“In a bet there is a fool and a thief”
One afternoon this week I was subjected to a passionate defence of the “Skills game” which for many of us is nothing but an euphemism for inviting people to gamble on runs scored in an over in the IPL to rake in money and enlarge TV viewership.
With Sports Minister MS Gill endorsing that view, the “game” has been suspended though its promoters remain hopeful that they will finally get the go-ahead from the Indian Board. They are now on a mission to salvage the operation by convincing critics of it being a legitimate test of skills.
George Tomeski, one of the owners of the company, is a man who dreams of this game one day becoming a household entertainment tool, not just in India but across the world. He has collated and scanned statistical data of T20 games since 1996 and about 20,000 overs bowled, to formulate run-scoring patterns of an innings.
The data is very revealing and should be a useful guide to team captains and coaches. For example, runs scored per over in the first three to five overs is around nine, from 5 to 10 around six, from 13th to 15th it fluctuates widely and irrespective of the wickets falling in the last two overs, it is around 12.
There are a plethora of deductions from statistical inputs used and for coaches who feed data on their laptops while players are sweating it out in the middle, there are many other useful findings which might help them make sense of what is unfolding with each passing over.
For instance there is a 38 per cent chance of no run being scored off a ball, 38 per cent chance of one run being scored, 0.3 per cent chance of a three being scored, 13 per cent chance of a 4 being scored and 6 per cent chance of a six being hit.
Fascinating, a coach might think and the person with mobile in hand and about to send an sms to predict the total runs in an over and runs per ball will have access to this data to minimise risks.
Skill or gambling may still be the question but there is no doubt that if the Indian Board goes ahead with the game, we might one day have a whole generation, a whole country and one billion people watching a cricket match with a mobile in their hands, texting after each over a prediction which might fetch them monetary rewards.
Tomeski’s passionate rhetoric made my head swirl but the same evening Shane Warne’s mesmerising skill as a bowler and his leadership instincts to find the right answer in a crisis was a thrilling experience in itself.
The manner in which he coaxed Sachin Tendulkar to play the paddle sweep, only to fox him with a top spinner, had kept most of us engrossed while another image kept flashing on the TV screens. That of Lalit Modi vigorously texting on his mobile.
The more intense and exciting the Rajasthan Royal-Mumbai Indians battle became and the mood swings of the two glamorous team owners became the focus of TV cameras, another image flashed through my mind: of a stadium screaming its lungs off in excitement and texting their predictions for the next over.
What a sight that would be! If I were a betting man and had to advertise a product, I would already book this slot much in advance.