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February 11, 2011

World Cup

World Cup 2011: an alternate preview

Anantha Narayanan
India: statistically the favourites  © AFP
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The tenth edition of the World Cup is not far away. In my last article I looked at the previous 9 World Cups from an alternate analysis point of view. In this article I will look at the ensuing World Cup, similarly from an analytical point of view.

For this article I have used some of the results of the proprietary work on recent form and match simulation I have done for a company which has a web presence exclusively for Cricket. As such I will not be presenting any detailed tables but refer to the conclusions extracted from those. I request readers to kindly bear with me. There are contractual restrictions to be observed.

The cornerstone of this analysis is the Team Strength index (TSI) of the participating teams. This index has been extracted using a complex process which involves the following.

- An estimated Final XI.
- The career figures of selected players.
- The recent form of players, bowling and batting.

The base TSI is determined using the following data.

- Career Runs per innings, after excluding single-digit not outs.
- Career Strike rate.
- Career Bowling strike rate- Balls per wicket.
- Career bowling accuracy - Runs per over.
- Recent Form Runs per innings, after excluding single-digit not outs.
- Recent Form Strike rate.
- Recent Form Bowling strike rate- Balls per wicket.
- Recent Form bowling accuracy - Runs per over.

The teams have been selected by me based on the assumption that ALL the players would be available and would be injury-free. Key players such as Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Ponting, Collingwood, Bresnan, Kallis, Vettori and a few others have injury concerns. If these players do not play, the numbers would change as also the predictions. Mike Hussey and Eoin Morgan are already out. The teams concerned have already gone down in strength.

The recent form encompasses the last 10 innings played or last 10 spells bowled, provided these have been played on or after 1 January 2009. Most players have done this during 2010 itself. However someone like Tendulkar has played 2 innings in 2011 and 2 in 2010 and I had to go back one more year. 2009 performances are weighted slightly lower. Runs per Innings makes more sense than Batting average especially since recent form has to be considered. 3 not outs out of 10 distorts the recent form a lot. The weight for recent form numbers as against career numbers is decided based on the number of career matches played. The career figures have the highest weight of 75% if the player has played more than 100 matches. The recent form numbers become more significant if the player has played fewer matches.

After the base TSI is determined it is further adjusted based on the following three factors.

- The recent form of the teams - results, margins, venues et al.
- The venue of the matches (to decide on home/familiarity measures).
- The team performances in the two recent World Cups (2003 and 2007). This will enable us to assign due weight to the manner in which big-matches and big-stage have been handled. Going back beyond 2003 is not right since most of those players would have retired.

Recent form of teams: The recent form of teams considers the last 20 matches played by the team, provided these have been played on or after 1 January 2009. Most teams have done this during 2010 itself. The results are analyzed from results (wins/ties/losses) point of view and the match venue (home/neutral/away) point of view. In addition the margins of wins is incorporated. Finally, unlike the batsmen/bowler recent form calculations, the team numbers are determined based on the recent matches only. Needless to say, the West Indian successes of the 1970s should have no bearing on the chances of today's West Indies. The form related changes work out to around 3% on either side of 100.

Match venue factor: India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have been assigned a 2.5% benefit value for playing at home. Pakistan has a 1.25% benefit for playing in familiar sub-continent conditions.

Recent World Cup form: Upto 2% is allotted for this factor. A simple one based on the performances of teams in the recent two World Cups. Australia gets 2% (2 wins), Sri Lanka gets 0.75% (One final and one semi-final), India gets 0.50% (one final), New Zealand gets 0.35% (one semi-final and one super-six) and so on.

These numbers might seem arbitrary. However these have been arrived at after lot of trial runs. Moreover the benefit cannot be made greater than these since these numbers are used for simulation which is very sensitive to these numbers.

The recent form tables are listed below. It should be noted that the actual match team strength of India in its inaugural match against Bangladesh will be slightly lower since they would be playing "away" and Bangladesh would be playing at "home". Similarly actual match team strength of Sri Lanka in its match against New Zealand will be very slightly lower since both of them would be playing at "neutral" venue.

