Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It Is Not Unexpected That England – Or Some Team Like Them – Would Be Eliminated From The Cricket World Cup Early

England’s loss to Bangladesh in the Cricket World Cup yesterday means that they will not qualify for the quarter-finals. Given that, before the World Cup, there were only eight teams that were considered of ‘world-class’ standard – England, Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies – England’s early elimination is considered a ‘shock’.

However, there has been a bit of a history at the Cricket World Cup of at least one ‘established’ cricket nation being knocked out early. The above eight nations made it through to the 2011 World Cup quarter-finals. But India and Pakistan were eliminated in the group stages at the 2007 World Cup. Furthermore Kenya and Zimbabwe made it through to the next stage above more established nations at the 2003 World Cup (although Kenya made it through a walkover), and Zimbabwe beat out England into the next stage at the 1999 World Cup.

Why is England’s exit a ‘shock’ then? The reaction to England’s exit reminds me of the ‘birthday problem’. When asked how many people you need in a room for it to be more likely than not that two of them share the same birthday, most people dramatically overestimate the number. One explanation for this overestimation is that, because the chances that any two given people share the same birthday is small (1 in 365.25), people find it an amazing coincidence that any two people within the same room share the same birthday, even though the latter event is much more likely.

In the case of England’s elimination from the World Cup it was unlikely that England specifically would be eliminated from the World Cup in the group stages. But it was somewhat less unlikely that at least one of the established cricket nations would be eliminated early. As an Australian cricket supporter, I am just glad that it was the Poms this time and not us.     

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