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Pakistan’s new found enemy: Net Run Rate

Cricket is not about numbers, it is often said.

If one had to rank foolish statements, this would be near the top. Without numbers being recorded, there shall be no cricket matches. The difference between a net session and a cricket match, is that numbers are being recorded. You might admire the sound Virat Kohli’s bat makes during his net session, but you cannot figuratively put a number on it. Without numbers, cricket is just about three people, one hurling the ball towards another, who hits it and the 3rd one fetches. The 3rd could a dog too, if it can be trained properly.

During the phase when half of Pakistan cricket fans were abusing the families of cricketers and the other half was trying to work out if Pakistan still had a chance, this question floated around, ‘Do Pakistan deserve to qualify for the semi-final’. Couple of weeks later, the question has flipped and it’s ‘Do New Zealand deserve to qualify for the semi-final?’ Who gets to decide which team is deserving and which isn’t? It is the fans, commentators, ex-cricketers? Or perhaps numbers. Net run rate, has been used for decades now.

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While, Pakistan did have a tremendous run at the backend of the tournament, the way they lost against West Indies did cost them. Those pushing for head to head, seem to focus on the idea that one bad loss shouldn’t define the team’s fate for the whole tournament. New Zealanders will argue that their bad day came against Pakistan. Net run rate provides a more comprehensive picture of how the team has performed. It is a more accurate representation of how the team has performed across all the matches. The flipside of it is that we will get to see innings like Dhoni’s against England to manage the net run rate. But that is a small cost for the overall picture this formula offers.

New Zealand were extremely lucky to get home like conditions against lesser teams and with the India game being washed out, they went ahead of Pakistan. Pakistan had chances to reduce the gap but couldn’t capitalize. Had they played the game against Sri Lanka, it is likely they would have attained that 12th point. Or had they got seaming conditions against Afghanistan, like New Zealand, they could have improved their NRR. The problem is that with a 10 team world cup, as we saw yesterday between South Africa and Australia, the difference between teams isn’t huge. Hence, the way Pakistan went down against West Indies, made a world of difference. That doesn’t mean that a system that has worked for so long and encourages positive cricket should be discounted.

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Asjad Khan

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