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ZODIAC

Found 5 results

  1. The purpose of this post is to maintain a record of a promotional offer made by Wisden on the evening of March 29, the day Australian captain Steve Smith had his terrible public mea culpa in a press conference in Australia. Wisden posted a tweet of their offer. Their promotions page also (screenshot below from here and here, with my thanks) detailed this offer. These details are as follows: Wisden evidently realized that this was being received poorly. They deleted their tweet and edited their subscriptions page to remove the language about this subscription offer. This deletion was done without warning, and followed by the terse tweet saying "Apologies for any offence in our previous tweet - a misjudgement", which omits any information about what the previous tweet was about and why it was deleted. Wisden's very next post was of Steve Smith press conference. Wisden has, to date, not provided any details about who thought up the promotions offer, or why the offer was withdrawn.
  2. India bowled South Africa out for 118 in 32.2 overs in the 1st innings of the 2nd One Day International of their ongoing six match series in South Africa. This left them 119 to win. India’s run chase began immediately after a 10 minute interval since South Africa’s innings ended with more than 30 minutes left for the scheduled break. When it was time for the scheduled break, 15 overs of India’s innings had been completed and India were 26 runs away from their target. The Umpires decided to exercise rule 11.4.4 of the 2017 standard ODI playing conditions, and extended play for a maximum of 15 minutes (or a minimum of 4 overs). This rule is as follows: “The umpires may decide to play 15 minutes (a minimum of four overs) extra time at the scheduled interval if requested by either captain if, in the umpires’ opinion, it would bring about a definite result in that session. If the umpires do not believe a result can be achieved no extra time shall be allowed. If it is decided to play such extra time, the whole period shall be played out even though the possibility of finishing the match may have disappeared before the full period has expired.” It took more than 15 minutes to complete the four overs. There is no provision in the rules to start a new over if the 15 extra minutes have already been played. India were 2 runs short of their target after four overs. The umpires duly took the players off for the scheduled break. This decision was universally condemned. It is worth examining the substance of this condemnation because this is an instance in which the umpires were condemned for following the rules correctly and precisely. In other words, those who condemned the umpires were completely wrong, and the umpires were completely right. Essentially, the argument was that even though they followed the rules, the umpires were wrong because their decision defied “common sense”. Further, it was suggested that the rules were archaic, the decision was ridiculous and the situation was a farce. As the players walked away for the break, observers (commentators on television, various journalists on twitter) were darkly predicting that there would be nobody left at the ground when the players returned from their break. On a video show for ESPNCricinfo the former India wicket-keeper Deep Dasgupta even invented a provision in the rules to the effect that if both captains agree, play can continue! Such a provision does not exist in the rules. He was not alone. Dozens of ex-players and journalists were unanimous about how the ridiculousness of the decision and awfulness of the situation. Who exactly was being inconvenienced by the umpires’ decision? The television broadcasters, who got to run innings break programming and the commercials which go with it? The press in the press box, who were served lunch as per the usual custom by the hosts at the ground, and got an extra talking point which they otherwise might have been short of in a one-sided game? The spectators who had come prepared for a leisurely day at the cricket, expecting a 100 overs game which would last until evening? The vendors at the ground who got to serve customers over lunch? Who exactly was inconvenienced by the umpires decision? The decision was perfectly correct according to the rules, and apart from the fact that the game was run correctly, everybody associated with the game did better thanks to the decision compared to what they might have done had the umpires ignored the rules and played extra overs. The one testable prediction in all the outrage, that nobody would be around at the end of the game, turned out to be wrong. As ESPNCricinfo’s live ball-by-ball commentator reported, “My colleague Sid Monga tells me there is still a decent crowd hanging around at the stadium” Rarely has there been such an unanimously held view which was based on no observable external reality. The conventional wisdom in this case was absolutely certain that the decision was “farcical”, “ridiculous”, “stupid”, “unbelievable”. The basis of this certitude is this notion of “common sense”. It was the common sense decision to play the extra over(s) even though the rules did not permit this. It is worth examining the notion of common sense. Laws govern and bring order to our lives. But life would still exist even if there were no laws (or some completely different set of laws). It would not exist in the way it exists today, but it would still exist. Games are different from life. Games are not governed by laws, they are constituted by them. Without the rules of a game, there is no game. Life precedes laws, while laws precede