The Wisden Guessing Game, 2017 Edition

With less than a week to go before the release of Wisden 2017, here are a few predictions for the 154th edition’s Five Cricketers of The Year.

  • Chris Woakes
    Not for nothing was the 2016 season described on Twitter as the #SummerOfWoakes. Before the start of the season, he was on the verge of being another of England’s “nearly” men; now, he’s close to irreplaceable. His 9-36 against Durham in the Championship sounded his arrival: called up for the Second Test against Sri Lanka, his summer rapidly went from good to astounding, finishing the season with 34 wickets in the Tests and 48 in all international cricket.
  • Younis Khan
    At times in the summer, Younis looked bizarrely out of place, hopping around the crease in a cartoon-like manner unworthy of a batsman in the 1000-run, let alone 9000-run club. Just when he was about to be written off, he produced a masterpiece: he saved the best till the final Test of the summer, a sumptuous 218 that gave Pakistan a stranglehold on the match and, ultimately, a share of the series.
  • Yasir Shah
    Everyone loves a leg-spinner, and Shah’s 19 wickets in the series, combined with his evident enthusiasm, gave much reason for excitement. With ten of them coming in a single match, however, the sense was that his effectiveness lessened as the series moved on; nevertheless, his impact was sufficient to help Pakistan share the spoils in a 2-2 draw.
  • Misbah-ul-Haq
    Misbah’s calming presence in the captaincy role cannot be overstated, but his batting was also highly significant: his 114 in the First Test made him the oldest captain to score a Test century. The sight of a 42-year-old doing press-ups on the Lord’s outfield was one of the greatest of the summer. Later on in the year, he would take Pakistan, albeit briefly, to the No. 1 Test ranking.
  • Jack Leach
    Wild card, this one, but bearing in mind the value Wisden places on the county game, Leach’s 65 wickets may prove hard to overlook. Furthermore, his story – plucked from trolley-shunting in a supermarket car park – is almost impossible to resist, although it was denied the icing of a maiden Somerset Championship. Without him, Somerset would not even have been close.

Now for some long-term predictions for the 2018 edition:

  • Quinton de Kock
  • Steven Finn
  • Haseeb Hameed
  • Kagiso Rabada
  • Jos Buttler

Play-Cricket Scorer, version 1.0.0: the First Test

With the season only a matter of a few weeks away, the ECB have released their own electronic scoring app, Play-Cricket Scorer, available for iOS and Android.

My impression of the Android app (version 1.0.0) is that it is usable, and due to its integration with Play-Cricket, will be worth persisting with: the time saved by removing the need to manually upload match scorecards (a standard league requirement) will likely be enough in itself to justify adoption.

However, as with any new piece of software, there are inevitable rough edges. Here are the most glaring problems with it that need to be fixed without delay, before the season starts, if at all possible.

1. Disregard for Android guidelines

The first and worst problem is not a cricket-related issue at all; perhaps that’s a good sign. It does, however, have a major impact on usability.

The issue is that the Android version of Play-Cricket Scorer has a non-Android look-and-feel. It looks suspiciously like the an app for Apple iOS that has been forced onto the Android system.

One example is the labelled “Back” button. Android apps use an “Up” button, and it only shows an icon, not text. Another mistake is the right-facing carats on menu items. Both are hallmarks of iOS design and are clearly rejected in the Android guidelines.

This may seem like irrelevant pedantry, but there are real consequences. Users accustomed to the Android way of doing things will be caught out in subtle ways. The most obvious example is when it comes to alerts. Play-Cricket Scorer’s alerts, for instance when ending an over prematurely, or confirming a wicket, are laid out with the affirmative action (the action that indicates approval of whatever is being queried) on the left rather than the right.

This is exactly the opposite of what the Android guidelines specify: “Affirmative actions are placed on the right side and continue the process. […] Dismissive actions are placed directly to the left of affirmative actions.”

The result is that Android users will be prone to hitting “Yes” when they mean “No”, and vice versa.

There’s also the entirely misguided use of the Floating Action Button as a ubiquitous Help button (not their intended use), but I’ll pass over that since, firstly, it’s clearly springs from good intentions, and, secondly, it can be turned off in Settings. However, I will observe that if the necessity to include a help button on every screen was felt, that in itself is a warning sign that the design isn’t up to scratch. It’s also not at all sensible to make such help dependent, as it is, on an Internet connection: scorers with tablets, sitting in the middle of the countryside, often won’t have any data connection.

While we’re on the subject of design, the typography also would benefit from tweaking: choosing the Android standard Roboto would have helped to make Android users feel more at home.

The Android Material guidelines are there for a reason. A brand new app such as Play-Scorer has no excuse for not following them from the outset. Starting off by treating Android users as second-class citizens is a great way to decrease their satisfaction.

2. Limited export facility

It seems that uploading to the Play-Cricket website or exporting to PDF is the only way to get a match scorecard out of Play-Cricket Scorer. The latter is highly limited: it’s little more than a brief summary of batting totals and bowling figures.

There should be a way to export a full ball-by-ball run-down of the match, both in an attractive readable form (formatted as a traditional scoresheet, for example) and in a pure data form (XML or similar).

3. Certain dismissals incorrectly incur deliveries

“Timed out” and “Obstructing the field” dismissals may take place without a delivery being bowled, but Play-Cricket Scorer assumes that a ball has been bowled.

4. Penalty runs are not handled gracefully

The only way to add these is by manually editing the scorecard, with no provision for recording when these were applied, or even in which innings. As such, it does not seem to properly handle the admittedly rare event of a win by penalty runs under Law 21.7.

Conclusion

The Play-Cricket Scorer app is promising, but urgently needs attention before the start of the season.

Trigger training

In the course of researching my article for The Cricketer (March 2017)* on the state of recreational umpiring, one thing that became apparent was the variance in training courses, both in cost and duration. Some ACOs opt for running courses in the evenings over a 6–8 week period. Others go for a high-intensity format, with training limited to two days, often over consecutive weekends.

Cost is potential stumbling block: some can be £80 per person. Again, it’s worth doing a bit of research, as there are often rebates available. For example, the Herefordshire ACO charges £80 for an Umpire Level 1 course, but the local Marches League will reimburse £40 if the newly qualified umpire goes on to stand in ten league games, and a further £40 if he or she stands in three county junior games—making it free of charge. Alternatively, it’s worth looking at neighbouring ACOs: the South East Wales ACO, by comparison, charges £30 per person.

The ECB provide a course finder on the ECB website. After selecting the type of course you’re looking for and clicking “View Events”, it’s best to press “Search” without selecting county, town, or country: there aren’t that many results anyway, and keeping the options open means you may find nearby courses better suited to your circumstances.

This lack of standardisation might initially be somewhat irritating, but on reflection it’s useful, providing a degree of flexibility for potential candidates. It’s to be hoped that the increased integration of the ACO with the ECB, voted in during January 2017, doesn’t completely remove such variability in the name of efficiency. Overhauling the course finder, however, would be a worthwhile task for the ECB’s IT team: searching by postcode would seem a clear improvement that could be implemented.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s much that clubs can do to help. It should be pretty obvious that if there are x teams, a minimum of x umpires are needed. A question, then, for each club: are they providing as many umpires as they field XIs? If not, offering to subsidise training for some of their club members would be a welcome gesture of support for the officials.

*Single issues of the The Cricketer are currently £4.50 online or £4.95 in-store. Alternatively, you can save a few quid by opting for a subscription, which by my calculations makes one issue in six effectively free. You may also be able to get a bottle of wine, a calendar and a diary thrown in, if their “hat-trick” offer is still going.