June 14, 2009

Learn from cricket's evil cousin

Siddhartha Talya

Jacob Oram delivered a wake-up call for cricket statisticians, claiming that the current system of compiling statistics in terms of averages and strike-rates for Twenty20 cricket was close to irrelevant. Instead, he suggested, measuring quality in cricket should be modeled around the system used in baseball, where 'intangibles' are quantified, enabling a better assessment of players.

"I'm a massive baseball fan and I look at the way they compile stats and that is the way cricket should go," Oram told the New Zealand Herald. "They have stats for everything but we don't seem to be able to look past average and strike-rate."

Baseball, on the other hand, follows more sophisticated tools of analysis, measuring movement, velocity, power and errors committed by fielders. Cricket records the number of catches taken, but that says little about a fielder's ability if not supplemented with the number of chances he's spilled.

Oram also questioned the use of averages to measure the ability of middle-order batsmen as it failed to take into the account the enormous impact they usually have in the outcomes of games."But maybe I'm just saying that because my numbers are never going to look that great batting where I do," Oram said. But he stressed he was not interested in 'padding up' his numbers with a few cheap not outs, taking another jibe at the loopholes in the game's most relied on indicator of quality.

Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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