games. Games are completely defined, closed systems. Any move by a participant in a game (be it cricket or chess or football) can be identified unambiguously as being either a legal move (i.e. something permitted in the game) or an illegal move (i.e. something not permitted in the game). The goal of the game is predefined. This means that conditions which have to met so that the goal can be said to have been achieved, are known in advance. Games begin and end. This distinction between games and general life is important because it places a strict limit on the applicability of things which might be applicable to general laws to the laws of games. There is no concept of “natural justice” in a game. Games are structured as a competition - someone is supposed to lose by design. The set of rules which constitute (again, not govern, but constitute) a game is arbitrary. This set does not exist for any reason, other than the fact that it constitutes the game. The laws of games are not supposed to have silences. Whenever events occur whose legal status is truly disputable, the laws of games are amended to end such disputes (for example, the switch hit, or Ajay Jadeja’s exploitation of a loophole in the short run rule when batting with a tailender). Common sense is defined in the Cambridge dictionary as “the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way.” It consists of “common sense consists of knowledge, judgement, and taste which is more or less universal and which is held more or less without reflection or argument.” Webster’s dictionary defines it as “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” This is distinct from the idea of conventional wisdom which refers to ideas or explanations which are considered to be true. In games, there is no underlying order which the rules attempt to encode. The idea of the merit or goodness of a rule exists only in the sense that the rule might contradict or be redundant in relation to some already existing rule. In life, the idea of "common sense" is necessary precisely because it refers to some underlying order which can be adopted even without explicitly written instruction or rules. There is no basis for such common agreement about a game. Cricket does not occur in nature. Games themselves are not social or natural phenomena which the rules attempt to explain, they are completely formal entities which rules construct. The common sense view is that the umpires should have relaxed the rules and allowed the extra over to be played. According to those who hold this to be the common sense view, the umpires decision was not just ridiculous adherence to archaic laws which should have been avoided, this was obviously so. Those who hold this common sense view misunderstand the basic idea of what a game is. But even if one were to see the mistaken terms adopted by the adherents of this common sense view, they are wrong. Had the umpires relaxed the rules, they would have explicitly favored India, even if both captains agreed to continue to the game (lets ignore the fact that agreement between captains is irrelevant in the situation at hand). This is something umpires are not supposed to do. The veteran cricket statistician Mohandas Menon observed that “[w]ith only 19 overs bowled, South Africa can still save this ODI match, if it now rains the whole day!” It is not clear if Mr. Menon intended this observation to be in support of the common sense view. But it proves the exact opposite. Objectively, had the umpires ignored the rules and extended play beyond what is permitted in the rules, they would have eliminated this possibility. The remoteness of this possibility is irrelevant. The whole point of having an umpire - an entity which is (a) disinterested in the outcome of a contest, and (b) expert in the rules governing the contest - is to avoid favoring one team or another in any way. An essential point of a game is that while the game is in progress, the contest is technically always on. The fact that one side may be significantly closer to a win compared to the other side, even if this is overwhelmingly the case, is irrelevant. To say that the umpires should have relaxed the rules and allowed the extra over(s) necessary for India to score the 2 runs is identical to saying that they should have stopped after 15 overs (or 16 or 17 or 14), since it was it was clear (or common sense) that India were going to win. Yet, nobody would think that this would be an acceptable common sense decision, would they? Now, one could argue that the ICC should revise the rules and give the umpires some extra discretion. Instead of specifying a maximum of 15 minutes and a minimum of 4 overs, the rule could leave this entirely up to the umpires. But we all know how well observers react to umpires exercising discretion. The reason why the ICC has made the rules so explicit is to protect umpires from being accused of bias or “inconsistent application of rules” when they exercise any discretion which the rules might grant them. The conventional wisdom about the common sense view of the umpire’s decision is wrong. The rules are not archaic. They came into force on September 28, 2017. The rules were applied correctly. There was no reason, none at all, to think that the situational was farcical, except that lots of people who either did not know the rules or did not grasp the implication of what they were suggesting created an echo chamber which said that the situation was farcical. Mockery is wonderful when it is underpinned by some significant truth. In this case, the only truth it revealed was not about the game, but about its pundits. The umpires, as they usually do, got it exactly right.
