I see that some people are in a huff about a missing ball in the tied Sri Lanka-India ODI. Some people are mad because they wonder how such a simple error could have been made; I sympathize. But others are mad because they think if India had that extra ball (in the 30th over), they would have scored more (in the 49th over). I blogged about this pattern of thinking — I called it “missed chance” syndrome — wherein fans throw out what-ifs that make no sense:
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.
So: A batsman could have lost his wicket on that missing ball, or that something happened — a close run, maybe — that changed the batsmen’s mindset. As Dhoni said:
“I don’t know [if a full over might have broken the tie] because you could have had a dot ball. It happens in cricket, so maybe it would have been a dot.”
For more on different realities, watch this excellent episode of Community: Remedial Chaos Theory.