Statistics: they rarely tell the full story

SWASHBUCKLING: Ben McDermott's dig on Thursday was incredible, but do numbers alone tell his true story as a batsman? Photo: GETTY IMAGES
SWASHBUCKLING: Ben McDermott's dig on Thursday was incredible, but do numbers alone tell his true story as a batsman? Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Before we go on to anything else – Thursday night at Etihad Stadium, wow.

I unfortunately didn’t get the chance to play in that game, but that was one of the most exciting games of Twenty20 cricket I’ve ever seen.

Hobart’s Ben McDermott set up his side’s chase with 114 from 52 balls, giving the Hurricanes a sniff of running down the already record-breaking total my Renegades posted – 4-222 – which they ultimately did.

That’s Twenty20 cricket at its finest, and that’s why so many people are flocking to this form of the game.

They’re incredible numbers all around, which actually brings me on to the real focal point of this column – statistics, and how they supposedly define players.

Statistics have become a productive yet often injurious part of cricket’s analysis, they never tell a full story.

They offer a numeric portrayal of the results, but often overlook the somewhat artistic beauty of an individual’s progress.

It’s become very easy for armchair selectors to point out player X only averages 26, while player Y averages a far grander and more elegant 30, while talent, potential and any numbers of other variables become mere apparitions in judgement.

Situational outliers are overlooked because of the increasing numeric demand on players, and often those situational sacrifices aren’t applauded as they should be.

For example, in a two-runs-a-ball situation, player X blasts 26 from 13 balls to get his side within striking distance but is dismissed, while player Y is at the other end and finishes 40 not out, but chews up 42 balls to get there.

As viewers, will we recognise who the more effective player was or will we judge them on numbers alone, after taking a sip and hurling abuse because neither manipulated the game the way we wanted them to?

I say this out of sympathy for batsmen who are continually exposed to that statistical pressure regardless of situation. Quicks aren’t supposed to feel for batsmen, I do though, because my last statistical abnormality ended up working in my favour in a way.

Yep, I’m talking about ‘the over’.

Nine, 11, four, one, one, eight.

Nine minutes to bowl the over, 11 balls in it, four wides, one no-ball and one wicket for eight runs.

In black and white, what any viewer would call a terrible over.

But on raw statistics, it was a good one.

Taking 1-8 in that situation of the game was a positive for my side, even though I didn’t execute.

With that over in focus, what credibility do statistics have left?

There’s so much they don’t tell you.

Numbers will give the observer a broad opinion on a story, but in reality it’s a far more complicated tale often written behind closed doors.

Numbers won’t tell you about the day a bowler took six wickets, but all of them came from chop-ons or bad shots nor will they tell you about the day he took none, but bowled magnificently on a highway of a deck.

Numbers won’t tell you about the batsman who works harder than anyone else in the nets, but only gets chance at the end of an innings when his side needs quick runs.

They will, however, reinforce the perception of a player and tattoo a number on their head they’ll carry with them, giving onlookers the chance to judge solely on that number.