Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Is there a flaw in the IPL rule that decides final league position?

This has been one of the most exciting IPL tournaments. It could even be the best so far. Till the last day of the league game, 4 teams were vying for the playoff berth. That’s 50% of total IPL teams, to put things in perspective. Three of the last 4 games were virtual knock-outs. That’s how competitive this IPL was. In the end, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals sneaked through to the playoffs.

This is how the points-table looks like after the league games – 

IPL 2015 Season 8 Final League table position

Do you, like me, have a doubt about the final position just by looking at the above league table? Look closely at positions 2, 3 and 4.

How did Mumbai Indians get the second spot?

This is thanks to the following rule of IPL – 

21.9.2 Where teams have an equal number of points their relative positions shall be determined by the following: 
a. the team with the most wins in matches in the League during the season will be placed in the higher position;
b. if there are teams with equal points and equal wins during the season, then in such case the team with the higher net run rate will be placed in the higher position

Although 3 teams are tied at 16 points, Mumbai overtook RCB and RR due to the extra win they have had this season. Mumbai have won 8 games. Both RCB and RR have 7 wins each and 2 washouts. Thanks to the aforementioned rule, Mumbai Indians got 2nd position. When the number of wins are same, only then Net Run Rate (NRR) will be considered. RCB has a better NRR compared to RR and hence got 3rd position with RR falling in 4th. Mumbai Indians have the worst NRR among the three teams.  

Did Mumbai Indians deserve second spot?

In my opinion, the answer is No.

Let’s understand this rationally. Such a rule makes a lot of sense in football where a draw has an equal chance of occurring compared to a definite result (win / loss). This probability does not apply in Cricket. A “no result / tie” scenario happens when a match is – 
- washed out due to weather conditions or a forfeit
- tied, i.e. two teams end with exactly the same number of runs

The first condition is not in our hands. IPL has smartly handled the 2nd condition well by introducing a ‘super over’. If the match is tied even after the super over (after considering the boundary count etc.), then it’s considered a tie. This is a rarest of rare occurrence in T20 games. Only 6 games have had a super-over in IPL history and all of them ended with a definite result, which means no tied games in IPL history.

IPL has messed up handling the 1st condition of a “no result / tie” situation – a washout. RCB and RR lost out purely due to bad luck. No one can predict rains and plan for it. It just so happened that RCB and RR had 2 washout games – even 1 victory out of these two matches would have ensured a better league position. Moreover they have better NRR, which means they have been more consistent than Mumbai, winning more convincingly than Mumbai and losing more close matches than Mumbai. Another way to look at it is that RCB and RR have lost lesser games than Mumbai yet finished below Mumbai. Not fair, right?

I am a fan of Mumbai Indians and have been supporting them since the inception of IPL and will continue supporting them till the end of IPL. This post is not against Mumbai Indians or any other team. This is just to address the flaw in deciding final league position. IPL should take notice and correct this flaw and allow relatively better team to have relatively better position. 

In my opinion, NRR should take precedence when teams are tied in the points table. NRR is a fair estimate of how a team has performed throughout the season. Had NRR been considered, Mumbai Indians would have been in 4th position behind RCB (2nd) and RR (3rd). It would have been Chennai Super Kings v/s Royal Challengers Bangalore for the 1st qualifier followed by Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians for the eliminator. 

Let’s not allow the playing conditions to decide who is placed where in the table.

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