Saturday, November 26, 2005

ICC Update

November 26, 2005

After India's resounding loss to South Africa yesterday (which followed an equally resounding win) the Indian Cricket Curve has taken the dreaded shape of a sinusoid, reflecting the team's inconsistency over the last few games! What a pity after the fine start as captain for Rahul Dravid against Sri Lanka! Hopefully, the series will end on a high note!


What is the ICC? Find out here!


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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Music to fly by

The teaser trailer for Superman Returns


When Bryan Singer, director of The Usual Suspects and the two X-Men movies, decided to quite working on X-Men 3 to take over Superman Returns, I was both disappointed and excited; disappointment because X-Men and X2 were the best and most fun superhero movies I'd seen (until Batman Begins) and excited because I could imagine what a wonderful Superman he could weave!

Well, both my opposing emotions turned out to prescient; Brett "Rush Hour" Ratner has taken over X3 and has already caused much angst among the comic book's fans by allegedly tinkering with the script and at one point considering his girlfriend Serena Williams (Yes, that Serena Williams) to play the part of a mutant hooker (I kid you not)!

Bryan Singer, meanwhile, went on and cast a relative unknown actor, Brandon Routh, to play the Man Of Steel, with Kate Bosworth and good ol' Kevin Spacey playing Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, respectively. He has maintained a video-blog of his progress on Superman Returns at , releasing itsy-bitsy clips of the movie periodically (Check them out, they are quite interesting). So excited were the public that a rabid fan, impatient for a trailer, went ahead and made his own trailer based on the clips from the blog (And that one was freakin' awesome, by the way. It apparently fooled a British magaizine!).

Finally, late last week, Singer relented and released an official teaser trailer that can be seen here or here. The thing about this trailer that instantly hits you is the music! Man, what music! I must have seen the trailer at least a dozen times and haven't been able to get that score out of my head! Along with that, there is a fascinating voice over by the late Marlon Brando (Archival footage was used apparently, though I'm not sure how it worked). Brando's crisp delivery of the uplifting dialogue (about the "good in man" or something like that) is synced perfectly with the music to create a transcendental auditory experience. Even though the visuals are nothing to write home about, this is one Superman (trailer) that really makes me want to leap of the tallest building and, hopefully, fly!


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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Lives up to the hype and then some!

Harry, the hero

Mike Newell is the first British director to helm a Harry Potter flick and it shows! His best input into the franchise has been the way he's captured the essence of the British schooling system. And in no scene is this exemplified better than the one in Prof. Snape's class where one of the Weasely twins asks a girl out to a dance ball when the teacher's back is turned! The humour in that scene is Wodehouse-ian, wickedly so!!!

To those who haven't read their Potters, Prof. Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) is the most malevolent of the Hogwarts teachers, sworn enemy to our hero, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), whose friends, the Weasely twins, are the irrepressible class clowns. And while we are discussing Potter-illiterate muggles, here's the story. Harry's fourth year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy finds the school playing host to two other foreign schools for the Triwizard tournament, a series of magical tasks, with each school represented by their "champion". The champion for each school will be selected by the magical Goblet of Fire!

In an explicable occurance, Hogwarts finds itself represented by two champions, strong and handsome Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) and an ineligible Harry Potter. Forced into the tournament, Harry must face fearsome fire-breathing dragons, underwater merepeople and a spectacular maze for the final task. But where there is Harry, there must be You-Know-Who and this time he appears in person, in the form of Ralph Fiennes, who utterly saves the otherwise poorly done ending.

The Hogwarts ritual of having a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher each year also continues this time with Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody, who has a prosthetic leg and a magic, swivelling all-seeing eye! His fine and totally unhinged performance is utterly exhilarating to watch!

Meanwhile, being teenagers now, the hormones beigin to range and our heroes are not immune to them. A Yule Ball presents the opportunity for some emotions to run wild, along with a few tears. The whole concept of teenage flirtations, though, was never handled well in the books and its not so here too! Perhaps, Newell realized that, which is why he plays most of the sequence out for laughs and is fairly successful in getting it out of the way.

Goblet of Fire is the fourth book in the Harry Potter series and it is generally accepted that it isn't the best one. What it has however is a series of magnificent set-pieces, like a Quiddich World Cup and the aforementioned tasks, begging to be translated into the big screen. Paradoxically, the voluminous and rambling nature of the book meant that such a translation would be very difficult to do without losing much of the plot's cohesiveness. Keeping that in mind, Mike Newell has done a terrific job in giving us an exciting and often, nail-biting movie. And the liberties he's taken with some plot lines, however sacrilegious to hard-core fans, are easily forgiven because, as our hero says, "God, I love magic!" And by God, is it FUN!


Blogger Alex said...

Hangover's still there, felt li'l uneasy getting back to the muggle world after 2.5 hours of sheer magic. Good account!

6:44 AM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

Thanks! Me (and 10 friends) had an absolute blast at the movie! Definitely worth a rewatch!

6:46 AM  

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Introducing...The ICC

The Concept...

