Monday, May 28, 2007

Is a batsman wicket-keeper worth more to the team than the best wicket keeper? - How to calculate the comparison.

Wicket-keepers are picked as specialist fielders and are always in a catching position. I believe they should therefore have their batting average adjusted to take account of their competence as wicket keepers.

The first step is subtracting byes from runs scored before calculating the batting average.

A more important step is making a deduction for each dropped straightforward catch. Of course, classifying a catch as a genuine dropped chance is a matter of judgement, but then so is lbw.

I believe that umpires should signal to the scorer to record dropped straightforward chances by the wicket keeper.

Each dropped catch is penalized by 1/10 of the innings score of the batting team. This seems fair because the bowling team need to take an extra wicket, and the (average) cost of each wicket for that particular innings is 1/10 of that innings total.

In other words, each dropped catch is penalized at the cost of a wicket, adjusted for the innings score. So that a dropped catch in a high scoring game (ie. a large total from the batting side for that innings) is penalized more severely than a dropped catch in a low scoring game (ie. a low score for that particular innings).

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So a wicket-keeper's career batting average would be:

Total number of runs scored in career minus byes conceded in career minus extra runs conceded from straightforward dropped catches in career.

Divided by total number of times given out in career.

Note: Straightforward dropped catches are signalled as such by the umpire. Extra runs conceded from dropped catches are each calculated at 10 percent of the opposition's score during the innings in which the catch was dropped. One dropped catch is worth 10 percent of the opposition's score per innings, two dropped catches at 20 percent, etc.

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If a keeper dropped a straightforward catch in an innings where the opposition scored 200 runs, the wicket keeper would have 20 runs deducted from the runs he has scored with the bat when his batting average is being calculated.

But if the opposition scored 600 in that innings of the dropped catch then the average cost of runs per wicket taken would be 60 - so that the keeper would have 60 runs deducted from his total of runs before batting average was calculated.

This analysis should settle once and for all the argument over whether it is better for a team to field their best wicket keeper, or their best batsman who is an adequate wicket keeper.

At present the batting average is a relatively precise and quantitative measure of batting ability, while the benefits of wicket keeping (*such as reliable catching) are subjective and impressionistic. This intrinsically benefits the batsman wicket keeper.

But the consequences of a droped catch are more severe than generally acknowledged - each dropped catch means another wicket must be taken, and this usually requires tens of runs to be conceded.

This proposed analysis would enable an objective comparison of two keepers - one of whom is a better batsman but drops more chances, and the inferior batter being a better keeper who holds more chances.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Specialist fielding substitutes - should be part of the squad

I see that James Benning is fielding as substitute for Matthew Hoggard in the ongoing Test Match against the West Indies.

This sort of thing is terribly amateurish in the context of international cricket. No matter what Benning's fielding abilities may be, the fact is that he has not trained as part of the England team. The team on the field ought to be a fielding-unit, and this means that they must train together.

So, Test match teams ought to consist of a squad which includes at least one specialist fielder, who travels and trains with the Test team, and can slot into the on-field side.

Against this idea are that it will cost money, and will disadvantage a county side who will be losing a player. In favour of specialist fielding squad members is that a fielding substitute is almost always needed during a Test match, and having a fielder who has trained with the team would almost certainly help win Test matches. That's good enough for me.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Flintoff is turning into Tufnell: entertainers in English cricket

Why don't England drop Flintoff? Look at the record - he doesn't score many runs on average, he doesn't take many wickets per match, he isn't terribly economical (per wicket).

He unbalances the side because he should be batting number seven, not six, yet his ankle isn't strong enough for England to rely on him bowling a full quota as one of just four frontline bowlers.

But - he is an entertainer, people like to watch him play - and in the end that's what cricket is about.

England are now quite a fun side, with three entertainers: not just Freddie, but Peterson and Panesar too. This is great. For many years we had the solo entertainer of Darren Gough (and he missed a lot of matches through injury) - and some rather marginal figures such as Phil Tufnell.

Sadly Flintoff is turning into Tufnell - good on his day, great to watch, but not quite up to test standard.

Because entertainers are only entertaining when they are also playing well. Otherwise they don't get picked: or shouldn't.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Platooning international cricketers

The pressure of relentless international cricket is producing physical exhaustion and mental burnout - but I don't believe that the situation will significantly improve so long as the consumer demand for international cricket continues to grow (especially the demand of TV).

Speaking personally, I would like to have the opportunity to watch international cricket every day of the year.

The obvious solution is platooning of players - in other words there should be more than one player for each position - we should stop thinking of a cricket team as eleven players, and begin to think of the team as a squad of about 15 plus players who rotate.

Australia sometimes do this for one day cricket - I think everyone will soon be doing it for all forms of cricket.

The first place this will need to be done for quick bowling. Instead of choosing from four seamers, teams will choose from six or eight seamers; and the best will not always be picked but various combinations will be trained together (especially in fielding) and rotated in position.

For example a fast but wayward young quick (eg. Saj Mahmood), might be paired to open with a reliable old salt (eg. John Lewis).

Wicket keeping is another candidate, since it is probably too exhausting to keep wicket in back-to-back tests.

But platooning will particularly apply to foreign touring. I can't think of any other area of life (except maybe the armed forces) in which people are required to go abroad for such long periods of relentless work. The answer is to rotate players throughout tours.

Fans will just have to get used to seeing second best players as first choice for teams. Because over-time a team mixing first and second choices ought to perfom better than a team which always tries to filed its eleven best players.