Monday, November 22, 2004

Cricket stats and false perceptions

Was looking in zombie-like fashion at the television screen inside which South Africa (my least-favourite cricket team) were batting, when a statistic flashed that I found very surprising: in Tests in calendar year 2004, England have scored at a better run-rate (3.56 per over) than even Australia (3.47). That might seem a trivial difference, but it’s actually quite substantial given the thousands of runs each team has scored over many hundreds of overs this year.

Some of this has to do with England’s great success rate (12 Tests, 11 wins, easily the best among all teams) this year but I’m sure it’s also because many of the pitches they played on were strokeplay-friendly (what bears this out is that West Indies - against who England played eight Tests this year – have the second best run-rate, 3.51, despite their terrible success record overall).

Though I’m happy to doff my non-existent hat to England’s Test showing this year, I’ve always felt certain that Australia would - and by some margin – top any list of run-rates in the past 10 years at least. Anyway, the point is, I was very surprised by the stat, and equally surprised about being taken unawares. My interest in numbers means that I’ve usually been a few steps ahead of most cricket-mad friends in these things, but guess this shows one can never really get a proper hold on cricket statistics. There’s often such a disparity between perception and reality (or at least the reality indicated by stats). Have discussed this with Shamya; we’ve often shaken our heads in disbelief, for instance, when calendar year statistics for a period when Tendulkar was supposed to be woefully out of form have shown him topping the batting averages. It’s very odd, almost as if some cricketing imp has inserted his own mischievous changes in Wisden’s backpages after the fact. I wonder...

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