Sunday, 09 January 2011

[Sport: Cricket] IPL 4 squad analysis following auction (8 & 9 January 2011)

So the player auctions for the IPL 2011 season (and beyond) have come to pass and most teams have had a total revamp. The only team which will have a retained a major contingent of their squad is the Chennai Super Kings and they have been contenders in all 3 seasons since tournament inception (so it makes perfect sense for them to retain the look of their squad).

Some teams have chosen not to retain even a single player and gone with fresh line ups! Two new franchises have entered the fray in the form of Kochi and Pune taking the total number of teams to ten. Not long ago there were only 7 teams whose participation was without doubt, this after the banning of two existing franchises by the BCCI (Rajasthan & Punjab) and ownership squabbles within the Kochi franchise threatened it to become a non-starter. Rajasthan and Punjab decided to take the BCCI to task and the higher powers of the land ruled in their favour thus entitling them to compete and effectively 'unbanning' them.

So the player auction (which had been postponed due to the team uncertainty) could go ahead on 8 & 9 January 2011. It appears the Kochi franchise have not had time to finalise their team name and logo but that did not stop them from being one of the more active parties on the auction floor.

Now the question is, which team(s) emerged from the auction with the best players and which is the most balanced squad? Its pretty obvious that simply rating the players based on how much the final bid they were sold for at the auction is not the way to go because of the nature of auctions. There have been loads of media content on who fetched the largest sums, who were the 'steals' and who went unsold against the predictions but not much to evaluate the various team strengths based on player ability and squad completeness, that is what I have attempted to do.

The Squad composition table is available as a pdf download available here.

Scoring Methodology
Each player has been assigned a 'Quality/Ability' score (based on performance at domestic and international level and prior IPL seasons). Scoring of players will always be subjective and the scores presented are my personal view. These individual ratings are then used to determine an overall score for each team based on player quality.

A second score is computed based to indicate the 'Completeness of the squad' which essentially takes into account the number of players already signed up (and bearing in mind that those signed on outside the auction are generally not going to be of the same caliber as they have not represented India at international level). The squad completeness also takes into account the number of Indian players vs the international players in the squad (this rating is preferential towards Indian players due to the limit of 4 internationals in the starting line-up for each match).

Team Ratings summary pdf download available here.

Both these scores are then used to derive an overall team score based on the squad profiles after the auction. The table above indicates a few surprising findings alongside the more expected results, there is little to separate the leading 5 scores but the top 3 sides are Chennai, Bangalore and Kochi respectively whilst the three weakest teams are Punjab, Kolkata (in spite of their big money signings!) and Rajasthan.

Rajasthan appear to be the side with the biggest concern here, they have the fewest number of players in their squad (less than half that of Chennai, Delhi or Kochi) and despite this only manage to obtain a mediocre player quality score (this can only go down with signings after the auction). While they may be able to improve their squad completeness score with some 'Asnodkar' type signings their quality score will take a hit and thus their overall team score will likely remain at the bottom of the rankings. One might say that they pulled off the unexpected with an average squad in the inaugural season but I think they will struggle to repeat a similar feat again.

A table of detailed team ratings by individual player ratings is available as a pdf download available here.

The complete spreadsheet is also available (xlsx format) here.

Wednesday, 04 August 2010

2010 World Cup Rankings

These are the tournament rankings from the World cup (from FIFA). Unsurprisingly the top 4 on the list were also the best four finishers in the competition. It's also worth noting that all 5 South American teams finished in the top 10.

