Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Congratulations to India for winning the cricket World Cup. They clearly deserved it. Attention now will turn to the next World Cup, and the controversial plan to cut the number of teams to 10. Allow me to give my opinion, as an avid cricket watcher. (Alas, playing cricket is rather difficult in Switzerland).

At least 2 associate teams must be included. The performance of Ireland and the Netherlands was not only impressive, it was exciting. Every world cup has featured at least one “minnow” that created an upset. Such upsets are what makes sport interesting.

At the same time, the games involving Canada and Kenya held little interest. It was quite clear early on that no upset was on the cards. They were easily beaten by the test-playing nations, and no-one really cared when they played each other.

The inclusion of the minnows meant that a lot of the group games were very one-sided. There were 42 group games, but each test playing nation played a minnow as often as they played another test playing nation. What we really come to see in the world cup are the top teams playing each other. But once we passed the group stage, the tournament was over within 7 sudden death matches.

So, here is what we want from an ideal world cup:

  • We want minnow vs. big-gun games only when the minnow has a reasonable chance of an upset.
  • We want to maximise the number of big-gun vs big-gun games. When we’ve eliminated the rest, we want more than 7 games of the best.
  • This world cup transitioned very quickly from the “plenty of second chances” group stage to the sudden-death stage. This isn’t ideal.

Can this be done? Here is my idea.

Seed the groups. Pre-tournament, the top 12 teams in the world (incl. 2 associate teams) are seeded by their ICC ranking.

  • Group A: Teams 1,2,3,4
  • Group B: Teams 5,6,7,8
  • Group C: Teams 9,10,11,12

Group stage: Each team plays each member of its group once. 18 games. At the end of the group stage, teams are ranked: A1, A2, A3, A4, B1, B2 … C3, C4.

  • C3 and C4 are eliminated.
  • A1 and A2 go through to the final 8.

Final 8 playoff: The middle 8 teams playoff in 2 tiers. 4 games

  • Alpha playoffs: A3 vs B2, A4 vs. B1.
  • Beta playoffs: B3 vs C2, B4 vs. C1.
  • After these playoffs, we have a ranking: Alpha 1, Alpha 2, … Beta4
  • Beta 3 and Beta 4 are eliminated.

Final 8: The ranking in the final 8 is very important – a higher ranking makes it harder to be eliminated. The ranking order is:

A1 : A2 : Alpha1 : Alpha2 : Alpha3 : Alpha4 : Beta1 : Beta2

We can now do more than the 7 game, sudden-death quarter finals. At the very least, we could use the McIntyre final-8 system. My preferred system is as follows – it ensures that a final 8 team must lose at least 2 games to be eliminated. Each win puts you in a better situation – there is no incentive to lose.

  • Rank the final 8: 1,2,3 … 8.
  • Round 1: 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5. Rank the winners W1 … W4, losers L1 … L4
  • Round 2: W1 vs W4, W2 vs. W3. L1 vs. L4, L2 vs. L3. Losers in the L games are eliminated. Winners of the W games receive a bye.
  • Round 3: Play the 4 teams (winners in the L games, losers in the W games) against each other. Losers are eliminated.
  • Semi-finals
  • Finals – best of three.

This is 15 games, including the three finals. The entire tournament has 37 games – 12 less than this World Cup. Minnows that play big-guns have earned their place, are in form and are facing a big-gun that is coming off losses – a recipe for an upset. There are as many minnow vs minnow games as in this world cup, fewer minnow vs big-gun and many more big-gun vs. big-gun. It would be easy to play minnow vs. minnow (group C) games on the same day as Group A games.

Tell the ICC, won’t you … I’ll just wait here for the Barnes system to catch on …


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Cricinfo inbox articles

For those who didn’t catch it: T. S. Trudgian has a nine-volume set of articles on Cricinfo purporting to demonstrate Why Australia can win the Ashes 5 – 0. Xavier Doherty a conspicuous omission.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed this World Cup. Several games have been absolutely gripping. For your convenience, let us review the things that we have learned during this World Cup, just so we remember for next time.

The vuvuzela is a menace. Cheering, singing, clapping, oh’s and ah’s, gasps, chanting … these are things that create atmosphere. Ten thousand simultaneous “Loudest ever mosquito” impressions do not. Paul the Octopus, on the other hand, is a sensation.

