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Sachin, Cook and the Test run-making record December 6, 2012

Posted by chitranshu in Sports.

A little more than two years ago, I wrote on this blog about potential challengers to Sachin Tendulkar’s record of most Test runs. Now, with questions being raised on Sachin’s retirement (which have hopefully been put to rest for some time with his innings of 76 today), and with many of his contemporaries having retired in the last couple of years (most recently Ponting), it seems like a good time to have a re-look at the whole challenger equation.

In the original post, the first criterion was to consider batsmen with more than 5,000 runs at that time. Thus, many young players slipped under the radar, one of them being Alastair Cook about whom I will talk later. The second criterion was: starting from that day (31 October 2010), if a batsman scored at an average of 1,000 runs a year, would he be able to reach the 15,000 run mark by the age of 40? On this basis, Rahul Dravid, S Chanderpaul, Mohammad Yousuf, VVS Laxman, Andrew Strauss, Younis Khan and Mark Boucher were eliminated, while Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Graeme Smith, Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Kevin Pietersen were compared further.

Since then, Ponting, Dravid, Yousuf, Laxman, Strauss and Boucher have retired. S Chanderpaul and Younis Khan continue to be irrelevant to the discussion, while Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Sehwag, Gayle, Sarwan and Pietersen have joined the ranks of irrelevance. So from the original post, only Kallis and Graeme Smith are still relevant as “challengers”.

Meanwhile, there are those who have crossed the 5,000 run mark in the last two years – Alastair Cook, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, AB de Villiers, Ian Bell, T Samaraweera, Hashim Amla and T Dilshan. Out of these, Hussey, Samaraweera and Dilshan can be ignored rightaway because of their age. Clarke and Bell can also be ignored because the other criterion (of reaching 15,000 runs by the age of 40 if one scores at 1,000 runs a year) is just missed by them.

Thus, we have Kallis, Smith, Cook, de Villiers and Amla to compare. However, Sachin is still around, and has not only crossed the 15,000 run mark which was used earlier, but is now at 15,638 (after today’s innings) and could go even higher depending on how long he plays. Therefore, let us use a different method for comparison – the difference in age and difference in runs between Sachin and each of these “challengers”.

Here’s what we get:

Name Difference in Age Difference in Runs
Kallis 2 yrs 6 months 2658
Smith 7 yrs 9 months 7069
Cook 11 yrs 8 months 8726
de Villiers 10 yrs 10 months 9744
Amla 9 yrs 11 months 10315


As we can see, in the short term, Kallis does have a chance to catch up, but we’ll come to know in a year or so whether he is able to do so or not, depending on when Sachin retires and how Kallis holds up until then. This is what happened with Ricky Ponting as well – people kept wondering whether he will be able to overtake Sachin or not, and in the meantime Sachin’s performance improved, Ponting’s dipped and eventually Ponting has retired earlier.

In the long term, what the others need to do can be compared with the best phases in the careers of other great batsmen. Ponting scored 7,515 runs over 7 years (from 2002 to 2008) and 9,953 runs over 10 years (from 2001 to 2010), so Smith’s and de Villiers’s targets are achievable in comparison, while Amla has a slightly tough task.

The real challenger to Sachin’s record, however, is Alastair Cook. What Cook needs to achieve is not only easier than others in that table, but has also in fact been achieved on more than one occasion before – besides Ponting, Dravid scored 9,850 runs from 2001 to 2011 and Kallis  scored 9,828 runs from 2000 to 2010. Sachin’s best phases were shorter in comparison (1997 to 2002 and 2007 to 2011) and separated by a lean phase from 2003 to 2006.

Though these may be hypothetical scenarios because not everyone may be able to play for as long as Sachin has done, but still, Cook stands out from the rest due to his performance so far – he has scored more runs than anyone else since his debut, i.e. 6,912 runs in less than 7 years. He has also done better than Sachin already in terms of runs scored at his current age (6,912 compared to Sachin’s 6,720).