1- Spain

17- Ivory Coast

2- Netherlands

18- Slovenia

3- Germany

19- Switzerland

4- Uruguay

20- South Africa

5- Argentina

21- Australia

6- Brazil

22- New Zealand

7- Ghana

23- Serbia

8- Paraguay

24- Denmark

9- Japan

25- Greece

10- Chile

26- Italy

11- Portugal

27- Nigeria

12- USA

28- Algeria

13- England

29- France

14- Mexico

30- Honduras

15- South Korea

31- Cameroon

16- Slovakia

32- North Korea

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Match 2 Review - France v Uruguay

France 0 - 0 Uruguay [Full-Time]

This was a dull affair in comparison to the opening match. Both sides did not play to their potential and it was a very stop-start affair. The Japanese referee officiating was conned by a number of dives from the Uruguayans and constantly had his whistle in his mouth. The biggest moment of the match was the sending off of Lodeiro for his second bookable offence, he had only come on in the second half.

The goal keepers in this match were far more assured and reinforced my initial opinion that the Mexican keeper Perez seems below par. The infamous Jabulani ball almost caused an embarrassment for French keeper Hugo Lloris as it skipped of the surface and out of grasp of his outstretched gloves, he was able to parry it and then collect it on second attempt without any damage done.

The playing surface, rated as the best in the country by Fifa, appeared quite slippery as there were numerous instances or the players losing their feet (even the ref nearly wiped on one occasion). This was probably down to the 'due' factor which is commonly referred to in cricket matches under lights. The match kicked off at 8:30pm and so it appears they was a fair amount of due on the surface and other teams playing the late fixture will have to take note and maybe adjust their footwear to handle the conditions.

Nothing much else to write home about, the French team is made up of quite a few stars and on their day they have the potential to overcome any opponent. The Uruguay side have got a good striking force but overall (from their first performance) don't match the caliber of the Mexican side. The next match between SA v Uruguay and France v Mexico will be crucial to the outcome of this group, for now its all square at 1 point a piece.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Match 1 Review - South Africa v Mexico

South Africa 1 - 1 Mexico [Full-Time]

The first match of the world cup did not disappoint! South Africa put on a good show against a very strong opponent. The Mexicans once again did not make the most of their opportunities in front of goal verifying previous speculation that they are not the most clinical finishers (think back to the friendly against England). Their most lethal player was Giovani Dos Santos (No. 17), a very skillful attacking midfielder who can skip past defenders with ease... reminiscent of Ronaldinho... even his hairstyle :)

The media were talking up the home support being SA's 12th player but if anything I think it was Jabulani (the ball!) which earned that title. There were countless crosses to Aguilar, who in the first half frequently found himself in acres of space down the right side, which were 'overhit'. I think that this was probably due to the lightness of the ball resulting in increased flight. Both sides sent shots from free kicks well over the crossbar. There were also instances when the ball bounced over the heads of players attempting to control a ball on the bounce.

South Africa's best player (despite the spectacular goal from Tshabalala) was Itumeleng Khune, the goal keeper. It was he who kept SA in the game through the jittery start when Bafana Bafana couldn't even string 3 passes together. Had Mexico gone ahead in the first 10 minutes then there would be no coming back. It was Tshabalala who received the Man of the Match award though, for his stunning strike which couldn't have been better placed, landing perfectly in the top right corner of the goal.

The second half was a much improved performance by SA, coach Carlos made a vital substitution, taking Twala off for Masilela, which closed that gaping hole in the left of defence. Bafana Bafana impressed with their quick short passes to shake off their markers and exposed the Mexican defence on more than one occasion. Indeed they had two goal scoring chances which they could have (and probably should have) made more of. But they were not able to hold on to their lead having left 3 Mexicans unmarked on the receiving end of a cross. The ball fell to Marquez who made no mistake with his finish.

Which brings me to the weakest player in the Mexican team. This accolade goes to Oscar Perez, the goal keeper, who looked (atleast from first impressions) far from assured dealing any aerial deliveries, and he was unable to hold on to any ball hit with any kind of venom. Perez also had his upright to thank when he found himself totally flat footed when Mphela slid the ball to his right. We'll have to see if the more renowned keepers (i.e. Casillas, Julio Ceasar, Buffon...) also struggle to hold on to shots and crosses. One thing's for sure, Khune looked more impressive than Perez in this game.

