Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Month: August 2006

5-run farce

The <a href=”http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/5270176.stm”>current cricket farce between England and Pakistan</a> about ball tampering has highlighted some rather peculiar rules in the game. <br />
<br />
The one that really interested me was that the Pakistan team were “docked” 5 runs at the initial stage when the umpires decided the ball had been tampered with. 5 runs is a hopeless punishment as a deterrent, and the numbers back this up. In 2005, there were <b>48,637</b> runs scored in test cricket – and an average innings of just over <b>291</b>. This means that a 5 run penalty is effectively a <b>1.7%</b> fine per innings, and therefore only 0.43% of the average match – which is nothing. In the case of the game at the Oval, Pakistan had scored over 500 runs, so it was less than 1% in the context of just their innings.<br />
<br />
This seems paltry compared to other sports. In tennis, a warning is followed by a point penalty. A point penalty might sound small, but considering it is 25% of a game, it carries more weight. The recent final between Roddick and Ferrero in Cincinnati had 109 points – so a point penalty would be just under 1% of a typical match, but may be more important given that due to the scoring system, fewer points are required to swing a game to one player.<br />
<br />
In football, the penalty is the most typical sanction of foul play, although it can only be awarded in the area around the goal. But it is still a controversial decision to award one, and is not done so lightly (despite the reputation of some referees).<br />
<br />
The penalty usually results in a goal. I don’t have the penalty conversion rates, but even if it was as low as 50% (which it won’t be), it is still a much harsher sanction than the penalties in tennis or cricket. In the 2005/6 Premiership season, there were 2.48 goals per game. Assuming a 50% conversion rate (i.e. a penalty is worth 0.5 goals), awarding a penalty is about a 20% match swing to one team. (I won’t look at rugby, as the penalty is given for more technical infringements and accidental mistakes than in cricket, football or tennis, and is an acceptable source of points rather than a punishment.)<br />
<br />
So – why does cricket give the five run fine? It is a paltry sum and has zero impact compared to the shame and disgrace that is heaped upon the team or player involved. If the ICC really wanted to make it effective, it would be a 100 run fine. This would actually change a match, like a penalty in football, and give teams cause to think long and hard before tampering with the ball.<br />
<br />
Quick aside: in all this fuss, no-one has noticed that <a href=”http://content-uk.cricinfo.com/pakistan/content/player/43650.html”>Mohammed Yousef</a> has scored a remarkable 631 runs in a 4-match series, which is the fifth-best 4-match total ever. <br />
<br />
<table> <tr><td><B>Runs</B></td><td><B>Player</B></td><td><B>Series</B></td><td><B>Season</B></td></tr <tr bgcolor=”#DEDEDE”><td>712</td><td>JH Kallis</td><td>South Africa v West Indies</td><td>2003/04</td></tr> <tr><td>706</td><td>RT Ponting</td><td>Australia v India</td><td>2003/04</td></tr> <tr bgcolor=”#DEDEDE”><td>703</td><td>GA Headley</td><td>West Indies v England</td><td>1929/30</td></tr> <tr><td>693</td><td>EH Hendren</td><td>England v West Indies</td><td>1929/30</td></tr> <tr bgcolor=”#DEDEDE”><td>631</td><td>Mohammad Yousuf</td><td>England v Pakistan</td><td>2006</td></tr></table>

Newcombe’s theorem

As the US Open approaches, I thought I would try to look at Federer’s place in the all-time list, and <a href=”http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/5167450.stm”>came across this article</a> from July where John Newcombe, the Australian tennis “legend”, works out why Federer CAN’T be considered a great.<br />
<br />
His theory stems from the fact that Federer “has not been able to win the French Open and Nadal has not only been beating him on clay, he’s beaten him and matched him on hard court. So if you’re going to put Federer there, you’ve got to put Nadal there.”<br />
<br />
Ok, I get the idea that Nadal has a good record against Federer, but a quick look at the grand slam list shows that Roger is on the up. He’s won 8 (so far), which pits him with Agassi, Connors and Lendl. Not bad – he’s only 24.<br />
<br />
<table><tr><td><b>Rank</b></td><td><b>Player</b></td><td><b>Australia</b></td><td><b>France</b></td><td><b>Wimbledon</b></td><td><b>US</b></td><td><b>Total</b></td></tr> <tr bgcolor=”#DEDEDE”><td>1</td><td>Pete Sampras (USA) </td><td>2</td><td>- </td><td>7</td><td>5</td><td>14</td></tr> <tr><td>2</td><td>Roy Emerson (AUS) </td><td>6</td><td>2</td><td>2</td><td>2</td><td>12</td></tr> <tr bgcolor=”#DEDEDE”><td>3</td><td>Bj�rn Borg (SWE) </td><td>- </td><td>6</td><td>5</td><td>- </td><td>11</td></tr> <tr><td></td><td>Rod Laver (AUS) </td><td>3</td><td>2</td><td>4</td><td>2</td><td>11</td></tr> <tr bgcolor=”#DEDEDE”><td>5</td><td>William Tilden (USA) </td><td>- </td><td>- </td><td>3</td><td>7</td><td>10</td></tr> <tr><td>6</td><td>Andre Agassi (USA) </td><td>4</td><td>1</td><td>1</td><td>2</td><td>8</td></tr> <tr bgcolor=”#DEDEDE”><td></td><td>Jimmy Connors (USA) </td><td>1</td><td>- </td><td>2</td><td>5</td><td>8</td></tr> <tr><td></td><td><b>Roger Federer</b> (SUI) </td><td>2</td><td>- </td><td>4</td><td>2</td><td>8</td></tr> <tr bgcolor=”#DEDEDE”><td></td><td>Ivan Lendl (CZE/USA) </td><td>2</td><td>3</td><td>- </td><td>3</td><td>8</td></tr> <tr><td></td><td>Fred Perry (GBR) </td><td>1</td><td>1</td><td>3</td><td>3</td><td>8</td></tr> <tr bgcolor=”#DEDEDE”><td></td><td>Ken Rosewall (AUS) </td><td>4</td><td>2</td><td>- </td><td>2</td><td>8</td></tr></table><br />
<br />
<br />
So who does Newcombe really rate? Not Sampras it seems, despite his unsurpassed record of 14 slams and 6 years in a row as year-end number one.<br />
<br />
“Pete Sampras cannot go down in that category because the best he ever did at the French Open in 11 tries was one semi-final,” said Newcombe.<br />
<br />
“So there’s no way he can be categorised as one of the best three or four of all time.” <br />
<br />
Well, who does that leave? The five who have won the “career slam” are:<br />
Don Budge, Fred Perry, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Andre Agassi.<br />
<br />
Now, if we apply the Newcombe theory, Agassi must be in the top five. But… he had a <a href=”http://www.atptennis.com/3/en/players/headtohead/?player1=agassi&player2=sampras”>losing record against Sampras</a>: 14-20. This isn’t good at all. Accoring to Newcombe, If you can’t beat your big rival you’re not the best. Agassi is out.<br />
<br />
What about Emerson and Laver? Well, their slam record is very close with Emerson on 12 and Laver on 11, but we all know that Emerson’s tally is inflated by the fact that all his rivals turned pro. <a href=”http://www.atptennis.com/3/en/players/headtohead/?player1=Emerson%2C+Roy&player2=Laver%2C+Rod&playernum2=L058″>The head to head says it all</a>. Laver wins 14-1.<br />
<br />
What about Budge and Perry? Tennis records get a bit hazy pre-1968, so it’s hard to assess their rivalry. If we take the matches that really count, the slam finals, can we learn anything there? Budge’s slam finals record was played 7, won 6. Perry was played 10, won 8. Hard to separate them on this measure. However, in their only slam final meeting, the 1936 U.S. Championships, Perry won 2-6 6-2 8-6 1-6 10-8. Perry edges it – just.<br />
<br />
So Newcombe’s theory leaves Laver and Perry as the top players of all time. And being John Newcombe, we can discount Perry as a pom, leaving a good old Aussie as the best ever. A one-eyed, statistically inept view, but there you go.

