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Lanka's unusual advantage


The term Law of Averages is often bandied about ahead of major matches. It is usually used as a side joke, in the form of lame justifications for a player's failure, or to find positives out of it. The point, however, is that as a rough derivative of a proper, bonafide mathematical theory (the Law of Large Numbers), studying the implications of the law of averages might give some hints as to how today's final may pan out.

In this case, of course, we can't draw blanket judgements based on the law of averages alone, things need to be taken in the context of an individual's overall talent and potential, and his current form.

Statements like 'he is bound to fail' and 'he is bound to do well' may actually have deeper truth in them. A basic premise here is that anyone who has had extraordinary success beyond his natural ability is likely to flop or have mediocre levels of performance, whereas skilled/talented players with potential and tested records who have been doing well below their average standards (
and not because of carelessness or indiscipline) are likely to do well. This is, of course, just a broad premise and there may be a few exceptions within, so let's look at the key players from both the teams, their performances so far in this tournament, and see what things look like when seen through this prism.

Pakistan, by their general maverick nature, may seem more susceptible to the Law of Averages, but it is only partly true. Afridi, the Law's favourite child, seems doomed to flop with the bat given his heroics in the previous match. But there is also the concept of players peaking before a fall, and one major innings may not indicate a peak, particularly when it was a carefully crafted one. Akmal, Younis and Misbah look set to do well. Where Pakistan may lose out to the Lankans is their bowling.

Their two major bowlers of note have been Afridi and Gul. Gul has had a run that is extraordinary, and there is only so many times that he can keep landing the ball perfectly in the blockhole like he did against South Africa. The Lankans showed you can score off him in their Super Eights match. Afridi cannot prop the bowling attack up by himself, particularly when drawn in comparison against the Lankans who have Murali, Mendis and Malinga.

Sri Lanka's Number 1 hit-man has had three massive performances already, all three of them fifties against major teams in key matches. This has been on the back of a tremendous run of success in the IPL. Despite Dilshan's obvious talent and form, his run has been so out of this world that the law is bound to catch up. Jayasuriya, on the basis of the law of averages, is due for a major hit, given his no-show in the IPL and here. His form has been patchy, but he has shown a little glimmer of getting back in shape with a big innings against the Windies earlier in the tournament. Well, let's just say if he gives a catch you would want to hold on to it.

Sangakkara and Jayawardene, one would imagine, would be significant threats today, because they have the right combination of everything - they are proven performers, they haven't had extraordinary performances, but they haven't looked in bad form. Murali has long gone beyond statistical barriers, and Mendis looks tremendously consistent.

The most interesting point here is that Sri Lanka have the law of averages in their favour despite the fact that they have won 6 matches in a row now. This is because though they have won, all their forces haven't been spent yet. Their bowling has been consistent in quality not just in luck, which suggests a certain amount of insulation from the law. Their batting has been riding chiefly only on Dilshan, and they have tremendous quality lower down the order. The basic essence of the point that emerges is that Sri Lanka have the potential or capability to win more than 6 matches in a row, particularly if the 7th match is against Pakistan.

All of this may be extremely speculative, and perhaps straying on the wrong side of over-rationalizing, or looking to find meaning where there is none. But if things do turn out accordingly today, it will make for some pretty interesting food for thought.

(Click here to know more about Jatin, click here to know more about Sreeram)

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