Wednesday 7 September 2011

The dangers of lazy cricket

I have had my first go at coaching a cricket team this year. I have previously coached 3 sports that I know much less about, but never cricket. I found the experience quite rewarding, and also quite frustrating. Most of the players that I am coaching are actually quite good cricketers. They have more athletic ability in their little fingers than I have in my whole body. It is a little upsetting to see me show one of them master something in 2 minutes that took me about 20 hours of net work to almost get. But the most frustrating thing is watching the games.

When I am watching there are three things that I get particularly upset with.

1. I dislike my captain setting defensive fields, and giving away easy singles.
2. I dislike fielders not committing themselves to cutting down a run.
3. I dislike lazy running between wickets, or a batsman hitting a ball hard to a boundary fielder for 1, instead of softly for 2.

These three things were all in evidence from the Indian team in the previous series. If I were Duncan Fletcher, I too would be a grumpy man.

In fact the Indian's were slightly better at hitting boundaries than the English. They hit 7.40% of deliveries to or over the boundary, while the English hit 7.37% While this is only marginally different, in some of the games the difference was quite profound: For example in Birmingham, England hit 7.1% to the fence, while India hit 9.6% and 12.3% of their deliveries to the fence. And still got thrashed.

The big difference was what they did with the other deliveries. While the main difference was that they didn't get out as often, the other thing was that they were much better at getting runs.

A statistic that I look at from time to time is the Activity rate. This is effectively the runs per ball that didn't go for 4 or 6.

Throughout the series India scored 1906 runs, but 1150 of them came in boundaries (over 60%). With the rest of the deliveries they had an activity rate of 0.213.

England scored 2643 runs, and about half of them came in boundaries - 1324. The English were much better at using the balls that they couldn't hit for 4, and their activity rate was 0.322.

Effectively that means that England's batsmen are going to be under less scoreboard pressure than their Indian counterparts.

Even having Tendulkar in your team can not save you from the dangers of lazy cricket.

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