In fact, a few months after the original post, I received a comment on it mentioning Alastair Cook as a potential challenger. Those intervening months (November 2010 to February 2011) were when Cook really drew attention, with 766 runs in 5 Ashes tests, and crossed the 5,000 run mark at that time. His performance until October 2010 was quite mediocre, with 4,364 runs in 60 tests at an average of 42.78, while since November 2010, it has been extraordinary, with 2,548 runs in 25 tests at an average of 67.05. Also, he is just nearing his 28th birthday, a time when most Test players start reaching their peak, so possibly his best is yet to come.

Of course, Cook has also benefited from England playing more Test matches than other nations, but by that logic, each generation of players has generally benefited from more matches being played than the previous generation. Whatever be the case, it will be interesting to see how Alastair Cook’s career and his possible challenge to Sachin’s Test run-making record shape up.


Matrix: Does not make sense AT ALL November 24, 2012

Posted by chitranshu in Personal, Travel.

This post is about my bad experience with Matrix, the well-known provider of SIM cards, data cards and forex cards for international travelers. I have only used their SIM cards for two international trips, so I’ll talk only about their SIMs, not data and forex, though one may safely assume that they don’t make sense either.

Also, none of the things below are one-off incidents or cases of individual fraud, though those are also not ruled out. What I am going to talk about are all systemic issues, things which happen repeatedly, things which are probably “business as usual” for Matrix.

Non-working SIM cards

This is supposedly a very frequent problem with Matrix SIM cards. On both our trips abroad, we have faced issues with at least one SIM card not working. A simple internet search reveals many people on Facebook, on consumer websites etc complaining about Matrix giving them SIM cards which did not work, but for which they were charged anyway.

On our first international trip, my wife and I took two SIM cards from the Matrix shop at Delhi airport. On landing abroad, we realized that only one of the SIM cards was working. The other one took 3 days to be activated, after several e-mails sent to the Matrix support team. It was OK for us because we had 10 more days of our trip left, but for a short trip, a SIM card which takes so long to be activated will be absolutely useless.

In fact, this is precisely what happened with us this year on our second trip, when a country-specific SIM card that we took from Matrix did not work, and since we were in that country only for 2 days, it did not make sense to wait for it to be activated. We informed Matrix by email and they agreed that they will not bill us for that card if we could not use it, but they sent us a bill anyway. After a lot of back-and-forth over email, they have finally waived off those charges and adjusted it against the other bills that we had.

Calls which were not really calls

Sometimes, you may call someone and that person may miss the call, or cut it without receiving. In such cases, telecom operators usually have pre-recorded voices which say that “the number is busy” or “not available” and so on. Does anyone ever get billed for such “calls”? Not that I have heard of.

But Matrix bills you for such “calls”. And such a 3-4 second “call” ends up costing you Rs. 30-40 easily, because of Matrix’s fantastic charges (more on that later). You may argue with them endlessly, and they may finally agree to waive such calls only out of “goodwill”, while still insisting that the “calls” were “valid”, as it showed up in their “reliable billing system”.

How “reliable” is their “billing system”? Here’s an example: My wife called me, but she heard a pre-recorded voice instead, cut it immediately, and saw it as a 4-second “call”. I do not remember hearing the phone ringing, but later saw it as a missed call. And it showed up in the Matrix bill later as a 7-second “call”. Which one is right, 4 seconds or 7 seconds? The only way to prove that you are right would be to take a photograph of the phone screen when the call duration appears at the end of each call. Call logs won’t be useful because they disappear with the SIM card (which you have to return to Matrix immediately after the trip), while the bills come weeks or even months later.

Another example of why one needs to keep some evidence of their call durations: We took another SIM card from Matrix this year at a Rs. 500/- rental. We were told that it had Rs. 500/- free talktime included in it, which we calculated as about 7 EUR, or 5 minutes of India calls @ 1.29 EUR/min. Our first call to India went over 2 minutes (2:09 to be precise), but the second call was finished in 1:41. Meanwhile, towards the end of our trip, we received a bill for this number in which we were only charged for the Rs. 500/- rental and a Rs. 199/- activation charge. We thought that since we finished our calls within the “free talktime” limit, they have not been billed at all.

