Decision Support and Moral Dilemma


One of the characteristics of performance analysis is that it has the potential to inform strategic and tactical decision making.

I read with interest an observation made by Mahela Jayawardene after the fifth ODI against England this week. He made the observation in the context of the run out of Jos Buttler.

Mahela is quoted in a Cricinfo article:

We analysed our game after Lord’s. They took 22 twos in the last 12 overs. Ravi Bopara and him (Jos Buttler) ran riot. And most of the time they were taking starts that are not legal by the written laws. We just wanted to make sure we got a fair chance.

Law 42.15 of the game of Cricket states: “The bowler is permitted, before releasing the ball and provided he has not completed his usual delivery swing, to attempt to run out the non-striker.”

However, the rules under which international cricket takes place (ICC playing conditions) differ from the Laws of the game. The ICC’s playing regulation 42.11 (which replaces Law 42.15) states: “The bowler is permitted, before releasing the ball and provided he has not completed his usual delivery swing, to attempt to run out the non-striker. Whether the attempt is successful or not, the ball shall not count as one of the over. If the bowler fails in an attempt to run out the non-striker, the umpire shall call and signal dead ball as soon as possible.”

The Sri Lankan analysis of run scoring in the fourth ODI v England highlighted an important performance issue in the closing overs of a closely contested game.

The data give opportunities to consider how to respond if the situation arises again.

In the 44th over of game 5, Sachithra Senanayake removed the bails midway through his bowling action and appealed for the dismissal of Jos Buttler. He was given out by the umpires after they had given the Sri Lankan captain the opportunity to withdraw the appeal.

The moral dilemma here, if there is one, is the concept of ‘the Spirit of the Game’.

In the Preamble to the Laws of the Game it states “Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game”. The Preamble adds “Any action which is seen to abuse this spirit causes injury to the game itself. The major responsibility for ensuring the spirit of fair play rests with the captains”.

When we analyse performance, and offer our data to coaches, captains and players, do we have any professional responsibility for how the data are used? Do we act as custodians of a spirit too?

Photo Credit

Cricket (Tim Welbourn, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Batting Partnership Profiles: 2013 Ashes


I have been tracking batting partnerships in the last two Ashes’ Cricket Series (2010-11 and 2013).

At the end of the 2013 Series in England, the batting partnership profiles for both teams were:


E 13



A Comparison

EA 5 Compare

Photo Credit

The Oval (Happy A, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Roger and Decision Review Systems



The 2013 Ashes Series in England has provided abundant opportunities to consider the role of a decision review system (DRS) in cricket specifically and sport generally.

I have written three posts on Clyde Street about decision review in the last two weeks. The impetus for these posts has not been the very public debate about the accuracy of the system but rather Simon Taufel’s Spirit of Cricket lecture.



I have been reflecting on the lecture and the recent public discussion about decision review and as a result I have returned to read Roger Caillois’ Man, Play and Games. I am particularly interested in his views on agon (competition), alea (chance), paidia (spontaneous play) and ludus (the resolution of an intentionally created gratuitous challenge).

Roger observes with regard to agon:

A whole group of games would seem to be competitive, that is to say, like a combat in which equality of chances is artificially created, in order that, the adversaries should confront each other under ideal conditions, susceptible of giving precise and incontestable value to the winner’s triumph.

Games characterised by alea are “based on a decision independent of the player, an outcome over which he has no control, and in which:

winning is the result of fate rather than triumphing over an adversary. More properly, destiny is the sole artisan of victory, and where there is rivalry, what is meant is that the winner has been more favoured by fortune than the loser.

Roger defines paidia as “spontaneous manifestations of the play instinct”. In ludus “the tension and skill of the player are not related to any explicit feeling of emulation or rivalry; the conflict is with the obstacle”. Ludus requires effort, patience, skill and ingenuity.

Gonzalo Frasca suggests that “the difference between paidia and ludus is that the latter incorporates rules that define a winner and a loser, whereas the former does not”. Deborah Vosser notes that “the play instinct (paidia) gradually evolves into an adaptation characterized by the quest for the resolution of an intentionally created gratuitous challenge (ludus)”.

Game Playing and DRS


I find the juxtaposition of Roger’s ideas on the classification of games and DRS in sport fascinating.

I do feel that the mediation of sports performance with broadcast images and the re-presentation of any aspect of performance as an editorial decision for spectators not at the live event, raises fundamental issues about game playing.

As we have moved towards ludus in agon contest we have allocated more and more significance to measurement and accuracy. As it stands, the DRS in cricket has many anomalies and is struggling to deal with the role alea and paidia play in supporting a play spirit.

I perceive that one of the issues with decision review is the confusion between the craving for absolute accuracy and the desire to enhance real-time decision making … in a very small number of cricket games played around the world.

I am concerned that the drive to agon/ludus contests supported by pervasive technology will lose the alea/paidia dimensions that induct us into play and organised games.

To adapt Roger’s terminology, the move from alea-mentary play to agon-istic competition will upset everyone unless we can come to terms with the constrained probability of making absolutely correct decisions in real-time.

My interest is focussed on supporting real-time decisions in DRS and non-DRS environments.

In these environments we should be able to accept chance (alea) with a profound sense of play (paidia) … if we are to recruit, support and develop umpires willing to accept the opportunity to partner with players (and players with umpires) to offer intrinsically rewarding game play.

 Photo Credits

Drouin schoolboys playing cricket (National Library of Australia, no known copyright restrictions)

Drouin schoolboys playing cricket (1) (National Library of Australia, no known copyright restrictions)

Time for a Game of Cricket  (Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, no known copyright restrictions)