Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The World Cup group stage

Russ has done some ODI ratings and looked ahead to the group stage of the World Cup. His main point is that it is more likely than a side from outside the "top eight" will make the quarters. (I need to use scare quotes, because Bangladesh are actually ahead of the West Indies in the ICC ODI rankings now, though not in Russ's rankings.)

But there's more to the group stage than seeing if Bangladesh will beat the Windies (I'm writing off Ireland – they were easily beaten by Bangladesh in the one series they've played in Asia). In the quarter-finals it'll be A1 v B4, A2 v B3, etc., so finishing top of the group will probably mean an easy quarter-final. I'm not sure if this'll be enough to keep us interested, but it is a real effect.

Using Russ's ratings (so don't blame me for India being easily below Australia and South Africa) and assuming that the "top eight" sides make the quarters in rating order, I ran 100000 simulations of the knockout stage. These are the probabilities of overall victory than I get:
Aus 0.28     SA  0.28
SL 0.13 Ind 0.18
Pak 0.04 Eng 0.08
NZ 0.01 WI 0.01

Now suppose that Australia, through bad luck, loses its games to SL, Pak, and NZ, and so finishes fourth in group A, thus playing South Africa in the quarters:
SL  0.22     SA  0.20
Pak 0.05 Ind 0.21
NZ 0.01 Eng 0.11
Aus 0.19 WI 0.01

Sri Lanka went from having less than half Australia's chance at overall success, to having a better chance than Australia. Obviously South Africa takes quite a hit in this scenario as well.

What if we only swap India and South Africa?
Aus 0.28     Ind 0.21
SL 0.13 SA 0.25
Pak 0.04 Eng 0.08
NZ 0.01 WI 0.01

A little change.

These ideas should motivate the teams to play hard in the group stage – there won't be any really dead rubbers against the major sides (except maybe at the very end). Of course the winning team will still have to win three straight games to take the Cup, so my suspicion is that from a fan's perspective, this won't add much excitement to the group matches.

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