Team         BtIdx BwIdx TmIdx LocAdj RF_Adj Wc_Adj BtIdx BwIdx TmIdx

India 31.25 28.16 59.41 1.0250 1.0220 1.0050 32.89 29.65 62.54 South Africa 29.20 30.81 60.01 1.0000 1.0290 1.0025 30.12 31.78 61.91 Sri Lanka 24.30 33.79 58.09 1.0250 1.0300 1.0075 25.85 35.94 61.79 Australia 27.90 30.01 57.90 1.0000 1.0120 1.0200 28.80 30.97 59.77 Pakistan 23.98 27.16 51.14 1.0125 0.9990 1.0000 24.26 27.48 51.73 England 23.55 27.50 51.05 1.0000 1.0050 1.0010 23.69 27.67 51.35 Bangladesh 20.88 26.04 46.92 1.0250 0.9970 1.0010 21.36 26.64 48.00 West Indies 22.61 24.43 47.04 1.0000 0.9820 1.0010 22.23 24.01 46.24 New Zealand 20.70 24.81 45.50 1.0000 0.9670 1.0035 20.08 24.07 44.16 Ireland 17.60 22.86 40.47 1.0000 1.0160 1.0010 17.90 23.25 41.16 Zimbabwe 14.85 23.80 38.65 1.0000 0.9880 1.0010 14.69 23.54 38.23 Netherlands 12.02 17.50 29.52 1.0000 1.0020 1.0000 12.04 17.53 29.58 Canada 13.73 15.91 29.64 1.0000 0.9930 1.0000 13.64 15.80 29.43 Kenya 13.75 15.61 29.35 1.0000 0.9740 1.0025 13.42 15.24 28.66

It should be noted that the table would look different if the World Cup was going to be played outside, say South Africa. The pace bowlers would get back their potency. But the difference would probably be no more than 5%.


Not so surprising that India leads the team strength table, albeit by a hairsbreadth, closely followed by Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia. India has the best batting lineup amongst all, and good bowling strength. Sri Lanka has the best bowling credentials, not matched by the batting. South Africa is placed high in both areas. Australia is also similarly placed. Their top quality pace bowling makes up for their average spin bowling. England, weakened by the loss of a key player and their indifferent form and Pakistan, with the loss of two key bowlers and their inability to play at home, are in the middle. Bangladesh, New Zealand and West Indies are in the third group. Ireland is very good, but is probably out of its league. Zimbabwe has an excellent spin attack but their batting is pathetic. Netherlands has one truly world class player. Canada, with an almost wholly expatriate team, are here to fill up the numbers.

The recent form of South Africa, Australia and Sri Lanka has been excellent. India and Pakistan have kept their heads above water. England's form was the best until recently. Unfortunately the Australian disaster reversed this. The other way around for Australia. The recent form of West Indies and New Zealand has been awful.

Now to the groups.

Team         BtIdx BwIdx TmIdx LocAdj RF_Adj Wc_Adj BtIdx BwIdx TmIdx

Group A

Sri Lanka 24.30 33.79 58.09 1.0250 1.0300 1.0075 25.85 35.94 61.79 Australia 27.90 30.01 57.90 1.0000 1.0120 1.0200 28.80 30.97 59.77 Pakistan 23.98 27.16 51.14 1.0125 0.9990 1.0000 24.26 27.48 51.73 New Zealand 20.70 24.81 45.50 1.0000 0.9670 1.0035 20.08 24.07 44.16 Zimbabwe 14.85 23.80 38.65 1.0000 0.9880 1.0010 14.69 23.54 38.23 Canada 13.73 15.91 29.64 1.0000 0.9930 1.0000 13.64 15.80 29.43 Kenya 13.75 15.61 29.35 1.0000 0.9740 1.0025 13.42 15.24 28.66

Group B

India 31.25 28.16 59.41 1.0250 1.0220 1.0050 32.89 29.65 62.54 South Africa 29.20 30.81 60.01 1.0000 1.0290 1.0025 30.12 31.78 61.91 England 23.55 27.50 51.05 1.0000 1.0050 1.0010 23.69 27.67 51.35 Bangladesh 20.88 26.04 46.92 1.0250 0.9970 1.0010 21.36 26.64 48.00 West Indies 22.61 24.43 47.04 1.0000 0.9820 1.0010 22.23 24.01 46.24 Ireland 17.60 22.86 40.47 1.0000 1.0160 1.0010 17.90 23.25 41.16 Netherlands 12.02 17.50 29.52 1.0000 1.0020 1.0000 12.04 17.53 29.58

Group A has an average Team strength value of 44.82, considerably lower than the other group. However this is the clearer group in that the top four teams are going to encounter very little opposition from Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya are likely to share 3 wins amongst themselves. It would be a momentous upset if they defeat any of the top four teams. The team strength numbers substantiate this conclusion. These three teams are more than 15% away from the lowest placed of the top four teams. The order is quite difficult to predict. Let us say Sri Lanka, Australia, Pakistan and New Zealand qualify, in some order or other.


