The Game Theory of Bazball

The term has its own Wikipedia article now!

Bazball is an informal cricketing term coined during the 2022 English cricket season. Bazball commonly refers to the style of play of the England national cricket team after the appointments of Brendon McCullum as Test cricket head coach, and Ben Stokes as England Test cricket captain, by English cricket managing director Rob Key, in May 2022. The Bazball style and mindset is said to have an emphasis on taking positive decisions in attack and defence, whether batting or in the field.

The article is worth reading in full, especially if you are a fan of cricket. But how does one think about Bazball if one is both a fan of cricket and of game theory?

  1. First, you can have fun defining what Bazball is, but what it has brought to the table where England is concerned is not up for debate. 10 wins out of 11 since the era has started, a victory in Pakistan that is still hard to believe, and the second fastest declaration in history – and there’s a lot many more records to look up apart from these. Whatever it is, it is working – so far.
  2. One way to think about Bazball is to argue that it is the same style of play that has worked so well for England in the case of limited overs cricket. So why not bring the same fearless approach into test cricket too? And on the basis of the evidence thus far, why not indeed?
  3. You could argue that Brendon McCullum is in effect hastening what would have been an inevitable process in the medium/long term. Is it safe to say that Cheteshwar Pujara is the last of his breed when it comes to Indian batsmen? Will all test playing nations have batsmen who are more naturally aggressive in five to ten years time? If yes, England just got there sooner under Stokes and McCullum.
  4. So the other teams must play catch-up, correct? They must respond by utilizing the same no-fear-no-holds-barred approach. Bazball, in other words, but the amped-up version. Beat ’em by getting better than ’em at their own game. That’d be one option, sure…
  5. But there were two ways to out-Pep Pep at the start of the previous decade. I’m talking football now, but you could either try and get even better at possession based football than the OG’s, or you could go the Mourinho route. Think about the Barcelona Inter Milan semis, for example. Similarly, you could try and out-Baz Bazball, or you could go in the opposite direction and play ultra defensively.
  6. If you want to go the out-Baz Bazball route, it’ll be great for the spectators, and one will get to see high-octane series with a lot of risks being taken by both teams. But there will be teams that will lose a game too many by adopting the extremely risky route, and such teams might adapt by toning down their level of risk tolerance. You’ll see risk-taking approaches go through cycles before hitting upon some sort of an equilibrium.
  7. If you want to go the conservative route instead, you might push teams that go down the Bazball route taken even more risks in response. This may work, in which case these teams will be even more incentivized to go further down the high-risk path. Or it may not, in which case these teams may tone down down their gung-ho approach a bit. But again, you’ll see risk-taking approaches go through cycles.
  8. Football has gone through many such cycles in its past, and this is a great book to read in this regard.
  9. As a fan of cricket, and as a student of game theory, it will be fascinating to see how this plays out in cricket, especially in the context of shortening attention-spans, the increasing popularity of T20 leagues, and the preferences of players to play ‘T20 style’.
  10. Get game theory out of the classroom, and into whatever fields you like to think about. Sports is just one example. But a subject like game theory comes alive when it helps you understand real-life situations better. And as a cricket fan, I can think of very few examples better than analyzing Bazball and its game theoretic implications!

Signal, Noise and Glenn McGrath

Don’t miss Tony Greig’s explanation at the end.

Accuracy is awesome – accuracy with minor variations is terrifying!

What is Cricket Optimizing For?

What if you asked an economist how to go about analyzing the answer to this question? I’m not so interested in the answers to this question in today’s post, but in trying to figure out how to go about thinking about how to set up this question for analysis. But I will conclude today’s post by trying to answer some of the questions/points I will have raised by then.

  1. What do we mean when we say “cricket”? Do we mean the players, the administrators, the viewers, the businesses interested in informing the viewers about the sport, or all of the above? If it is to be all of the above, are they all pulling in the same direction? If not, should we not be analyzing what each of them are optimizing for?
  2. What do we mean when we say “cricket”? Do we mean international cricket, or the leagues?
  3. What do we mean when we say “international” cricket? Do we mean Test match cricket, or One-Day Internationals os T20 internationals?
  4. What is cricket optimizing for, but also over what time horizon? What is best for cricket this year, in 2023? What is best for cricket in the medium run – say over the next five years? What is best for cricket over the next ten years? Do the answers change given the horizon, and do the answers change given the answers to the first three questions?
  5. If any one, or more, of the answers to these questions are such that they are in contradiciton to one another, how should we prioritize? On what basis?

