Pakistan Did Not Lose Because Of Dropped Catches

There’s a prevailing theory in cricket — call it the “missed chance” formula — that tries to parse through victories and defeats based on a team’s lost opportunities. For those not familiar with this explanation, you’ll find a good example from Osman Samiuddin on Cricinfo:

But there are some rules in life you cannot defy, some batsmen you really cannot give a chance to. And if you give Sachin Tendulkar four chances – not one but four! Tendulkar! – you cannot expect to win a game, no matter what else you do. It was one of his least fluent recent innings as well but in the drops of Misbah, Younis Khan – their two best catchers -Kamran Akmal and Umar Akmal, went the game. It is as simple as that.

Samiuddin is careful to add caveats in his column, so I don’t want to sound like I’m picking on him. But I have a real problem when commentators wonder aloud how “expensive” a dropped catch may be, and do that that thing where they calculate the number of runs scored after the incident in question. This logic assumes a linear narrative — that is, batsman is dropped, batsman goes on to score runs, therefore, drop led to defeat.

But it’s also entirely possible that different realities are created with each ball. Say, for example, that Tendulkar got out on the first catch he offered to Younus Khan. Isn’t it also possible that Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh would have gone on to carry the innings and not get out to consecutive deliveries? Obviously I can’t be certain, because situations in cricket constantly change (as anyone calculating odds for bookies understands), but it’s likely Tendulkar stayed on and told his partners to take more risks because he planned to anchor the innings. Take Tendulkar out from this equation, and presto — different game trajectory.

I don’t mean to condone dropping catches (especially four off the same batsman, which is testing my argument). But people keeping close score would have noticed India didn’t have a flawless fielding experience either: Dhoni missed a stumping (off Younus Khan, I believe); Yuvraj did not run Umar Akmal out (at a time when many believed he was taking them home to victory), and Ashish Nehra did not cleanly catch Afridi. None of these mistakes proved decisive because other opportunities arrived (hell, I could even argue that some of these chances spooked the Pakistani batsmen into giving more chances).

So why did Pakistan lose? Well, Hafeez and Shaufiq played crap shots; Afridi did not call the Powerplay soon enough; the pitch was difficult to score off, especially against spin; Akmal and Razzak received unplayable deliveries and Misbah ul-Haq should have played higher in the innings. I’d focus on any of these, not Pakistan restricting India to 260 — a good score to chase, as M.S. Dhoni himself admitted after the match.


13 thoughts on “Pakistan Did Not Lose Because Of Dropped Catches

  1. another similar trope: After the Eng v. India match, some people said “If only they didn’t run the last run short, India would have won by one run.” No they wouldn’t have, because if there was one extra run to chase, England would have played the final overs a little differently.

  2. Khilji says:

    sorry chaps…Osman is right.

    as you said, alternate realities would have been created with each ball. would have ended up chasing 180-200 odd if either of his 2 catches had been held…
    but the batting lacked spine and a couple of wise heads…
    slightly underwhelmed….
    India surely cants slip up now. Cant see them losing to SL.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Just difficult to predict, Khilji. I agree, dropped catches are a lost opportunity, because they force you to create more chances to get rid of the same batsman.

      I get that — but I’m saying you assume the batsmen to follow would have scored the same amount as they did (i.e., Yuvraj 0). That’s just difficult to know for certain.

  3. Azar says:

    Dropped Catches are one of the many reasons for Pakistan’s loss. If Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed early in the innings, it would have increased Pakistan’s confidence and their fielding and bowling would have been much better after that.

    On the other hand, India would have played more defensively and they would have scored only around 220-230 runs.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Azar, it’s difficult for me to think how Pakistan’s confidence and their fielding/bowling could have been much better, despite dropping Sachin. At the end of the day, they restricted India to 260, which was seen as a very good score to chase.

      And you’re right: if Tendulkar has gone earlier, India would have reacted to the situation. Who knows what Kohli, Yuvraj, Dhoni and Raina would have done differently?

  4. sathya says:

    I was thinking exactly along these terms as i was driving my car. I reach home, login to my PC and here you have already stolen my thoughts. I will learn to be discreet in my thinking from now on..

    Same things happened yesterday, Umar gul was playing well. Bhajji comes to bowl. I was thinking, why is he tossing up the ball so regularly. Why not an afridi style quick delivery. And he does exactly that 5 seconds later. And my wife didnt believe me when I told her that…

  5. MAhkf says:

    At the end only one team wins, But if match was not fixed. It was a good game.

  6. Aamer Jamal says:

    i think you are pretty much write but that lost wasn’t because of only one mistake(sums up all the drops) but also because of strange behavior of Gul the bowling, body language, fielding he disappointed me the most, may be because i have more expectation from him, then also the slow batting of Younis khan and Misbah, in the end i must say one thing, India win because of our poor performance not because they played well.

  7. There were few factors what were against Pakistan before the game even started. Pakistan during this 2011 tournament never played in this ground before – so this was their first time to experience the pitch I know its not so important but still a factor against them, the other was that it was Pakistan’s first time playing inside India during this tournament and with almost 90% Indian crowd. Considering these much pressure was already placed on Pakistan team.

    However, I am happy to see a Pakistan team who virtually cannot play domestic cricket due to safety issues and a team already let down by 3 key players who were in their own rights specialists.

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