Why catching remains paramount in winning cricket matches

Why catching remains paramount in winning cricket matches
Pakistan’s Mohammad Nawaz, left, takes a catch to dismiss India’s Hardik Pandya during an Asia Cup Twenty20 Super Four match in Dubai on Sept. 4, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 08 September 2022

Why catching remains paramount in winning cricket matches

Why catching remains paramount in winning cricket matches
  • Its value differs in Test, T20 and ODI formats of the game

“Catches win matches” is one of cricket’s oldest and tritest adages.

In my club match last weekend, one of the opposition’s players was winning the game, having survived two dropped catches. He had just completed his century, there was one wicket left to fall, nine runs needed to win and 11 deliveries remaining. He attempted to hit a six, the ball going in the direction of a lone fielder on the boundary edge. The ball was in the air a long time before the fielder safely clutched it to end the match. Had he dropped the ball, who knows what the final result would have been? Of course, the chances are that the match would have been over much sooner had either of the two earlier offered chances been taken.

There are much more famous examples of catches winning matches or dropped catches losing matches. In the final match and the final day of the 2005 England versus Australia series at the Oval in London, the home team needing a draw to regain the Ashes, were only 99 runs ahead, three wickets down, with over six hours left to play. At that point, Kevin Pietersen, on 13, edged a ball to the late Shane Warne at first slip, who dropped what, for him, was a straightforward catch. Despite Warne’s herculean bowling effort in taking 12 wickets in the match, he ended up on the losing side, as Pietersen scored 158 in a pulsating, counter-attacking innings.

A very expensive dropped catch occurred at Edgbaston, Birmingham on June 3, 1994. In a county match between Warwickshire and Durham, the Durham wicketkeeper dropped Brian Lara on 16. He went on to score 501, the highest ever individual score in first class cricket, which included an astonishing 390 runs in a single day.

In November 2014, at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, Indian batman Rohit Sharma was dropped on four by a Sri Lankan fielder on the boundary. Sharma went on to score 294, which remains the highest ever ODI individual score. Sri Lanka, requiring 405 for victory, were bowled out for 251.

The first two examples are from the longest formats of the game, four- and five-day cricket. In these, in order to win the match, it is normally necessary for the winning team to have to dismiss the opposition in both of its innings, taking all 20 wickets. This contrasts with the shorter, limited-over formats, in which the winning side is the one which scores the most runs, irrespective of the number of wickets lost. This changes the games’ dynamics.

Modern day analysts argue that one of the key changes relates to the value and importance of fielding, especially catching. Estimates have been made by them of the average value of a wicket in the various formats. In Test cricket, there is a consensus around 36 runs, whilst for T20 cricket it is much lower at eight runs. In both cases, the average value will be higher at beginning of the innings. On this basis, it is clear that the value of taking wickets is much higher in Tests.

Some 60 percent of dismissals in Test cricket are caught. Seventy percent of these catches are taken by close fielders — wicketkeeper, slips, gully, short legs. The best catchers take 80 percent of chances offered to them. Hence, great value is placed on their ability to consistently catch out the opposition, especially those batting high up the order. In Test cricket, the relative value of catching to ground fielding is high, since wicket-taking is paramount.

In T20 cricket, 60 percent of dismissals are caught, similar to Test cricket. However, less than 20 percent of those are taken by close catchers, half of them by the wicketkeeper. This is hardly surprising given that the aim of the game seems to be for batters to hit as many balls as possible over the boundary. As a result, catches on the boundary account for a higher proportion. The importance of athletic fielding also assumes a higher value, as stopping runs being scored, especially boundaries, is a vital component of these matches.

One-day or 50-over cricket displays characteristics of the other two formats. Analysts calculate that its average value per wicket is 30 runs, near to that for Test cricket. However, fielding restrictions, designed to establish a balance between bat and ball, shape it differently. In the first 10 overs of each innings, only two fielders are allowed to be outside of a 27.5-meter circle. This has the effect of making it difficult to score singles but offers the opportunity to score boundaries. In overs 11 to 40, a maximum of four fielders are allowed to be outside the circle and, in the final 10 overs, a maximum of five.

These distinct phases in each innings have led to the need for different types of players in each phase. Boundary hitters have emerged in the powerplay and final stage whilst, in the middle stages, those skillful in rotating the strike and building a solid base for big hitters in the final overs are favored. Given the value of a wicket and the importance of scoring rate in 50-over cricket, the calculation and taking of risk by batters is crucial, placing higher importance on fielders taking catches when offered than in T20s, as per the example of Sharma.