The larger point behind today’s post is not to figure out how to figure out the answers to these questions. The larger point is to help all of you realize that analysis can only begin in earnest once the questions are clear in your own head. And while a throwaway question like “What is cricket optimizing for?” is fun to think about over a couple of beers, breaking it down into its constituents is always helpful. When you tackle any big picture question, spend some time in breaking it down into its constituent parts. Oh, and make good ue of the MECE principle while doing so.

For example: what is China optimizing for isn’t the correct question. Who within China are you talking about? Ditto for Russia. And for the USA.

“What are you optimizing for?” is a great question to ask, but only if you really and truly know who the “you” in the question is.

But having said all that, here are some (not all!) points from me for having considered these questions:

  1. What do we mean when we say cricket?
    • Players will want to maximize their incomes. This is not me being sarcastic, or saying that players are mercenaries. This is me saying that players are human beings. Had it been you or I in their place, we would also have wanted to maximize our incomes over the 15 years or so (at most) that we could have realistically played the game at a professional level. That is not a bad thing, it is a perfectly rational thing to do!
    • Administrators are optimizing for maximizing revenue streams. This is also a perfectly rational thing to do, but I do think that administrators are maximizing revenue streams over the short run, and are damaging the long-term health of the game while doing so.
    • The viewers (en masse) are optimizing for alleviating boredom. There will always be some eyeballs for a match, no matter where it is being played, and no matter between whom, and no matter how inconsequential. This results in the point above, and this is a great example of why thinking long term is A Very Good But Very Underrated Thing.
    • Businesses are optimizing for maximizing their long term returns, but across many diverse businesses. Amazon Prime doesn’t show you cricket matches from New Zealand because they are passionate about cricket, but because Amazon is passionate about getting you hooked on to Amazon Prime. Which, in turn, will get you hooked on to using Amazon. But that is just one example of a broadcaster (loosely defined) optimizing for its larger business interests (also loosely defined). ESPNCricinfo is also a business that is about informing you about cricket, but they have a much more direct interest in (and passion for) the sport. But obviously a very different business model, and this before we start to think about ESPN, and Disney. Note that this is a hugely complicated point, and difficult to speak about in a single blogpost, let alone a sub-point of a point in a blog post!
  2. In an ideal world, we would be optimizing for maximizing the long term health and popularity of the game. But we do not live in an ideal world. We therefore need to ask ourselves which of these groups mentioned above are likely to hold sway, and at what cost to the interest of all the other groups. That administrators and businesses are likely to take most decisions is a given. That they are likely to do so in favour of their own interests is obvious. Getting their interests to align with those of the viewers, and to have all interests be focussed on the long run would be a good way to get going towards living in that ideal world. Think long term, everybody!
  3. There is no escaping the fact that we really should be having a conversation about having the 2023 ODI World Cup being the swansong for the format at large. Scrap T20 Internationals, save for only a T20 World Cup, held once every two years.
  4. These apart, T20 leagues in all major cricket playing nations.
  5. Cross-subsidization of Test matches for as long as possible, and the eventual demise of this version of the sport too. I hope this is delayed for as long as possible, but it is an eventual inevitability.

Pts. 3, 4 and 5 are assertions/predictions on my part, but I see no way out of these conclusions. Cricket, if it really is going to optimize for maximizing the long term health and popularity of the game, needs to shed an entire format and cross-subsidize another one for the foreseeable future. And bilateral cricket should die a natural death with Test cricket, whenever it happens. To be clear, my personal hope is that it never does. But I am betting, alas, that it will.

I would love to be wrong, but I fail to see how.

Mostly Awesome, Except When It Is Awesomer

I really do not know where to begin. Should I focus on authors or on topics or on interesting academic papers or ???

Let me begin on my thoughts first. I have been reading a bit on what leads to development and growth in a country. It has traditionally been studied by people studying development economics (or dev eco as it is popularly called in campuses). It seeks answer to one question:

What are the causes of growth? Sustainabale growth?

This topic has always been at the centre of economic research. There are numerous ways economists have analysed growth and its factors. I would discuss the different factors in my next blogs.

So began a blog that I think every single student of economics in India should subscribe to. For those of us who have been following Amol Agrawal’s blog, Mostly Economics, for a while, it’s easy to reflect on all of what he’s written over the years since 2007 and realize that he was as good as his word.

