Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Is this cricket or roulette?

A friend messaged me in the morning: “Anyone subscribing to both TOI and HT will be confused just as I am. TOI P1 lead says India’s best hope is for Sri Lanka to beat Bangladesh tonight. And HT P1 lead says India’s best hope is for Bangladesh to beat Sri Lanka…”
This is like one of those arguments on how a word is spelt, which ends with the discovery that both are right.
Hindustan Times is straightforward. If Bangladesh beats Lanka, all that India will need to qualify from Group B is a simple victory over Lanka without worrying about run rates, because Lanka would be out of the tournament with two losses. But in that case, Bangladesh would qualify from this group with India, and carry forward the points it has won with its victory over India.
The Super 8 is a round robin, with each team playing every other team, except the one it had already encountered in the first round.
So, considering that India has to beat Lanka in any case to qualify, it is to India’s advantage for Lanka to beat Bangladesh and qualify with India for the Super 8, as TOI points out. India would then start the next stage of its World Cup campaign with the two points it gets against Lanka. Suddenly, from being down in the dumps, India would be ahead of four other teams in the Super 8, with two points in the bag and two easy points to be had against Ireland. (They surely can’t strike twice!) Besides, all the other teams in the Super 8 will have to face Lanka rather than have an easy ride against Bangladesh.
But there’s a twist in this scenario: TOI assumes Bangladesh can’t match the 243 and 257 run victories over Bermuda that Lanka and India posted. But what if Bangladesh wins the toss and sticks Bermuda in. Imagine Bermuda getting around 150, as it did against India, and Bangladesh knocking off those runs in 18 overs. That’s not so difficult because Bangladesh can sacrifice wickets with not much chance of being bowled out in 18 overs. And that would be equivalent to a 250-run victory margin. As I pointed out earlier, high net run rates are easier to achieve while chasing against a weak team. [Read Flaw in the net run rate system]
Anyway, what India really needs tonight is a big win for Lanka, which takes Bangladesh out of the net run rate stakes. A narrow win will open another Pandora’s box of calculations, which I’ll save for tomorrow.


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