The old adage about catches winning matches has been challenged. However, whilst it is true that catches do not automatically lead to victory or vice versa, there are psychological considerations. From a club player’s perspective, the analysts’ clinical assessment of the importance of catches and their relative lack of importance, at least in T20 cricket, misses a vital element.

Dropping a straightforward catch often has a negative effect on morale. Heads go down, blame is attributed, rarely directly, mutterings abound, out of earshot of the transgressor. No one means to drop a catch but, at basic club level, where drop percentages are high, there is the distinct belief that catches still win matches.


Al-Shabab’s Krychowiak voted Roshn Saudi League player of the week after two-goal performance

Al-Shabab’s Krychowiak voted Roshn Saudi League player of the week after two-goal performance
Updated 24 sec ago

Al-Shabab’s Krychowiak voted Roshn Saudi League player of the week after two-goal performance

Al-Shabab’s Krychowiak voted Roshn Saudi League player of the week after two-goal performance
  • Polish midfielder scored twice as league leaders maintained perfect start to season with 2-1 win over Al-Fayha

Al-Shabab’s Grzegorz Krychowiak has been voted Roshn Saudi League player of the week by statistical website SofaScore after a match-winning performance in Round 5 of the season.

The Polish midfielder, on loan from Major League Soccer club New York City FC, managed a rating of 8.6 after scoring two goals from outside the penalty in his team’s 2-1 win over Al-Fayha on Sunday.

Team of the week for Round 5 of the Roshn Saudi League. (SofaScore)

The team of the week included Damac goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba, who scored a historic goal in the 2-0 win over Al-Tai; defenders Saeed Al-Mowalad (Al-Ettifaq), Mohammed Salem (Al-Raed), Djamel Benlamri (Al-Khaleej) and Tawfiq Buhumaid (Al-Fateh); midfielders Aschraf El Mahdioui (Al-Taawoun), Faycal Fajr (Al-Wehda), Lucas Souza (Al-Khaleej), Abdullah Al-Ammar (Damac) and Krychowiak; and finally Alexandru Mitrita (Al-Raed) in attack.

The fifth of the Rosh Saudi League concluded with Al-Shabab top of the table with a maximum of 15 points, Al-Hilal in second with 12 and Al-Ittihad in third with 11.


Tennis star Kyrgios to fight assault charge on mental health grounds

Tennis star Kyrgios to fight assault charge on mental health grounds
Updated 04 October 2022

Tennis star Kyrgios to fight assault charge on mental health grounds

Tennis star Kyrgios to fight assault charge on mental health grounds
  • Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Feb. 3, when Kyrgios’ lawyers are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law

CANBERRA: Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios will apply to have an assault charge dismissed on mental health grounds, his lawyer told an Australian court on Tuesday.

Lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith appeared on behalf of Kyrgios in a court in the tennis star’s hometown of Canberra and asked for an adjournment so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Feb. 3, when Kyrgios’ lawyers are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law.

The 27-year-old Australian tennis star will appear in court in person on that date for the first time since he was charged by police by summons in July.

The law gives magistrates the power to dismiss a charge if they are satisfied an accused person is mentally impaired, and dealing with an allegation in that way would benefit the community and the defendant.

The common assault charge, which has a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison, relates to an incident in January 2021 that was reported to local police last December.

The charge reportedly relates to an incident involving his former girlfriend.

Kukulies-Smith told the court his client’s mental health history since 2015 made the application appropriate, citing a number of public statements made by Kyrgios.

In February, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the US Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s US Open title defense last month to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

Theakston questioned whether Kyrgios would need to appear in court for the February hearing, but Kukulies-Smith said his client wanted to attend.

Kyrgios was scheduled to play at the Japan Open later Tuesday against Tseng Chun-hsin of Taiwan.

Speaking in Tokyo before his matter returned to court, Kyrgios said it was “not difficult at all” to focus on tennis despite the pending charge.

“There’s only so much I can control and I’m taking all the steps and dealing with that off the court,” he told reporters. “I can only do what I can and I’m here in Tokyo and just trying to play some good tennis, continue that momentum and just try to do my job.”


