Did cricket really win on the 14th July 2019?

My good friend Dakshinamurthy Venkatesh Babu (‘Babu’ for short) is an avid fan of sports and films. That is an understatement because I cannot capture in words his intensity, energy and enthusiasm for both. So, I am not trying. He loves Roger Federer so much that neither Federer himself nor Federer’s wife would be able to match him. It takes longer for Babu to recover from the losses suffered by Federer on tennis courts than for Federer himself.

You can imagine what he must have been going through sitting in the upper half of the Edrich stand at Lord’s cricket ground on the 14th of July with the rest of us when his heart and mind were in the Centre Court at Wimbledon. This is where technology failed Venkatesh Babu and the sport-loving humanity. It has not progressed to a point where they could be at two different places at the same time. Many cricket-tennis enthusiasts would have loved to be at Lord’s and at the Wimbledon Centre Court on the afternoon of the 14th July. They could not. So, they watched history being made in one place while they heard of history being made in another.

Roger Federer lost a match that he, for all practical purposes, had won. He was serving for his 9th Wimbledon title and could not hold serve. Federer had won more games in the match and hence scored more points than Djokovic in that match but, in the end, it was Djokovic who was crowned the Wimbledon champion for the fifth time. Federer’s reactions were as impressive and inspiring as the man and his craft are.

May be, some spiritual practitioners who know how to do these things and even teach a select few might become a little more sought-after for this specific purpose, after the events of Sunday, the 14th July 2019.

On my part, I was happy to be at the Upper Edrich Stand at Lord’s in Row J in seat number 67 to witness the bizarre ways in which life unfolded on the 14th of July for cricket players of England and New Zealand. Again, it was due to Babu who had taken the initiative to organise this visit for the rest of the nine of us. Left to myself, I would have watched it in the sweltering sauna-like living room of my apartment in Sri City (IFMR Business School campus) in Andhra Pradesh or, with some luck and planning, in the more comfortable environs of my apartment in Singapore, with my wife and son.

My bragging rights to future generations that I was present at the ‘one and only cricket match that could ever end like this’ is dedicated to Babu!

We watched a cricket match at Lord’s on Sunday that may never again be repeated. Perhaps, the way it was concluded should not be repeated at all. That would be better for the game.

Osman Samiuddin writes in Cricinfo that if ever a proof was needed that life was random, the Cricket World Cup final match of 2019 served it up. One should not be surprised that an outcome like this forces humans to dig deeper and wider into philosophical realms to make sense of it all.

For the record, I had come to a different conclusion. Both Kane Williamson and Roger Federer were born on the 8th August, nine years apart, and they both had a heart-breaking day. It is equally true that both of them are the finest blokes you could find, not just in their respective sporting arenas, but outside of them too.

Many things that happened on the 14th July at Lord’s were not random. No, I am not saying that there was a conspiracy to make England win. Far from it.

Martin Guptill reviewed the ‘LBW’ decision against him. The review went against him, denying Ross Taylor a review when the umpire was clearly in the wrong. Some of us who had a direct view – as I had – felt that the ball had hit him high up, on the thigh.

Martin Guptill ran out M.S. Dhoni with a brilliant throw in a crunch situation in the semi-final but he, inadvertently, ended up conceding 4 overthrows, in a most bizarre and cruel twist to the game when New Zealand had almost put the match out of England’s reach.

Then, Martin Guptill was run out himself, inches from the crease, sprawling, almost like Dhoni was, in the semi-final.

Technology helped New Zealand when it failed to overturn an umpire’s decision that went against Virat Kohli in the semi-final. Technology did not help New Zealand when it failed to conclusively establish that Jason Roy was out the first ball he faced from Trent Boult.

There were other minor-major errors. Quite what Santner was thinking on the last ball of the innings he faced is unclear to us. He not only failed to make any attempt to make meaningful contact with the ball but also failed to take a run off it. It mattered in the end. In a big way.

The big difference, for the worse, on the day, was Trent Boult himself. He was at his best against India. He was well below par on this day, conceding at least one boundary per over.

