Ethics and morality May 5, 2010

Lies, damned lies, and Duckworth Lewis

Was Paul Collingwood right to question the target set for West Indies by the Duckworth Lewis Method

Was Paul Collingwood right to question the target set for West Indies by the Duckworth Lewis Method? I believe he was right, and it was disappointing that Frank Duckworth dismissed his concerns so readily. Statisticians, and I work with many, have their preferred methods but the best statisticians will always accept that each method has its flaws. Show me a statistician whose first answer to a statistical question is 'it depends . . .' and I'll show you a statistician with wisdom.

Here's why Collingwood has three arguments in his favour:

1 The statistical argument: The higher number of data points available, the more reliable any statistical estimate. With only 14 balls bowled by England before the rain set in, the sample was too small to reliably estimate the trajectory of the West Indian innings. Duckworth's argument that those fourteen balls dictated the target exposes the unsuitability of the Duckworth Lewis Method when only a small proportion of an innings, around 10% in this case, has been completed. In this circumstance, there are insufficient data points (balls bowled) to reasonably predict the trajectory of an innings.

A fairer approach would be to set a minimum number of overs before wickets lost are taken into consideration. For example, if that minimum number of overs in T20 were 5 overs (ie 25% of the innings completed), the wickets West Indies had lost in those 14 balls would be irrelevant. The target set would assume that no balls had been bowled. The West Indian target should then have been higher. After 5 overs, and only after 5 overs, the runs already scored and wickets already lost would be taken into account. A more suitable minimum number of overs might in fact be 8 or 10 overs.

The alternative would be to increase the weighting in favour of the side batting first in these circumstances.

2 The spirit of cricket argument: Anybody who has played cricket at any level knows that it is much easier to score around ten runs an over for 6 overs than it is for 20 overs, especially when 10 wickets are available in both situations. It is wrong for Duckworth to suggest otherwise. When the target set by the Duckworth Lewis Method feels wrong and against the spirit of the game, then the numbers thrown up by a stastical analytics package are irrelevant.

3 The regulatory argument: The pressure for a resolution by the Duckworth Lewis Method is created by limits on playing times. In major T20 tournaments, often staged at facilities with floodlights, these regulations seem absurd. Half an hour's extra play is clearly insufficient. The option of an extra hour, at the very least, is essential. I'm confident most specatators would prefer to stay an extra hour or so to watch a proper contest than witness a farce that allows them to get home earlier.

I believe the ICC needs to act and reconsider the application of the Duckworth Lewis Method in T20 cricket. What happened to England earlier this week was unfair for several reasons. Collingwood had a point, Duckworth had a Vera moment.

Note: I edited this article on 6th May to clarify the issue of what is currently considered when a revised target is set. Duckworth Lewis takes into account the overs lost and the wickets lost at the time of interruption and not the runs scored--that's a whole other issue of potential unfairness (thanks to Cricinfo's S Rajesh for clarifying this point).

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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on November 11, 2012, 0:15 GMT

    Pretty nice post. I just came by your blog and wanted to syhtaat I've really liked reading your posts. Any wayI'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon!

  • testli5504537 on May 22, 2010, 6:52 GMT

    Great article Thank

    you so much!

  • testli5504537 on May 21, 2010, 19:14 GMT

    This is an interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

  • testli5504537 on May 21, 2010, 17:32 GMT

    Very good journey and experience!

  • testli5504537 on May 17, 2010, 5:56 GMT

    Great article, thank you very much!

  • testli5504537 on May 11, 2010, 20:36 GMT

    what is the minium overs which have to be bowled in a 20/20 game in order a result may be declared?

  • testli5504537 on May 9, 2010, 18:26 GMT

    i think unfortunately in Pakistan's squad not a single player is in his best form. As the Salman But is concerned he has done well but he has not the ability to finish the match in a heroic way. The momentum that is necessary for this format of the game has not been developed in Pak Players this time. Their body language was highly negative. Its not a bad thing to lost the match if you have lost it after hard fight. Although these thing are small but they are necessary for a team for their long term goals. I think Pak player should always be positive and they should play a positive game. Instead of regretting over missing of core player, the pak team management and team should have focused on the available given players and using them rightly. Unless corruption will be there in pak cricket team, they will never gonna show something special with consistency. Pakistan Payinda Baad..tum jito ya haro..we will always proud of you..

  • testli5504537 on May 7, 2010, 15:54 GMT

    What happened to the it ain't over until the fat lady sings? If one team or another cannot bat out due to unforseen circumstances (rain, in this case) then teams should be awarded a point each.

  • testli5504537 on May 7, 2010, 15:15 GMT

    Excellent article Kamran Abbasi! My only complaint is that you have exposed the problems with the DL system, but you have not offered a viable solution. But therein lies the real problem. We would never have a perfect solution for a game that is interrupted by inclement weather, especially in this abbreviated format. There will always, I empahasize, always be critics of whatever system is in place. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Paul Colinwood should just suck it up and move on. I have a feeling if the shoe was on the other foot, we would not have heard any whining for the England camp.

  • testli5504537 on May 7, 2010, 5:54 GMT

    Good points mentioned in the article. In my view, a t20 match should consist of a minimum of 10 overs. Anything less is a joke. The D/L method does not work due to the T20 matches being slower at the start and a rush at the end. It is imbalanced. There needs to be a think tank about how to resolve this problem.

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