Why is there a picture of American Football on a Cricket Blog? The 2nd biggest sport that uses a coin toss in 2016 is American Football, where it is widely accepted – both in expert opinion and with statistical data – that the coin flip has ‘little to no impact’ on the outcome of the game.
No sport in the world relies on the toss of a coin nearly as much as cricket does.
Let’s start with some numbers from the IPL (as of April 20th, 2016):
- 93% of the matches have been won batting second (13 of the 14 matches till date)
- The one exception is when RCB batted first and posted 227. If this had been chased down, it would have been the highest IPL chase ever, and the 3rd highest T20 chase of all time
- In 10 of the 14 matches, the captain won the toss, batted second and won
It’s also worth noting that in the recently concluded World T20, the last 10 matches in a row, including Semis and Finals, were won by the team batting second. 78% of teams that won the toss also won the game, higher than any number in WT20 history.
You can probably see where I’m going. It seems the new formula for the IPL T20 is simple: Win Toss. Bat Second. Win Game. I can just see it evolving over time:
- Step 1: Win Toss, Captain Chooses to Bat Second, Win the Game
- Step 2: Win Toss, Captain Chooses to Automatically Bat Second, Win the Game
- Step 3: Win Toss, Bat Second, Win the Game
Do we really want to put that kind of power in the hands of a coin?
I exaggerate of course, but the point stands. In the IPL, where the impact of a pitch is less than in other formats and other parts of the world, we will eventually get to a point where everyone wants to chase.
If so, is the IPL’s future coinless? Sounds crazy, I know, but hear me out. In the season, each team plays each other team once at home and once away. What if we just decided that the home team always bats second, by default? This could theoretically remove reliance on the randomness of a coin, and give each team a level playing field, with an equal number of games in which they chase.
Of course, critics will argue about the impact of a crumbling pitch, dew, and other factors, but recent IPL data continues to support the theory that captains don’t care about those factors. They just want to bat second so they know how many runs they need to get.
Maybe the only real downside of cutting the coin toss is that cricket commentators who so heavily rely on phrases like “bad toss to lose” will need to analyze the game in a bit more depth than just the performance of the coin.