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Wednesday, 4th January Catching up with old news today, I came across something I’d missed just before the holidays. It was a piece of work by an Australian economist. Now, normally speaking I’d give no more credence to the analysis of an economist than I would to the man who predicted that the world would end last May or to the theory that all the major nations are secretly ruled by moustachioed reptiles from another planet.
This is because, as far as I can tell, economics is about as scientific as water divining, creationism or the sticking-a-pin-in-the-sports-pages method of betting on the horses (a method which, coincidentally, is very popular in Wall Street stock-trading circles).
But this economist wasn’t banging on about the usual mumbo jumbo; fiscal restraint, quantitative easing and suchlike. He was talking about something that really mattered: namely, whether or not Sachin Tendulkar or Don Bradman was the best.
Now I know this is a subject that can get some people lathered up and I have generally steered clear of it. As a neutral, it has often struck me that to wade into this particular squabble would be as foolish as intervening in a fight between two angry cats. Unless one of the cats happens to be yours, it’s sensible to leave them to it.
But economists are made of sterner stuff. The plucky chap had decided to settle things statistically by using mechanisms called “opportunity cost” and “supernormal profit”, which sound like horrendous torture devices designed to torment undergraduates, but which, when applied to the facts, told him definitively that Sachin is best.
And who knows, perhaps he is. But there is one statistic that refuses to go away, the enormous iceberg in the water that threatens to sink the pro-Sachin argument. 99.94. If you rate Sachin’s undoubtedly splendid average of 56.03 as the more impressive, then where does this leave Hammond, Headley, Sutcliffe, Hutton, Ponsford, McCabe and all the others who were utterly dwarfed statistically by the Don?
And if he benefited from fewer opponents, easier pitches or the absence of post-match interviews with Mark Nicholas, then how was it that not one of those other fine players of legend were able to benefit from the same conditions and all trailed in his wake statistically, like little boys trying to keep pace with a marathon runner.
But, perhaps, before we take these findings too seriously, we need to know more about the record of the man responsible. Specifically, we need to know whether this particular economist predicted the credit crunch and the global economic crisis. And if he didn’t, then perhaps we need not worry too much about his cricket analysis.
Thursday, 5th January Whilst I don’t often feel sympathy for the lot of the professional cricketer, I feel compelled to defend Mr Kohli. I didn’t see the incident live but one Indian channel helpfully provided a photograph of his Sydney gesticulation, with the naughty digit deliberately blurred to spare our feelings. Or perhaps there’s something intrinsically offensive about Virat’s middle finger? At any rate, we got the picture.
Now, of course, in the normal run of events, a professional on duty should not be doing such things. And yes, we spectators are not mere cheerleaders; we pay our money and we are entitled to air our views, even if we slur some of the words.
But if you aim abuse at a fellow human being, then you should expect abuse in return. If you or I were to approach Virat in a shopping mall and, from a distance of a few yards away, shout that we thought his hair looked silly, that he can’t throw for toffee and that his mother’s tea was undrinkable, we should expect that he may want to come over and offer us the benefit of his opinion.
So why do some people think that the possession of a match ticket, a t-shirt with a witless slogan and a large foam finger exempts them from the normal rules of civilised society? If I had any money, I’d happily pay Virat’s fine.
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73