above $200, becomes expensive to justify as a need. Other worries begin to creep in- that it can get wet in the rains (4-6 months in India, Indo-China) etc., and what if you forget it somewhere. Of course, if you have an IT job or are a graduate working for few years, you start looking north, but the range of smartphones from $300-400, the Blackberries, etc., are usually still the first choices. $600 can be a month’s salary. 

How Apple can address these three categories, with one model or more, is anybody’s guess. 

If they can build a cheaper phone at the same size as the present iPhone- minus many features that would be fine. But if a smaller form factor is needed to cut costs, that is the next best option, but will work as well. Even just the built-in apps to begin with, plus a social media client, would do fine. 

Go for it Apple, size does not matter, if the price is right, so long as you proivde space for 140 characters* 

Happy Valentine’s day to the nano generation! 

@saumilzx 

Mumbai

*Just follow that up in Asia with aggresive mobile-me offers 

Orientation Lock on iPad- soft or hard?


Orientation Lock on iPad now mute…

After iOS 4.2 for the iPad, the orientation switch next to the volume control is now no longer used to lock the iPad in a portrait or landscape mode. This is now a mute switch, instead. The orientation control has now been shifted to a soft lock next to the iPod controls (double click home button and swipe left).

This change has not been welcomed by users at large, who loved the ease of locking without digging into a UI panel. It has not affected me much at all, as this feature is most useful when reading while lying down, when the iPad may be more horizontal than vertical, but you might still be reading in portrait mode since your head is reclining as well. The lock prevents rotation of contents, as the accelerometer based detection will tilt it for the wrong orientation. I have been reading extensively on the iPad but usually in a sitting posture while coding. My pragprog.com epubs, reference PDFs, (on iBooks) and other Kindle books have been a constant companion.

But the reasons Apple has altered this, are based on many factors, and not a ad-hoc decision.

  • Frequent switching of apps, after multitasking- we normally lock orientation based on what we see on the screen. Now with many apps open, and each app is designed to work better in a given mode, the meaning of the hardware switch is bound to be undermined- as what we see on screen changes a bit more frequently- and locking will get in the way a lot more often than desired.

  • By moving it away, Apple is discouraging users from frequent locking, as one of the best aspects of iPad apps is how different functions work in either mode, enhancing productivity, almost instantly. This is one important area where tablets are not the same as desktops.

  • Soft locking, in my view will eventually make it possible for app specific locking, something which is not meaningful with a global hardware switch. At the moment it is system wide. But apps such as Keynote or other video based apps, even now work only in landscape mode, no matter what the lock indicates. But an app such as Flipboard supports both modes. I prefer to use Flipboard in landscape, and had there been an app specific lock, I would have done that.

  • Locking is best used when you will surely be using an iPad for quite some time in a given orientation, and that too if held in those ‘in between’ orientations. For that you will need a lock. The overhead for that is a double-click and swipe left (about the same as app switching). Now that is not that big a burden if you will be dedicating a lot of time in one app, and holding the iPad at an angle which is not well defined.

Obviously, the hardware lock was conceived when the iPad was launched and that time the big thing was it’s role as an ebook reader. Now multimedia and lot of work happens here, each within it’s own view of things.. Plus multi-tasking will soon progress with widgets etc. Then many apps will do their bit in different modes. Making it soft will make it flexible.

@saumilzx 

Mumbai, 9 Dec 2010

Apple’s Square touchscreen?

A 3cmx3cm Apple touchscreen is spotted.
http://bit.ly/9orDyF

Sounds perfectly plausible.

Ever since a 326ppi retina display doubled the touchscreen resolution, it makes sense that a device about half the area is on the cards, since the apps which addressed 480×320 pixels of an iPhone can run unchanged, since those pixels would now occupy half the real area in inches.

But it is not as easy as that, though. If you shrink the iPhone size half, there is no room for a keyboard when held in portrait mode, at least. So the smallest touchscreen (which works iOS style), would need more width on the thin side, making it squarish- as a smaller keyboard is perhaps not practical.