Group B is quite difficult to predict and is fraught with possibilities. The average team strength is 48.68, around 7-8% higher than the other group. However the dark horse is Bangladesh. They have a team strength which is understandably and justifiably higher than West Indies. They are the only team which would be playing all their matches at home. India and Sri Lanka play one match away. So there is a very good chance (I would put it as high as 50%) of Bangladesh winning three matches. That should put them in with a great chance of qualifying. So there is a good chance that one of the top four teams would miss out. That seems likely to be West Indies. Also note that Ireland are also quite strong. So let us say India, South Africa, England and Bangladesh, the order of the top three uncertain.

What happens afterwards is almost a lottery. The team which has three great days would win the cup, that is all. The two teams which have very little chance of having three great days are Bangladesh and New Zealand and should be ruled out. Out of the other six, England and Pakistan are likely to have two great days, but probably not three. So this leaves us with the four teams, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Australia. It could be any one of these four.

I can hear some readers saying that this is what everyone and their neighbour's cat is saying. However my statement is based on the fact that I have done complete simulation of the World Cup a few thousands of times. But as I have already mentioned, that is proprietary information for my client. Hence I am not able to divulge that information, until it is published. I can only say that these four teams are closely bunched together and, as a group, have around 80-85% chance of winning the World Cup. Pakistan and England follow next. The readers can draw their own inferences. The final simulation results show a very high degree of correlation with the Team strength values.

To view/down-load the list of selected players for each team, please click/right-click here.

Finally a request to the readers.

This is a World Cup played between 14 teams and 210 players. About half of these players would have fond expectations of winning and reaping the rich rewards. They would like to win the World Cup for themselves and their countries. It is quite unlikely that they do it for some other player in their team, however great the player might be. So let us stay out of this "win for Jayawardene" or "win for Tendulkar" or "win for Kallis" etc. Let your comments be centred around the teams not individuals. In this analysis, as in real life, the 11 players bring with them their performance-related numbers and contribute to the Team Strength. Then it is the team which performs together.

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Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems

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Keywords: Stats, World Cup

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Posted by Animesh on (March 7, 2011, 14:58 GMT)

Sincere apologies; would like to check it out but i seem to be unable to locate it. Could you direct me as to when that was written? [[ http://blogs.espncricinfo.com/itfigures/archives/2010/01/_sachin_tendulkar_on_top.php Ananth: ]]

Posted by Animesh on (March 5, 2011, 16:55 GMT)

Hats off. The unpredictability of sports i don't need to talk about. But an analysis-cum-preview like this is way too engrossing as a fan to set aside and move on.. just spent over an hour on the article and comments. Thanks man. Keep 'em coming.

Incidentally, as a die-hard Sachin fan.. it is disappointing to see him consistently drop down the lists on batting parameters whenever you do your analyses. I could go on I guess, but perhaps in some other article. [[ It only shows that you hve not read through the articles. In the combined Test-ODI article Tendulkar was no.1 and that was the last pure batsman analysis. Ananth: ]]

Once again - brilliant work. All simulations, experts and statistics aside - hoping India clobber Australia silly in the final :)

Posted by Obelix the Fat on (February 28, 2011, 1:23 GMT)

I propose a group stage that qualifies you for a best of 3 final.

Posted by Boll on (February 20, 2011, 9:49 GMT)

Little did I realise that this site would also introduce me to Tamil cinema. Just been looking at a bit of Kamal Hasan(?) that people were mentioning earlier. Fantastic stuff! Is he watching the game though?

Posted by love goel on (February 19, 2011, 18:58 GMT)

If we REALLY want the strongest team to win, and not have any one match cause major ripple effects, the format actually has to be simpler...