Though there are various tables and numbers to rank a cricket team, there is no such concept as a chart or a plot of a team’s performance over time. The purpose of such a plot would be to evaluate the consistency of a cricket team: for example, even if India seem to be playing well against Sri Lanka right now, they have historically been a very inconsistent team. Alternately, even though Australia lost the Ashes to England this time, they have, over the last 5 - 6 years been the most consistent team in cricket.

The ICC, which stands for Indian Cricket Curve (or Indian Consistency Calculator) is a method I've developed to plot the performance of the Indian Cricket team, match-by-match. As of now, it is set up only for One-Day games. Four factors are taken into account while evaluating the ICCn, which is the ICC-number. They are:

1. Result – Whether the match was won or lost.

2. Margin of Victory/Defeat

The Net Run Rate or N.R.R. reflects both the above factors (Remember that it is positive for a victory and negative for a defeat). And in calculating the ICCn, instead of cumulating the NRR over an entire series, it is calculated for each individual match.

3. Relative Ranking Of the Opponent, which is defined as (Ranking of the opponent - Ranking of India), the ranking being evaluated according to the ICC rankings available here
. The absolute value of the ranking is used in actual calculations as will be explained later.

4. Home/Away game: Whether the game was played in India or away.

This number is then plotted with time i.e. match number. I've started from the current India- Sri Lanka series, so the first match there is match #1.

The Formula...

The formula used to calculate the ICCn is designed to reflect the true nature of the result, as follows:

1. If India win against a lower ranked opponent, it is less valuable than a win against a higher ranked opponent; conversely, a loss against a lower ranked opponent causes more damage than a loss against a higher ranked opponent.

2. A win at home is worth less than a win away; conversely, a loss at home causes more damage than a loss away.

The exact formula depends on the relative ranking and nature of the result. There are four scenarios in this case. We start off with a number: 10 x NRR, and then modify it based on the relative ranking (REL, which is the absolute value) and on whether it’s a home or away game.

1. WIN against an opponent ranked LOWER than India, or LOSE to an opponent ranked HIGHER than India

- We want the ICCn to indicate that this result is not that that big a deal since India were expected to win (or lose, respectively) anyway. Therefore, the ICCn is reduced by a factor as follows:

ICCn = [10 x NRR] / [(REL + 1)/2]

2. WIN against an opponent ranked HIGHER than India or LOSE to an opponent ranked LOWER than India

- Not only is this a win (or a loss, respectively) but it’s a win (or a loss) against (or to) a higher (or lower) ranked opponent, making it a really GOOD (or BAD) result. The factor, 10 x NRR, is therefore further amplified:

ICCn = [10 x NRR] x [(REL + 1)/2]

And finally, to reflect home ground advantage, a loss at home or a win away multiplies the ICCn by a factor of 2. Otherwise, the ICCn stays as it is.

As an example, consider the following situation: As of now, Sri Lanka are ranked 4th, India 7th and Bangladesh 10th.

1. India WIN against Sri Lanka (REL = 3) with a NRR = 1.4:

Home Game: ICCn = [10 x 1.4] x [(3 + 1)/2] = 28

Away Game: ICCn = 28 x 2 = 56

2. India WIN against Bangladesh (REL = 3) with a NRR = 1.4:

Home Game: ICCn = [10 x 1.4] / [(3 + 1)/2] = 7

Away Game: ICCn = 7 x 2 = 14

3. India LOSE to Sri Lanka (REL = 3) with a NRR = - 1.4:

Away Game: ICCn = [10 x -1.4] / [(3 + 1)/2] = -7

Home Game: ICCn = -7 x 2 = -14

4. India LOSE to Bangladesh (REL = 3) with a NRR = - 1.4:

Away Game: ICCn = [10 x -1.4] x [(3 + 1)/2] = -28

Home Game: ICCn = -28 x 2 = -56

So, in the given situation, losing at home to Bangladesh is the worst that could happen (ICCn = -56) while winning away against Sri Lanka is the best (ICCn = 56).

The Curve...

All said and done, here's the ICC so far, calculated for the India - Sri Lanka series.

As you can see, the number dips below zero only once, when India lost in that 5th game, but even then, it wasn't a very bad loss. The first two games were absolute slaughter by India of a team ranked 3 places higher in the ICC rankings; hence the curve takes off!

The Future...

The curve will (hopefully) have more meaning as more and more results are added to it. I'll certainly continue to update this curve as I follow the exploits of India as they take on South Africa, who are ranked 5 places above India, next.

A few other things: even though the formula seems to have worked well in the Ind-SL series, I'd definitely modify it if it seems to give 'un-representative' numbers for other matches. We'll see! (Already, it's easy to spot a shortcoming in the formula, in that it gives ICCn = 0 for a tied game which doesn't seem correct. If India tie with Bangladesh, for example, it is a BAD performance. But those are rare circumstances and probably won't affect the overall curve much).

Future updates may include a curve for test matches and a Cumulative ICC (which seems more applicable but I haven't had time to come up with a suitable formula for it). And if anyone has the time or inclination to apply this curve for other countries, feel free to do so! Just refer this blog wherever you publish it.