For the last fifteen years, Amol has indeed focussed on factors that have influenced growth. His very first post on his blog, which I have excerpted from above, was written all the way back in 2007, and touched upon a point that was clearly a sore one for him: the paucity of research on the role of finance in development. If you are looking for just one source that has diligently shared resources on this topic, you’re in luck, because that is exactly what Mostly Economics is all about.

This might sound like an exaggeration, but I really do mean this – if you want a treasure trove of material on research on this very broad (and very important!) topic, you could do a lot worse than trawl Amol’s blog for specific variations of this topic. This search, I maintain, will give you a better starting point than this one. Of course, you should narrow it further still by choosing a specific topic or a specific central bank, but – forgive me, I’ve always wanted to say this, and since I’ll almost certainly never write a textbook, this is my only platform to say so – I leave that as an exercise for the reader.

But I’m not joking when I say this – Amol’s blog is without question the single best repository when it comes to a very careful curation of content that is still plugging away at answering the question that he raised in his very first blogpost. And taken together, the sum of those blogposts is an invaluable resource to equip yourself with when you start to study macro/monetary/growth/development in India.

What explains the rather weird title of today’s post? It is a (rather horrible, admittedly) attempt at wordplay on his original title. But that does still beg the question – what explains the mostly in Mostly Economics?

Well, the blog is called mostly economics but as I mentioned at the start I am going to write on some topics that interest me. Cricket is one of them. No matter how the performance of the Indian Cricket team, I try and keep updated on the latest the sport has to offer.

Here’s the link to all the blog posts that Amol has written on cricket. How often do you read a blog in which you’ll meet a post on India’s Minsky moment in cricket? What is the intersection set of people who will love the reference from both perspectives? Or a post about Greece being bailed out by the… ICC? Or about the similarities between cricket and the subprime crisis? There’s ton more where this came from, and as someone who tries to figure out ways to make learning economics fun, exciting and is therefore always looking for “hooks”, Mostly Economics has been a rare ol’s treat.

The nature of sharing interesting links and information online has changed over time. Blogs have been replaced with Facebook updates, and those eventually gave way to tweets. And (I’m writing this on the 19th of December, at 10.30 pm, India time, so who knows what all has taken place by the time you read this) once Elon is done with Twitter, something else may come along. But the cantankerous old uncle in me cracks a rare ol’ smile at the sight of a carfeully curated, regularly updated blog that has been plugging away, year after year at a singular task – to help all of us understand the factors that influence growth in the world in which we live.

And so bad English or not, I’ll reiterate the sentiment – the blog is mostly awesome, save for when it is awesomer.

Amol, thank you!

Context Matters

A couple of days ago, I was able to catch snippets of the India Bangladesh Test match.

The venue where the match was being played had a pitch that tended to become slower and more docile over time, and there was also a rather interesting statistic about how West Indies had chased down a rather imposing target on the fifth day, which inlcuded a double century scored on the fifth day.

They then showed a statistic about how only five wickets, on average, had fallen on the fifth day in all test matches played at the venue thus far. That only reinforces the idea that the pitch becomes slower over time.

But then one of the commentators said something that I found fascinating. It should be noted, he said, that maybe there were only five wickets remaining in the fourth innings by the time the fifth day started! That is, the reason Day 5 records the fall of only five wickets may either be due to

a) The pitch becoming slower over time

b) The match having played out in a way that only five wickets were remaining by the time the fifth day started.

And the lesson for those of us who are students of statistics is that before jumping to conclusions given the data we’re looking at, ask about the context first. And it is surprising how often we forget to do this!

For years, I used to ask students in my statistics classes why this chart looks the way it does:

Why, I would ask them, do Indians tend to search for cats towards the end of the year? And I would get lots of interesting responses. Maybe Indians gift cats towards the end of the year, some would say. Maybe cats fall ill in India towards the end of the year? Maybe there’s a festival involving cats in some parts of the country?

The clue lies in the fact that this spike in the search for “cat” towards the end of the year did not happen post 2010 or so. And the answer lies in the fact that the entrance exam for IIM’s changed around that time. But that’s the point, of course, that’s common to this exercise and the test match in Bangladesh. Data matters, sure, but the context of the data matters even more.

And finally, this example is perhaps the most famous of them all – but do read the rest of the article too. And always remember – the story behind the data is at least as important as the story that you will be able to tell by analyzing the data!

