Prospects for an interesting group stage
Russell Degnan

It is almost a matter of faith that the group stage of the forthcoming ODI World Cup will be a endless shower of mismatched opponents and meaningless match-ups between the inevitable 8 qualifiers. For 6 or 7 of those teams, that is probably going to be the case. But you never know; only two of the World Cups have failed to have an associate upset, and not since 1996 has the second round been composed of those eight teams. This year, with some of the the major sides at their weakest in many years, and with the so-called minnows at their strongest, the final qualifier might yet be interesting.

For starters though, an adapted rating for the ODI teams. I have this for every ODI team, but it is a massive, slow file, and the initial settings need some work. The four qualifiers will suffice, therefore. The difference in ratings multiplied by 0.2 gives the expected margin, the standard deviation of results is around 60 runs.

Ratings at 1st February 2011FormGames
1.South Africa1204.7129.7936.42
4.Sri Lanka1147.468.7543.03
7.New Zealand929.53-16.7837.87
8.West Indies908.4912.4130.7

Notice that, like the ICC ratings, New Zealand, and particularly, the West Indies, are not far in front of Bangladesh, Ireland and Zimbabwe. This ought not to be a shock, the West Indies have not beaten a team above them in the ratings in over a year, and hve won just 3 games against those teams in the past 4 years (a worse record than Bangladesh). New Zealand was recently thrashed by Bangladesh, but were themselves beaten by Ireland and the Netherlands before that.

Having an extended qualification process favours the best team going through, but if the weaker "big" team lose all their other games, and the stronger "minnows" win against their weaker opponents, then qualification comes down to the result of a single game. Qualification remains unclear, even if the other 20 group games are a little uninteresting. By running monte carlo simulations of the group games, we can produce some qualification tables. Direct is the probability of having more wins than the 5th based team, indirect is the probability of qualifying on net-run-rate. This is split (calculating margins is more difficult) and therefore favours the minnows a little (given they are more likely to suffer a blow-out).

Group ADirectIndirectTotal
Sri Lanka0.960.020.98
New Zealand0.660.100.76

This is the more straight-forward of the two groups, with the two weakest associates, the largest gap from 4th to 5th, and smallest from 3rd to 4th. However, Zimbabwe's recent record is promising, and New Zealand's weak; the probability of the top four going through directly is just 53 percent, though that means it remains more likely than not.

Group BDirectIndirectTotal
South Africa0.950.030.97
West Indies0.340.120.46

By contrast, group B is more likely to be close. In just 23 percent of scenarios do the top 4 make it through directly. Both Ireland and Bangladesh are capable of getting above the West Indies, as the leading three teams are unlikely to drop points. The West Indies remain favourites to progress, but in only one third of scenarios can they do so directly.

Perhaps, therefore, the group stages will not be completely uninteresting. There are several games worth watching closely, and - for those wanting to gamble - it is more likely that the big-eight will not progress than all succeed.

Cricket - Analysis 4th February, 2011 08:09:05   [#] [2 comments]