An alternative to exclusion – the statistical basis for World Cup Qualifying

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Matt Wood of Balanced Sports compares Ireland’s performances to the full member nations of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in light of their unpopular exclusion from the 2015 Cricket World Cup.

The ICC have announced that affiliate nations are to be excluded from the World Cup in 2015, only to be reinstated from 2019 after a mooted ODI League begins. As well as manifestly defending without consequence the full member nations Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at the expense of the affiliates, there are several flaws in the ICC’s logic. Their thinking is that Bangladesh and Zimbabwe deserve protection as developing cricket nations. Perhaps the ICC, when considering the following analysis, should expand their vista somewhat.

Over the last two World Cups, perhaps the most startling comparison is each team’s success rate. Ireland have recorded four wins, one tie and eleven losses, Bangladesh went 6-10 and Zimbabwe managing two wins and a tie from nine matches. In fact if you take into account every ODI each nation has played since June 2006 (Ireland’s first ever ODI), records are even more enlightening.

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Nation Games Wins Losses Ties N/R
Bangladesh 119 52 67 0 0
Zimbabwe 95 28 66 1 0
Ireland 64 30 30 1 3

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Although Irish results don’t quite measure up to those of Bangladesh, these tables don’t take into account a decline in Bangladesh’s form since their Super-8 appearance in the 2007 Cup in the West Indies. Comparing last decade to this, Irish cricket appears well in advance of their third-world neighbours in development:

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Nation Games Wins Losses Ties N/R
Bangladesh 119 52 43.7 67 56.3 0 0
2006-2009 86 40 46.51 46 53.49 0 0
2010-2011 33 12 36.36 21 63.64 0 0
Zimbabwe 95 28 29.47 66 70.53 1 0
2006-2009 69 19 27.54 49 71.01 1 0
2010-2011 26 9 34.62 17 65.38 0 0
Ireland 64 30 46.88 30 46.88 1 3
2006-2009 41 17 41.46 20 48.78 1 3
2010-2011 23 13 56.52 10 43.48 0 0

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Given that many of Ireland’s ODIs have been against ICC-trophy opposition, this is hardly conclusive proof that Ireland are a comparable side to either Zimbabwe or Bangladesh. However, what must be remembered is that while they may face weaker opposition more often, almost all of their matches are played “away”. The same can’t be said of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

Every nation uses Key Performance Indicators in their overall analysis of performance. Since Ireland entered the ODI arena, theirs compare well with their subcontinental and African cousins:

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Statistic Bangladesh Zimbabwe Ireland
Bowling KPI Runs conceded p/wkt 26 25.08 27.05
Runs conceded p/over 4.56 4.54 4.68
Batting KPI Highest Score 320 351 329
Lowest Score 58 44 77
Average Total Score 217.96 205.42 240.53

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Let’s examine both individual performances in both the last two World Cups to see how, on a per-match basis, the Irish stack up.

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Bangladesh Zimbabwe Ireland
Game 1 191 221 221
Game 2 318 204 132
Game 3 94 349 190
Game 4 106 262 266
Game 5 178 123 165
Game 6 184 166 263
Game 7 147 327 92
Game 8 243 164 169
Game 9 230 147 81
Game 10 370 205
Game 11 178 327
Game 12 59 210
Game 13 225 275
Game 14 160 272
Game 15 284 306
Average runs conceded 197.8 218.11 211.6
Total wickets taken 95 58 103
Average p/wkt 31.23 33.84 30.82
Adjusted Avg runs conc. 207.71
Adjusted avg/p/wkt 30.94

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In this analysis, “Adjusted” removes the influence of any low totals made by the team while batting first – ie. Bangladesh’s record-low 58 is not considered in the “Adjusted runs conceded”. This has the happy benefit of decreasing their average per wicket (Adjusted avg/p/wkt) as they only took one West Indies scalp when attempting to defend their meagre total.

With batting, the story is very similar.

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World Cup Bangladesh Zimbabwe Ireland
Runs Wkts lost Runs Wkts lost Runs Wkts Lost
2007 1372 72 522 30 1452 79
2011 1017 51 1276 52 1393 51
Totals 2389 123 1798 82 2845 130
Average p/wkt 19.42 21.93 21.88

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Perhaps rather than automatic ascension to ODI status, it would be best to enforce qualification rules upon the weakest two Full ICC Members – a simple, round-robin tournament evaluated by wins, losses and run-rate. It could be there that Ireland, the Netherlands, Canada and Kenya – perpetually the strongest four affiliate nations – could compete against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe for entry rights.

Such a setup may also strengthen those full members as it would provide another focal point at which things need to be “going right” in order to avoid the humiliation of failing to qualify. It only needs to be for one (two at most) World Cup and could easily be superseded by an ODI League.

Any suggestions the Bangladeshis or Zimbabweans would crush the competition in a qualifying tournament is fatuous in the extreme. To throw in one final statistic, in the past two Cups three Irish batsmen have scored hundreds. None have from Bangladesh or Zimbabwe (though one of each has come close). Ireland’s batsmen seem to fire after playing themselves in – they have only eight unconverted 50s to their credit, while Bangladesh have managed nine half-centuries and Zimbabwe have eleven.

In all the statistics put together today, there’s plenty of evidence that suggests that Irish, Bangladeshi and Zimbabwean cricket is relatively well-matched. Indeed, it’s eminently possible to throw a blanket over the differences in each nation’s stats. All statistical indicators point to a very even three-cornered series.

As with any developing cricketing nation, no-one is really sure who is going to step up on any given day to play a key hand. What it does seem however, is that Ireland are fully capable of upsetting bigger opponents, and their form is only improving rather than the cul-de-sac into which Bangladeshi cricket seems to have turned. The only fair way to ensure the development of cricket across the globe is to give the affiliate nations something to strive for, and Full member nations something to fear. That should take the form of World Cup qualifying.


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