Vantage point

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility of Runrate

I know that a few seconds after being immersed in the surreal exhilaration of having watched the historic Aus-SA match were 434 was chased down, I made a blog post calling it the best match of all times. I would like to clarify that it was a momentary reaction and not soemthing I believe after having looked back at the match.

It was amazing, memorable and unbelievable for sure. As I have written before, the quality that separates great sportsmen from good ones is that they are their own biggest supporters. They obstinately refuse to accept defeat. South Africa displayed that quality, something which was sorely lacking in them at crucial stages. And it made for a very special moment.

But looking back at it objectively, it was not the greatest match ever, because as JR says, there was hardly a role in it for the bowlers. I love watching bowlers in action, and am not one of those for whom cricket is all about batting. I hated this match not because the flat pitch made the bowlers ineffective, but because the bowling on display from both sides was just pathetic.

Roger Telemachus started the 48th over with Australia on 381. He proceeded to bowl 4 no balls which Symonds merrily whacked all over. How can a bad pitch make you bowl 4 no balls on a trot? The over had yielded 19 runs before it even began!!!! It was just horrible horrible bowling.

I refuse to believe that a pitch where 434 runs can be scored would be noticeably flatter than one where 350 is scored. The additional runs were scored because there wasn't a single bowler who bowled with discipline. And of course some bad captaincy from the fielding side. Lewis just kept bowling!

I agree with JR again that the 1999 World Cup semi-final between the same two sides was much better and complete. Good batting, good bowling, great fielding, tenacity, self-belief, had everything. I think the law of diminishing returns applies to the run rate in one-day internationals as well. I think the funrate/runrate returns ratio peaks at somewhere between 4-5 runs per over in an ODI. After that, the runrate has diminishing marginal utility, as far as complete cricketing entertainment is concerned. If a team scores between 200-250 then it means that there were some good knocks from the bat, and a couple of good spells with the ball. Between 250-280, it means there was just 1 good spell with the ball. And beyond 280, the bowlers were just like furniture.

Of course there are exceptions when the bowlers do well, but one individual just turns it around. An excellent example is the Ind-SL one-dayer in jaipur a few months back where Dhoni scored 183 not out. Bowlers kept taking wickets, and no one else made a big score. But Dhoni was just phenomenal on that day.

So except for those phenomenal matches where inspite of 300 being chased down, we still see a good contest between bat and ball, the cricketing fun peaks at around 5 rpo.

Oh by the way, i will be making my test debut tomorrow. as in, I'll be watching a test match at the stadium for the first time in my life. Here's wishing for a Sehwag 200 by tea.