It was pretty obvious that Mexico were the superior side in ability and quality (a fact confirmed with a glance at the Fifa rankings which has Mexico ranked 17th and South Africa in 83rd). South Africa would have accepted the outcome of a draw if offered before the game and that's what they got, so they wouldn't be disheartened and on balance one could say that a draw was a fair result based on proceedings.

Eyes now turn to the second Group A match of the day, between France and Uruguay, due to kick off at 8:30pm in Cape Town. Both South African and Mexican camps will feel that a place in the next round is still within their grasp.

[Photos are courtesy of Getty Images and]

The FIFA World Cup™ Kick-off Celebration Concert

So the concert happened last night... Wow... It was really well organised... Artists from South Africa, the rest of Africa, Columbia and the US got the whole vibe going. None more so than the Black Eyed Peas who had the entire crowd jumping when they performed "Tonight's gonna be a good night" and Shakira warmed up the chilly evening with her performances capped with the official world cup song... (Waka Waka... or something... its a cool song... grew on me). K'naan also performed what has been selected as Coke's world cup anthem (and you know anything they choose will be big) "Wave your flag" and had the crowd waving passionately for their countries.

The local acts did not disappoint either... amongst them the Parlotones, the Blk Jks (Blackjacks lol), the Soweto Gospel choir and Freshlyground... some performing with Shakira and Alicia Keys...

Some of the other African artists/and Juanes perhaps didn't get the crowd going as much as they were probably an unknown entity to most present but I'm sure their performances were much appreciated by their fans following the broadcast on TV...

Overall a really classy stage presentation and also broadcast in HD... Well done to all involved... Its just the beginning...

Wednesday, 09 June 2010

Thoughts on the lead up to the opening game of the World cup... under 2 days to go!

So as Wednesday evening comes to pass there is just one day to go before the Football World Cup commences. There is definitely no shortage of support and encouragement for the host nation. A massive event was organised by a couple of radio stations and at noon today there was a parade through the streets of Sandton with the team in an open-top a bus. Thousands of fans turned out, and throughout the country people were hooting and blowing on their vuvuzelas at noon (though I didn't quite understand what that achieved... perhaps to spread the excitement).

However... one must ask the question... why is there a celebratory event involving the team 2 days before the tournament commences? The first match against Mexico is a test for the team, so one has to ask if they aren't better off either training/resting and remaining focussed for the big challenge that lies ahead? Usually a student who's about to sit for a major exam avoids external distractions in the lead up to the day of assessment and spends time concentrating on how best to prepare for it.

These sentiments were echoed by the coach Carlos Alberto Perreira when interviewed by Supersport on the bus. Let me just say that if there's one guy I support in the Bafana Bafana setup it is Carlos, his recent press statements have been awesome, just shows the man has vast experience and understands football. Whatever happens in the tournament I sincerely hope that he does not criticised for the teams performance cause it is clear that he has done his part. This is what he had to say about the parade, "I have mixed feelings... It is the first time I've ever seen a parade before a match..." (and he's from Brazil!). On being asked if the whole team would be coming for the parade he responded, "No, it is not advisable to have the whole team two days before a big game like this... Where is the football in this, tell me?" And like I said previously I couldn't agree with him more, he was the only person interviewed whose words showed that he was grounded and could see the bigger picture unlike everyone else who was just swept away in the excitement. I'm glad he's the coach.

The parade was a good idea... for the public to celebrate the world cup coming... but I can't help feeling that a significant contingent of the population aren't really excited for the football, and that's what this is all about... the Football world cup, not the opening ceremony or the parades. I fear that its going to be a huge anti-climax for them once the games begin.

I also worry for those who have unrealistic expectations for the Bafana side, the fact is they are in a really challenging group. Both France and Uruguay are previous winners of the tournament, Mexico has advanced past the group stage in the last four world cups and have looked very impressive in the friendly matches against England, Netherlands and Italy prior to their arrival. In fact I reckon that Mexico and not France will top Group A.

