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Drawing to Lose

by Mahek

A major feature of team sports that originated in England is the concept of parity. Be it football, cricket or rugby, there is an allowance for the participants to finish level, something one doesn't associate with American sports like Baseball and Basketball. American Football and Ice Hockey do have the concept of a draw, but only after the two teams have tried to register a win in overtime.

However, most of us know that cricket isn't just played from one match to another. Teams usually contest over a series of matches and whoever wins the most matches wins the series. The end goal is always the series and not individual matches, which is why you see teams who are leading the series play conservatively in the last test. You can liken this to a football team shutting shop in the last few minutes of a football game. If you can't win the series, you have to atleast try and level it, which why you get declarations like the one Graeme Smith made in Sydney in 2006. The footballing equivalent to this would be to push everyone including the goalkeeper forward in search of an equaliser.

But what do you do if you're Kumar Sangakkara and you're one game down in the series with virtually no hope of winning the final test? Obviously you would try and save the test instead of trying to force a result. But wait, you're going to lose the series anyway! How is a 1-0 series loss any better than a 2-0 defeat? None of the teams play with the World Test Rankings in mind, so losing ground in the table isn't a concern. Conversely, they don't have an incentive to be adventurous.

This is one of the many idiosyncrasies of cricket. Some people celebrate it, others frown and shake their heads at the whole affair. I'm leaning toward the latter, what side are you on?

21 comments:

Tifosi Guy said...

Mahek

I don't know if the teams are rewarded for their rankings, i.e. in the monetary sense.That's maybe something the ICC should consider.Each and every win needs to be rewarded. It's not like ICC don't have the dough to cough up.

Also, the earlier the make their ranking system a lot more clear the better. They need to have a system where a win againt Aus or South Africa is worth a lot more than beating Bangladesh. How on earth SL were ever ranked #2 beats me.

Mahek said...

TG

There is a cash award for the team that finishes number one in the rankings. Also, the current system does take into account the strength of opposition. You get more points for beating a team that has more points and you lose more points for losing to a team that has less points. That said, none of the teams really care about the rankings as each of them has rivalries to win. It's a bit like the FIFA Rankings to be honest.

Tifosi Guy said...

That ranking system is just not fair. Teams win more points when they beat teams above them, and vice versa. That being the case, still how does SL get to be # 2 ? As far as I can recollect, they've beaten NZ, Bangladesh ( whom they play an awful lot) and Pak at home. Not really #2 ranking warranted wins.

What I was wanting is a system, where if you beat Bang you get 1 point, and if you beat Ind get 10 points. Not really sure the present system does this.

It's no biggie deal only rewarding the #1, make every win accountable and then maybe things will change.

Rohit said...

@ TG..

Ya that's exactly how the rankings work. You get more points for beating India than Bangladesh. However, a thing they could incorporate is the extent of defeat, ie a innings defeat is worth more than a conventional one, for example. This takes place in the Ranji but not in international cricket.
Sri Lanka have been close to unbeatable at home. They have thrashed the lesser sides away as well but come a cropper against Ind, Aus and SA. That said, I think that argument can be extended to India as well. Why should we be number 1 without ever having won a series in SA or Aus. Both of them have won in India, mind you.
But I think the point Mahek makes is that it is irrelevant as rankings don't matter as much as, say World Cups do. No team cares who was no 1 before or after.
And as there is no corresponding Test Trophy, Test rankings matter even lesser.

@ Mahek...

Great stuff! Liked it. I have my reservations about american sports, though. I just think they're stupid, parity or no parity! ...:-)

Aditya said...

TG
Sri Lanka have been performing well consistently( they defeated India in SL and they did not loose a test match after that). This just shows no team is dominating world cricket at present if I remember Aus has 145+ ratings and next best team )SA had 110-120 when they used to dominate and the present system has something similar like what you said you get very less points if you defeat bang. to put the ratings into perspective if Australia defeats both WI and Pakistan 3-0
still they would be behind India.

do check this out.


http://icc-cricket.yahoo.net/match_zone/test_predictor.php

@mahek:
I think this time around the rankings are a big deal for India as they would become no 1 for the 1st time :)
and also it did not matter till now as Aussies were always at the top :)(till the start of the ashes that is :D )

Mahek said...