However, more than a month later, when we have no evidence whatsoever of those calls (our parents, to whom we made those calls, also don’t have it in their call logs any more), we get a bill from Matrix in which the two calls are shown as 3:09 and 2:41, and billed accordingly. Each extra minute cost us about Rs. 118/-, i.e. a total of Rs. 236/- extra unexpectedly and for which we have no evidence to refute what Matrix is saying.

Unexplained Charges

Matrix will tell you that their SIM card has a rental of Rs. 500/- and an activation charge of Rs. 199/- (like the one that I mentioned above). You know that there will be some fine print, so you look at the tariff sheet and see that there will be a 12% surcharge. You agree, thinking that after all, all postpaid providers add taxes to the quoted rates. But NO, the surcharge is not the same as tax. They are different, and will be charged one on top of the other. So what you have been told as Rs. 699/- will actually be Rs. 879.64/- (i.e. 699 * 1.12 * 1.1236, since the current service tax is 12.36%). And then you will be told that on that tariff sheet, besides the 12% surcharge, there was another line somewhere, saying “taxes as applicable”.

We had last year’s bills with us (on Gmail, where you never have to delete anything), and we saw that there was only a 10% surcharge last time, and no tax. We asked Matrix again, but they said that they have started adding taxes from this year because of a change in the law in this year’s Budget.

What nonsense! Airtel, Vodafone etc have been charging taxes on postpaid bills for a long time, and no “surcharge” besides that. Nothing has changed for them at least in this year’s Budget. And even if Matrix has to levy a “surcharge”, it should be for some reason, right? What is the reason? That is something they will never tell you, at least not AFTER you have used their services. If any of you happen to ask them BEFORE you use their services and they tell you a reason for that surcharge, please let me know as well.

And why was that surcharge exactly 10% last year, and is exactly 12% now? Why is it always the same as the service tax rate? Not more, not less? Without any explanation from them, the only reason we can think of is so that people may confuse it with the tax and not realize that it is an additional charge.

Irregular Billing Cycles

Usually, most service providers have a monthly billing cycle. Again, that’s not the case with Matrix. They will claim that they have a monthly billing cycle, say up to 30th of every month. So you will get a bill on the 31st, for an amount of Rs. 879.64/- (which is Rs. 699/- plus surcharge and tax, as explained above). You will think that this also includes the calls made using their “free talktime”, which were made in this period of 1st to 30th.

However, you will get a separate bill about 15-20 days later, say on 21st, in which the billing cycle for the SAME number is now 21st to 20th, and it will show the calls that you made from that number.

Why these two different bills with different billing cycles? One possibility is that they wait for some time to see if you raise any disputes, and if in any of the bills you successfully manage to get some charge waived (which was unfair in the first place), they make up for their “losses” by tweaking the call duration of one of your calls and charging you extra for it. This may or may not be happening, but without any transparency from Matrix, we can only make conjectures.

The bottomline is that almost every experience with Matrix leaves you with a bitter after-taste. Either your SIM card will not work, or you will be charged for calls you never made, or there will be unforeseen and unexplained charges which will inflate your bill like anything. Not even one person that we know has anything nice to say about them, while there are many who have a list of bad experiences, many of them much worse than ours. We faced some small issues last time, thought there was no other option, fell into their trap again this time, and have now seen enough trouble never to use Matrix again, nor to advise it to anyone else.

Then what should an international traveler do? From what we know, Matrix is not a telecom service provider by itself, but only an intermediary, which gets SIMs from other countries and gives them to us before we leave India. So you can bypass Matrix and get those SIMs yourself – at least prepaid if not postpaid. In most countries, you can easily purchase a prepaid SIM with lower call rates as soon as you land at the airport, by giving only a copy of your passport. You just need to look around or do some online research beforehand. But whatever you do, do not believe that Matrix “makes sense”!

Sachin Tendulkar And His Challengers October 31, 2010

Posted by chitranshu in Sports.