My aspirations for Bafana are much more realistic, they're guaranteed three matches and they can do the nation proud by playing good football and scoring goals, they've only ever won a match once before in a world cup (beating Slovenia 1- 0 in 2002), if they manage 1 victory and 2 draws to put them second in the group this time round that'll be a massive feat.

To be selected to represent your country is a rare privilege, to do so at a World Cup hosted in your own country... now that's a 'Once in a Lifetime' opportunity, I just hope the boys realise this and perform to the best of their ability.

Ayeye Bafana Ayeye!

What motivates you?

This is an amazing clip... The message is quite profound (took me a while to digest) and the presentation is exquisite... I wish textbooks came in audio with comics strips like that :)

Google Streetview in South Africa

Google has launched Street View in South Africa (atleast in some of the major cities).

So what exactly is Street View and how do you get to explore it?

> Street View is a layer in Google Earth which goes down to street level to show an image of how the street would look if you were standing at that spot and looking around (i.e. how it'd appear to the man on the street).

> To access street view open Google Earth (if you don't have Google Earth you can download it here) and make sure the street view label in the bottom left of the screen is selected as illustrated in the screenshot.

When this is done you'll notice several camera icons appear when you zoom into the map, click on the one at the address you which to view and then select 'show full screen'.

Upon doing this you'll can click on what appears to be a blurry sphere and it'll take you to the Street View. A sample of the Brooklyn Circle in Pretoria is shown below...

Saturday, 05 June 2010

Thursday, 13 May 2010

FIFA world cup tickets.. are there any left? Status as of 13 May 2010

So a glance at the availability of tickets on the FIFA site indicates the following:

There are no tickets available in the following venues (unless there are cancellations from from foreign FA allocations):

- Johannesburg (Soccer City)
- Johannesburg (Ellis Park)

There are very few tickets available in the following venues:

- Pretoria:
Category 1
Match 38 - USA v Algeria

- Durban:
Category 1
Match 25 - Netherlands v Japan
Match 35 - Nigeria v South Korea
Match 53 - Netherlands v Paraguay (my prediction)

- Cape Town:
Category 1
Match 11 - Italy v Paraguay
Match 30 - Portugal v North Korea

There are still tickets available in various categories for certain matches at the following venues:

- Rustenburg:
Category 1
Match 12 - New Zealand v Slovakia
Match 24 - Ghana v Australia
Match 33 - Mexico v Uruguay
Match 43 - Denmark v Japan

Category 2
Match 12 - New Zealand v Slovakia
Match 43 - Denmark v Japan

Category 3
Match 12 - New Zealand v Slovakia
Match 43 - Denmark v Japan

- Port Elizabeth:
Category 1 & 2
Match 4 - South Korea v Greece
Match 13 - Ivory Coast v Portugal
Match 21 - Germany v Serbia
Match 31 - Chile v Switzerland
Match 37 - Slovenia v England
Match 49 - France v Nigeria (my prediction)
Match 57 - Netherlands v Brazil (my prediction)
Match 63 - Losers final

Category 3
Match 4 - South Korea v Greece
Match 21 - Germany v Serbia
Match 31 - Chile v Switzerland
Match 49 - France v Nigeria (my prediction)
Match 63 - Losers final

Category 4
Match 31 - Chile v Switzerland

- Polokwane:
Category 1
Match 6 - Algeria v Slovenia
Match 18 - France v Mexico
Match 42 - Paraguay v New Zealand

Category 2 & 3
Match 6 - Algeria v Slovenia
Match 42 - Paraguay v New Zealand

Category 4
Match 42 - Paraguay v New Zealand

- Nelspruit:
Category 1, 2 & 3
Match 15 - Honduras v Chile
Match 28 - Italy v New Zealand
Match 40 - Australia v Serbia
Match 46 - South Korea v Ivory Coast

Category 4
Match 15 - Honduras v Chile
Match 40 - Australia v Serbia

For the latest info consult the FIFA site.