Monday, December 21, 2009

Are England the most annoying side in the world?

Outside of the imagination of charmed yanks and the patronising guffaws of continentals, the English are not much liked in this world. Populated by arrogant, pompous, humourless po-faces that are much deserved of pull to reality and a punch in the mush.

English see themselves differently. Wrongly still, but differently.

English see themselves essentially as Tintin. A tiny, yet powerful, hero, battling against the overwhelming injustice and certain defeat. Although he’s never going to change the world (well, at least for the good) he can maybe grind-out a reasonable compromise with the local chieftain to only eat half of Tintin’s friends.

It’s when England drudge-out a draw that these perspectives collide. For Englanders, snatching a non-result from the jaws of defeat is the pinnacle of sporting achievement. It’s sort of a win without the guilt.

For everyone else, it represents that smug, lazily, aristocratic line of “well, we will only try if we really have to” is infuriating. If you are going to try to win, win. If you are going to lose, for Christ’s sake lose.

With Australians, it’s straight-forward hatred through jealousy. With South Africans, it’s straight-forward hatred.

With the English, it’s complex. Heck, they’re rubbish. They never go anywhere. They have a few interesting characters. But Christ, can’t they all just go to hell?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The big three compared

OK – final note on stats, I promise. So, I have looked at data relating to the test match performance of Australia, India and South Africa.

First off, I have made an index of the three teams performances over the past five years, with 1 January 2005 being 100.
Still Australia beat the pants off the other two still, holding a commanding +10 margin over India and South Africa.

But, as Fred the commenter mentioned yesterday, perhaps this overstates their performances for the last two years. So, here’s the same graph, with the index starting on 1 January 2008.

In this graph, Australia have made next to no progress in the last two years. Whereas the other two, especially South Africa, have increased their score.

Interestingly, since May 2009 South Africa have been in relative decline, whereas India have been unmoved since then, saved for a slight increase in the past few months. By my calculations, this means that they are about tied with South Africa, by the ICC’s reckoning, India are the undisputed champions of the world!!11!!1!!

What this means for online sports betting is anyone's guess.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Australia depressingly god-like

Continuing my orgy of spreadsheeting debauchery, I decided to map out Australia’s decade in graphical form. And here we go.
And didn’t they do well. It is clear that the mighty Australians piss on all of us from a great height. England’s naughties peak of +18, and India’s current (world-topping) +13 is eclipsed into the toilet by Australia’s current score of +59. Australia peaked on 6 March 2009, with their win at Durban, with a total of 60.

Australia’s performance over the decade is marked by continual progress. Not the one step forward one step back pattern of England: Australia stride continually forward.

Interestingly, however, their “decline” is apparent in a recent plateau. Since the end of 2006, they have only increased their score by 10. Whereas, India’s last ten points took nearly four years, they were on +3 in March 2005.

In January 2008, however, Australia were on +58. And since that acrimonious home series against India, their scores has stabilised. Indeed, their total has increased by +1 in this two year period. It dropped to +57 in December 2008 in South Africa.

It appears that they were not the force that they once were. But hats off to them on a top decade: 117 matches and 77 won.

Better than Twickenham.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Some statistics happen, and India become best in the world

It’s official. Again. Some team other than Australia is the best in the world, accordingly to faceless statisticians hidden in the neglected bunkers of Dubai’s crumbling skyscrapers.

That team is India. They have long held a team capable of destroy all before them, but it has taken them much bedding down and reorganising before they have done so. Although, more or less the same group of bland, school clerkish type men have dominated the side for the last decade, they have only “come good” after Australia have refrained from winning quite so regularly.

So, seeing as I had a touch of spreadsheetitus recently, I thought, how does India’s decade look? Worthy of “best in the world” status?

Here is a graph of some stuff:

Same rules as last time: +1 point for winning, -1 for losing and no points for drawing.

India are currently scoring their highest in the decade, with them presently on +13. Not quite as high as England +19 when the ICC had them as the second best team in the world, but pretty good, nevertheless.

So, what does this say? Exel is good? ICC is bad?

Their recovery from the bogged-down under-achieving period of the early decade seems sustained. But this improvement, although steady since 2005, is not dramatic.

Probably not worthy of Number One status. But, the only problem is that all the Number Twos are shit.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The “Let’s Not Go Too Mad” Theory of English results

I have always suspected that there is an intrinsic karma in English cricket. In test series where they are seemingly swept away, they come from nowhere to produce an ODI win. Similarly, any test series victories are punished by one-dayer drubbings.

There has been recent discussion regarding England apparent (ahem) edge over the South Africans in ODIs, but this trend only developed after the Saffer dispatched the Englanders at home in a test series.

It’s almost as if other boards have a reciprocal arrangement with the ECB, to make sure that the aggregate total of woe and misery in the British Isles never deepens below a specified nadir.

Consider the 2006-07 Ashes series (for those that acknowledge its existence). England were battered in the tests; yet triumphed in the one dayers. In fact, this appears to be a dynamic well-maintained in most Ashes campaigns.

So, I totted up all England’s results and put them into a spreadsheet, covering a period from 2000 until 29 November 2009. For this period, I have calculated their cumulative score. Each victory is given a +1, each draw/tie/abandoned match a 0 and 1 is subtracted when England lose. Here are the results:

Interestingly, the new decade starts brightly, with England soaring to a score of +6, but these heights are rapidly surrendered as they fall to -6 within six months. After a spell of soul-searching, Michael Vaughan’s captaincy finds a winning formula, and the 2004-05 period sees England’s total shoot to +19.

However, this high-water mark slips quickly below the surface, as their scores slides into negative figures.

Thereafter, they manage only to keep their heads above the water, with the score just into the positive. As of today, their score is exactly 0.

What does this signify? That England are unable to ruthlessly exploit advantage? That they are unable to push on? Are we most comfortable at give-and-take mediocrity?

Certainly, starting the decade at zero, and still sitting on a duck as the naughties come to a close is an unlikely statistic. Even given the bounties offered by Bangladesh, the West Indies and Zimbabwe.

This period encapsulates entire careers, and witnesses a number of cricketing generations. Yet, none seem able to permanently impose the success that their talent implies.

Will the English never relinquish themselves from their own averaging tendencies? Are we happiest sitting at a statistical mean?

Maybe we are just rubbish in the mind?