Sachin Tendulkar’s getting-better-with-age performance and his Bradmanesque statistics this year have been the focus of a lot of discussion and analysis recently, like this one on Cricinfo. While his performance has silenced his critics and delighted his fans (I am one of the latter), it has also rendered questions about his retirement and comparisons with contemporaries largely irrelevant. However, I am still tempted to draw some comparisons, do some analysis of my own and try to answer some questions –  Will Sachin’s record ever be broken? What will it take to break, or even come close to it? Who from the present generation can break this record?

Before proceeding to try and answer this question, let me define it more clearly. By record, I mean one “important” record – most runs in a Test career. Not ODIs because even a casual glance at the table of highest ODI run-scorers and century-makers will show how far ahead Sachin is of the rest, and if ODI cricket becomes less and less popular with the increasing popularity of T20, then no one might ever be able to play enough matches to break Sachin’s ODI records, a la Jack Hobbs or Wilfred Rhodes in first-class cricket. Other formats like first-class, List A, T20 and T20-Internationals are too mundane or too new in Sachin’s case.

So the question is – what will it take to break Sachin’s record of most runs in Tests? Sachin currently has 14,240 runs from 171 Tests, and he is going to play at least 6 more Tests (against the Kiwis and Proteas) before the World Cup. While it is widely believed that he will retire from ODI cricket after the World Cup, we do not know whether he intends to retire from Tests as well. If Sachin really means what he said a few days back, then it does not seem like he is going to retire from Tests any time soon. I quote:

When asked what all has remained in his wish list which he still want to achieve, Tendulkar said, “There is no wish list. I play because I always love playing cricket. The only thing I ever wanted to do was to play for my country. 

“Now, my track is only cricket, where a lot of stations come and I cherish arriving at all of them. But I personally just want to do something for my country and go on playing. In this journey I want to achieve whatever I can till the time remains,” said the man, who remains just one short of scoring 50 Test centuries.

However, he has mentioned that he would like to reach 15,000 runs in Tests, which on current form, he might achieve within the next three months. So let us suppose for the time being that 15,000 runs will be the mark that Sachin will set before hanging up his bat.

Whoever aims to reach even close to this number will have to perform exceedingly well for an extended duration of time. How do we define “exceedingly well”? Let us say an average of 1,000 runs a year. Ponting has managed it over the last decade (2,233 on 1st November 2000 to 12,250 today), which is why he came to be regarded as a potential challenger to Sachin’s record. Though Sachin has been pulling ahead of him recently, Ponting still has a chance to catch up before age catches up with him. So we can still look at Ponting’s record, as well as those of other potential challengers. Here, we restrict ourselves to batsmen who have scored at least 5,000 Test runs. It does not make sense to analyze the statistics of a Suresh Raina or a Tamim Iqbal, as they have a long way to go and you never know what path their careers might take. We do not even know how much or how little Test cricket will be played 15 years from now.

With this criteria in place, I looked at the table of highest run-getters in Tests, and came up with the following names who have scored at least 5,000 runs and are still playing – Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Mahela Jayawardene, S Chanderpaul, Kumar Sangakkara, Mohammad Yousuf, VVS Laxman, Graeme Smith, Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle, Andrew Strauss, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Kevin Pietersen, Younis Khan, Mark Boucher.

To shorten this list further, I subtracted each player’s current age from 40 (assuming that 40 is the maximum age up to which someone can play respectably in today’s times), multiplied the remaining number of years by 1000 (assuming that they score, on average, 1000 runs a year, according to our definition of “exceedingly well”, till they reach the age of 40), and eliminated those who are still not able to reach 15,000. The following are thus eliminated – Rahul Dravid, S Chanderpaul, Mohammad Yousuf, VVS Laxman, Andrew Strauss, Younis Khan and Mark Boucher.

