India has a huge pool of people playing competitive cricket. Given this fact, it must not be too difficult to produce a world-class team. However, this is where India has failed consistently over the last 75 years. Fixing this is not at all a complex task. This article provides an overview of a simple mechanism to pick the right people to build a world-class team and the role numbers and analysis can play to achieve this goal.
Cricket is a game rich in numbers. But a straight forward approach of just picking the people who have the highest batting and bowling averages will not necessarily result in the best team. At least, this is what we are led to believe and thus, the role of selectors is hailed as being important. While this is not completely true, there might be some wisdom in this. A deeper analysis of what the selectors are supposed to do illustrates this well.
1. Selectors look at obvious displays of talent. A Sachin Tendulkar could not have been picked at such a young age if the selectors did not have an eye for talent. Waiting to see his performance in domestic competition might have been just a waste of a couple of years when it was obvious that he was good enough to take on the world at the age of 16 itself.
2. Selectors look at the external conditions in which a player performs. A hundred scored on a bouncy pitch might be given more weight than a double hundred on a flat batting beauty.
3. Selectors look at the quality of the opposition and thus, give more weight to runs or wickets against stronger oppositions. Good performances against touring test teams are a sure-shot way to catch the selectors’ eyes, which is why we see so many people being picked purely on the strength of one great performance against a strong touring team.
A few pertinent questions at this point in time are whether we really need selectors to do this job, does this method of picking players breed consistency and excellence in performance of the team and are the selectors absolutely objective in their assessment. The team’s performance speaks for itself and clearly, there is a lot left to be desired in this area.
The one point solution is simple: Eliminate selectors. Replace them with robust statistical and analysis models. After all, India boasts of smart IT people and smart mathematicians – why not use them build an automated model to pick the right people to represent the country?
A few basic things to build this model:
1. An objective framework for assigning the difficulty levels of the external factors, the opposition and the “pressure” factor to be developed.
2. The simple batting and bowling average must be weighted with this “difficulty” factor.
3. This common system of measurement must be used to grade the performance of all the players playing in age-group and domestic cricket competitions in the country.
4. Only the top performers from each category should be allowed to move to the next level.
5. This assessment must be repeated periodically (say every 6 months) and laggards must be purged.
A valid objection to this whole system could be that prodigies like Sachin Tendulkar might get delayed before entering the national team as it takes time to build data about performances that will merit a national call-up in this scenario. This might well be the case (although a good model can even take into consideration some prodigious talent and give it special weight) but this need not necessarily be a bad thing. Overall, this model will ensure a great team and therefore, a delayed entry of a prodigy by a couple of years should not impact the team’s performance, which is the main measure of success for a cricket team.
The role of statistics and IT is vital if India is to build a world beating team. Companies with capabilities in this area, such as Metrixlinemust not only look to work for corporates but must extend their capability to organizations like BCCI to build a better Indian cricket team.