A Tale of Two Sports

Sport 1:

The Associate nations won four out of 11 matches against the Test-playing sides in this tournament. These are the most they have won in any edition of the men’s T20 World Cup. There were also a few close games in the seven they lost; two matches were decided within a margin of less than 20 runs, and the other two with less than ten balls to spare. This was clearly an improvement on the previous editions.
The 2021 T20 World Cup had 15 matches where the Associate nations were matched-up against Full Members, and they ended up winning just two games – both during the first round. Among the 13 games won by the Full Members, six were by a margin of 45-plus runs and another five games by seven or more wickets or 25-plus balls to spare.

Sport 2:

Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of the World Cup has been the willingness of the so-called weaker teams to advance further up the pitch to win the ball in opposition territory.
A defining part of Saudi Arabia’s shock 2-1 win over Argentina was the remarkably high defensive line, which not only rattled the opposition but also caught them offside a total of 10 times – leading to three disallowed goals. Japan’s second-half turnaround against Germany was built around a similar high press. In one of the more under-the-radar results, Tunisia’s well-earned draw against Denmark came from the same risky approach.
Teams that chose to sit back and wait for counter-attacking opportunities alone – like Iran, Costa Rica, and Serbia – all faced big defeats.

  1. Small sample size, I know. But leave aside statistical rigor for the moment. Would it be right to assume that weaker teams are gradually getting better over time? Is this a hypothesis worth examining? Why has men’s tennis been telling us a very different story for the past two decades?
  2. The IE article talks about the specific tactics and strategies that have benefited the weaker teams in the football World Cup. What (if any) common strategies and tactics, have there been to the weaker teams that did well in the T20 World Cup?
  3. How might (and how should) the stronger teams adapt to these new strategies by the weaker teams when it comes to football? What about the stronger cricket teams?
  4. Playing the riskier strategy seems to be, counter-intuitively, the better (not necessarily safer!) thing to do, and you could argue that this is true for weaker nations in both sports. What does this say about the nature of both sports today? How much of this can be explained using game theory (what should be your rational strategy as the coach of a weaker team in a tournament such as this? What should be your rational strategy, given your best guess re: the previous question, as the coach of a stronger team in a tournament such as this?)
  5. Whatever our answers to these questions, how do they help us understand the world around us better today? Do they help us understand, say, geopolitical conflicts better? Corporate takeovers? If yes, how? If not, why not?

One of the random questions I recieved in class yesterday was about me asking five random questions to the students for a change instead. I had fun being on the other side for a change, and I’m going to enjoy pondering over these questions over the weekend.

Ben Stokes’ Dad

I still can’t get over this story:

The Economics of T20 Cricket

Say your semester end examination is not (hallelujah!) a dumbass sit-in-a-room-without-the-internet-and-regurgitate-answers-you’ve-memorized kind, but rather a take home essay. You get a month to figure out what you are going to write in that essay, to speak with your professor, your batchmates, your parents, and whoever else you like. You can (of course) use the internet, you can refer to books and you can also watch videos or podcasts.

Now imagine that your semester end examination is the royally unimaginative “Write answers to any five of the following seven questions” type. Of course no internet, no textbooks, no consultation allowed. We all know, and have suffered through, these kind of examinations.

And finally, imagine that your semester end examination is a twenty minute multiple choice test, where you get three marks for every answer you get right, and negative 0.25 for every answer you get wrong. There are fifty questions to be answered in twenty minutes.

Should the way you prepare for (and answer) each of these tests remain the same?

What about the third one in particular? What are you optimizing for, and what are your constraints?

You’re optimizing for scoring as many marks as possible, and your constraints are the fact that you have limited time. Given that you get three marks for each correct answer and only negative 0.25 for each incorrect one, a somewhat risky guess is better than slow and well-thought out reasoning. That, at any rate, is how I would “play” this third type of examination.

If you spend two minutes per question, and reason through each question perfectly, you score thirty marks. A student who spends half a minute per question and hazards an approximate guess might come away with a success rate of only fifty percent in terms of getting the correct answer, but will still score 55 marks. Quick and risky is the optimal strategy under these circumstances.

Now, the slow and steady approach might still be the correct one if everybody else will also “play” the examination this-a-way. But if other students are going to use the quick and risky approach, you are likely to be much worse off. And one should assume that other students will play the quick and risky approach and adjust one’s strategy accordingly.


