Saturday, March 24, 2012

Asia Cup Quirks

First off, this post is not about who deserved or didn't deserve to win the recently concluded Asia Cup. It's not even about India being robbed of a place in the final. I believe all teams should know the playing conditions before the start of a tournament and if a team misses out because of a technicality it can't point a finger at anyone else.

With that out of the way, here's a post from Shyam about the difference in the purpose of having a bonus point system and the result of having this rule. I am not averse to the bonus point system, although I do think it's unfair for a team to not get a bonus point just because of 1 ball/run. Usually a bonus point would also be reflected in the net run-rate, but every once in a while it doesn't.

Let's come to the Asia Cup now. Pakistan, Bangladesh and India finished with two wins each while Sri Lanka lost all their matches. Pakistan, by virtue of chasing the Sri Lankan score in less than 40 overs, got a bonus point and topped the table. Bangladesh and India were tied on points but the former went through because of the result in the round-robin game. Effectively, the result of the Sri Lanka v Pakistan match decided the tie-breaker between India and Bangladesh! This is ofcourse in hindsight as there were 3 matches after the Sri Lanka v Pakistan match, but it's interesting nonetheless to see such scenarios and maybe learn from them.

If the playing conditions didn't have the bonus points system, we would have had a different final even though the individual results had been the same. Sure, we could've had a different final even if the first tie-breaker between teams level on points had been net run-rate, but in that case the decisive factor would have been overall performance and not the result of a game which the teams weren't even part of.

The Asia Cup has a history of quirky rules. In 2004, the points system was similar to what I proposed earlier - the total points available each game was 6. Pakistan lost their first match in the second stage to Sri Lanka who also scored a bonus point in the process. They then beat India, missing out on getting a bonus point by just ONE run. India were in a must-win situation against Sri Lanka, but they knew the margin of victory was irrelevant thanks to them not conceding a bonus point in their loss to Pakistan. They won the game on the last ball, thereby knocking out Pakistan. So what was quirky about this? Well, it doesn't make sense to me that you'd have two teams face off in the first stage and then again in the second. Pakistan, despite beating India and having a better net run-rate, were knocked out. They did, however, have the advantage of facing Bangladesh twice, which I guess only makes it ironic that they were eliminated.

The 2008 edition wasn't so much quirky as it was absurd. While the ACC did away with the bonus point system, they allowed points to be carried forward from the first round and still have teams from the same group play each other again! To me, either you carry forward the result from the first stage or you have the teams play each other again. In a tournament with 3 closely matched teams and one weak team, the one paired with the weak one would have an obvious advantage if it gets two chances to score points off the latter.

I guess the learning from all this is maybe the best thing to do is have a simple points system with head to head and/or net run-rate being the tie-breaker. There are valid arguments for both, and I'm sure everytime there's a conflict in the table depending on which method you choose, fans of the team missing out will say the other method should have been chosen. But atleast this way the fate of two teams won't be decided by the result of a match that doesn't feature either of them!