Archive for August, 2010

THE NET UTILITY

People who do not realise the politics and regionalism behind player selections need to realise they are playing a monumental part in destroying Pakistan cricket

As the shaken Pakistani fans struggle to find explanations for latest debacle in the form of Pakistan’s heavy defeat, PCB is busy attempting to cover its countless follies. Ijaz Butt continues to plague the sport with his undereducation, uncouthness and unprofessionalism. It is clear that the PCB’s policies are devoid of any consideration of logic, fairness or merit. The humiliation of Younis Khan followed by the recent humiliation of Kaneria is such an example. The constant selections of players like Malik, Akmal, Farhat and until recently, Misbah, reflect the PCB’s management which must run on the basis of corruption, regionalism and politics- there cannot be another explanation.

After Pakistan’s miracle victory against Australia all but

34 chances since the last tour of England missed, careers of Kaneria and Sami ruined, innumerable matches lost single handedly.....yet he is untouchable

the most pessimistic fans were considering Pakistan to be a reborn and rejuvenated side. Yet, although the bowling was largely decent against England, Akmal’s dropped catch triggered a series of fielding and strategy lapses for Pakistan which culminated into a humiliating defeat.

His statistics over the past few years have been deplorable, but he is a better bowler than what they suggest

Out of the 34 chances Akmal has spilled since the last tour to England, Akmal has dropped Kaneria on 17 occasions. Kaneria must suffer a total confidence breakdown by just the sight of Akmal behind the wickets. ¬†Once a guaranteed match winner and trump card for Pakistan, Kaneria has become an embarrassing liability. But, how much of that is Akmal’s contribution? It is unnatural for such a skilled bowler to lose form so drastically in such a short span of time. The only explanation for this can be match fixing, however that is unlikely considering the proactive role the ICC is playing, especially monitoring Pakistani players.

In the shambles one looks to find a glimmer of hope, a process, a strategy, a guide that will assist in the selection of good players. This blog has promoted the idea of selecting players based on their “net utility” and this thread attempts to shed greater light on this notion.

All players must have a number of runs attributed to them, put simply. The higher the number, the greater the argument for selecting them. However certain factors ought to affect this number lesser than certain other factors that ought to affect this number more. The factors that ought to affect this number more are:

– Fielding ability

– Performance in important matches

– A decent level of skill in a second department (bowling, batting, fielding)

– Ability to perform better in unfamiliar conditions

The factors that should affect this number, but less so than the abovementioned factors ought to be:

– Selfless vs selfish batting (mostly because it is difficult to have universal agreement over what can be considered selfish or selfless)

– Right handed vs left handed (a left handed player is always slightly more valuable, as lefties are uncommon)

– Ancillary factors such as, ability to bat at different positions

To illustrate this concept one can perform a trial on the current Pakistani line up. Of course, assessors will never be able to agree on one number for a player, but hopefully will be able to come close on numbers. The net utility will be most easily measured in terms of, “How many runs in this player worth”? In effect a number of runs will be placed upon each player. For argument’s sake we can establish that players will a net utility of 37 or more should be allowed to play in Test cricket (keeping in mind that, 37 runs per 11 players would make 407 which can be considered a decent, or competitive Test score).

Let us start with Salman Butt in Tests:

Butt does not perform a second task (bowling, fielding) well enough to warrant attention. His career average is 32. However, this year it has been 42, which should go to his credit. But, apart from 2010 and 2005 when his average was 42, his highest average has been 29. This indicates he is prone to inconsistency.
It is perhaps appropriate to start with Butt and to attribute a number of 37 to him, as our ideal net utility. His fielding will pull that number down, to say, 34 . His performance in important matches, I will ignore, as being an opener it is slightly more difficult to assess this criterion than say if he was a middle order batsman. Since he does not have a noteworthy second role (good bowler or fielder) ¬†that number should come down further, to say, 32. Butt’s performance in unfamiliar conditions has not been commendable, but he has performed well in Australia. That is why I will not let this affect 32.
Selfish batting- it is difficult to say again as Butt’s role is of an opener and he has to some extent a free reign over attacking or defending. Although his job is to score runs in Powerplays and make use of the fielding restrictions, he is also entrusted with not destabilising the top order. So, I will give him this credit and not let this affect 32.

Butt is left handed, and left handed bowlers are harder to play slightly, and batsmen are slightly harder to bowl too, so I will give him credit and add 1 (remember, I am not adding 2 or 3 runs because this is a factor that should not be taken into account in such significance). So we stand at 33.
We have not seen Butt at different batting positions . The factor I am terming as “Ancillaries”, is an “umbrella” factor which can incorporate many sub-factors. So, what else can be used to rate Butt?

The proposed notion of net utility is open to expansion, modification. It does not provide any magical answers but it may provide a fair and reasoned analysis for selecting players. Using this analysis will undoubtedly promote selection of players like Afridi, Fawad Alam etc and discourage selection of Malik, Akmal etc.

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