For the remaining batsmen, here are their current statistics:

Name DOB Matches Innings Runs Average
Ricky Ponting 19-Dec-74 148 251 12250 54.69
Jacques Kallis 16-Oct-75 140 237 11126 55.08
Mahela Jayawardene 27-May-77 113 187 9408 54.07
Kumar Sangakkara 27-Oct-77 91 152 8016 56.85
Graeme Smith 1-Feb-81 86 151 7170 50.49
Virender Sehwag 20-Oct-78 81 139 7152 53.37
Chris Gayle 21-Sep-79 88 155 6007 40.32
Ramnaresh Sarwan 23-Jun-80 83 146 5759 41.73
Kevin Pietersen 27-Jun-80 66 117 5306 47.80

Since all of these batsmen made their debut after Sachin, we can look at one more statistic – runs Sachin has scored since each of these batsmen’s debut.

Name Debut Date Current Runs Runs scored by Sachin since their debut
Ricky Ponting 8-Dec-95 12250 11757
Jacques Kallis 14-Dec-95 11126 11757
Mahela Jayawardene 2-Aug-97 9408 10623
Kumar Sangakkara 20-Jul-00 8016 8204
Graeme Smith 8-Mar-02 7170 6567
Virender Sehwag 3-Nov-01 7152 7321
Chris Gayle 16-Mar-00 6007 8204
Ramnaresh Sarwan 18-May-00 5759 8204
Kevin Pietersen 21-Jul-05 5306 4106

From these tables, we can conclude the following:

1.)   Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan are nowhere in the race. Their inclusion here was by statistical accident, because their figures so far show no sign of being able to compete with Sachin’s.

2.)   The most immediate challengers to Sachin’s record are Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis. While Ponting has been regarded as a challenger for some time now, Kallis has quietly sneaked up behind him. Their task is fairly well cut-out – to try and narrow, or at least maintain, the gap between them and Sachin while he is around, and then go for the record once he retires.

3.)   The numbers of Jayawardene, Sangakkara and Sehwag also compare favourably with Sachin’s. Jayawardene has an advantage in terms of many more matches played than Sangakkara and Sehwag, but the latter two have been closer competitors to Sachin since their debut. Since all of them are currently in top form (ranks 4, 2 and 3 respectively in the ICC Test batsmen rankings) and have quite some time left before retirement, it will be interesting to see how their numbers shape up in the years to come.

4.)   Graeme Smith and Kevin Pietersen are the youngest of the lot here and also have good records so far. Their best in Tests may be yet to arrive, and they might be the batsmen to watch out for once the others in this list hang up their bats. Graeme Smith has the advantage of having started his career much earlier than Pietersen, due to which he is currently well ahead, but that advantage could be wiped out in a few years, much like Ponting did to Sachin between 2003 and 2006. However, unlike Ponting who is younger than Sachin, Pietersen is older than Smith, and how crucial this age advantage can be for Graeme Smith, we will see below.

For a more quantitative answer to our question, let us see how old each of these batsmen will be when he reaches 15,000 runs, if he scores at the rate of 1,000 runs a year from now on. Ponting, Kallis and Jayawardene will be around 39, while all others except Graeme Smith will be close to or just above 40. Graeme Smith can achieve it before his 38th birthday, much like Sachin is likely to do in the next few months. So in the long term, Graeme Smith has a better chance of seriously challenging Sachin’s record of most Test runs than anyone else. Unlike Ponting and Kallis, he is not in Sachin’s rearview mirror as of now, but his record so far and the advantage of age put him in this position.

Of course, what I have assumed here, scoring 1,000 runs a year on average, is a very tall task for any batsman. Ponting has managed it over a decade, while Sachin himself, plagued by injuries in his early 30s, has managed an average of 1,000 runs a year only from 1999 to 2002, and is now poised to attain it in the “since 2007” period if he continues his form into the upcoming series. Moreover, such statistical analyses could have been conducted at different points of time over the last 20 years, and would have thrown up a wide range of names as challengers to Sachin, Brian Lara having been one of them for a long time, all of whom were eventually left behind. Sachin’s arguably greatest achievement has been his longevity, having started much earlier than others and still going strong when others his age are panting and walking away into the dusk.

