Numbers Don’t Lie, 61 Hidden cricket stories: Review by Ritesh Misra
This book by Impact Index and Aakash Chopra raises a query at the outset. Is it’s name “Numbers Do Lie” or is it “Numbers don’t lie” ? The cover Illustration has the word “Dont” with “N’t” crossed off. Whatever; what is more important is what VVS Laxman has written on the cover “Every number in context:Its a simple, very powerful idea“.
Thus the subject matter is not just numbers but their impact. The authors are Impact Index and Aakash Chopra. While we all know Aakash Chopra as a former Test openetrated and also a very successful first class player, let us see who Impact Index is/are.
Impact Index is an alternative statistical system conceived/created by Jaideep Verma in 2009 and is currently run in Mumbai by Jaideep and his partners.
While conventionally statistics is measured by acceptable criteria such as batting average or bowling average , Impact Index seeks to measure the impact of a cricketer on the match. It basically compares the performance of a cricketer with the performance of the 21 other players in the match.
The performance of a player is measured in relation to the importance the performance has in the team’s overall result in that match. It also goes on to measure the impact a player’s performance has in the overall context of a series.
As per the Impact Index system, the highest value is given to what is called a ‘Series defining performance” ( SD’s) which is a high impact performance in a match which enables the player’s team to win or draw level or change the momentum of a series.
The basic idea of Impact Index is that while numbers may be the same, the impact my be different. A 100 in an ODI batting first may be easier than a 100 in a chase. Similarly a 100 in the 4th innings of a Test match will have more impact than a 100 in the 1st or second innings of a Test match. As the authors themselves say, while cricket is about big innings and big wicket hauls, the context of the game and the struggle of the circumstances is normally never talked about and discussed.
Impact index seeks to emphasise that it is not only about statistics. On the contrary it seeks to see the bigger picture of every cricket performance. Jaideep Verma says that smug romanticism which plagues cricket is responsible for a culture that hails false heroes. Example given is of the Mumbai schoolboy who scored 1009 runs, but if context is factored in, the innings was disgraceful, and the manner in which it was hailed was reprehensible.
What is Aakash Chopra’s role in the book? There are 61 impact stories, and Aakash Chopra discusses each one of them and gives his insights as a former International player and also as a writer-commentator with varied experience.
It will not be possible to give details of each of the 61 impact stories in a brief book review, but to touch upon some of the interesting ones, Anil Kumble has the second highest SD’s in test history with Nine, just behind Murali with Ten. As regards batting, the highest SD’s are shared equally by Rahul Dravid and Inzamam ul Haq with 8 each.
The book also clearly states how Sachin Tendulkar was never India’s highest impact Batsman of all time, which is Rahul Dravid, since Rahul’s influencing India’s series results more than anyone else makes him India’s most significant batsman .
Then what about Sehwag and Sachin. The book shows Sachin as the greatest support act in the history of Test cricket. It has a look at 34 Test series and shows how consistent Sachin is throughout his career as an omnipresent support act. In ODI it shows Sachin at 5th with Viv Richards and Dean Jones ahead of him as regards impact among retired players and ABD and Amla ahead of him among current players.
Impact Index suggests that maybe Sehwag despite his seemingly carefree demeanour had a problem with expectation since despite a high 1st 2 innings average of 62, he had an average of 29 in 3rd innings and 31 in 4th. Even in T20 and ODI he had lower success rate, especially in crunch games.
The book comes out with some surprising assertions.
(i) The highest impact batsman in Test history after Bradman was Peter May who had an average of just 47 in his 66 Tests
(ii) Hansie Cronje’s big match performances made him South Africa’s most significant player
(iii) Ian Bishop had higher impact than Walsh and Ambrose
(iv) India’s second highest impact bowler in ODI after Kapil was Madan Lal
(v) the highest impact Test player of all time was Alan David son
(vi) No batsman in Test history has absorbed more pressure than Tiger Pataudi . There are many more such stories.
There are some obvious assertions as well as for instance (i) Dale Steyn is the man most responsible for South Africa’s dominant Test record overseas, (ii) Kane Williamson is New Zealand’s highest impact batsman in Test Cricket, (iii) The most consistent allrounder is Shaun Pollock, followed by Tony Greig, (iv) Highest impact pace bowler in Tests is Dennis Lillee.
Now what is unique about all these stories is that they are substantiated by details and analysis. Aakash Chopra has his analysis too and his insights and comes up with some incredible untold and hidden stories as well.
The book, released in February 2017, is an attempt of a different kind to show the importance of impact in a match. Greg Chappell says that he likes how it brings context to the performance of players through the generations.
The book ends with an afterword by the creator of Impact Index, Jaideep Verma where he speaks about his struggle in presenting a new concept and expresses his intent to continue the search for more untold stories and more cases of righting history.
So, Do Numbers Lie or they Don’t Lie. My conclusion and belief is that they dont, but behind such truths, a closer look at context and circumstances is warranted.