Perhaps bundle Bento or special apps for special communication type tasks, and make an iPhone which is essentially a phone. Perhaps only wifi? Perhaps not even that?

Just a phone with useful contact apps+Photo/Music…

$99? Apple will rule Asia overnight I can bet.

saumilzx
Mumbai, India

Twenty20 Cricket vs Blitz Chess?

India have just made it into the T20 Cricket World Cup Semi-Finals.

Since I written about Chess in Cricket (Tests/ODIs)- the theory for the 20 over format is still to be developed. It is the beginner’s mind- as Zen followers would perhaps call.

Yes shorter versions are possible but…
So is this format a valid competition or just a circus of sorts?
Well, there are many ways to answer this and as I have hinted in my book, there are many ways to create shorter versions of any sport. Just reducing the duration (overs in cricket), may not be the answer. However, one thing is sure that the answer to the validitiy of T20 as a real competition, does not lie in the often cited argument -but flawed- that people said similar things about ODIs when they became popular the 1970s, and today we accept it as a valid variant of cricket (so we should accept T20 as well). Then why not have a 10over match after a few more years, and accept it as well?

The fact is that every sport has certain skills to be tested, and that test takes some minimum time depending on the nature of the skills.

How much is that ‘some minimum’ time?
For Olympic throw/jump events, it means a few attempts- typically 3 to 6, before we can spot the winner. This will last perhaps less than an hour (depending on number of participants). So why does this seem fine? Because what we are testing is ‘can’ the contestant maximize a feat. Six attempts may be enough to test that.

In contrast, Classical Billiards (the English sport, which Indians love just as much)- can be set up for multiple sessions of 2 hours each. Why this long? Well, in this sport the key thing is how the cueist can demonstrate delicate control of seemingly repetitive shots- again and again. Players often have breaks (unbroken sequence of shots) of 100-200 shots without losing control. This means that adequate time must be allocated for both players to demonstrate their abilities to repeat subtle sequences- typically at the top of the table (yes, they are messing this sport as well with 150 point formats).

In my book I have explained why a 5 day Test Cricket is not too much longer than a 90 mins soccer game (the logic is based on man hours involved. Cricket being a ‘one at a time’ participation- for batting and bowling, versus soccer being near simultaneous, means the man hours per player in cricket is not too far apart from soccer)….

In chess, they did have timeless games, and today Classical Chess is a few hour game- which is considered a fair test of depth of knowledge as well as spontaneous skills. There are Rapid and Blitz formats which last a few dozen minutes. Usually such games throw up errors – often from both players – as they have to beat the clock. However, like the ODI and T20 versions, there can be uncanny and exciting lines of play- tactical and often by instinct- rather than deeper calculation or positional depth. It does test what one ‘can go for’ even if it is not so sound in a longer format.

So is T20 like blitz chess?
As mentioned, there will be flaws and holes in games in this format like in blitz chess and there will be something nifty and brilliant as well- as we saw the clean hitting when Yuvraj launched six sixes in an over, just the last match.

But there is a fundamental difference between cricket and blitz chess. It is in the nature of skills involved. Cricket is not a symmetric format – batting and bowling are radically different disciplines, as compared to chess skills- where both players have the same pieces and attempt to gain material or attack the opponent’s king using skills to maneuver pieces which are same (although the overall approach for black and white is different, because white makes the first move).

Once we understand this, then we can appreciate that ‘the minimum’ time required to test certain skills will differ between chess and cricket (obviously we cannot test all classical skills in short forms, either in cricket or in chess).

a) The first fact in Test cricket is that scoring for a batsman is ‘dense’ whereas it is ‘sparse’ for bowlers. What this means is that batsmen – although they can get out on first mistake – have more options to score regularly such as a single, two, four or six, (and even legbyes), whereas a bowler in test cricket usually gets a wicket every 50-60 balls. Moreover, bowlers score no points for beating the bat or inducing edges or other instances when they got the better of the batsman. They have to get the better by some degree and then they may get a wicket. This is Test cricket.

