Embedded relationship between cricket, data, records still relevant as ever

Embedded relationship between cricket, data, records still relevant as ever
England’s Jonny Bairstow celebrates his century on Day 5 of the fifth cricket Test match between England and India at Edgbaston, Birmingham in central England on July 5, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 07 July 2022

Embedded relationship between cricket, data, records still relevant as ever

Embedded relationship between cricket, data, records still relevant as ever

Cricket and statistics go hand in hand. As a boy, I remember recording, in a formal scorebook, every ball bowled, run scored, and wicket taken during the professional matches I watched in person.

Now, I ask myself, why did I do that? Even more so, why do people still do this, given the multitude of information and data which now exists?

One potential answer is that it makes a connection with the match and the individuals in it. Secondly, it creates a personal and permanent written record, something to look back on as a series of memories. And thirdly, it creates one’s own data base, however partial.

All of this makes cricket quite different from other sports.

The outcome of a football match is determined only in terms of the number of goals scored, rugby by the number of points. In cricket, each ball bowled is a discreet, but connected, event, its recording essential to the outcome of the match.

If a boundary is recorded against the bowler, but not in favor of the batter, the scorebook will not balance. If this error is repeated too many times, the final score will be imbalanced and corrective measures required that may prove to be controversial. Such problems do not occur in professional cricket, with its professional scorers and electronic checks and balances.

The recording of the outcome of every ball gives rise to rich data sets which are mined for nuggets of information. These used to center on averages – the average number of runs scored by batters per completed innings, the average number of runs taken by bowlers to secure a wicket. Many an argument has focused on the relative merits of which player out of several with similar averages was the best.

Averages fail to consider the circumstances in which the runs were scored, or wickets taken. Did the player benefit from home pitches that were favorable to his or her strengths? Was the player someone who played for the team rather than him or herself?

Some statistics do not lie. There is little dispute that Sir Donald Bradman was the greatest wielder of a cricket bat in the history of the game. In 80 Test match innings, he averaged 99.94 runs falling short of averaging 100 by the slimmest of margins. In his final innings, needing four runs to reach this milestone, Bradman was bowled second ball for naught.

The potential errors which may creep into scorebooks, mentioned above, may well have existed during Bradman’s career. Indeed, cricket historians have pored over the records of Bradman’s batting and have identified possible misclassifications of runs scored by him to others. However, no one seems to have the appetite to amend Bradman’s average, based on a re-scoring of old records. As it stands, his average is between 38 and 41 runs higher than the 10 next best performers, only one of whom is playing today.

The bowler who has taken the most wickets in men’s Test cricket is the Sri Lankan, Muttiah Muralitharan, who amassed 800 between 1992 and 2010. His record is not without controversy because of accusations of an illegal bowling action. This is something that rankles, especially with Australians, who regard Shane Warne, with his 708 wickets, as a better bowler. These debates will continue, without resolution.

Cricket, because of its self-contained units of play, such as over, batter innings, and team innings, lends itself to assessments of comparative performance and the establishment of records.

One such record focusses on the highest number of runs scored in one over. In professional cricket, the first time that six sixes were hit off a six ball over was achieved by the great West Indian all-rounder, Sir Garfield Sobers. This was in 1968 in a match between Nottinghamshire and Glamorgan. Since then, the feat has been achieved a further eight times, but only three times in international matches – two in T20 matches and one in a one-day match. The feat has never been achieved in a Test match.

However, the rearranged Test match between England and India, which finished on Tuesday, ending in an exhilarating victory for England, witnessed the record number of runs scored in an over – 35. The England pace-bowler, Stuart Broad, having just celebrated becoming only the sixth bowler to take 550 Test match wickets, conceded 23 off legitimate deliveries, plus five from a wide and seven from a no-ball. Broad had also been the bowler who delivered the over which was hit for six sixes in a T20 international in 2007.

Cricket throws up oddities and coincidences of this nature on a regular basis. These provide the fodder for quizzes and insightful additions to the narrative generated by match-day commentators on radio and television.

Over the last 20 years, matters have become more serious. Data is now available from the various electronic devices used to record the details of every ball bowled in top-level cricket around the world. Ball-tracking technology generates data that establishes ball speed, its release and bounce point, how much it deviates off the pitch, the height that it passes or hits the stumps, the line that it takes in the air, and how much it swings.

These statistics have spawned a new breed of cricket analyst and a level of analysis about individual players, grounds, and teams, which allows match strategies to be developed of a hitherto unachievable breadth and depth.

Recently, an opening into this behind-the-scenes world has been provided by two of its early devotees. In their book, “Hitting Against the Spin: How Cricket Really Works,” Nathan Leamon and Ben Jones unveil insights into the modern analytical techniques they and others have used in developing team and individual strategies at international level.

There are sceptics of this approach who argue that mentality and technique are paramount. England’s new cavalier attitude supports that view, although data insights are unlikely to have been jettisoned completely.

What is certain is that the use of data in cricket has changed significantly since I recorded matches in my boyhood scorebooks.


