• Stats, lies and other numbers

    The T20 carnival is over, so let’s open the champagne, hail the heroes and check their stats.

    I love stats. All those austere numbers, giving a sense of authority. There is something impressive about reading that Tamim Iqbal of Bangladesh was the leading run-scorer (True!) with 295, averaging 73.75 at a strike rate of 142.51 with 14 sixes*; or that Mohammad Nabi of Afghanistan was top bowler (True!!) taking 12 wickets at an average of 13.66 and an economy rate of 6.07.*

    But then, there are more to stats than meet the eye. I was alerted to this by my beloved wife. ‘Wow,’ said she, ‘look at Moeen Ali. He has a strike rate of 350 against the West Indies.’ Well, yes, but he did just face two balls and he smote one of them for six. And even that should have been caught by Jason Holder, who proceeded to help it over the line. So Dwayne Bravo might have been a mite miffed to end with 2-40, instead of 3-34.

    Mind you, it was a proper shot; not like some of the thick edges over third man, flying thin-edges through non-existent slips, the flat-bat hoiks over mid-on and the Chinese cuts past the wickets.

    Which brings me to the point that stats are all just smoke and mirrors.

    When the scorebook tells you it was Stokes c De Kock b Steyn, was it that lovely tic-thud sound of the ball kissing the edge and flying to the keeper?; or  a short, wide one, mistimed and top-edged, soaring high for De Kock to take running back towards third man?. Not so much tic-thud, than clunk-plop.

    Or when the scoreboard reads Stokes b Rabada, was it an unplayable ball, or did Ginger have a brain storm and reach for a widish unnecessary shot and drag it on?

    Take, for example, Hardik Pandya, in that intriguing game between India and Bangladesh. He took two wickets in two balls in the last over. What a great death-bowler!. Actually, he wasn’t. He had been tonked for nine off his first three balls, and then, needing two off three, the Bangladeshis went at him like Kamakazi pilots, giving catching practice to players in the deep. Here’s one for you Dahwan! And one for you, Jadeja…

    How often do we see that Bloggs was the pick of the bowlers,taking 4-45; but the scoreboard reveals that the victims were No 7, 8, 9, 10. Come on!, The wicket of an AB or Hash ought to be worth more than (with all due respect to a wonderful bowler) Imran Tahir. But like a 350m drive and a 2cm putt, they all count the same.

    Perhaps only the wickets of the top six batsmen should count in bowlers’ stats?

    To say nothing of the fielding. Remember that Rabada catch on the boundary off Steyn against Australia? Short, wide and slapped away by Steve Smith. Rabada made the most amazing leap to take it one-handed. No one would have faulted him if he had not pouched it. ‘Good effort, well tried!’. But he did take it, and Steyn had another wicket instead of a six on his songsheet. I reckon the bowling stats should be expanded to include wkts (stupid batsmen), wkts (batsmen on the slog), and wkts (brilliant catching; should have been runs).

    We could break the batsmen’s stats down to runs (before being dropped), runs (after being dropped), runs (from fumbles) and runs (undeserved, off unrecognisable hoiks)…

    Lies, damned lies and stats, the possibilities are endless.

    *Including group qualifying (the devil’s in the detail)