What’s in the numbers? It’s just not cricket

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

It is not unknown for Dave the Silent, a man who values the cerebral things in life as much as the transitory temporal pleasures, to slip into a near-trance of intense meditation and in these moments it is best not to rouse him from his mental hibernation.

But as his brain reunited with his body and he rejoined the normal gathering, it became clear that the correlation between sport and numbers had been foremost on the mind of one of the country’s foremost phlangologists.

“This cricket in India,” he said, referring in his normal oblique way to the IPL which has all but engulfed our screens for well over a month. “I understand the basic premise that one side scores more than the other in 20 allotted overs as the Kolkata Knight Riders – so I see – did to the King’s XI Punjab in the final, but there are a lot of other things I don’t understand.

“The Fairplay Award, the Most Valuable Player… how do they decide on these tabulations? I am somewhat lost here, so please help me.”

This request was met by the sound of one hand clapping, as the gathering tacitly admitted that they had absolutely no idea.

“You see what I mean,” continued the Silent One, his engineering background clicking firmly into gear. “You can’t just accept that figures are right. Surely you have to question how they are arrived at.”

Then, doing an abrupt about turn from the realms of micro-measurement, the Silent One offered an observation perhaps more fitting to the feelings of the assembled members.

“In any event,” he said, “it strikes me that the series has revolved around bands of young women with pom-poms, figures I find more pleasing on the eye and easier to understand.”

It was at this juncture that the gathering got the feeling that they had been released from the impromptu maths class, but, as the Silent One slipped back into gear from a very temporary neutral, it was immediately evident that he had not exhausted his subject.

“Figures – times, averages and things like that – are self-evidently important in all sports,” he said, “but explain this to me, how can the organisers tell us that Sunday’s Comrades Marathon was exactly 89.28km?

“There is surely no way even the most anally retentive surveyor could have worked out that every runner who crosses the tape after charging between Pietermaritzburg and Durban travels exactly the same distance.

“I know this might fly in the face of what I have just said about the integrity of figures, but surely you have to take into account all the cutting of corners – not to mention dashing off into the bush for what I believe is called a comfort break.

“If this is an average, why not let logic come to the fore and just call it a 90km run?

“And speaking of logic, much as I admire anyone with the intestinal fortitude to take on the Comrades, it strikes me that there is a perfectly serviceable railway service between Maritzburg and Durban. It might be heroic to don a pair of takkies to avoid the fare, but then I can’t explain cricket’s pom-poms either.”




today in print

today in print