Vantage point

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why Bowlers Will Love Twenty20

When the World Twenty20 started a couple of weeks back, everyone expected it to be a batsman's game, and with good reason. It is a format where a runrate of 8 is par for the course, and even a double digit asking rate is gettable. Two weeks hence, the biggest revelation for me has been the fact that T20 as a format is a lot more bowler-friendly than one day internationals.

This may sound like post-hoc analysis but hear me out. Bowlers rule in test cricket. Everyone knows the cliche - to win a test match you need to take 20 wickets. Bowlers get to display their skills in test cricket without too many restrictions. In ODIs however, bowlers get a raw deal. They are restricted to a few overs, there are fielding restrictions, and restrictions on bouncers. The margin for wides is a lot tighter as well. Now all those restrictions apply in T20 too. Yet T20 is a better format for the bowlers.

The shorter duration and the high run rate is precisely the reason why that is so. In ODIs, with 50 luxurious overs at their disposal, batsmen can cut out the risky shots, take 1s and 2s, and play a very safe game. They can "respect" a quality bowler, take him for just 3 runs an over, and make up the deficit from other weaker bowlers. But 20 overs is too short a duration to play this safe game. There is no time to relax, kick back, rotate the strike and put the spectators to sleep. Be it the fifth bowler or the opening bowler, everyone has to be targeted. This opens up more chances for the bowlers to take wickets. Bowling straight at the stumps, varying your pace, and trying other guiles could never fetch such handsome returns in ODIs where the batsman would primarily look to just tuck you around the corner for a single.

Which is why, at the end of 2 weeks of cricket of quality and thrill levels not seen in the last 4 ODI world cups, it was the bowlers who made the difference. It was a bowler who got the man of the match in the final. It was a bowler (though the wrong bowler) who won the player of the series. Go through every match (except for, possibe the SA-WI run-fest) and it was bowling that tilted the scales. Plus this is a format where you bowl just 4 overs and not 10. And even after that, you have to field in the deep for possibly just an hour. Bowlers can thus go at their spells with a higher level of intensity than ODIs.

So really, there is no reason why bowlers should not love Twenty20.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I have written innumerable times about how the answers to the struggles of Nandigram, or Narmada or Singur lie in making property rights unassailable. Eminent domain needs to be scrapped and right to property needs to be re-established. This suggestion however, has come in for criticism from the left as well as the turbocharged go-India-go-at-10-percent-growth-rate crowd.

The left is uncomfortable with the idea of unassailable private property rights because it sounds too much like capitalism. They instead believe in convincing the state to be compassionate, equitable and fair. The growth-rate crowd on the other hand is obsessed with catching up with China and is interested only in the ends and not in the means.

The most rational approach would be to take the government out of the picture and let the farmers decide for themselves. Rather than imposing an SEZ in a place where the land-owners do not want and SEZ, go to a place where farmers do want an SEZ. If the SEZ is an economically viable and desired outcome, the much maligned market forces will make the SEZ happen. In fact all of India should be an SEZ.... but that is a different post altogether.

A most heartening news in this direction, one which has received little attention on the blogosphere, is about 1500 farmers from Avasari Khurd, a village near Pune passing a resolution asking for SEZ status. Yes, they want it. They welcome it. And best of all, they will manage it themselves. They have all come together to form a company which will be set up with their own capital, and will have parts of the SEZ ear-marked for various purposes ranging from industrial, residential as well as agricultural purposes. They do not need the government to step in, benevolently decide a "fair price", buy the land from them, and sell it to industrialists at massive profits.

This is a resounding message from the villagers of Avasari Khurd - we do not need nannies. It is also a message to the leftists, who believe that pursuit of wealth and industrialization is somehow a bad thing. And best of all, it is a great example of spontaneous order.

Inequality is growing.... Beeeeg Surprise!

Over the last few months, everyone from Pankaj Mishra to several bloggers have been shedding tears at the growing inequality in the country. Gini has become as much a part of party conversations as gin. Ironically, these are the very people who will be pushing for the "protection of the small farmer".

I am not one of those who will wrestle with numbers to examine if inequality is indeed growing or not. I have to wrestle with numbers enough on a day-to-day basis. I will grant, for the sake of argument, that inequality has been growing after the reforms. My reaction is.... Duh!