  3. The New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who inspired the creation of the Thomas Friedman column generator, once explained his work as an opinion writer by saying that he did pictures, not pixels. Pictures are easy to wing, and easier to fudge, as Ed Smith demonstrated in his ill-fated essay about the role of stress in elite sport. The essay was withdrawn, thanks mainly to the persistent inquiries of Subash Jayaraman (1,2,3,4). Whenever such things occur, the gossip machine in the community in which it occurs is attracted to this new subject like a moth. Among the things which have been widely observed about Smith in the underbelly of the cricket writing world is his tendency to "recycle" or, less charitably, "self-plagiarize". Given the sheer volume of Smith's output, it is not surprising that he does this. The merits of this practice are debatable. The idea of repeating oneself does not worry me. One of the most effective ways to drive home ideas is to keep restating them (and in the process, developing them). In April 2015, Ed Smith wrote an essay for ESPNCricinfo in which he compared the development of Kenyan long distance runners to the development of cricketers. His thesis in the essay was based on a book marathon running by Ed Caesar titled Two Hours. I got interested in this subject when I read a two part story about the researcher Yannis Pitsiladis's ambition of developing a runner who can run a marathon in under two hours by Jere Longman in the New York Times (1, 2) earlier this year. Since then, I've followed this subject in The Sports Gene by David Epstein, and, thanks to Smith's cover story in the July 2016 issue of The Cricket Monthly entitled Batting 3.0, Ed Caesar's Two Hours. Smith does not cite either Caesar or Epstein in Batting 3.0. But it turns out that the portion on running in this cover story draws heavily on his earlier essay from April 2015. Here is portion from Batting 3.0 What else can cricket learn from the Kalenjin? The analogy is obviously inexact. It is possible to run well with zero coaching, though that is less likely in cricket (as we saw with the grip). But the deeper point holds. For developing cricketers, early specialisation and over-coaching - though it may apparently yield an advantage at the time - turns into a disadvantage over the long run. De Villiers might have been a "better" cricketer aged ten if he'd played only cricket. But at 25, the rugby and tennis inside him helped him to go past the players stuck in a cricketing ghetto. One constant danger in the era of ultra-professionalism is that our sport falls prey to the delusion that educating cricketers can be turned into an exact science, with the latest fads and theories imposed on the next generation across a worldwide network of "expert" and "professional" academies. This problem is exacerbated by cricket's tendency towards hobby-horseism. A good idea is turned into a mantra that hardens into rule. You must do this, you can't do that, there is only one way. A fad breaks out that takes on a momentum of its own. In fact, we are increasingly learning that the best players usually develop (though not always) through a complex, intuitive and often mysterious mixture of informal and formal learning, with informal education - "no trainers" - dominating the conversation in the early years. Who are the Kalenjin of batsmanship? In terms of the number of players possessed of superb technique, I think India leads the world. Part of this, admittedly, is the sheer volume of candidates. Another factor is that fewer Indian players - compared to English ones, for example - experience a structured or official learning environment at a very young age. They play. So their batting accidentally benefits from the Kalenjin pattern - technology and science first withheld, then embraced. As Indian cricket gets richer, the challenge, ironically, will be to escape the damage that follows from meddling, over-interventionist systems and coaches.Here is the same portion from his 2015 essay: If the first essay was written by A, and the second were written by B, this would be a textbook case of mosaic plagiarism. Since A and B are the same person, it isn't. It could be considered a case of self-plagiarism (a vexed issue), and there's certainly recycling involved, but lets set aside the ethical implications of all this. There is also the question of citation which is more serious. In Batting 3.0, Smith simply refers to the April 2015 essay by saying "In 2015, I wrote for ESPNCricinfo about marathon runners." While this is perhaps literally true, it leaves out the bit where, in 2015, Smith wrote about something he read in a book about marathon runners. As he put it in that essay When I read about the strange influence of first learning barefoot then