28 May 2007

The ICC avoided another crisis...just

It's long gone now for everyone, but it turns out that the World Cup Final, which was soured by the inability of the Match Control Team to know, and implement, the match regulations properly, could have easily thrown up another anomaly that the ICC were aware of, it appears, but had done nothing about. I pondered the use of the powerplays in the final and, having checked into the match regulations for the World Cup on the ICC's website and it turns out that but for Ponting's tactics, the ICC would have been completely embarrassed. To refresh your memories, the match was shortened to 38 overs each and it threatened rain from early in the Sri Lankan innings, the rain eventually falling after 24.5 overs, so the innings had to be further reduced to 36 overs. From there, the players were taken off for bad light after 33 overs and, as has been commented on many times, were wrongly asked to play out the last 3 overs. In fact, the game should have been considered over after the players went off for bad light, Sri Lanka having completed 33 overs of their innings. The shortening of the game to 38 overs meant that after the initial 10 overs, only one more powerplay of 5 overs was required to be used.

Seeing that the rain was coming, Sri Lanka's batting was very attacking, as they knew that they had to be ahead on the Duckworth/Lewis system because rain was inevitable. Ponting must have known rain was inevitable too, but he perhaps wasn't aware of the intricacies of the Duckworth/Lewis system, because if he was he may well not have used his powerplay until the final overs. Alternatively, he may have been fully aware but decided to use it anyway, knowing that in the semi-final and final teams averaged over 6 out of powerplay overs but less than 5 in them. But despite that, leaving the second powerplay to the end of the innings could have been the best tactic because the Duckworth-Lewis method does not take into account powerplays in calculating runs required, so in this hypothetical example below, the team that batted first could get away with using only 10 powerplay overs when fielding, rather than 20, which they had received.

Team 1 bats 50 overs
Team 2 bats 20 - 40 overs, then it rains making any more play impossible (20 overs constitutes a match)

Of course, the likelihood of a captain fielding second being able to tell exactly when the rain will come is unlikely, but if they are able to tell that it will come within, say, 5 overs, or even 10 overs, they have a pretty good chance of increasing their chances of winning by leaving powerplays to the end of the innings, knowing there is a very high chance that they won't be used at all, as the players will have left the field. While Ponting didn't do this in the World Cup final, he could have done and it would have left the ICC with egg on their faces as it would literally have meant one set of rules for one team, and another set for the other.

Here's the ICC's thoughts on why the D-L method doesn't take into account powerplays:

"If any allowance were made for the different scoring abilities for overs with fielding restrictions, then the identities of the different types of overs would have to be input into the target calculation, and this would be a considerable and unwelcome complication for the scorers and would prevent targets and par scores being known instantly they are required. But a thorough analysis of several thousand match scorecards covering the different rules in place over the years has shown that the effects of these rules on scoring patterns are not statistically significant. So no allowance for the effect of rules on fielding restrictions have been considered necessary."

I find this statement very strange. The first sentence seems to suggest that to take into account powerplays would be too much admin for the scorers, then later in the same sentence they refer to needing to know par scores instantly. As the D-L method in use at the World Cup was the "Professional edition" that requires a computer to calculate the par score (rather than the Standard edition that uses a table that can be printed so that players and umpires can read off the par score), there is no concern over how quickly the par score can be calculated - a computer is needed whether powerplays are considered or not. I also don't understand why they were looking at thousands of matches to look at scoring rates...the matches that were relevant were the games since 7th July 2005, when the powerplay rule was brought in, and of those matches, only the ones where the powerplays weren't taken as quickly as possible. The games that are relevant to look at are those that would have constituted a match at 20 overs or more, but where powerplay 3 had not been completed at that point.

I'm not sure how many matches there were like this, but there were only 272 from when powerplays were brought in to the last game prior to the World Cup, so it's not going to be a decent sample from which to prove whether powerplays need to be accounted for in the D-L method. That being the case - until proven otherwise - the logical argument is that, all other things being equal, a side will score more if they face a greater proportion of powerplay overs within their innings. So rather than using excuses to avoid the issue, the ICC should address this now before it effects a key match in a key tournament. If they really find it too difficult to get their heads around the formulae required, then perhaps this would be a simple part-way solution in the mean time:

*Powerplays must be completed with 10 overs of an innings to go

That way it is less likely that a captain can correctly judge when the rain may fall and avoid using powerplays 2 and 3 when fielding second (although it's still completely possible). It also gets back to the reason for powerplays in the first place - when fielding restrictions were in place for 15 overs without any decisions from the captains, overs 16-40 were considered "boring" with the game livening up again in the last 10 as sides looked to increase their scoring rates dramatically. Powerplays aren't needed in the last 10 to increase excitement, so this would seem like a reasonable measure while the ICC considers the issue of taking into account powerplays in a weather affected game. Ignore this at your peril ICC - it's another PR disaster waiting to happen and you came very close to embarrassment in the 2007 final.

1 comment:

Peter Lamb said...

Simple answer: abandon powerplays altogether. I fail to see why such artificial contrivances are necessary. Spectators are at games for around seven hours and don't need to be on the edge of their seats for the whole time: in any case overs 16-40 are only boring if one or other of the sides (usually the batting side) decides to make them so (eg England under Fletcher); I don't recollect too many of these overs being boring pre-powerplays when the Aussies were batting.