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’.
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.
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.