using the latest technology - in the admirable and thought-provoking book Two Hours by Ed Caesar, published this July - I wrote in the margin: just like cricket coaching.Having read Caesar, Epstein, Gladwell, and being familiar with some of the work of K. Anders Ericsson and his collaboration with Herbert Simon thanks to my day job, I'm not convinced that Smith's version of what any of these writers are saying is plausible. Smith's central thesis in his 2015 essay is that Caesar's account tells us that "the advantages of modernity and technology need to be first withheld and then embraced." He bases this on his reading. in Caesar's work, of the use of shoes by Kenyan marathon runners. In Smith's words, the proposition is as follows: I looked hard to find this argument in Caesar's work. I could not locate it. Smith sets up an opposition between "sports science", "modernity", "technique and science" on the one hand (these, of course, are the bailiwick of modern western coaches/trainers/shoe companies etc.) and "natural technique", "folk wisdom and feeling", and "homespun training methods" on the other (these belong to the Kenyans). Apart from being nauseatingly paternal, this view also misunderstands the idea of "science". A science provides reliable explanations of things and involves the development not only of these explanations, but also the methods and theories which can be used to form reliable explanations. Here is what Caesar actually says. His major source is Yannis Pitsiladis, who also figures in Epstein's chapters on running in The Sports Gene. In the notes, on page 207, Caesar writes: In the main text, the debate about barefoot running occurs in a specific context which Smith omits altogether. While describing the history of the development of shoes used by long distance runners, Caesar reports that at one point the conventional wisdom of the industry was that runners wanted a shoe which basically felt like running barefoot - "Less than a hundred grams, not a lot of cushioning" as Andy Barr, a designer for Adidas tells Caesar. To their surprise, they found that elite runners wanted the exact opposite. This motivated Adidas to design shoes against the prevailing conventional wisdom. This conventional wisdom had come about thanks to Christopher McDougall's Born to Run and, in Caesar's words, "the explosion of the barefoot running movement." Caesar reports that the Italian physiotherapist Vincenzo Lancini believes that Kenyan runners feet propelled them faster than other athletes with a smaller loss of energy. Lancini believes that this is due to the large amount of time Kenyan runners spend barefoot as children and as young teenagers. Caesar himself points out that even top runners keep "micro-training" the muscles of the foot and lower leg by training on rough, uneven roads. Caesar notes that the central character in his book, the runner Geoffrey Mutai for instance "doesn't spend a minute of his working day on a flat surface, and so his muscles are always working to balance and respond." As Lancini puts it, "They learn to listen with their feet." Unsurprisingly, what is common to Lancini and Pitsiladis's accounts (and to Caesar's reporting of these accounts) is that they are careful, narrow explanations. At every stage in their accounts, both Epstein and Caesar take great care to avoid sloppy generalizations. It is not surprising that very little time is spent in the two books mulling over the apparent "conundrum" which seems to have captured Smith's imagination. It's worth quoting again. Smith says There isn't any actual conundrum in that paragraph. Where's the contradiction between not wearing (or rather, not being able to afford) shoes when on is a kid and wearing them when one is no longer a kid? For that matter, what is "natural" about learning to hit a golf ball against a circular water tank (as Bradman did), and what is unnatural about being coached? If the shoe is the modern "technology" of running, what is its counter part in Smith's cricketing analogy? Bats? Or coaching technique? In Smith's lackadaisical semantic universe, technique, technology, science and natural things are all interchangeable. They mean whatever he means they mean every time he uses them. It continues in the latter half of Smith's 2015 essay. He writes "Connected to the question of impairing natural development is the problem of over-training and specialising too early. The now debunked "10,000 hours theory" - which holds that genius is created by selecting a discipline as early as possible and then loading on mountains of practice - is being replaced by a far more subtle understanding of nurturing talent." The 10,000 hours theory has absolutely nothing to do with "genius". It has to do with expertise. K. Anders Ericcson was responding in his study