Why England dropped Jones

Should England have <a href=”http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/england/5228936.stm”>dropped Geraint Jones for Chris Read</a>? It’s caused a lot of <a href=”http://www.cricketworld.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=1484&PN=1″>discussion</a>, but the numbers back up the selectors.<br />
<br />
If we take the last 10 tests* of the current wicketkeepers of the top eight cricket nations, what do we see? In the runs department, Jones is indeed bottom of the list by quite some way, with 100 less runs than the next man, Adam Gilchrist, and a paltry average of 17.9. Sadly, he leads the way with catches: 43. England are true to their word – the keeper needs runs.<br />
<br />
Top of the tree in terms of runs would be Sangakkara after his mammoth 287 against South Africa in the all-time record stand with Jayawardene, but he was selected as a batsman for that match, not keeper.<br />
<br />
Chris Read should be aiming for the middle of this table – an average of 31.5<br />
<br />
<table border=”1″ bordercolor=”#efefef” cellpadding=”2″ cellspacing=”0″><tr><td>Player</td><td>Country</td><td>Mat</td><td>Runs</td><td>HS</td><td>BatAv</td><td>100</td><td>50</td><td>Ct</td><td>St</td></tr> <tr><td>Kamran Akmal</td><td>Pak</td><td>10</td><td>708</td><td>154</td><td>50.57</td><td>3</td><td>2</td><td>32</td><td>4</td></tr> <tr><td>KC Sangakkara</td><td>SL</td><td>10</td><td>758</td><td>185</td><td>42.11</td><td>1</td><td>4</td><td>22</td><td>2</td></tr> <tr><td>BB McCullum</td><td>NZ</td><td>10</td><td>431</td><td>111</td><td>33.15</td><td>1</td><td>2</td><td>24</td><td>3</td></tr> <tr><td>M Dhoni</td><td>Ind</td><td>10</td><td>453</td><td>148</td><td>30.2</td><td>1</td><td>2</td><td>33</td><td>8</td></tr> <tr><td>M Boucher</td><td>SA</td><td>10</td><td>461</td><td>85</td><td>27.11</td><td>0</td><td>4</td><td>37</td><td>0</td></tr> <tr><td>D Ramdin</td><td>WI</td><td>10</td><td>370</td><td>71</td><td>26.42</td><td>0</td><td>2</td><td>22</td><td>0</td></tr> <tr><td>A Gilchrist</td><td>Aus</td><td>10</td><td>352</td><td>144</td><td>25.14</td><td>1</td><td>1</td><td>31</td><td>5</td></tr> <tr><td>G Jones</td><td>Eng</td><td>10</td><td>251</td><td>55</td><td>17.92</td><td>0</td><td>2</td><td>43</td><td>2</td></tr></table><br />
(source: cricinfo.com)<br />
*Last 10 tests is the basic weighting used by the world rankings as well.

Blog idea revisited

Right. I’ve been way too slack on this, but I have decided to change the focus of this blog. <br />
<br />
Too many people do the amusing / opinionated thing on sport. I love the Fiver and the Spin from the guardian, and they do it way better than everyone else. So have decided to look instead at what the numbers in sport tell us.<br />
<br />
Stats in sport are so plentiful, but are rarely used to make good decisions. I’m going to try each week to look at some data, and prove why people are right or wrong. First off – cricket, and why Geraint Jones was dropped.

© 2017 Rob Minto

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