Friday, January 21, 2005

Is ICC justified in granting official status to Tsunami relief fund matches

ICC’s recent decision to grant official ODI status to Tsunami relief fund match has left the cricket statisticians around the world both astounded and bewildering. One fails to understand the logic behind ICC’s this ruling, which not only defies the commonsense, but is also against ICC’s own rulebook.

If you go through ICC’s regulations, you will find this in section 2 (Sub-Section B) which tells us that a match is deemed a one-day international if it meets the following qualifications:

i) All matches played in the official World Cup competition, including matches involving Associate Member countries.
ii) All matches played between the Full Member countries of ICC as part of an official tour itinerary.
iii) All matches played as part of an official tournament between Full Member countries, at an ICC-approved Associate or Affiliate Member venue.

Now the match between Asian XI and World XI does not fall into any of these categories. So how could it be deemed as an official one-day international ?

Well, you can trust them to come-up with such silly things every now and again. In fact, this is not the first time that ICC has invited the wrath of cricket statisticians. In June last year, we were told that a match is started with the toss and not as described in Laws of Cricket. There was also a lot of resentment among the statisticians about this decision (read ), however this latest ruling proved the last straw on camel’s back and statisticians revolted.

Bill Frindall- the topmost cricket statistician in the world- had this to say about ICC’s decision:

“This statement beggars belief. Limited-Overs International status and Records cover matches between national teams, not hot-potch multi-national games with no significance beyond fund raising. In no sense should the WCTA game qualify for inclusion. The ICC, for whom I was then statistician, dealt with this matter following the Rest of the World v England series in 1970, when we ruled that those five matches would not count in the official Test match records. And those games featured one international side.

This ruling, which should be reversed immediately, is as bizarre as your recent one declaring that a match starts when the toss is made - a monstrous flouting of the Laws of Cricket. It will not have my support, and performances in Monday's match will NOT be included in any records published under my name.”

Charlie Watt, Australia’s leading statistician, too refused to take this match in to consideration as an ODI. Many others have also expressed their anger against this decision. There are some, however, who think differently. Vic Isaacs, the founder of now defunct LOCIG and co-author of Wisden Book of Limited Overs Internationals has this to say:

“The ICC in their wisdom (if that is the correct word), have made a decision.No individual or body of statistician(s) should therefore go against this, despite their opinions.I believe the ACS & H as a body should contact ICC with their opinions, in the meantime I will include (sadly) the disputed matches until I hear differently”.

It is clear that different versions of cricket statistics will now be seen at different places creating a lot of confusion. It is only ICC who has to take responsibility for this confusion.

For many years ICC was not the slightest bit interested in the status of ODIs, and it was left to organisations such as the now defunct LOCIG, and the Association of Cricket Statisticians & Historians, England (ACS) to agree mutually to their status. However with the modernisation of the game, and because of commercial pressure, ICC now decide on the status. There is nothing one can have any objection on this. It is ICC’s prerogative being game’s governing body.

What one fails to understand is why ICC approaches important issues like this in such a non-professional manner. What stops them from let having a statistical committee, comprising of eminent statisticians, handle such things. It is baffling that ICC does not have a full time statistician on its payroll despite the fact that statistics are an integral part of the modern-day cricket. ICC could have even consulted ACS,which is the largest association of cricket statisticians world over with a membership strength of about 1,000, before deciding to grant official status to these matches. That they didn’t show any such intention is an indication of the fact how much importance they give to cricket statistics and its custodians.

In principle statisticians are bound by ICC decisions, but it is imperative that the ICC debates the issue with them before making the decision. If they do not do this, ICC cannot be too surprised if statisticians choose to ignore them.

ACS is now holding a meeting towards the end of this month to discuss this matter in full and take a decision. All member statisticians will follow the decisions taken in this meeting and there is a possibility that ACS committee could decide against ICC’s ruling. It may be recalled that ICC,in 1992, ruled that all matches played in South Africa between 1960-61 (when South Africa left the Commonwealth) and 1991-92 (when they were readmitted to the ICC) were not first class. All statisticians recognized this as a polically motivated and illogical ruling and ignored it. If this happens this time, it will be like a slap on ICC’s face and they cannot complain about it because they themselves chose this treatment.