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Why Stats shouldn't be Worse than Lies and Damned Lies.

by Bored Guest

Cricket is a sport for those obsessed with numbers. A debate about the greatness of players invariably ends up as a comparison between their numbers. Fans then get into details such as the team a player was on, the era he played in, his matchwinning ability, overseas performance, and a lot more. So while Murali shouldered the bulk of Lanka’s bowling duties, Warne had the likes of McGrath, Gillespie and Lee to soften up the opposition. While Lara and Tendulkar scored their runs in the era of Ambrose, Waqar and Donald, Ponting has made merry in the golden era of batting. Tendulkar might have the most hundreds but Inzamam was a better “matchwinner” since he performed a lot better in matches Pakistan won.

I could go on with such examples but I won’t. The point I’m making is, and such debates reveal it quite well, for every such argument there could be a counter argument. But there are certain aspects of batting and bowling that will always remain important. Here’s a look at them.

In an ideal world, you would like a batsman who makes big scores and does it fast. He doesn’t get stuck at one end if his partner is going well, and can also dispatch the ball to or over the boundary. In statistical terms, he should have a high average and strike rate, shouldn’t play out a lot of dot balls, and should hit a lot of fours and/or sixes. Similarly for bowlers, they should have a low strike rate and economy rate (consequently a low average), should be able to tie an end up by bowling maiden after maiden, and should restrict the number of boundaries off his bowling.

Now anyone who has used the statsguru function on cricinfo will be able to pull up the averages and strike rates for any player. But is that really enough to judge how good a player is? Don’t we need to dig deeper to find out how a player is scoring his runs, or how good a bowler is in building pressure or bowling at the death?

Baseball is the sport that comes closest to cricket in the way it’s played. It’s also similar in that statistics are considered sacred in that game. It took baseball pundits decades to realize the statistics they were working with were incomplete and they needed to dig deeper into the numbers to evaluate players. Cricket is well and truly into the era of Twenty20 and maybe it’s time the powers that be realized the need to modernize cricket statistics.

by Mahek
You can read more of Mahek at his blog Confessions of a Forced Spectator


Sujan Rao said...

Very well written. Just stats and Avg. cant judge what that player was.

Leela said...

So true that stats don't tell us the entire story; for instance, how do you quantify the pressure felt by Tendulkar every time he steps out to bat?

Agree with Sujan, very well written.