Monday, April 2, 2012

Run Away D/L. You have no business in cricket – part 3

Now, you must be wondering if I’m paranoid over D/L to come up with a third post on the same subject. Not really. Even before writing my earlier posts on this subject I always wanted to write this one. But the part-2 came out of thin air. This post is only intended to validate D/L from the perspective of an observer of the game. So please don’t mistake me if you think I’m taking a U-Turn on what I’ve been rooting in my earlier posts.

20 years ago, when South Africa lost the World Cup match due to poor rain rules, we sympathized them. We sincerely felt a better method is needed to revise targets for rain intervened matches. Thus we had Duckworth-Lewis that provided better projection of totals compared to its predecessors. But, in today’s context of the game, does the method still hold merit? It is difficult to give a straight answer from me. However, wish to share my inference/reservations that I’ve towards the current calculation method without walking too much into technicalities.

When D/L came into picture, T20 cricket wasn’t born. Today, T20 format has completely changed the dynamics of the game. Teams find it relatively easy chasing bigger run rates in short duration of overs. The fear of chasing a huge target is replaced by the faith of holding more wickets to bat reduced number of deliveries. After all, you have 11 resources to face meager number of balls only improves the risk appetite of the batsmen’s shot making. This is exactly the reason a total of 120 in T20 match is considered below par despite the run rate of 6. However a total of 300 in ODI that has the same run rate of 6 stands far more probability of being defended successfully. It is the fear of battling more number of deliveries to achieve a milestone controls the risk appetite of the batsmen. Now you also know why the number 400 is a sure shot of falling on the winning side in Test Cricket despite zero run rate pressure on the batsmen. I do understand that the strip changes in 3+ days of cricket. But battling more deliveries is a steeper challenge than chasing a run rate.

My point is – Does D/L’s method of target projection still appeal in today’s scenario? Let us say, If Team 1 scored 300 runs in 50 overs and Team 2 innings is reduced to 20 overs due to rain, according to D/L Team 2 will be chasing a total of 171 in 20 overs. Now you already know that the odds of Team 2 chasing 171 in 20 overs successfully are better than Team 2 chasing 300 in 50 overs. However if Team 2 is asked to chase the same run rate of 6 set by Team 1 i.e 120 in 20 overs with only 6 wickets in hand, you will witness far more intriguing chase with the probability of result falling either way. I’m not presenting any formula here, but only a context to convey my thought process. However, if you argue, in the context of the sport, it makes no sense to void 4 wickets (basically docking wickets columns) as the game of cricket involves 11 players from each side. In my defense, I would say, not all 11 players get to bat everyday in cricket, so it is not bad ploy to consider knocking wickets column instead of spiking the run rate only in the rain affected games.

All I mean to suggest is BALANCE BOTH RUN RATE AND WICKETS to arrive a better projection of Total in rain intervened games. Not sure, if there is already a request to Duckworth and Lewis to revisit their calculations after the recent strides in cricket.

An icing to the subject of discussion, India lost to South Africa in an inconsequential T20 match by 11 runs under D/L. South Africa scored 219 in 20 overs. After India posted 71/0 on the board, rain washed out any play further. Had India known advance that they would need only 82 runs in 7.5 overs, it is anybody’s guess that India would have won the match hands down.

Bottom line: In today’s scenario, D/L definitely provides better projection of targets compared to its predecessors or any existing methods followed in the minor leagues. At the same time, the method needs revisit (is my humble opinion).

Cricket Lover

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