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Its all about the math

January 3, 2008

I am an Indian cricket fan and I’m happy. Australia beat India in the first test at the MCG, by a margin that makes one question the use of the word in such contexts. The usual rumblings surface, about having been too defensive and everyone believes drafting Sehwag will deliver the team to greatness. Of course, the criticism of picking an out-of-form player who has done little on the domestic circuit to instill any confidence would then be saved for after the second test. As it turned out, India elected to play with an unchanged batting lineup.

What transpired on Day 1 at the SCG embodied the Aussie way. There were three defining passages of play in the Australian innings that were ‘forks in the road’ on how the test match could’ve proceeded. The openers were dismissed by the 9th over at which point batsmen 3 and 4 came out and played positively. A mini-collapse ensued with 3 wickets in 15 balls. This only spurred on the remaining batsmen who then scored at over 3.5 an over for the next 30 odd overs. Even though the wickets eventually fell, the tail kept the runs flowing for Australia to end up with 463.

Let’s keep the key phases constant and based on recent Indian approaches, project how they would’ve done given the same fall-of-wickets. The columns for the Australian RPO and Score are the actual numbers from SCG Day 1 while the Indian RPO and Score is projected based on past record.

Key Phase

Overs

AUS RPO

AUS Score

IND RPO

IND Score

Comment

Early loss of openers in session 1 of the test match 1 to 29 4.1 119 1.5 44 Given Indian openers are seldom aggressive, early losses only drive the batsmen further into their shells
Three quick middle-order wickets 30 to 70 4.6 188 2.5 100 Assuming a partnership after the mini-collapse, the runrate is seldom a consideration as survival becomes all-important
Lower order with last recognized batsman 71 to 112 3.7 156 2 64 Assuming the Indian lower order to bat over 30 overs is pushing it, but we do know the batting is usually still about doggedly hanging on
TOTAL 463 208

Even with the conservative assumption that an Indian innings that loses its 6th wicket in over 30 will survive till over 112, it still ends up scoring 255 less than the Aussies. The point of this exercise is to highlight, with basic math how the defensive approach is an all but certain way to lose games. Like Ian Chappell says, you only win games by scoring runs and taking wickets. Spending time at the crease is baloney.

In another part of the world, the West Indies beat South Africa for the first time in SA and the world of cricket smiled for a moment. It turns out, I’m a cricket fan who is Indian. Happy New Year!

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