to the idea that expertise in predominantly down to "innate talent". (See Gladwell's response to Epstein, who has a careful argument complicating the 10000 hour rule in The Sports Gene) In their study, the authors conclude the "elite performance as the product of a decade or more of maximal efforts to improve performance in a domain through an optimal distribution of deliberate practice." (p. 400). There's nothing there about "specializing too early", or about "selecting a discipline as early as possible." All they're saying is that contrary to the proposition that expertise down to immutable innate talent, it is actually down to putting in about 10 years of deliberate effort. The argument they make is about the immutability of innate talent (i.e. the idea that innate talent is the invariant property of expertise). Deliberate practice has nothing to do with "specializing too early". It simply refers to "a highly structured activity, the explicit goal of which is to improve performance". Under this definition, AB de Villiers from playing organized hockey, or some other sport would still be "deliberate practice" and would still be included in the ten thousand hours. Smith is considered to be a writer who explores ideas beyond the traditional scope of the cricket writer. Yet, the evidence suggests that he doesn't really care about what words mean. Nor does he seem to take ideas particularly seriously. Ideas seem to be merely a vehicle to producing the massive volume of writing he churns out on a monthly basis for multiple publications. Perhaps he would say, like Friedman, that he does pictures, not pixels. But even pictures have to be meaningful and coherent, not glorified loose agglomerations of semi-technical terms. Smith audience, and here I refer to readers who enjoy his work, seems to enjoy the painless stories he spins. If you take ideas and the things words mean seriously, Smith's discussion of marathon runners, like his discussion of stress, ought to give you a splitting headache.
  4. Over at the Cricket Couch, Subash Jayaraman has been doing stellar work (1, 2, 3, 4) scrutinizing Ed Smith's July 25, 2016 essay* for ESPNCricinfo. Subash shows that the parts of this essay which laid out a brief history of the scientific consensus about stress were drawn, almost verbatim, from an essay published in the Economist on July 23, 2016. Thanks to Subash's work, Smith's essay has now been withdrawn by ESPNCricinfo. As many readers will already know, I have been a freelance contributor to Cricinfo's Cordon weblog since July 2013. I have also contributed articles to Cricinfo's monthly magazine The Cricket Monthly. This is also one of the reasons why the frequency of my posts here has declined in recent years. This post is about two of Ed Smith's appropriations from the essay in The Economist. I noticed these a week ago, but needed to look up the original work to confirm my suspicion. Today I did so. The Economist's article describes Hans Selye's work on conceptualizing stress at the University of Montreal in the 1930s. [For] centuries physicists have used the word stress to describe force applied to materials. It was not until the 1930s that Hans Selye, a Hungarian-born endocrinologist, began using it of live beings. Selye injected rats with cow hormones, exposed them to extreme temperatures and partially severed their spinal cords to prove that all these sorts of maltreatment affected the rodents in the same ways: they lost muscle tone, developed stomach ulcers and suffered immune-system failure. He used the word for both the abuse of the rats and the health effects. Later on, it started to be used for psychological suffering as well.Here's Ed Smith's version of the same Selye's original note in Nature(pdf) from 1936 begins as follows: Selye subjected rats (not rodents - squirrels, hamsters, and porcupines are rodents too) to various harmful things, and found that they demonstrated symptoms which were independent of the specific harmful thing they were subjected to. (The bit about cow hormones is also to be found in Kelly McGonigal's book The Upside Of Stress which is quoted by the Economist, and by Smith) In Smith's retelling, Selye subjected 'cows and rodents' to extreme physical deprivation and suffering'. Selye did no such thing. I'm no expert in the field of endocrinology, but I've read enough undergraduate essays to know a clumsy effort at appropriating another person's work when I see it. Even discounting the appropriation side of things, it is clear that Smith's description of Selye's work is flatly wrong. After Subash published his first story, Cricinfo added an update to Smith's post which said You'd think that someone well versed in a subject would be able to describe the pioneering study on the subject less clumsily. Let's move