Cricket Could Learn from Baseball When It Comes to Fielding Stats

Cricket and baseball fans are often fond of pointing out the many interesting differences and similarities between the games. A sensible discussion in this regard would avoid facile suggestions that one game is superior to the other and concentrate on figuring how the two manage to exercise such a hold on their loyal and devoted fans.

An oft noted similarity is that both sports’ fans are obsessed with statistics. Scorecards, batting averages, bowling strike rates, aggregates for seasons, series, record scores, statistical oddities, and all of the rest are centerstage for many a cricket fan’s obsessive take on the game. Childhood stories about spending weekends curled up with statistics almanacs are common, as are perennial hunts for statistical indices capable of capturing subtle nuances of players performances (to enable further argument!)

In that regard, the suggestion by many cricket fans that its statistics learn from baseball is an interesting one, especially since it regards fielding. Cricket has a large number of statistics for batsmen and bowlers but very few sensible ones for fielders. Sure, you can get a handle on the number of catches taken by a fielder but how many did he drop over the course of his career? We don’t know. Does the fielder generally drop catches in the outfield but not close in? We don’t know. How many runs did a fielder save in a game? Over his career? Who is the most valuable fielder of all? The list goes on and on. For a game like cricket, this is a staggering anomaly.

The problem is that many of these statistics are simply not collected or scored for fielders. And thus there is no sensible way to compare fielders other than at some superficial level like noting some aggregate statistic like catches taken. From that point onward it turns to a subjective assessment of their respective skills.

Batsmen’s strike rates were once not collected; now they are an integral part of the game. Cricket’s attitudes towards its fielding statistics needs rethinking, especially since fielding, in every sensible cricket fan’s mind, has changed dramatically, and for the better, in the course of the last twenty years. I urge Faster Times readers to search YouTube for great cricket catches. The athleticism and skills on display are staggering; a little quantification to keep us fans chattering away for years would be nice.

Samir lives in Brooklyn and teaches Computer Science and Philosophy at the City University of New York; his academic interests include the philosophical foundations of artificial intelligence and the ...read more

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