As for England, did they deserve to win the tournament? I wish I had no doubt in my mind that they deserved. They found a very purposeful and effective bowler in Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes, born in New Zealand, had carried their hopes alive in many matches. He is world class. Jofra Archer, a Barbadian import, is a bowler to watch. But, the more impressive teams in the league phase were India and Australia. England, except on placid tracks, came up short.

Finally, about the rule book. Simon Taufel, a former respected umpire, notes that England should have gotten only five runs off the overthrow rather than six. The specific rule is written clumsily but its intent seems clear as its application. The two umpires on the ground – Erasmus and Dharmasena – missed it. But, that was not the only thing they missed on that day. Playing teams, despite the help or hindrance of technology, must include umpires as part of their team or as part of their opposing team, depending on the day.

Thank Goodness for them that the team that faced most of their errors on 14th July at Lord’s was New Zealand and not India at Eden Gardens, Kolkata.

The most important rule of the day was something that no one had paid attention, probably, including the players and the managements of the teams: if the match was tied, there would be a super over and if the super over was tied as well, the team that scored the most boundaries in the match would be declared victors. It is as daft as it could get.

It is not that we are criticising it now, after remaining silent when it was being drafted. The rule was not crowd-sourced and ICC did not invite suggestions from cricket fans, administrators, et al., to come up with a better rule.

Cricket is about runs and wickets. How you score them is less important. In theory, a team can take singles and twos and score 300 runs in a 50-over match. Possible. Another team can do it differently. Merely because another team scores the same number of runs with 30 boundaries and five sixes plus singles and twos, does not make it a superior team. Arguably, it is a riskier, less athletic and less efficient approach.

Since cricket is about runs and wickets, if the runs are tied, the next important thing is wickets. Since New Zealand scored the runs for the loss of eight wickets and England were all out, New Zealand should have been the winner.

If that too was inconclusive, then one can look at either of the two:

(1) The difference in the net run rate for the entire tournament between the teams or

(2) Difference in the number of runs scored per wicket lost between the two teams in the entire tournament

The only rationale for determining the outcome on the basis of the number of boundaries is that the team that provided the most entertainment to the crowd in terms of boundaries wins! Well, even that may not be correct for it takes no account of how the boundaries were scored.

It privileges batsmen over bowlers. It is flawed.

Why not the team with the most economical bowler wins?

The point here is not to come up with another unilateral (and unfair and unreasonable) rule but to indicate things that administrators needed to think through the signal that they are sending to cricket players.

The ICC has to be indifferent or neutral between batsmen and bowlers. Administrators in combination with Television channels or because of revenues from television rights have put a premium on big-hitting batsmen.

The message of the (second) tie-breaker rule is that technique be damned, bowling be damned and fielding be damned.

That is not cricket. That is not good for cricket either.

(Cross-posted at http://jeevatma.wordpress.com)

Stuck in and with ‘stimulus’

As I read Mike Mackenzie’s market commentary in FT on the 16th May, I was stuck by the use of ‘stimulus’ four times in the article, at various points:

Hopes of a stronger spring bounce in China’s economy reflecting earlier stimulus appears stuck on the launch pad….

… many think the global economy requires a lot more stimulus from here.

… “bad news is actually good news” as it means Beijing will accelerate its stimulus efforts 

… Unless the EU gets to grips with expanding fiscal stimulus across the region

The world has thus come out of (has it?) of an unprecedented monetary stimulus kept in place for nearly a decade – unprecedented in scope, magnitude and duration.

Yet, barely a year later, if almost all parts of the world require further stimulus, what does it say of its effectiveness or, more importantly, desirability, considering all the unpleasant consequences it has engendered, in its wake?

The fine art of dentistry

“A team of researchers at ETH Zurich, a Swiss university, asked a volunteer patient with three tiny, shallow cavities to visit 180 randomly selected dentists in Zurich. The Swiss Dental Guidelines state that such minor cavities do not require fillings; rather, the dentist should monitor the decay and encourage the patient to brush regularly, which can reverse the damage. Despite this, 50 of the 180 dentists suggested unnecessary treatment. Their recommendations were incongruous: Collectively, the overzealous dentists singled out 13 different teeth for drilling; each advised one to six fillings.” [Link]

This is in Switzerland! nearly 30% of the sample have recommended unnecessary treatment!

