Here’s the trouble with cricket stats

By David Hinchcliffe, Director of Coaching, PitchVision Academy

Stats are great but they can be dangerous if you want your team to do well on the field. So, if you want to tap into the power of stats and analysis for your team, you better be careful.

Averages are average

Let me give you an example from my own club team’s Twenty20 campaign in 2016.

The average winning score batting first was 144 (7.2 per over, 70% SB%). The average score batting first was 134 (65% SB%). From this it’s easy to think that to win the match you need to score 145.

But this is dangerous.

It’s good to have a target in mind, but to know that 145 will win you most games can also lock you into fixed thinking.

If you think like this you can’t either:

• Take advantage of a better than usual start to go way past 145.
• Stay in control of a game where 134 is not as easy to get as the average.

Averages are useful as broad targets but are flawed as predictions of the future. There are too many other things involved to ever be sure. So, play the percentages, but never get locked into fixed thinking.

Instead, try stretch goal setting.

Gaming the system

The other danger with stats is when players try to game the system to look better.

In the old days, we called this “playing for the red inker”, when a batsman would set out to get a not out to improve their batting average, rather than risk getting out to win the match. That’s not going to happen much in T20, but you can get other things.

One example is players looking to protect their catch percentage by only going for the easy catches and dodging the potential world-class ones. You can try to prevent this. For example, the BBL stats only count dropped catches if they are simple and expected to be caught. This means players can safely go for a harder catch and are not punished for a drop.

However, no matter what you do, there will always be people looking for ways to exploit the system to make their stats look better. That’s human nature.

So, should you forget stats?

Are they too flawed to be useful?

No.

Like any tool, they have a place when used well. They motivate people to great things when used to inspire, and they create a competitive edge. So, know their limitations and use their powers for good.

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