Well the definition of the strongest/best is not same for everybody. While you believe that group format followed by best of 3 is the best format, I truly believe that SF/F is the best do way to go in any sports. While you want the strongest teams to win,sports must provide for upsets and heartbreaks. It must allow for sudden change in momemtum, for the dark horses to steal the limelight

For me SF/F are the way. Without that it will all be too predictable. [[ I see merits in both arguments. We have to allow for upset results since otherwise the charm is lost. At the same time we have to probably ensure that a bad day at the office of one player should not sinlk them. Baggio in 1994 did not have a bad day, but a bad few seconds, and Italy lost the Final. So the biggest of all World level tournaments, the Football WC, has similar flaws. Probably the all-play-all League, followed by semi finals and a 3-match Final is the best. If a team loses in the SF, tough luck. After all life should not be. helping the best team win. If India loses in the knock-out rounds of 2011 WC, despite every help provided to help them win, give credit to the team that derails them, against odds. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Alex on (February 19, 2011, 6:24 GMT)

Ananth: besides multiple pen-names, the necessity of claiming a different nationality is baffling. Some readers claim to be Aussies but I will bet that they have never been to that beautiful country. Anyway, 3 more hours and WC '11 is ON. Your analysis is fine but I will add the following bits.

1. The toss will prove crucial.

2. Much like in '87 & '96, the skipper will play a big role. Border and Ranatunga were absolutely great as captains and as leaders. Media praises Sanga but Mahela was a far better leader. Afridi seems to have the mojo but I think India has the edge with MSD.

3. This is the first world cup since T20's got popular and will hold some surprises thanks to T20 ... very tough to predict just how. All things being equal, I think the team with better T20 players will win the match. So, given the subcontinental conditions, I think Pak is the dark horse even without Aamer and Asif.

Posted by Kartik (the old one) on (February 19, 2011, 6:06 GMT)

To give some idea of how far the West Indies have fallen..

In the mid-80s, WI vs. SL matches were expected to be one-sided. Performances by Walsh, Richards, etc. were eye-popping. The first 10 matches between the two were won 10-0 by WI.

Bangladesh did not even have full ODI status in the mid 80s.

Today, not only is SL stronger than WI, but even Bangladesh is stronger than WI.

Younger cricket fans may have trouble believing that WI were once the best.

Posted by Kartik on (February 19, 2011, 5:58 GMT)

Ananth said : 'The team which has three great days would win the cup, that is all. '

Yes. The one thing that really bugs me about this world cup (and the last one and the one before that) is : The format.

If we REALLY want the strongest team to win, and not have any one match cause major ripple effects, the format actually has to be simpler.

10 teams (only 1 minnow, no more).

All teams play each other once (as in 1992).

The top two teams then play a final (no semis, and certainly no ridiculous quarterfinals).

The finals are a best-of-three. If the old WSC in Australia had a best-of-three final, why can't the actual WORLD Cup?

This will ensure that the two best teams are the two finalists, and that the winner is pretty much confirmed as the very best team.

No strong team gets knocked out by just on bad match (as in 2007). Groups and Quarterfins are both bad ideas.

This truly is the best format for determining the Champion. Beauty in simplicity.

Posted by shanto551 on (February 19, 2011, 1:37 GMT)

Can I watch the cricket live through cricinfo.com? [[ I am afraid you should contact cricinfo.com or go through their website. I am not sure whether free streaming of matches in India is being done. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Obelix the Fat on (February 18, 2011, 18:09 GMT)

*These romans must be crazy* Simulate all you want Ananth here is what I predict :) Semis Australia vs Pakistan and South Africa vs England I have no idea what happens after ! [[ Your educated guess is as good as my scientific calculations. Once the QF is reached, it is almost anybody's Cup. Why Obelix ??? You could as well have been Astrix the Wise !!! All the best. Ananth: ]]

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anantha Narayanan
Anantha spent the first half of his four-decade working career with corporates like IBM, Shaw Wallace, NCR, Sime Darby and the Spinneys group in IT-related positions. In the second half, he has worked on cricket simulation, ratings, data mining, analysis and writing, amongst other things. He was the creator of the Wisden 100 lists, released in 2001. He has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket, and worked extensively with Maruti Motors, Idea Cellular and Castrol on their performance ratings-related systems. He is an armchair connoisseur of most sports. His other passion is tennis, and he thinks Roger Federer is the greatest sportsman to have walked on earth.

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