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.

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