Seventy percent of the population is working in agriculture, a sector that contributes barely 25% to the economy. Which means 30% of the population is working in sectors that contribute about 75% of the GDP. On top of that, the growth rate of agriculture is a fraction of the growth rates of manufacturing and services. So is it really a beeeeeeeg surprise that inequality is growing?

No matter how much public investment is poured into agriculture, it is impossible that growth in that sector will ever match up to the other sectors. So even if we did everything possible for the farmers, inequality is still going to grow.

If someone really wants to wear the hat of the central planner, the answer does lie in "protecting the small farmer". But not the way we understand it. Traditionally, this means making it easier for the small farmer to keep farming. Unsurprisingly, such efforts have been a spectacular failure, as is evident from the suicides in Vidarbha which have become so common that they don't even make the headlines any more.

This "protect the small farmer" policy has created false and inefficient incentives for the farmer to keep farming, or be in a profession which has low returns and high uncertainty. In most parts of the world, the small farmer stopped farming and started working in other sectors like manufacturing. In India, laws are so heavily skewed against setting up manufacturing units, that such a change has not happened.

The way out, even for a central planer, is to protect the small farmer by making it easy for him to give up farming and make a smooth transition to another vocation. Make sure that the proportion of the population employed in a sector is not that radically different from the sector's contribution to the GDP. Only that will do something substantive about inequality.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pirates and Stats

Anyone who followed today's India-England twenty20 on cricinfo would know, thanks to cricinfo commentator Andrew Miller, that today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. To commemorate the day, I spent most of my day working on a project in R.

Free Markets and Central Banks

Jon Stewart asks Alan Greenspan a very pertinent question. How is it a free market if there is a US Fed which can change interest rates and thereby manipulate peoples' behavior?

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

What Makes Federer Mind Boggling

Is the fact that he seems to win ultra hard fought, close and gruellingly tough encounters in straight sets on an alarmingly regular basis. Someone who just sees the scoreline of today's final might feel Federer won so easily. Yet it was a nail-biter. And he won it in straight sets.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Batman's Sidekick Onion Dosa

The ever perspicacious Aadisht came up with a great funda, arbit as it might be. That observation, combined with the recent star status of Robin Uthappa, makes one wonder. Does TOI have a vested interest in making Uthappa succeed? Would they engage in hectic lobbying in the BCCI back offices to make sure he gets a lot of chances to succeed? Would they pay off opponent bowlers and captains to make him a star?

Because Uthappa provides scope for a lot of punning. "Uthappa Sizzles".... "Spicy Uthappa Burns England"... and "Crisp Uthappa plays a crisp cover drive" are just some of the obvious headlines possible. With a name like that, TOI headlines are taken care of for the next decade.

What's more, the obvious punnability of his last name is so enormous, it has totally overshadowed the punnability of his first name. Come on, Robin? "Robin the star Bat(s)man", "Robin overshadows all other Batmen"... and in the very specific but likely scenario that he performs well at Trent Bridge in the future, "Robinhood rules at Nottingham".

This man is to the punning indeustry what Princess Diana was to the paparazzi.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Good Grief!

What follows is a chat with an acquaintance about a photo in my orkut album. The said acquaintance is one of those people whom one successfully avoided talking to several years pre-1998 until chat messengers came and changed everything. Now one's only hope against such adhesives is the "busy" status message. Even that doesn't deter the stickiest of them. To make matters worse, they always use sms lingo in chats, which is a big pet peeve of mine. Anyway, the picture is reproduced below. It's a very touristy pic taken last year. The smart-ass tag I put on the picture was "With Emma in front of George's house".

Adhesive: woa man. u got rich frnds
Gaurav: ????
Adhesive: da pic on ur orkut wit dat chinky girl
Gaurav: what pic?
Adhesive: da pic wit emma in frnt of george's house
Gaurav: what makes you think emma is rich?
Adhesive: no no.... your frnd george
Gaurav: what?????????
Adhesive: george must be supr rich to hv such a big na dnice house
Gaurav: Um... yeah... guess George is kinda rich
Adhesive: dsnt it luk lik da huse in fresh prince of belair?
Gaurav: yeah, goerge must be a huge will smith fan
Adhesive: his parnts must be
Gaurav: hold on... you are serious? you think that house belongs to a friend of mine called George?
Adhesive: dunnit?
Gaurav: you are serious?