Numbers that matter – contributions that don’t show up in the averages

An interesting question posted by Shamus Robertson to the LinkedIn Cricket Coaches Worldwide group on LinkedIn – can we quantify the intangible contributions that do not normally not show up in the averages?

…if our top 6 all averaged 50+ would the hundreds matter?

Averages can only tell part of the story.  Is a score of 350+ (6×50+, plus a few runs from the tail) going to be enough?  Can you score the runs quickly enough to bowl the opposition out, twice?

More important than absolute numbers must be the context – runs scored to win (or save) a game are (should be) worth more than runs scored in a draw.

Supporting a team mate through a long innings, and backing up in the field – not recorded in the score-book, and rarely acknowledged in match reports.  But these are the contributions that are missing from a less successful team.

Off-the-field contributions count for a lot, too, especially away from the professional game.  Turning up on time makes a big difference on match day, and being available every week saves the skipper from wasting his week filling up the team sheet for Saturday.

We should be recognising the overall contribution of our players, and not just the runs scored and wickets taken (important as these are).  But how to devise a contribution scale that combines the quantitative (averages, aggregates, results) with the qualitative?  Does it even need an objective component?

It is risky to label someone who is not averaging 50+ as “not contributing”, without taking into account the intangible contributions – seeing off the new ball (or grinding out 20 runs against the spinners), to allow the 50+ batters the scope to play their strokes; simply holding up an end and running with the “star”.

Equally, the context of the game matters.  100 on an easy track against friendly bowling certainly boosts the average, but is the contribution any greater than a gritty 20 to see the team home in more testing conditions?

The career of Paul Collingwood perhaps illustrates this point (although with a Test average of 40.56, he could hardly have been accused of “not contributing” with the bat).  Often steady rather than dashing (but capable of adapting to the team’s needs).  But an essential contributor to England’s successes (and still not replaced in the Test team).

Or Andy Flintoff – Test average 31.77.  A match winner.

OK – both all-rounders, rather than specialist batsmen, and top fielders as well.  But both top 6 batters for England.

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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