Here’s a question: if all records and memory of Test history were erased, how would you select your playing XI for the next match? Would the side differ from the one that would take the field normally?
There’s always context. There are always past Test achievements to go off. Many players earn a guaranteed spot over time, but their initial selection wasn’t always so cut and dried. Imagine all that information has gone and you’re starting from scratch. How do you go about your task?
Do you go off batting and bowling averages? If you did that, the India side would feature Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Subraniam Badrinath. Some would argue that a couple of those players should be featuring, but it’s striking that none of them do. Manoj Tiwary would also be playing and Sachin Tendulkar would only just eke out Abishek Nayar.
But that’s poor use of statistics. Maybe you’d look at the players’ averages over the last few years or try and weight averages in some way to lessen the effects of high-scoring matches.
Or maybe you’d go all Moneyball and look for the meaningful statistics behind the averages. How reliable is that forward defensive? Does the batsman have any weaknesses against particular types of bowling? What proportion of a bowler’s deliveries are dot balls and how consistent are they in terms of line and length?
Strategy first or players first?
Questions about bowlers are particularly complex, because what exactly are you looking for? Do you have a strategy in mind for which you’ll find the right bowlers, or will you find the best bowlers and then devise your strategy? If the latter’s the case, how do you compare an accurate seam bowler with a less accurate, but highly skilled, swing bowler?
What’s your point here?
Dunno. We just wonder how much of an impact history and prejudice have on selection, we suppose. We wonder whether a selector without preconceptions would pick some unexpected players.
Don’t suppose it matters really. So, er, what are you doing this weekend? Anything interesting? No?