An article worth reading, even if a bit worrisome. Good to be alert. With dentists, it looks like you cannot stop with a second opinion. You need a third and a fourth, no matter which part of the world you live in.

Denial

It is very easy to write about ‘climate change’ and ‘denial’ in the same sentence. But, ‘denial’ is a human reaction to many things. When faced with a difficult situation or adversity, we first respond with denial. So, one of the usual cycles goes like this:

Crisis – anger – denial – acceptance – action – recovery – complacency – crisis.

Another situation in which we first respond with denial is when we come across something decidedly superior to our work and our knowledge, we respond with denial and then try to belittle it. When it fails, then we begin to accept it grudgingly. Perhaps, the ‘grudge’ never goes away.

So, the theme of this blog post is ‘denial’ in different contexts.

Here is a news-story on Miami going under water and how real estate agents are responding to it. The interesting lines that caught my attention are these:

The sea level in Miami has risen ten inches since 1900; in the 2000 years prior, it did not really change.

The second one that caught my attention is this:

This is the neoliberal notion, that the reasonable and mature way to think about this stuff is: Get more efficient and find the right incentives to encourage the right kinds of enterprise. But my friend wondered, what if the mature thing to do is to mourn – and then retreat?

I really liked this second one because it is in line with this blog post of mine, done a few days ago: ‘Problems and Solutions’. Humans do not or cannot have answers for all issues. In many cases, the ‘fix’ is to retreat, admit that we made a mistake and that we cannot fix it. Most of the time, the ‘fix’ is about continuing with our preferred way of living, not wanting to change it and that somehow we could have the cake and eat it too.

Closely related to this theme is the story published in FT is on a study by Blackrock that investors fail to price in the potential impact of climate change on their portfolios. No surprises there. The story has the link to the full study for those interested. [Link]

In the same issue of FT, there is also the story of the Great Barrier Reef slowly disappearing due to the effects of…….. ahem…. climate change. The first sentence of the article is a good-enough summary:

The damage caused to the Great Barrier Reef by global warming is severely compromising the ability of its corals to recover with a near 90 per cent slump in new coral growth last year, a study has found.  [Link]

This is from the story in the ‘New Yorker’ on migration from Gautemala into the United States:

In a sixteen-hundred-page analysis, government scientists described wildfires in California, the collapse of infrastructure in the South, crop shortages in the Midwest, and catastrophic flooding. The President publicly dismissed the findings. “As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it,” he said. There was a deeper layer of denial in this, since overlooking these effects meant turning a blind eye to one of the major forces driving migration to the border. [Link]

Another sentence in that long ‘New Yorker’ article on Gautemala, climate change and forced immigration to the United States caught my eye:

When the program started, the names we took down were all men,” Loyda Socop, another staffer at the C.D.R.O., said. “But it turned out that it was mostly women who were behind it. They were the ones who wanted to give this a try.” [Link]

Probably, it is worth studying if men are more prone to ‘denial’ and all the dangers associated with ego and hubris than women and, second, if they are more willing to adapt and change than men.

If at all there is some hope for a resilient response and recovery from the ravages of climate change, does it lie with women than with men?

Not that I think Sapiens have left much room for recovery. I think we may have gone past the doomsday clock with respect to climate change. We may mitigate, we may delay but not deny the impact.

Lastly, an illustration of the other form of ‘Denial’ – intellectual and/or ego-induced denial. My colleague, Raghuraman, pointed the ‘denial’ out to me.

This is a (very) long-form article I read in the early hours of Sunday before going to bed, on the Asteroid strike on the planet some sixty-six million years ago – on the moment the Cretaceous period ended and the Paleogene period began. A young Paleontologist (Robert DePalma) may have discovered the ‘record’ of that event in a place called ‘Hell Creek’ (what an apt name?!) in North Dakota.

What comes through, among many other things, in that article is the reluctance of the scientific community that this young man might have discovered what they have not been able to:

All expressed a desire to see the final paper, which will be published next week, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, so that they could evaluate the data for themselves. [Link]

The article was published on March 29, 2019. The paper must be out by now. Those interested and capable can go through the paper and decide for themselves if the young paleontologist has indeed stumbled upon the most amazing recorded evidence of the asteroid strike on Mother Earth.