on. Later in the essay, Smith writes Here's the same study in the Economist's words The Economist and Smith are not saying the same thing. Smith says "the way we perceive stress changes how it affects us". The Economist refers to people having "a more positive view of stress". The paper(pdf) by Crum and her colleagues from 2013 says the following: As defined in Crum's paper, a 'mindset' is "a mental frame or lens that selectively organizes and encodes information, thereby orienting an individual toward a unique way of understanding an experience and guiding one toward corresponding actions and responses" (p. 717) Sensory information has to be present in order for perception to occur. We perceive things about instances of concepts, not concepts themselves. Mindsets, as Crum's definition shows, are different. For example, it is not possible to perceive that for his Cricinfo essay, Ed Smith appropriated The Economist's essay without the two essays being available for comparison. However, after perceiving this about Ed Smith's essay, it is possible to develop a particularly skeptical mindset towards his future essays. What Smith has done to The Economist's (accurate) description of Crum's work is similar to what he has done to their (accurate) description of Selye's work. He has, it appears, replaced a word here and there, and done so in such shabby fashion that it ended up misrepresenting the original work. Even if we discount the probable plagiarism, Smith's account is wrong. Anybody who bases their understanding of the modern understanding of stress on Smith's account is going have be wrong about stress. Smith does say towards the beginning of the piece "First cricket, then a little science." A little science is a dangerous thing. The most astonishing aspect of this episode is Smith's total silence in the matter. In the days since July 23, he has, according to his own twitter feed, published multiple articles, including one for Cricinfo. Further, he continues to work as a live commentator for BBC's prestigious Test Match Special radio commentary team during the on going Pakistan v England series. It is clear, that outside of Cricinfo, who have removed the article from their website, no other publication or platform in the cricket journalism and/or presentation profession has a word to say about this subject. Notwithstanding the title, it has not been a pleasure to prepare this post. Cricket writing is not my day job. I do it because I enjoy writing and arguing, and because I love cricket. It is disappointing to see these things being treated so squalidly by a person in Smith's position. I hope he will explain himself soon, and I really hope the explanation turns out to be innocent. *This link shows a cached version of the essay from google's cache. Smith's essay has been removed from the Cricinfo website.
  5. Today Subash Jayaraman (The Cricket Couch) announced that after 189 episodes, he has discontinued his highly regarded podcast series 'Couch Talk'. Since I wrote about it early 2013, Couch Talk has gone from strength to strength. It became a regular feature on ESPNCricinfo and the great and the good from the cricket world appeared on it. It goes without saying that my review had little to do with these developments. As I pointed out then, my view of Couch Talk appears from a privileged standpoint. Subash has shared with me the guests he wanted to invite, his efforts at pursuing the many superstars who appeared on his show, and the lessons he learnt about the complicated world of agents, contracts, embargoes and egos. He has discussed how he imagined the shape of many of his interviews and would often go through many drafts of both individual questions, and the sequence in which they were to appear. Not only was there a sequence, there were often subjects he absolutely wanted to broach, and the subjects which he was willing to forego should the conversation develop in an unforeseen but interesting direction. I bring this up to illustrate the careful, methodical preparation which formed the basis of every single interview. The hours spent in pursuing and persuading guests, preparing interviews, editing and transcribing the recordings and working with editors meant that every 20-40 minute interview easily involved 20-30 hours of work. It is impossible to be a professional cricket journalist. Given that the game is a monopoly (called the ICC), nobody whose living depends on this monopoly can ever hope to have anywhere close to the required leverage to commit journalism (this would involve scrutinizing the monopoly). As a result, the world of professional cricket reporting, despite being financially rewarding (increasingly so with the advent of the franchise game) contains very few lifers. The veterans of the field tend to cover sport and even