Score Assumptions and Naivety in Sport

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Don’t worry, my review of Roy Morgan’s Real International Cricket will soon be with you. I’m about half way through it. As previously advised, the font size is about 8 so please be patient, it’ll be with you as soon as I’ve read through all 280 pages.

On Page 114 when detailing a match between Malaya and Commonwealth XI, Morgan writes as follows:

“Marshall mis-hit Gurucharan to the long-off boundary, only for Navaratnam to drop the catch with the team score at 126. Four runs later, Baig mis-read the spin of Delilkan and steered the ball to short fine leg where, again. Navaratnam failed to take the catch. What could have been 130-3 went on to become 175-1”.

I have some issues with this statement but please let me be clear. This is in no way a dig at Roy Morgan. His book is, for a cricket tragic like me, an absurdly detailed piece of work that I’ll dedicate a whole article too, as soon as I’ve completed what is currently a throughly enjoyable read.

Let’s assume that Marshall had been caught by Navaratnam. Then Kanhai would have joined Baig at the crease with the score 126-2. At this point, we can’t assume that four runs later Baig will mis-read the spin of Delilkan. Even if in reality, the drop was to the last delivery of the over then Baig struck a four before being dropped, just the fact that Kanhai would have walked to the crease would have changed the whole flow of the game. Even if Baig did then hit four, it wouldn’t have been the same four as if when Marshall was at the crease and the likelihood of Delilkan bowling exactly the same ball as he actually did is extremely unlikely. Just a few millimetres difference in either line or length would change the trajectory of the ball and the decision making of the batsman. If indeed Marshall had been caught then everybody that followed might have been out first ball and Commonwealth XI would have been all out for 126 but had Kanhai come in at that point then maybe he and Baig would have both made double hundreds in a partnership of four hundred plus!

Forgive me in committing the ultimate sin on a cricket blog but I’m going to refer to football.

The score of a match is 0-0. A team misses three great chances then the other team scores and wins 1-0. The commentator says “It would have been 3-1 if the other team had put away their chances”. That is the sort of thing you’ll here a commentator or reporter say.

But could it have been 3-1?

Possibly, it’s not an overly obscure scoreline but it’s unlikely. Say the team that lost 1-0 had actually scored their first chance. Well then the next passage of play would have been kick-off not a goal kick or just the continuation of open play as actually happened. From that variation the rest of the game would play out completely, yes completely differently. The same passes, the same shots, the same everything would not have happened. It may be that from the kick off the other team equalised then the match goes on to finish 2-2.

Every little thing changes the course of everything. Just like when you got in your car, ummed and ahed about whether to change the CD, did so, missed the green light by half a second then that driver rear-ended you.

Shane Warne dropped Kevin Pietersen in 2005. If he’d held that chance then maybe Australia would have won the Ashes but maybe England just wouldn’t have lost another wicket and won anyway. I could go on forever but what I’m getting at is that a lot of people, including professional observers of sport just don’t understand that after every goal, dropped catch or misfield etc, the whole passage of play from that point onwards is different. Different batsman of different ability under different pressure of different hand, some who glance at the scorecard more than others or run quicker than others come to the crease.

Sport is not simple. Never assume.

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