Saturday, June 27, 2009

International T20s are Meaningless

The world was subjected to a T20 world cup a few weeks ago - hosted in the UK, where most of the followers were sub-continent ex-pats. The tournament saw the elimination of Australia in the preliminary round - and the elimination of the economic giant of the game (India) in the round before the semi-finals.

The problem here is the very nature of T20. It is a game which depends tremendously on luck. All sports depend on luck; cricket possibly more than others. But T20 cricket is at a different level. T20's results are more random; they are more like the results one could obtain by tossing up coins. Let's say that (for argument's sake), in test cricket, 90% of the time, the better team wins (if there is a result in the match). One day cricket, the better team wins around 80% of the time. But with T20, I would conjecture that the better team would win 65% of the time - which makes upsets more likely.

Why is T20 more dependent on luck than test cricket? This is quite easy to answer. Because T20 matches are very small - and very competitive. One bad over by a bowler can mean the difference between a bad score and a good score. One mishit by a well set batsman be the difference between a successful chase and a loss. The results of T20 are very sensitive to random incidents.

Whereas, in test cricket, an expensive over can be compensated for by an economical over down the line. A mishit can be compensated for by the same batsman in the second innings - or by another following batsman, who has relatively less pressure. The longer duration of the game smudges out the randomness - time-averages out the noise, if you will. Test cricket is thus more reliant on strategy and raw talent than T20s. It would also stand to reason that one day cricket would lie somewhere between T20 and Test cricket in the 'dependence on luck'.

International T20s give the victors bragging rights - and send the losers soul-searching. But one would do well to remember that with luck dominating the whole situation.; the emotions of a massive number of people (the entire population of cricket-crazy India, for instance) are played around with with randomness. This is meaningless.

The ICC would do well to abolish the T20 world cup. That's because the IPL provides cricket of similar (if not higher quality) than the world cup. And there's plenty of close finishes - and the tournament is long enough to require consistent performance to succeed (the ensemble average effect?). The Deccan chargers were indeed the best team throughout the tournament this year - and the Kolkota was certainly the worst. The same cannot be said of the mercureal Pakistani team.

I dare say that each of the IPL franchises was at least as good as the 'world champion' Pakistani team. (This makes sense even when one looks at the sample size of the population that each of the IPL franchises is picked from: 1200M/8 = 150M, which is the population of Pakistan!). We can argue that all International cricket is meaningless based on this - and will become even more so as India's economy grows - but I've already done that before.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More on Iran

I've been following the situation in Iran quite closely (as seems to be everyone with a TV / internet connection). The Iran situation is getting coverage all around the world. It is creditable that the plight of a suppressed people is getting such media traction.

There are several articles which argue that the results of the elections (the current bones of contention, if you will) are rigged. There's this article (with the feel of a Journal paper) by people who seem to be academicians at a British University. Then there's the amusing analysis written in a recent edition of the Washington Post which argues that the numbers bear the signature of a rigged election. And then there's this analysis in the New Scientist which uses that old statistical treasure, Binford's Law to argue that the results were generated by a computer.

And for a historical perspective, Alternet has a brutally passionate piece on why claims, not unlike those purveyed by the Mullahs in Iran, that America is the Great Satan - do have a strong basis.

Clearly, I do not have any business sounding off on Iran. I am not an Iranian citizen. I am an Indian - and India's political system at least does not have the kind of repression that Iran bears. But I have always sounded off on things that are none of my business. So, of course, I will open by mouth here are talk about what I think. (The entire US of A is doing this - so why should I be left out?).

Firstly, why are the Iranian protests getting so much airtime? Does the fact that American drones are killing more civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan per day count for nothing? Why are we not looking at the plight of the Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghans here? This is WRONG.

A popular (albeit somewhat sexist and inappropriate) analysis seems to be doing the rounds on Facebook. Apparently the plight of the Iranian people is getting so much airtime because they're using many pretty women as protesters. This analysis might have an iota of truth in it. The fact is that the wronged people here are MIDDLE CLASS. Iran is a fairly well-to-do nation - with a per capita income 4-5 times that of India - and 30% of the US.

The Iranians (who are protesting) are cellphone toting, twitter and Facebook people. Americans (and the rest of the developed word) can therefore identify themselves with the Iranian cause. An Afghan shepherd who has never heard of twitter – they can’t identify with. His life is no value - as has been proven by zero-outrage-inducing drone attacks in Pakistan.

So here’s a lesson for you. If you are an oppressed community – and want the rest of the developed world on your side – somehow, stop being poor. Become middle class. Beg, borrow, steal! And America (and the rest of the world) will be a your champion. If you’re still poor on the other hand, and do not have access to twitter, then watch out! A drone will drop a missile on you sometime.

Update: Time's Joe Klien has a very insightful piece on the Iranian situation. I quote

Iran's government is a conservative, defensive, rational military dictatorship that manages to subdue its working-class majority softly, by distributing oil revenues downward. (On June 23, Ahmadinejad announced that doctors' salaries would be doubled, for example.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Smelling fishy in Tehran

Mahmoud Ahmedinijad's government is certainly not one of my favourite governments. A pointless, unpragmatic hardliner whose record in Iran is Akin to Lalu's in Bihar (as far as the economy is concerned) - and whose record outside Iran includes denying the holocaust thus lending illegitimacy to the genuine grievance that Palestinians have about Israel usurping their homeland. He, along with the hard-line former American president (Bush) were responsible for ratcheting up fears of yet another war in the middle east.

Since America hates Ahmedinijad, it does look like the American media has a horse in the race. Building up the rally in Iran would tend to give it a ratings boost. So, one does wonder, is the whole situation in Iran manufactured by those with vested interests?

This does not seem to be the case. You can't count 50 million paper ballots in three hours and decide a winner. The election results do not seem to make sense when viewed side by side along with the older election results. The reformers should have got a larger amount of the vote. And the main challenger (Moussavi) should have won in his home town at least - looking at how large his rallies are in Tehran. This probably proves once and for all that democracy in Iran is a sham. And Iranians, the smart and proud people that they are, are likely to revolt - if the ruling government does not have a genuine majority. And that's exactly what they seem to be doing right now.

How will the government react to this? Will they use excessive force and kill a lot of protestors? Are we seeing the beginning of a repressive regime? Or will the Iranians have another revolution that shall result in a more liberal democracy.

It is inevitable that the government shall try to ban services such as twitter and facebook. They might even end up banning blogs and access to the internet. But people are experts at setting up proxy servers. But it remains to be seen how long this rage against the government shall last. Will the Iranian people be able to sustain this rage in the long run?

The west must do what it can to ensure that access to these services goes on. If necessary, wimax routers (which offer wireless internet for a range of upto 50 km or more) can be installed along the borders in Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkey (and Pakistan?). This will give Iranians unlimited access to facebook and twitter (at least in a narrow geographic region). Services passing on information must be orgainzied by email. Satellite photography should replace on-the-ground cameras to monitor unrest. This is the 21st century. We must use current technology to avoid the biggest mistakes of last century - the rise of totalitarianism - especially in large, rich and populous countries.

Expressing solidarity with the Iranian people. [ And hence the sudden green-ness]. Here's to the hope that the truth shall prevail - and that the election results are processed more transparently. If Ahmedinijad's victory was indeed so transparent, then why are the powers that be making this process so opaque?