TG

There is a formula they use to adjust the points gained/lost based on the difference in points of the two teams at the start of the match. It's not random as the media would like us to believe.

The reason Sri Lanka are ranked second is because the period under consideration is from August 2006, with greater weightage on recent results.

Here's a link to how the system works.

http://static.icc-cricket.yahoo.net/ugc/documents/DOC_C0B4A990FF6812A97BEED9873F82973E_1251697906076_17.pdf

Mahek said...

That didn't come out right. Here, this should work.

http://tinyurl.com/yk7sdl8

Tifosi Guy said...

Cheers guys for the explanation and links. Till end of 07, rankings didn't matter as it was clear Aus were head and shoulders above the rest. Since their dip, things aren't clear.

Still though, SL aren't a #2 team and no matter how rankings pan out, I stick to that train of thought. A team that can't compete outside of home, is at best a mid- ranking team, not #2 !

Mahek said...

And we'll see that over a period when Sri Lanka will have play more tests away than at home. The effect will set in next year because their recent wins will carry less weightage as they would fall out of the recentmost one-year period. In fact, they'll slip to fourth if they lose today.

Gorogoro said...

i think a win is a win, and depending on who you ask, the difference between 1-0 and 2-0 can be arbitrarily large. At the moment, Sanga isn't just trying to save a useless Test, he's denying his opponents a win. If they don't want it, it just makes his job easier.

Mahek said...

Gorogoro

It works both ways. Sri Lanka set out to just save the match when they started their second innings. There was a lot of talk about them scoring 400 in a day and pushing for a win but they didn't back it up with their batting.

Jaunty Quicksand said...

TG, the rankings are a mathematical component. Sri Lanka did not get to be #2 by bribing, cheating, or tweaking the points table. They got to it by winning matches and getting points for it according to a mathematical formula that every other team is also judged by. They happen to have enough points, right now, to be the team to have accumulated the second most points, ergo the #2 ranking.

What you are debating is whether they are worthy of being called the second-best team in the world. This is a qualitative distinction and the general consensus of almost all is that they are not the second-best team. It still does not mean they are not the #2 team in the world. They are that until some other team accumulates more points than them. How they did it is immaterial.

Jaunty Quicksand said...

Rohit,

I have my reservations about american sports, though. I just think they're stupid, parity or no parity!

I don't know you any more!! :-D How could you say that!!

Rohit said...

@ JQ...

Sorry, man. It gets on my nerves when someone refers to 'football' as 'soccer'. Can't stand it. Ditto with 'field hockey' for 'hockey' Consequently, I have developed an aversion to American rugby(I'm not defiling football!) and Ice rugby(they brawl in this as well!). Baseball to me seems closer to T20 than Tests, if one had to compare it to cricket. More attuned to frivolous entertainment and athleticism than pure skills.
Anyways, I've been here for barely 3 months. Maybe things will change eventually!

Mahek said...

Try making contact with a 90 mile an hour fastball with a cylindrical bat and then tell me whether baseball requires skill or not.

Rohit said...

It requires the same sort of skill as making contact with a swing of the bat a la Yusuf Pathan. Yusuf Pathan has certain skills which the 'greats' of the game like Sachin don't. They are essentially different sets of skills. Baseball is closer to Y Pathan than Sachin. That's all I'm saying

Mahek said...

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Rohit said...

:-)...!! I don't claim otherwise. Being extremely opinionated on half baked knowledge is a childhood trait of mine...!

Mahek said...

Apparently you're still not out of that phase.

Rohit said...

Easy on the vitriol, man! :-)
You won't have any left when you're old and actually want to be cranky!

Mahek said...

I'm just making sure you have plenty in stock.