Statistics are meaningless, unless you are a sports fan

As a passionate cricket fan, I've long been exposed to the plethora of statistics about cricketers which attempt to provide a means of comparing players across the ages or offer a guide to form.

There is a constant search for better ways of measuring success in the game and address the flaws which can detract such as giving greater credit to someone who ended the innings not out, with the result that No.11 used to often be shown with better statistics than someone at No.9 simply by virtue of coming in last and not having to face many balls before the innings ended.

The Undercover Economist column on FT.com this week reported on Vani Borooah, an economist at the University of Ulster, and his analysis of batting averages:

Batsmen in cricket are invariably ranked according to their batting average. Such a ranking suffers from two defects. First, it does not take into account the consistency of scores across innings: a batsman might have a high career average but with low scores interspersed with high scores; another might have a lower average but with much less variation in his scores. Second, it pays no attention to the “value” of the player’s runs to the team: arguably, a century, when the total score is 600, has less value compared to a half-century in an innings total of, say, 200. The purpose of this paper is to suggest new ways of computing batting averages which, by addressing these deficiencies, complement the existing method and present a more complete picture of batsmen’s performance. Based on these “new” averages, the paper offers a “new” ranking of the top 50 batsmen in the history of Test Cricket.

The revised league tables are fascinating, giving greater weight to aspects such as consistency and the relative importance of contribution to the team score. Unsurprisingly, Don Bradman comes out first on every measure used.

If you love cricket, this will provide an even more fuel to the fire of the endless debate on the relative merits of the game's greats. Definitely one for the Test Match Special team and Wisden to pick up.

posted by John Wilson @ 4:13 PM Permanent Link newsvine reddit



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