You must introduce penalty goals. Here is how Rugby League does it: “the referee may award a penalty try if, in his opinion, a try would have been scored but for the unfair play of the defending team”. Just replace “try” with “goal”. We all know why this rule is needed. A better example couldn’t be made up. The wrong team won. Luis Suarez’s handball was, in the end, the right decision and duly rewarded. The awarding of a penalty kick is not a sufficient punishment because the defender, by his unfair play, has exchanged a certain goal for an almost-certain one. This cannot happen again. (more…)

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For convenience for tomorrow, here is a guide to the possible outcomes of tomorrow’s matches at the World cup:

If Australia lose or draw the game with Serbia, we’re out.

If we win the game, then our progress depends on the outcome of Germany vs. Ghana:

  1. If Ghana win, then we’re through.
  2. If Germany win, then we end up with the same number of points as Ghana. It then comes down to goal difference. We need our victory margin plus the victory margin of Germany over Ghana to be 5 or more. Basically, we need to thrash Serbia, or Germany needs to thrash Ghana, or both.
  3. If Germany draws with Ghana, then we finish with the same number of points as Germany. We would then have to defeat Serbia by 7 goals or more to compete with Germany’s superior goal difference.

Our best hope seems to be that that Germany regains their form and obliterates Ghana. If we end up with the same goal difference in cases 2 and 3, it comes down to most goals scored in all group games.

Incidentally, New Zealand are through if they win and will end up tied with Italy (on both points and goal difference) if they draw with Paraguay and Italy draws with Slovakia.

Come on the Socceroos!

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    It was a feature of local news where I grew up that at the end of the sports report, a man in a tweed jacket would come on screen and recite a seemingly random sequence of names and numbers. I later worked out that he was the “tipster”, and that he was divulging his wisdom in the form of predictions as to who would win various horseraces the next day. Here is a more modern example.

    I was thinking about this recently and realised something: every single horse racing “tip” is completely useless. Even if the tipster is almost completely certain that his tip will win the race, it doesn’t follow that you should bet on that horse.


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    Now, on to a really important topic. Cricinfo’s Martin Williamson and Sriram Veera recently posted this article with 11 proposed changes to the laws of cricket. Allow me to express my opinions:

    1. Ban leg byes. I disagree. Their main problem is that leg byes allow batsmen to swing wildly and still be able to scamper a single if they miss. But this is exactly what we want! The laws state that the batsman must have attempted to hit the ball in order to run a leg bye, and this is sufficient to prevent the abuse of this rule. (more…)

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    Dinner, synopses

    Finished the last of my 5 research synopses—outlines of projects I’d like to begin or make further progress with in the next two to three months—this afternoon; something for Alan & Fergus to work on when they come to visit next week! Also had dinner at PGFC with Daniela Huppenkothen, who is considering taking a PhD position at DARK, Lars Mattsson, who is visiting us from Uppsala this week to work with Anja on the physics of AGB stars, and two of our recently started PhD students. Good times.

    But now I can’t sleep! I will watch the inevitable progress of Juggernaut Australia and our hapless trans-Tasman cricketing friends and hopefully be off to bed within the hour. After all, there’s a whole lot of cross-correlation paper writing to be done tomorrow!

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    Garry Kasparov this month thinks about reviewing something-or-other in the New York Review of Books, becoming happily diverted into a discussion of what makes chess truly interesting. (I draw also from some recent conversations with S. O. Killmier.)

    The big point: chess is not about who can see the most moves ahead. Computers (and humans) that win by doing this are simply winning by brute force, rather than by intelligence; in the article Kasparov memorably denigrates his result against Deep Blue as ‘losing to a $10 million alarm clock.’ If one insists that the only purpose of chess is to win, then brute force seems a very successful, though by no means infallible, way to do this. I’d like to spend a little time describing just why it isn’t fool-proof; and a lot of time showing why victory in chess is less than half the point.

    Imagine you are a chess computer; in fact, imagine you are a chess computer with limitless computational power. Now here is a famous chess position—find the winning move:


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    Well that was just as enjoyable as the first game and it was nice to have Brendon along for a small part of it. Perhaps a bit less statistics than I’d intended, and certainly less on bowling after I concluded that bowling average is pretty good just the way it is. I’m convinced, though, by the need for a much better measure of immediate batting performance for a team than run rate. Expect further advocation of this idea in the future.


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    Well, judging by the blog stats last night’s 20/20 live blogging was well-received, even if no-one wanted to leave a comment; I certainly had fun, so I’ll be repeating the exercise. Will try to get a bit more commentary in, as well as focussing inevitably on the conjugate problem of an accurate 20/20 bowling statistic.

    Stumps up down at 6:30pm local time, which is 7:30pm in the more populous bit of the country and 8:30am in the UK.

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