Now in ODIs, bowlers do get 60 balls/bowler. This is a fair number of balls to ‘earn’ a wicket on their own merit, not by a batsmen’s blunder or rash stroke. So in an ODI, if a bowler bowls well, he can earn two wickets and get more due to pressure of dot balls. There is something in it for bowlers- in terms of economy and wickets. For batsmen, they have the same old scoring options, and can try to innovate once they earn their position by holding wickets and scoring briskly. ODIs in fact offer both batsmen and bowlers to exhibit those skills, which may not be of direct impact in Tests (economy skills for bowlers and few big shots for batsmen). But ODI has contributed to Tests indirectly. This is why Richie Benaud is of the opinion that he would welcome new versions of cricket if they enhance certain Test skills as well- such as accurate bowling, sound improvised shots, and athletic abilities in fielding- which ODIs did in some manner.

Now, let’s see where Twenty20 fits in.
A bowler gets 24 balls each (4 overs). This may not be the ideal ‘minimum’ number of balls a bowler can get a wicket, on his merit. Sure there will be days when a bowler does knock a few batsmen over (as RP Singh did brilliantly today against South Africa- those balls would have got him wickets in Test as well). But when pitches are not really juicy for bowlers, this format fails the test. Bowlers may get wickets, and so might the batsmen who bowl.

Whereas, batsmen still have ‘dense’ scoring options, just as regularly and perhaps a lot more since it may take them 2-3 overs only to ensure the wickets column is not falling apart. I think the regularity with which batsmen score cannot be taken away, since a scoring shot is a scoring shot, and there will be many in this format. However, there is a possibility to compress the scoring pattern a bit.

b) Does there have to be six different levels of scoring in Batting?
As I have explained in my book, since the scoring format – the numbers attached to a shot – was created in cricket over 100 years ago, it need not be valid with modern bats and smaller grounds – especially in a format where 10 wickets are squeezed in 20 overs.

Is a ‘six’ still six times more difficult than a ‘single’ (it must have been 100 years ago, and in a format where batsmen’s wicket was worth gold). Today, is a one-bounce-four, really twice as difficult as a well earned two? These numbers were created by humans, and just as we create compressed formats, we need to look again to the numbers we attach to the shots.

I like the fact that in Billiards and in Baksketball the points given are two and three for a scoring shot. It does not favor a particular type of shot too much. What if they made a three pointer in basketball worth 9? (this a long range shot into the basket from outside the ‘D’). The game would change for sure and Michael Jordan would begin to look mortal, averaging just 30 points per game.

This in my view needs to be addressed in compressed formats of cricket, since the risks on batsmen getting out are different from Tests and ODIs.

Ask your self- is a six worth 3 twos or 6 singles today. Likewise, should bowlers be given some more rewards, since scoring (wickets) is by nature, sparse in their art compared to batsmen (it was nice to note Harsha Bhogale hint that this format seems more exciting if there is something in the pitch for bowlers. This means that on such pitches wicket taking is not as sparse).

Blitz Chess is far more sound!?
As you can see, the unsymmetric nature of skills of batting and bowling, imply that the minimum time for compressed games should either be longer (50 overs seems good, as 60 balls/bowler is good) or some scoring pattern changes are needed or the games can be played as ‘pairs’ as I have suggested in my book.

Blitz Chess as it is now, is a lot more ‘sound’ since it still is chess skills on both sides, at a given time. A GM losing to a much lower ranked player is still not that frequent in any form of chess. In T20, we saw Australia struggle and also South Africa losing out after having a good tournament.

I have no problems with some of the flashy and ungainly shots in T20- that is the nature-, but there is too much weightage on a six or a one-bounce four, and not enough reward for a good over by a bowler.

Or talk to me for other short variants- just compressing a format is not the answer to the Television and Media era…

Saumil
Mumbai, India