Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Outliers - applied to the Cricket World Cup 2011

I wrote this article in March 2011 during the cricket world cup. This was done before the cricket finals had taken place so the results are quite surprising.

“Given that I have had some spare time at work and that I just started to read an interesting book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell I thought let me apply the first chapter to the cricket sides, South Africa, Australia, India and England.

The first chapter of the book relates to a Canadian Ice Hockey team playing in an age group final (Major A) the players are about 16-18 years old. The basics are of the story is that on investigating the team that won and the second place team it was noted that most of the team members were born between January and April (almost 50% in both teams). Further investigation revealed that in age group tournaments and even in leagues without an age group aka Major League Baseball, there is a corresponding link to when people were born versus the age group cut-off date.

In the instance of Canada, the age group cutoff date was 1 Jan. So those born in Jan through April were the bigger and stronger in their age group as opposed to those born in the later months. In the US major league baseball where the date of cut-off is 31 July the results showed that of the players in the league the majority was born in August and the smallest group in July.

So taking this interesting information I applied it to the four main cricket teams and their respective World Cup squads.

South Africa:
Age group cut-off date is 31 December. Thus those born Jan - Apr should be the more dominant age group.
47% of the SA world cup squad is born during Jan-Apr, 40% in May-Sep and 13% Oct-Dec.

Australia:
Age group cut-off date is 1 September. Thus those born Sept - Dec should be the more dominant age group.
44% of the Aus. world cup squad is born during Sept - Dec, 38% in May-Sep and 19% Jan-Apr.

India:
Age group cut-off date is 1 September. Thus those born Sept - Dec should be the more dominant age group.
60% of the Indian world cup squad is born during Sept - Dec, 20% in May-Sep and 20% Jan-Apr.

England:
Age group cut-off date is 1 September. Thus those born Sept - Dec should be the more dominant age group.
20% of the England world cup squad is born during Sept - Dec, 27% in May-Sep and 53% Jan-Apr.

On the face of it, it looks like England buck the trend, however if you take it that the South African born players had their grounding in South Africa where the age cut-off is December and not September the England result is 40% of the squad are born within the four months following the age cut-off. The three SA born players presently in the squad (Strauss, Prior, Trott) were all born between March & April.

Another thing about England is that they seem to change the age group cut-off dates for different sports and in different years certain age groups had the date changed.

Like I said this was just an interesting exercise that seems to be applicable to most sports - at least on face value.”

Once again it is very interesting to note now that the we know that the victor of the cricket world cup 2011 is India. Have a look back at the above article which shows that 60% of the Indian team was born in the few months after the age group cutoff date. I wonder if this will work in the Rugby World cup later this year?

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