For those interested, Robert DePalma is related to Hollywood Director Brian DePalma.

Lastly, I read that young Republicans are forcing their elder counterparts to shed ‘climate change’ scepticism (or, denial):

Mr Gaetz said: “One of the problems Republicans have with climate change is they assume if you accept the science of climate change, then you are [required] to embrace the left solution set.” But he added: “I recognise the obvious science of climate change. I didn’t come to Congress to argue with a thermometer.” [Link]

It is not just the Republicans who are to be blamed for climate change. One should blame even central bankers. Low interest rates and high debt have brought forward economic growth mindless construction – think Miami real estate!) that did not exist and have brought forward climate change. So, solutions have to start from the pursuit of mindless and structurally unsound economic growth. But, it might all be too late.

Well, we are like this only. We need asteroids to start afresh.

‘Has Asian dominance arrived’ and other links

This Bloomberg story tells us that global debt rose ‘only’ USD3.3trn in 2018 to around USD243trn, about three times the global GDP. If you want to know the background to this news, the link is there in the Bloomberg news-story. It is a research note by the Institute of International Finance.

Despite that, President Trump is not happy with Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. He says he is ‘stuck’ with Powell. This is quite wrong and dangerous. I am surprised at US dollar’s resilience in the face of such gibberish.

According to ‘What we are seeing’ (Edition: 22.03.2019), for the first time, globally, the number of 65-year olds has exceeded the number of 5-year olds.

One has to do more detailed work on the claim that Asia has become the world’s largest economic bloc and that its GDP now exceeds the combined GDP of the rest of the world, in PPP $. My simple response is ‘So, what?’. Of course, I could be very wrong here but the obituatry of Western dominance is being written too prematurely. Asia is at very high risk of internecine warfare and the West has a good track record of ‘divide and rule’. I would like to recall my MINT column from nearly four years ago that the 21st century would belong to the West or to nobody.

This blog post from ‘Bank Underground’ (Bank of England blog) says that rising interest rates increase labour share of GDP because productivity might fall faster than wages do. Or, we can add that capital’s share declines faster in an environment of rising rates due to correction in asset prices. Very interesting and important empirical evidence in this. It shows that a reflexive opposition to higher interest rates by the likes of, say, the Economic Policy Institute is wrong.

Democracy and Equality

I just saw a following header in an article at the website of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

DEMOCRACY IS IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT EQUALITY [Link]

I think the author got the idea wrong totally. Democracy is incompatible with equality simply because humans are not born equal.

One can only force-fit them to be equal and that is not democracy. The State can attempt to level the playing field – opportunities – for all, unprivileged by wealth, birth, power, etc. But, force-fitting equality of outcomes and material status will be incompatible with democracy. Only autocracies can achieve that – for a while.

That is, put differently, autocracies have a better chance of achieving equality, assuming they are sincere about it. Even then, it is unlikely to last long.

One of the reasons is that equality is inconsistent with evolutionary logic.

STCMA – 15th March 2019

Study Links Eggs to Higher Cholesterol and Risk of Heart Disease [Link]

Across the globe, a question of air safety becomes a question of American leadership [Link]. I agree. America dithered a bit and damaged itself a lot in the process. Some pilot friends explained the nasty ‘penny pinching’ that Boeing did. Sad and condemnable. Chalk one more entry in the journal of ‘how capitalism is destroying itself’

Elbridge Colby urges America to take India’s side [Link]

Disturbing story of the treatment of Kazakh Muslims by China [Link]

This is from February 14. A fascinating long read on China’s mistreatment or harassment of young Marxists [Link]

Aarati Krishnan provides some good statistics on aggregate wage growth and breaks it down well. She explains why the economy is lacking the spark it needs. Well written. [Link]

On Thursday, 108 economists and statisticians put out a note urging that agencies associated with the collection and dissemination of economic statistics should not be subject to any political interference. [Link].

Some question the timing but the appeal has gained in legitimacy in recent months. The government’s many moves on different statistical data have raised more queries than answered them.

Honestly, this requires much more than a cursory mention. The article on how we need to save our ignorance from artificial intelligence is rich with philosophical implications and questions too. [Link]