OK, Cricket May Be A Little Complicated

A quick follow-up to my previous post on this subject: I imagine that some of you watched the wonderfully amateurish (and downright charming) coverage of the Ireland v. Pakistan game. Now, imagine that you were at the ground as a curious spectator. You’ve heard of this game “cricket” and you know the basic gist, but you don’t know much more than that. Let’s also assume you were rooting for Ireland.

Would you still be a fan of the game after the result? Ireland scored more than Pakistan did, but had a higher target because of the D/L method. At the end of the game, it wasn’t immediately clear if Ireland had lost or tied with Pakistan, and as with most instances in which D/L is at play, even the on-field captains appeared to be confused.

Now, think again to yourself in the stands, watching all this unfold.

— “Wait, didn’t Ireland score more than Pakistan?”

“Yes, but see, Pakistan had the potential to score higher if they had known they were only going to have 47 overs at the start of their innings, so they post a higher target.”

— “OK, but how do you calculate how much more they could have scored?”

“It’s on the ICC website, I’m sure. Or Wikipedia.”

I’m being a little harsh, because obviously the game was thrilling — Kevin O’Brien was doing something none of us expected. But the result only confirmed what many people think about cricket — this is a really complicated game that appears not to want more fans. If I’d spent more than four hours in all that wind and rain and gloominess, I would have wanted more clarity at the end. I can only imagine my German brother-in-law, who enjoys baseball, saying, “Huh? Where did Pakistan’s ghost runs come from exactly? Bullshit.”



6 thoughts on “OK, Cricket May Be A Little Complicated

  1. Alex Braae says:

    The real scandal of this game is that Ireland have repeatedly shown themselves to be capable of matching the full members, but still only get less than 10 games a year. Even if they aren’t to be given test status, they should at least get full limited overs series against some of the top 10 teams.

  2. I’m sorry but this isn’t that complicated, is it? As you said it yourself, Pakistan didn’t know during their innings that they’d have 47 overs, and Ireland did, so they have an unfair advantage over Pakistan. D/L might not be easy to explain in a single tweet but the problem to be solved is inherently tricky – combining two types of ‘resources’ (overs and wickets) into a runs total. The answer to the question ‘how do I work it out?’ is: ‘Use statistical modelling to work out a fair target in this situation based on the results of thousands of games played all over the world.’ If someone says that’s too complicated, just refer them to the farcical situations that we saw e.g. in the World Cup 1992.

    If on-field captains still, after over a decade, don’t understand that par score is a tie and par + 1 is a win for the team batting second, then I’m sorry (again) – they’re idiots.

    Let’s be honest, this is one of the rare ways that one day cricket is more interesting than Test cricket, so we should celebrate it. I think that we should use D/L instead of ‘net run rates’ in tournaments with group stages. And in fact let’s grow up and accept that stating the result of a successful run chase as a victory by x wickets is a hopeless anachronism – at the very least the result should state how many overs were remaining… but if we give wickets left and overs left, why not combine the two into the D/L score over par? Then we can compare victories in different games on a like-for-like basis.

  3. I get that technical mysteries can erect a barrier between spectators and the sport, but D/L is not a feature of the basic game of cricket. It’s a tool to use when real life (and weather) gets in the way. In one sense Formula 1 is dead easy to understand (first car to complete x laps wins), but if someone gets banned for having the wrong chemicals in their fuel, or some wing flap is 5mm too wide, that has to be allowed to happen even if the physics/chemistry is beyond 99.9% of the viewing public.

    • duckingbeamers says:


      Thanks for the comment. I was writing from the perspective of a rookie fan, not as myself, a veteran at the cricket rodeo. But still, imagine saying the words “statistical modeling” to a rookie fan at a rain-drenched match…You’re unlikely to make a convert to the game.

      It’s true that certain sports simply require fans to accept diktats (as in Formula 1), but a few months ago, I asked whether we’ve taken the trend too far in cricket (see my post on science in cricket). Hawk-Eye, the 15-degree rule, D/L — these are all innovations that we could on the one hand celebrate, but I worry that they also do erect a rather strong barrier as well. These all cover basic features of the game, no? “How can we know what a legal delivery is?” Well, actually, we can’t; we need specialized biomechanical analysis for that. “How do we know if someone is LBW, and what exactly is the category of ‘Umpire’s Call'”?

      Again, I know all the answers to these questions, and I understand where they come from and how they helpfully address problems in the game. But at what cost? If you believe, as I do, that cricket is a game of fate and chance, you accept that sometimes, rain will interfere and makes things harder for one team and not the other. You accept that sometimes, umpires will make the wrong call. So instead of saying “statistical modeling,” we would say, “A game of fate and chance, much like our lives.” Which do you think the rookie fan would prefer?

      • Hi duckingbeamers,

        I appreciate that a balance needs to be struck, but I expect that the fairness point is important to a rookie too. There are some areas that fate and chance play a role (e.g. coin toss on a pitch which you don’t want to bat last on), but predecessors to D/L can be shown to be fundamentally unfair. How would your rookie fan react to a team’s target changing from 22 runs off 13 balls to 21 runs off 1 (poor SA in the 1992 World Cup semi v England)?

        For what it’s worth, I think the current DRS system is too fussy and hard to explain, with some illogicalities to it. (By contrast, D/L may be hard to explain but at least it’s logical and internally consistent.) I’ve got no problem with HawkEye itself but the whole ‘umpire’s call’ thing and ‘too far in front of the stumps’ is messy.

        The 15 degree rule isn’t too bad either – it doesn’t affect the game during match time.

        The biggest barrier to a rookie joining the like of you and me in the wonderful world of cricket is not the complications, it’s the stench of spot-fixing, match-fixing and corruption that must make a true rookie wonder if cricket is a true sport or something more like choreographed ‘entertainment’ wrestling.

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