That brings me to my last point. All this analysis could mean nothing if Sachin decides to play on for a couple more years even after reaching 15,000, and maintains his current form. That could see the record being set at something like 17,000 or even 18,000, so high that it may be outside the reach of batsmen for generations to come. That is something a lot of his fans, who cannot imagine cricket without him, would like to see. 😀

A long wait… April 12, 2008

Posted by chitranshu in News.

So the excitement that was building up in my mind till the afternoon of 10th April was brought to a halt in the worst possible way – the Hon Supreme Court of India decided to come out with its verdict on OBC reservations just a day before the IIM admission results were to be announced. Now, the announcement of the results has been put on hold, and to make matters worse, there seems to be an ambiguity in the judgment regarding reservations in post-graduate institutes like the IIMs.

The resulting tug-of-war between conflicting interpretations of the judgment and the consequent delay in the announcement of admission offers are the most irritating aspects of this whole issue for me. I just hope that whatever be the case, the IIMs are ready to implement either of the options, and that they don’t have to go back and conduct more interviews for OBC candidates or anything.

In the end, I just hope that this uncertainty clears out as quickly as possible. I want my results, ASAP!!!

P.S. For those who want my opinion on reservations, read what I had written almost two years back on this blog, here , here and here. My opinion has not changed much since then. In short, I don’t have a problem with reservations per se, but I feel that the way they are being implemented currently does not end up helping the really needy people. The ‘creamy layer’ should be excluded not only among the OBCs, but also the SCs and STs. And that ‘52% of the country’s population is OBC’ claim should be verified independently.

Operation Bluestar March 30, 2008

Posted by chitranshu in History, Personal.

Two years ago, in my final year at IITB, when we were brainstorming for our hostel’s PAF that year, I came across an idea from a junior, on which he and I researched for some days, and came up with a complete story sans the actual dialogues. The story was of a Sikh general-turned-militant called Shabeg Singh (the story on this link is from a completely pro-Khalistan viewpoint, so we thought of narrating it from the viewpoint of the general who headed Operation Bluestar, and letting the audience interpret it as pro- or anti-). This story was rejected in favour of another script, which turned out to be a disaster. Since then, it has been known as the ‘Golden Temple’ idea.

Last year, after I had passed out, the idea was discussed again, but rejected in favour of a winning script on Vidarbha. Finally, this year, they decided to go ahead with the ‘Golden Temple’ idea, and I decided to go and watch it. The story was very different from what we had discussed two years ago. It was a broader story of whatever happened in Punjab in the run-up to Operation Bluestar, with no central character as such. But the main attraction of the entire PAF was the set of the Golden Temple constructed on the main stage.



Not just the Temple on the main stage, but the side stages and backdrops were also beautifully done, like this sugarcane field and the village fair below it.



And then, the PAF started. The first scene was the village fair, showing how peaceful Punjab was.


I also tried to take a couple of videos, but the quality from my cellphone wasn’t good. There were a few amazing Gatka sequences, and I was pleasantly surprised that students managed to do all that.

And then, the story moved forward. In between scene changes, I captured the main stage with lighting from different angles.



And with UV lights.


And finally, the PAF ended.


And now, for my opinion on it. As I have mentioned before, the story was broader than what was originally thought, with no central character. The acting and voice-overs left a lot to be desired, in comparison to one of the other PAFs, and also, for us oldies, in comparison with what we had seen in our times. The direction was also not good, as there were moments where we felt a scene was totally unnecessary or could have been done better. For example, there was a scene where some guys staged Bhagat Singh’s story in a streetplay, and then drew parallels between that and the problems faced by Sikhs in the 1970s and 80s. If they put that only to sing ‘Soora so pehchaniye’, they should have known that this song is an old Sikh song, not the work of Bhagat Singh or his comrades.

However, the sets and the choreography were excellent, and made up for these glitches. In the end, it won the Best PAF of the year, but I think that was only because there were none better this year. I doubt that this PAF (if done exactly the same way as it was done this year) could have beaten Deja-Vu in 2006.

But for now, congratulations to all my juniors who did this. H5 crax BEST PAF two years in a row. 😀