Friday, May 25, 2018

Statistics – what it is not, it should not be ...

This is something on which I have been meaning to write for years, indeed a decade, and I just could not delay it any further. You may think that that I had been searching all around me to find something to write on and I could finally pick only such a trivial matter, finally, and I am giving a post-facto justification. You may not be wrong; but, please bear with me.
I do not know how many of you have followed the current edition of IPL, Vivo IPL 2018. But, no matter, any exposure to any edition of IPL is good enough to make sense of the senseless statistics that one seen on the tv screen. It goes something like this.
The batting side has made in 6 overs and 2 balls, say, 47 runs, for the loss of 2 wickets. The tv screen has a nice graphic proclaiming that the batting team would make, at “current run rate” 148 runs, at 8 runs an over for the remaining overs, 156, and at 10 runs an over for the remaining overs, 184 runs (rounding off to the higher integer, if you wish to be precise, damn accuracy).
It all looks impressive on the tv screen. But, it is simply and averaging out for an arbitrarily assumed run rate for the remaining overs. There is no compulsion on the batting team to stick to any integral value (like 8 or 10, the IPL statistics team chews out) for the remaining balls/overs. For all the continuous blabbering of the tv “experts”, it just does not strike anyone that things like the total the team makes depends on wickets falling, catches dropped, misfields, free hits and on and on.
Note also that, for the case at hand, say one of the batsmen gets out on the 39th ball, not much changes in the so-called “projected runs” at such-and-such runs per remaining overs. In that case, it is 155 for 8 runs an over, 182 for 10 runs an over, and most impresssively – 145 runs at the “current” run rate. That is, the wicket is worth no more than 4 runs in the aggregate.
Yes, I am aware that, in T20, results change on a dime. But, be honest, and tell me whether you have ever heard the captain/coach of the losing side saying they were 2 runs short. Never; it has always been “15 or 20 runs”. If that be so, does it make any sense at all in the so-called statistics, obviously endorsed by the commentators and “experts”, to keep track of “projected score” ball-by-ball? It is a big eye-wash, just to show some activity, not on the field, but on the tv screen. But, how many of the “millions” who watch has noticed this idiocy. I did, the very first time, I thought about it and that was, I think 10 editions ago.
Statistics is when you have reasonably large set of data, and learning from prior knowledge (Bayesian), and making sense of the situation. Real experts are good at it. But, these pseudo-experts on IPL tv screens would do better to stay away from it all.
That is for spotting idiocy whenever and wherever it raises its head. That is, even at the risk of thumping my chest or more modestly, patting myself on the back, is scientific temper.

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