Saudi Arabia to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at NEOM

Saudi Arabia to  host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at NEOM
Updated 04 October 2022

Saudi Arabia to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at NEOM

Saudi Arabia to  host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at NEOM

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it has won a bid to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at a planned mountain resort in the Gulf state’s $500 billion flagship NEOM project.

The Trojena development is expected to be completed in 2026 and will offer outdoor skiing, a man-made freshwater lake and a nature reserve, according to the project’s website.

In August, a letter of interest to the Olympic Council of Asia included a brief of the Saudi Vision 2030 which will support Trojena host one of the most significant sporting events in Asia in which more than 32 countries are expected to participate.

The Olympic Council of Asia welcomed the official request. The decision made during the council’s executive board meeting and general assembly being held in Cambodia on October 3-4.

“With the unlimited support by the Saudi leadership & HRH Crown Prince to the sport sector we are proud to announce we have won the bid to host AWG TROJENA2029 as the first country in west Asia,” Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal said on Twitter.

NEOM is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s most ambitious project under the Saudi Vision 2030 development plan to reduce reliance on oil and transform the economy, including by developing sports.

NEOM, a 26,500-square-kilometer high-tech development on the Red Sea, will include zero-carbon city “The Line” as well as industrial and logistics areas.

Saudi Arabia will be the first West Asian nation to host the Asian Winter Games.

with Reuters


Independent probe blows lid off ‘systemic’ abuse and sexual misconduct in US women’s football

Independent probe blows lid off ‘systemic’ abuse and sexual misconduct in US women’s football
Updated 04 October 2022

Independent probe blows lid off ‘systemic’ abuse and sexual misconduct in US women’s football

Independent probe blows lid off ‘systemic’ abuse and sexual misconduct in US women’s football
  • The investigation began after a 2021 report by The Athletic about abusive behavior and sexual misconduct by former Portland Thorns manager Paul Riley
  • The 172-page report included interviews with more than 200 National Women’s Soccer League players

WASHINGTON: An independent investigation into allegations of misconduct in US women’s soccer released Monday found “systemic” abuse and sexual misconduct by coaches.

The probe by former acting US attorney general Sally Yates and the King & Spalding law firm uncovered verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct, including a pattern of “sexually charged comments, unwanted sexual advances and touching and coercive sexual intercourse.”

The 172-page report included interviews with more than 200 National Women’s Soccer League players — many of them members of US national teams — and detailed patterns of abuse from team coaches, manipulation and tirades plus retaliation for those who complained.

“Our investigation has revealed a league in which abuse and misconduct — verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct — had become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches and victims,” Yates wrote in the report’s executive summary.

“Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players,” she added.

“The players who have come forward to tell their stories have demonstrated great courage. It’s now time that the institutions that failed them in the past listen to the players and enact the meaningful reform players deserve.”

The investigation began after a 2021 report by The Athletic about abusive behavior and sexual misconduct by former Portland Thorns manager Paul Riley.

That report said complaints were brought to former US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati but no action was taken by USSF against Riley. Although he eventually was fired by the Thorns, Riley was hired to coach another NWSL team.

“The verbal and emotional abuse players describe in the NWSL is not merely ‘tough’ coaching,” Yates wrote.

“And the players affected are not shrinking violets. They are among the best athletes in the world. They include members of the US Women’s national team, veterans of multiple World Cup and Olympic tournaments.”

Rory Dames coached the Chicago Red Stars from the NWSL’s start until resigning last November. The report outlined his obscenities and verbal abuse and insults to players, saying a sexualized workplace led to multiple improper sexual relationships with players.

Christy Holly was a coach with Sky Blue for half a season in 2016 before departing after complaints of verbal abuse and an improper relationship, the report said.

Holly was hired last year by expansion club Racing Louisville, where verbal and emotional abuse was repeated and he was fired after sexually coercing and groping a player.

The NWSL, in a statement, promised “systemic reform” to make the league one “with safe and professional environments to train and compete” and acknowledged the “anxiety and mental strain” for women reliving traumatic incidents.

“We continue to admire their courage in coming forward to share their stories,” it said. “We know we must learn from and take responsibility for the painful lessons of the past in order to move the league into a better future.”

The report found teams, league officials and the USSF “repeatedly failed to respond appropriately when confronted with player reports and evidence of abuse,” and “failed to institute basic measures to prevent and address it, even as some leaders privately acknowledged the need for workplace protections.”

That allowed abusive coaches to move from club to club with positive remarks that concealed misconduct.