As with all analogies, so also with this one: it ain’t perfect. But rather than pick holes in the analogy (“no, but T20 is different because of x/y/z factors”) try and see if the underlying point is clear. Here is my understanding of the underlying point: you get the same resources in a T20 match, but much lesser time in which to spend them. 11 wickets, but only twenty overs in which to spend them. As opposed to, say, two whole days in one Test innings. Preserving wickets is the obvious strategy in that test innings (you’re optimizing for risk minimization), while maximizing runs scored is the obvious strategy in the case of the T20 innings (you’re optimizing for return maximization).

Or put another way, India’s approach in the T20 format has been a little like buying a ULIP. You think you’re getting good returns and risk minimization, but as any finance grad worth her salt will tell you, there ain’t no such thing.

Always be clear about what you’re optimizing for.

And in the case of T20 cricket, it’s runs. You’re optimizing for runs! Screw the wickets. (Sure, you can take too many risks, and sure you’ll sometimes end up with egg on your face. Also, sure, at 10/4 at the end of the first over, you might want to dial things down a bit).

Also, sure, you want to diversify your portfolio a little bit. One guy playing the “anchor” role is probably a good idea, although even the definition of what an anchor is in a twenty over innings is very different compared to twenty years ago.

This is not me suggesting that Rohit Sharma should be dropped (or KL Rahul or Virat Kohli or anybody else). This is me explaining how an economist will think about T20 cricket. You have 120 balls to play, and 11 wickets to spend. As opposed to 300 balls to play and 11 wickets to spend. Should your approach be the same, only accelerated? Nope, it ought to be completely different. Bat deep, bat fast and try and do both of these things better than the opposition.

But whether it is students in examinations of different formats, or investors choosing between ULIP’s and term plans, or cricket teams deciding what their strategy ought to be, the basic question never changes, and should always be asked:

What Are You Optimizing For?

Nothing more than three days old

I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday, and I ended up doing mostly nothing as a consequence. This, in a happy coincidence, was also a day on which there were two sports events of note, and I got to watch all of one and parts of the other.

The second one had a sense of inevitability to it, and Rafael Nadal won his 14th French Open title, and his 22nd Grand Slam overall, underlining his status as the best tennis player ever. The first one didn’t have a sense of inevitability to it, and was on that account more interesting to watch. This was the fourth day of the Test match between England and New Zealand, and given how calamitous England’s batting has been in recent times, there was no guarantee that they would be able to chase down the required number of runs.

I’m happy to report that they did chase it down, and Root, somewhat like Nadal, was able to underline his status as the best Test batsman going around at the moment. But the point of this little sports update was to highlight how the conclusion, in the case of the cricketing contest, took well over three days. This, of course, has also been a complaint in recent times about men’s tennis matches as well – that they tend to go on for too long in some cases.

I don’t want to get into a debate about whether the rules for both cricket and tennis need to change, at least for the moment. But I do wish to point out that every now and then, savoring something over a large period of time is a good thing, and that we, at the margin, are perhaps doing lesser of this than we should.

T20’s over test matches, YouTube clips over television series, and television series over movies. Blog posts over books, and tweets over blog posts. Myself included, to be clear! Our attention spans are dwindling, and we have to fight the urge to take short sips of content optimized for brevity, rather than make the time for extended periods of concentration.

And I’ll be the first to admit that Twitter is a great way to consume a large amount of content in a very short period of time. A T20 game is, among other things, easier to consume in terms of time spent, and given the lives that we lead, that isn’t an entirely bad thing. And similarly, it is a nice feeling to be able to learn something in a short ten minute video on YouTube. All happily conceded as being excellent points.

But the problem (at least for me, and maybe for you as well) is that we end up consuming far too much of relatively short and relatively new content, and that may not necessarily be An Entirely Good Thing.

I cannot remember where I read or heard this quote that I am about to share with you. I think it was by Jonathan Haidt, but I might be wrong about that too (and if I am, my apologies!). It goes something like this: “we are reading more than ever before, but none of what we’re reading is more than three days old”.

Again, this is entirely from memory, and I have been unable to find the original quote online, but it is a quote that makes a lot of sense.

Robert Pirsig said something very similar in a book that I really like reading (and rereading):

What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua—that’s the only name I can think of for it—like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America, this America, the one that we are now in, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer. The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. The old channels cannot contain it and in its search for new ones there seems to be growing havoc and destruction along its banks. In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated. “What’s new?” is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question “What is best?,” a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream.