other beats. Other talented writers and reporters tire of the job and move on to other fields within a few years. Unlike the Government, there is no "Right to Information" act, nor is there any democratic expectation of disclosure from private societies and associations like the BCCI and the ICC, let alone from the vast private corporations which make vast profits from the game by broadcasting it on TV. Despite its pretentions, the ICC is not an adversarial body by design (like the Government) and does not really owe anybody any answers. As a result, much of what passes for journalism consists, in effect, of serving as a third party publicist for the game and its stars. It is a truism that celebrity is more profitable than controversy and controversy is more profitable the argument. So published material must, as a rule, be shiny and simple. Complexity, inconvenient foundational questions ("how much money is too much money?", "Is T20 cricket?", "to what extent does cricket have a place in it for women?", "does the power in cricket lie with the Boards or the TV companies?") and the complicated responses which might do justice to them are not the every day bread and butter of the cricket media. As a rule, podcasts have to be loud, must consist of at least two participants who have wisecracks ready-at-hand. As a rule, longer stories must be features about players, and should steer away from mundane day to day material reality in favor of peddling nostalgia ("how did you feel when you reached a hundred that day?"). This is not the case because the reporters are stupid or unimaginative, it is the case because it is what sells. One only has to listen to them in private conversation to know how they really feel about much of this. All this makes a podcast like Subash's extremely unlikely. Nurturing it for 189 episodes is about as difficult as a 189 on a bad pitch against an all-time great Test attack. It remains to Subash's eternal credit that once his podcast grew into a regular feature on Cricket's biggest home on the internet, he remained (to a great extent) true to his amateur, outsider's beginnings. Even though he did shows with big stars (which were popular and eagerly anticipated by listeners, readers and editors alike), he also stayed true to his original idiosyncratic interests in the margins of the international men's game. The West Indies Under 19 coach, Graeme West, India all-rounder Shikha Pandey, Edward Fox, "Archi" Archiwal and their dream of building a home for cricket in Kansas and Peter Chismon, the world traveller cricket fan have been on Couch Talk, as has Oliver Broom who cycled from London to Brisbane to watch the 2010-11 Ashes.At the same time, Curtly Ambrose, David Gower, John Buchanan and nearly every major superstar you can think of also feature in Subash's 189 interviews over five years. Want to know the ins and outs of the Supreme Court of India's rulings on the corruption in the IPL? You couldn't do better than to listen to Subash's interview with two lawyers - Suhrith Parthasarathy and Aju John - on the subject. Want to learn of the difficulties of reporting on spot fixing? Listen to the former editor of Sports Illustrated India Kadambari Murali. Here is another wonderful interview with Ebba Qureshi who is married to the Pakistan and Surrey all-rounder Azhar Mehmood. This interview with Saqlain Mushtaq for The Cricket Monthly is, in my opinion, Subash's finest interview with a player. Umpires, writers, editors, filmmakers, administrators, franchise executives and cricket fans all appeared on Couch Talk during its five year run. Many of them appeared multiple times. Together, they constitute an immense corpus - a record of the game in this time which only the biggest portals with their massive budgets and writing/reporting staffs can claim to match. If one wanted, for example, to instruct Subash's fellow Americans in the history and the art of cricket, Couch Talk would form the perfect documentary backbone of a first class graduate seminar on the subject. Knowing Subash as I do, I'm confident that this is not the end. Cricket is changing in radical and often unwelcome ways. Having called off his regularly scheduled programming, Subash is now freed from having to conduct the bread and butter interviews with the standard issue international cricketer. These were, in my opinion, his least interesting and least significant interviews (having discussed this with him, I know he does not entirely agree). If there is a genuinely significant development in the game, I have no doubt that Subash's interest will be piqued again and Couch Talk will approach and pass its double century in only the most exquisitely crafted singles. In anticipation of these, farewell Couch Talk.
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