The world of cricket is topsy-turvy

It’s been awhile since I had a post about cricket. There have been some unusual happenings recently and the good news is that it does not involve cheating or other bad behavior by players but instead is about the game itself. It used to be that national Test cricket teams had periods of dominance of a few years when a good crop of players matured together and then went into a slump as those players retired and new ones entered who had yet to find their feet. But now teams lurch from looking dominant in one series to looking awful in the very next one and then bouncing back again, all within a period of months.
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Film review: Fire in Babylon (2010)

I just watched this absolutely riveting documentary. Ostensibly it is about how West Indian cricket became a dominant force in the years from 1980 until 1995 but it is about a lot more than that, weaving in the politics of race and colonialism. Even if you do not know anything about cricket, the politics of the film is utterly absorbing, a story of a victimized people fighting back at their former oppressors, with cricket serving as the vehicle for exacting that revenge.
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The new lions of Afghanistan

Afghanistan was the sensation in the cricket Asia Cup that is currently underway. Despite being considered a hopeless underdog, they crushed Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the first round to advance to the second round of four, along with Bangladesh, Pakistan, and heavy favorites India. There they proved they were no mere flash-in-the-pan, all three of their matches ending in nail-biting finishes. Afghanistan provided pretty much all the excitement in the tournament.
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A minnow bites the whales

I know all you cricket fans must be disappointed by the lack of posts recently on this topic. Well, the big news is about Afghanistan, that country that is wracked by violence aggravated, if not caused, by decades of interference in its internal affairs by outsiders. Currently the Asia Cup is underway to which six countries were invited. The format consisted of creating two groups of three countries for the first round. Within which group, each team would play the other two with the top two teams going to the next round.
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Former cricketer Imran Khan set to become Pakistan’s next prime minister

Early indications from the elections held in Pakistan yesterday indicate that Imran Khan’s party Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI, translated as Movement for Justice) will win a majority and he will be the next prime minister. He has claimed victory but it looks like the outgoing ruling party that has been in power for so long is not going quietly, promising to fight the result, and there could be a continuation of the violence that has plagued this election.
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Exciting finish to Windies-Sri Lanka Test series

The third Test ended today with Sri Lanka winning, thus equalizing the three-Test series at 1-1, with one game drawn. The Windies won the first test easily, outplaying Sri Lanka in all areas of the game. The second Test was an exciting see-saw affair with the Windies dominating early, then Sri Lanka unexpectedly gaining the upper hand on the fourth day, and the game poised evenly on the fifth and final day. Unfortunately rain halted play before a decision could be reached. It was the kind of match that Test cricket aficionados love.
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The resurgence of West Indian cricket

Sri Lanka is currently touring the West Indies and playing a series of three five-day Test matches. Both teams have been struggling of late and the first Test saw the Windies winning very easily. The second test was poised for an exciting finish on the final day before rain caused play to be abandoned and the game ending in a draw (as no decisions are called in cricket). That game was also marred by the Sri Lankan captain being found guilty of ball tampering and banned from playing in the third Test that is currently underway in Barbados and rain has already interrupted play a couple of times.
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Another charge of cheating in cricket

The second Test match between the West Indies and Sri Lanka that ended yesterday in a draw saw another charge of ball tampering. Readers may recall the outrage in March following the discovery that three Australian players, including the captain, had tried to secretly use sandpaper to roughen up one side of the ball, a clear violation of the rules. All three received various punishments (see here and here and here). The charge this time is against the Sri Lankan cricket captain Dinesh Chandimal who was accused of eating a ‘sweet’ (which is what a piece of hard candy is called by us cricket playing former colonials) and then using the sticky saliva to rub on the ball and thus change its condition. He has denied the charge and there will now be an inquiry.
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Gambling in sports: the cricket fixing scandals

Now that the US Supreme Court has allowed gambling on sporting events, a lot more money will be wagered on the outcome of games. As soon as a lot of money is at stake on the results, it is also likely to increase the chances of attempts to fix the outcomes. In cricket, there have been cases of players being bribed by gambling interest to affect their performance, to score slowly or deliberately lose their wickets or bowl badly. Yesterday a new and different type of scandal emerged, one that involved something peculiar to cricket where it was not players who are alleged to have been bribed but the ground staff at a particular venue in Sri Lanka.
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