Pirsig, Robert M.. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (p. 7). HarperCollins e-books. Kindle Edition.

I’ve bene thinking deeply about how and what kind of content I consume, and am trying to change its composition. Watching (and rewatching) old movies, listening to old songs, reading older books and older papers is all part of the plan, and I hope to share some of this with you over time as well.

I hope this change lasts where I am concerned, and while I would be loathe to recommend, let alone insist, that you do the same, I would urge you to think about whether there is a recency bias in your content consumption.

But speaking for myself, I think I need to consume some of the more timeless works of art, and I hope to do just that in the months to come.

And two recommendations to end with:

An excellent series on art appreciation that I am watching with my daughter:

And a selection of songs that will help you get started on learning more about the advent of Texas blues.

The IPL and the Benefits of Competition

I was gloriously and completely wrong about the IPL. And I couldn’t be happier about being wrong!

So happy, in fact, that I can’t stop talking about how wrong I was (see here, here and here). The IPL has been beneficial for Indian cricket, and I would argue this holds true for world cricket at large.

It’s one thing to say this in 2022 with the benefit of hindsight, and it is quite another to have said it in March 2008! Here’s Amit Varma from what seems like ages ago:

The problem with cricket in most cricket-playing countries, certainly in India, is that the cricket market is what economists call a monopsony. A monopsony is a market in which there is only one buyer for a particular class of goods and services. Until now, a young Indian cricketer who wanted to play at the highest level could only sell his services to the BCCI. If it treated him badly and did not give him his due rewards, he had no other options open to him.

I’ve quoted from this piece before, and I would urge you to go read it again. I always urge all of you to read the entire piece, of course. But the reason I’m doing so in this particular case is because it is always a pleasure to read a piece that uses economic theory to make predictions that turn out to be spot on.

Here’s Ian Chappell in a more recent piece:

Apart from the massive financial boost and enormous increase in fan interest, India’s biggest gain from a highly productive IPL competition has been the huge improvement in playing depth.
About 20 years ago, India’s overseas reputation was an improving one, especially under the captaincy reign of a competitive Sourav Ganguly but the pace of that ascent gradually increased when the IPL began 15 seasons back, in 2008. The quietly thoughtful MS Dhoni – who is still exerting an influence – built on Ganguly’s reputation, which was then improved upon by the highly competitive leadership of Virat Kohli.
The firmly established IPL is now seen as the most important part of India’s enviable depth in international cricket.

But what are the economic factors that have been at play in making the IPL Such A Good Thing for cricket in general, and Indian cricket in particular?

Amit listed out the following factors:

  1. The BCCI stopped being a monopsony. Ten (as of this year) franchises bidding for a player, with a reasonably well established feeder system is a very different proposition from depending upon the whims and fancies of a deeply flawed selection system. The results are there for all to see.
  2. The IPL is a competition that is about the money, is about the bottom-line, and this is a good thing. Something that I should have known, but was too besotted with my love of test cricket to see. It forces players to be selected on merit, and also dropped on merit, and merit alone.
  3. The ecosystem for spotting, nurturing and promoting talent is only likely to get better over time was his prediction. See this article about Kumar Kartikeya Singh, and this article about Tilak Varma, published this year on ESPNCricinfo. And if you’re hungry for more, see this on T N Natarajan, and this on Washington Sundar. Sports fans will see the struggle in these stories, but if you think about it from the point of view of an economist, you should credit the IPL for creating the ecosystem that enables the emergence of these players. And indeed, many more to come!

Ian Chappell is making the same points in his write-up as Amit Varma, but for Amit to have done this in 2008, and by using simple economic theory is remarkable. We would do well to absorb the lesson that I think can be learnt from this: don’t be blinded by distractions, and trust in economic theory to work well more often than not.

This is how Amit concluded his piece back then:

Having said that, the IPL could fail, for not every good idea is rewarded with smart execution. Maybe the franchises got carried away and bid too high (game theorists call it “the winner’s curse”). Maybe the games will not get high enough TRPs, as a cricket-loving public deluged with an overdose of cricket finds other ways to entertain itself. If it does flounder, it will be a pity, for its failure will be remembered and used to prevent other such experiments.
On the other hand, if the IPL succeeds, cricket historians may one day write about 2008 as the year that cricket discovered its future.

It is safe to say that it is the second paragraph that is applicable today, not the first.

And it wouldn’t be the worst idea to learn some of the principles of economics by studying the IPL!