Comments and suggestions welcome!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok machi,first of all great analysis ,you have taken into account all factors just like the icc ranking does (and in spite of what people say its the best ranking system,rediff comes close but sometimes i get the feeling its biased to suit india),however
there is potentially one more bug in this method of calculation

In rain affected matches NRR is never taken into account.For eg if duckworth lewis system is applied ,the NRR of that match is not counted towards the series NRR.Infact if you try doing that,in some rain affected matches,NRR might give a positive rate for team losing.
That is one of the reasons,most ranking systems dont take into account NRR.
Btw why did u take into account NRR when all you wanted to measure was how consistently the team performs with regards to winning and losing?


10:57 PM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

Hmm, good spot about rain affected matches. Will have to think that one through.

The reason I use NRR is to factor in the margin of victory. If India just squeak past Bangladesh, for example, even though the result is good because we won, it will give a very very low ICCn, reflecting the fact that it wasn't a very good performance.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually if u see ,ICC made a stupid ruling with regards to the power plays.Do you know they still havent got in a ruling for how are the power play rules to be changed in case of rain affected.Does the block of 5 overs get reduced to something say 2 or 3 etc?

One more major thing is,DL system is based on the old funda of 15 over limit and thats how their table is computed.With these new changes DL also has to be modified.

Fair enuf for the NRR thing.So for ur curve is a team said to play consistently bad or good,if the curve is below/above zero for most part?


8:49 PM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

Hmm, it'll be interesting to see what does happen when it rains! Actually, since the matches have been during the night (for me), I haven't been able to follow how the powerplay and supersub options work :(

Yes, about the consistency thing. If the curve is sinusoidal, for example, you can conclude that the team in wildly inconsistent. If it is just above zero for the most part, the team is consistently pulling off some close victories. And so on.

Of course, I'm curious to see how this curve develops in the long run. That will tell if the formula is good and if it indeed gives us a good picture of consistency

9:13 PM  
Blogger Anantha said...

Santosh, looks like the ABAQUS analyses runs are giving you enough time to come up with these concepts. Good work. And I think Sumant has made some valid points. But a good start on your end. Keep massaging it till it becomes perfect

3:32 AM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

Don't mention ABAQUS to me :)

6:26 AM  

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Great Movies Archive

Because Ebert has one.

Ok, everyone has an opinion as to which is or isn't a great movie. Roger Ebert certainly has ! And so do I! Starting from today, this archive will consist of short reviews of some really special movies I've watched, mostly on DVD or video (rather than some newly released movie running in theaters). I also plan to limit it to movies that have come and gone under the radar, something that a "lay" moviegoer would not have heard of or at the very least, not seen. So here goes...

#1. Changing Lanes (2002)

Changing Lanes is a Ben Affleck movie unlike any other. It is a movie in which Ben Affleck doesn't overact or underact and instead just acts! And unlike his other movies, this one has an extremely dark and complex plot that is unrelenting up until the very end! There is also the added bonus of a fantastic supporting cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson and Sydney Pollack (Yes, the Sydney Pollack, who doesn't direct this one) along with Toni Collette and Amanda Peet who shine in relatively small roles.

New York lawyer Gavin Banek (Affleck) has to deliver some all important papers to court; recovering alcoholic and insurance salesman Doyle Gipson (Jackson) has to attend a custody hearing that will decide if he ever gets to see his children again. Fate intervenes however as they get involved in a collision while changing lanes, leaving Gipson's car crippled. Young, hotshot Banek is not very considerate and after a short exchange of words with Gipson drives away leaving him stranded, causing him to miss the hearing! Aah, but he's accidently left his papers behind which Gipson helps himself to!

The rest of the plot shows how each man now finding himself in a desparate situation starts doing some really awful things to the other person - Gavin, to get back his papers and Gipson, to take revenge for the cruel blow his life has taken. A chain of events gets set in motion as each man tries to outdo the other, taking their lives into a seemingly unstoppable downward spiral, all in the course of a single day!

An expertly tailored script convincingly shows the (mis)deeds of these two men as logical, if terrible, recourses. Gavin, the lawyer, has to answer to his boss, an extremely scary Sydney Pollack who is also his father-in-law. This is one boss you wouldn't want to piss off! Gipson, meanwhile, just seemed to be getting his life back on track and a reconcillation with his estranged wife and children seemed possible (The opening scene shows him picking out a new apartment for all of them to live in). You absolutely believe that when these men do what they do, they are under unbelievable duress!

Sadly, however, the movie is all but spoilt by the ending which is so amazingly Hollywood-esque that it almost seems like a different movie! Disregard this ending! It was no doubt the work of an empty-headed studio exectuive afraid of the commercial consequences of a real ending! This movie deserves to be judged by everything it is up to that point and in that, it is one of the best character driven thrillers in he last few years! Watch it!

NOTE: It is true that Ben Affleck really does some acting in this movie! Atrocious performances in some big blockbusters, however, and the whole "Bennifer" thing have led most to dismiss him as just another "pretty boy"... which I agreed with until I looked up his profile at IMDB and came across some of the quotes attributed to him! Man, this guy IS eloquent! Just read some of the stuff he's said, especially during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. You WILL be blown away!


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