“Those at the NWSL and USSF in a position to correct the record stayed silent,” the report said. “And no one at the teams, the league or the federation demanded better of coaches.”

USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone, a former US women’s national team player who took charge in 2020, said measures are already underway to prevent such violations from happening again.

“This investigation’s findings are heartbreaking and deeply troubling,” Cone said. “The abuse described is inexcusable and has no place on any playing field, in any training facility or workplace.

“US Soccer is fully committed to doing everything in its power to ensure that all players — at all levels — have a safe and respectful place to learn, grow and compete.”

Federation initiatives include online and text systems for reporting incidents, tighter verifying of coaches and referees, and background screening.

“US Soccer and the entire soccer community have to do better,” Cone said. “I have faith that we can use this report and its recommendations as a critical turning point for every organization tasked with ensuring player safety.”

A new office of participant safety will be established to address the findings and act on recommendations.

“We’re taking the immediate action that we can today,” Cone said. “We can create meaningful, long-lasting change throughout the soccer ecosystem,” Cone said.


French star Wembanyama set for his first taste of NBA life

French star Wembanyama set for his first taste of NBA life
Updated 04 October 2022

French star Wembanyama set for his first taste of NBA life

French star Wembanyama set for his first taste of NBA life
  • Wembanyama at 7-foot-2 is listed as a center but plays all over the floor with guard skills in a big-man frame

LAS VEGAS: Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson have been linked constantly over the last couple years, with just about every prognosticator anointing them as the top two picks in the 2023 NBA draft.

Thing is, they don’t know each other.

That’s about to change. Wembanyama — he’s listed at 7-foot-2, some say he’s 7-foot-4 — and the Paris-based club Metropolitans 92 are in Las Vegas to take on Henderson and the G League Ignite in a pair of exhibitions, the first on Tuesday and the second on Thursday.

“We’re playing against an NBA team, with NBA rules, on an NBA court,” Wembanyama said Monday. “This is really going to be a first for me. I’m curious to know how it’s going to go. I know it’s going to go well, but I’m still curious.”

Victor vs. Scoot. Scoot vs. Victor. They’re not playing 1-on-1, but they are the clear headliners and the reasons why these first-of-their-kind games were put together.

Wembanyama is listed as a center but plays all over the floor with guard skills in a big-man frame; Henderson is a point guard who has been getting tons of attention for years.

“Out of all the prospects I’ve heard about in our class, I think he’s my favorite one,” Wembanyama said. “I think he’s the most reliable that I’ve seen. He’s really a great player. If I was never born, I think he would deserve the first spot.”

Henderson — a five-star recruit from Georgia who signed with the Ignite last year and played in 10 games — sees these two games as an opportunity, downplaying the 1-on-1 storyline.

“People always try to compare and contrast whoever. I don’t look at it like that,” Henderson said. “I look at it as two good ballplayers.”

The Ignite program exists to develop young prospects in preparation for the NBA Draft, mixing them with veteran talent to help guide them along the way. It has featured three eventual top-10 picks — Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga last year, Dyson Daniels this year — in its first two seasons.

Henderson is a huge draw for the Ignite this year. The Ignite also have Shareef O’Neal, the son of Shaquille O’Neal. But much of what the Ignite would ordinarily be doing right now would be barely noticed nationally; hence, the games against Wembanyama were put together.

The Los Angeles Lakers are playing in Las Vegas this week, a pair of preseason matchups against Phoenix and Minnesota. Wembanyama is going to those as a fan; he’ll have a slightly different view of NBA games next season.

“He’s one of those type of players, honestly, where you say like there’ll never be like another Shaq or there’ll never be another that,” Ignite coach Jason Hart said. “He’s that. You’ll never see another one of those. The scouting report on him is tough. ... I’m honored that I’m getting to play him at 18, because at 24, he’s going to be something different.”

Wembanyama has been a pro for three seasons already, spending last season with ASVEL in France — a club owned by San Antonio Spurs legend Tony Parker. He made the decision this year to join Metropolitans in part to be coached by Vincent Collet, who also coaches the French national team.

Collet is welcoming the chance.

“I think he’s the best prospect we’ve ever had in our league,” Collet said. “He’s amazing, not only by his size, but incredible skills. Despite that, he still needs to learn the game. He’s very young. ... We will try to give him this experience. That’s the deal we have together, him and me. We want to give him the experience before he gets to the league. It’s most important to get him ready for what will follow next year.”