Brazil soccer body rejects World Cup qualifier against Argentina

Brazil soccer body rejects World Cup qualifier against Argentina
Updated 11 August 2022

Brazil soccer body rejects World Cup qualifier against Argentina

Brazil soccer body rejects World Cup qualifier against Argentina
  • Brazil coach Tite does not want to play the match due to risks of injuries, suspensions and a potential boycott by the Argentinians, according to Brazilian confederation president Ednaldo Rodrigues

SAO PAULO: Brazil insisted that they won’t play the suspended World Cup qualifying match against Argentina next month, arguing Wednesday that the risks are too high ahead of the tournament in Qatar.

The qualifier nearly one year ago in Sao Paulo was stopped by local health officials after six minutes due to COVID-19 protocols regarding four Argentinian players.

FIFA fined the soccer bodies of both countries and demanded the match be played. Brazil’s confederation and Argentina’s federation took the case to the Court for Arbitration of Sport, which is expected to rule later in August. The game would be in September but FIFA has not set a date.

Brazil coach Tite does not want to play the match due to risks of injuries, suspensions and a potential boycott by the Argentinians, according to Brazilian confederation president Ednaldo Rodrigues.

Brazilian media has reported the Selecao would rather play two friendlies in Europe.

“We will reach out to FIFA so this match is not played. I will make every effort to answer to the request of our coaching staff,” Rodrigues said in a statement. “Our priority is to win the World Cup in Qatar. If that match is not recommended by the coaching staff of the Selecao, we will work for it not to be played.”

Brazil and Argentina qualified regardless of that suspended encounter’s result.

In Qatar, Brazil are in Group G with Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon. Argentina are in Group C with Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia.


Trial on Kobe Bryant death crash photos begins in US

Trial on Kobe Bryant death crash photos begins in US
Updated 11 August 2022

Trial on Kobe Bryant death crash photos begins in US

Trial on Kobe Bryant death crash photos begins in US
  • Vanessa Bryant alleges she suffered emotional distress because personnel from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and firefighters snapped pictures of the scene, which they later shared with friends and first responders

LOS ANGELES: A court case brought by Kobe Bryant’s widow over graphic photographs taken by first responders at the site of the helicopter crash that killed him got under way in the US on Wednesday.

The basketball superstar and his teenage daughter were among nine people who died when their chopper smashed into a hillside near Los Angeles in January 2020.

Vanessa Bryant alleges she suffered emotional distress because personnel from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and firefighters snapped pictures of the scene, which they later shared with friends and first responders.

“At least 11 (sheriff’s) personnel and a dozen firefighters shared the photos within 24 hours of the crash,” Bryant’s attorneys wrote in court papers.

“In the following weeks, one (sheriff’s) deputy flaunted photos of remains at a bar, another texted photos to a group of video game buddies, and (county fire) personnel displayed photos at an awards gala.”

Lawyers for Los Angeles County do not dispute that the photos were taken, but insist they have never been made public and have now been deleted.

Mira Hashmall, representing the county in the civil litigation, said the case hinged on this issue of public dissemination.

“From the time of the crash to now, the county has worked tirelessly to prevent its crash site photos from getting into the public domain,” she said.

“Over two and a half years later, no county photos have appeared in the media, none can be found online, and the plaintiffs admit they’ve never seen them.”

Vanessa Bryant’s case has been combined with a similar case brought by Chris Chester, whose wife and 13-year-old daughter also died in the crash.

A jury of six women and four men were selected Wednesday, CNN reported.

Relatives of several other victims were last year granted $2.5 million in compensation over the photo-taking.

An investigation into the crash found the pilot had probably become disorientated after flying the Sikorsky S-76 into fog.

Bryant is widely recognized as one of the greatest basketball players ever, a figure who became the face of his sport during a glittering two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers.

He was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016, after which he began building a lucrative business portfolio.

He was also a two-time Olympic gold medalist, helping the US squad of NBA stars to titles in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.


Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup
Updated 11 August 2022

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

HELSINKI: This time, there were only two goals.
David Alaba and Karim Benzema scored in each half for Real Madrid to win the UEFA Super Cup with a 2-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday.
Alaba prodded the opener home from close range in the 37th minute when Casemiro cushioned Benzema’s header back after a corner. The French star then sealed Madrid’s record-equaling fifth Super Cup title in the 65th thanks to an assist from the lively Vinícius Júnior.
It was Benzema’s 324th goal for Madrid, overtaking club legend Raúl. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has more after scoring 450 goals for the club between 2009-18.
But the game between the Champions League winners, Madrid, and Europa League champions, Frankfurt, failed to match the spectacle of their previous meeting.
Their only other competitive game was the 1960 European Cup final, when Alfredo Di Stéfano scored three goals and Ferenc Puskás chipped in with four to give Madrid a 7-3 win and fifth consecutive European crown.
Frankfurt goal-scorer Erwin Stein and teammate Dieter Stinka were in Helsinki for the rematch 62 years later, but it was the 93-year-old José Santamaria — the only remaining Madrid player from that final in Glasgow — who celebrated another win. The three veterans embraced warmly when they met before kickoff.


Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia
Updated 10 August 2022

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia
  • New centers will be in Jouf, Hail, Al-Hudud Ash Shamaliyah and Al-Baha

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation is set to establish four new regional associations to help promote the sport across the Kingdom.

The federation told Arab News on Wednesday that is has 15 official associations representing the sport in nine regions, but aims to establish new associations in the remaining four regions “to make sure that we have future cricket activities all around the Kingdom.”

The long-term aim is for Saudi Arabian cricket teams to compete professionally at regional and international competitions, with the national teams taking on world’s best.

In recent years, the SACF has introduced several competitions and programs to encourage the country’s youth to take up one of the world’s oldest and most popular sports.

In October 2021, it signed an agreement with sports management company JSW Sports to develop cricket in Saudi Arabia, focusing on high-performance academies.

The SACF was established in 2020 and lined up a series of major initiatives the following year, including a national cricket championship, a corporate cricket tournament, a cricket league for expatriate workers, and a social program in several cities.

The initiatives are part of a mission to promote healthy and active lifestyles under the Saudi Vision 2030’s Quality of Life scheme, with the SACF — supported by the Ministry of Sports and Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee — mandated to increase physical activity levels by 40 percent over the next decade.

In November, the SACF partnered with Saudi’s Sports For All Federation to launch the Kingdom’s first cricket talent-spotting program.


FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier

FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier
Updated 10 August 2022

FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier

FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier
  • FIFA is looking at a plan to let the host nation play Ecuador on Nov. 20
  • The World Cup is set to open on Nov. 21 with the Netherlands facing Senegal

GENEVA: Host nation Qatar is set to play in the opening game of its own World Cup tournament after all — and on a stand-alone day being added to the schedule barely 100 days before kickoff.
Soccer’s marquee tournament is now set start one day earlier than originally scheduled seven years ago in a move that would allow Qatar to play Ecuador on Nov. 20, a person familiar with the proposal told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the matter.
The proposal will be put before a committee comprised of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the heads of the six continental soccer bodies, the person said. A decision is expected this week.
According to a letter sent by FIFA this week and seen by the AP, the governing body is asking for approval from the continental soccer bodies by Thursday.
Qatar should now get an exclusive Sunday slot for its opening ceremony and World Cup debut at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium.
The World Cup is currently scheduled to start on Nov. 21, a Monday, based on a FIFA decision in 2015 after it agreed to push back the tournament to avoid the extreme desert heat in June and July. FIFA also got agreement for a shorter, 28-day program to minimize disruption to domestic soccer, especially in Europe, which will shut down ahead of the World Cup.
Recent World Cup tradition gave 2014 host Brazil and 2018 host Russia exclusive opening days to play their first opponents. But the tighter schedule in Qatar called for four games daily for the entire group stage — 48 games in 12 days.
At the tournament draw in Doha on April 1, the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador landed in Group A with Qatar. The Dutch and Senegal were allocated the 1 p.m. local time start and Qatar was to play Ecuador in the third game with an evening kickoff six hours later.
The proposal to create a 29-day tournament instead of 28 has been favored by Qatari officials and South American soccer body CONMEBOL, with talks also involving the Qatar and Ecuador soccer federations, the person told the AP.
FIFA acknowledged in its letter that changing the date, after tickets have been sold, would affect some traveling fans. However, FIFA said “any risk is sufficiently outweighed by the value and benefits of the proposal” commercially.
A Qatar-Ecuador game involves only a few players who are with European clubs. Several on the likely Ecuador roster play for clubs in Spain, the United States and Mexico, where leagues stop play ahead of the Nov. 12-13 weekend.
The schedule switch would have been tougher to agree to if Qatar was scheduled to open against the Netherlands, which has key members playing until Nov. 13 with clubs in England and Italy.
Because of the proposal, FIFA is expected to push back the Netherlands-Senegal from the lunchtime start to the early evening slot that would be vacated by Qatar.
While an opening game on a Sunday evening in Qatar should play well with viewers in Asia and Europe, in the United States it puts the World Cup in direct competition with NFL games. The US soccer team plays its World Cup opener against Wales as the late Monday game in Qatar.
The 2022 World Cup is the first in the tournament’s 92-year history to be played outside of the traditional northern hemisphere summer. The previous 21 editions were all played between late-May and the end of July.
The Nov. 21-Dec. 18 tournament schedule was agreed to so European clubs could play on the Nov. 12-13 weekend before releasing their players to the 32 World Cup teams. Changing opening day should not alter the tournament rule that players must report from their clubs to national teams no later than Nov. 14, FIFA said in its letter.
The final will be played on Qatar’s National Day, a Sunday, allowing a full week for players to return to clubs before the Premier League plays its traditional Boxing Day games on Dec. 26.
Qatar original bid was made to host the tournament in June-July, promising innovative stadium cooling technology to overcome heat expected to reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) during the first World Cup held in the Middle East.
In December 2010, Qatar won a controversial bid contest beating the United States 14-8 in a final round of voting by the FIFA executive committee, a group later widely discredited by corruption scandals.
More than four years later, FIFA moved the tournament to be played on dates when temperatures should be around 25 to 30 degrees C (77 to 86 degrees F).
Now, a further seven years later, the dates are set to change again.