Duckworth-Lewis Method: Cricket Fair Play Or Another Complication?

Michelle AlvesSenior Writer INovember 25, 2008

In football, you see the players out on the ground, no matter what. Be it rain, storm or snow. Cricket, isn’t as rough. It’s a tiring game no doubt and sure does test your stamina.

Can you imagine, standing out there for hours batting, bowling, and chasing a ball around the field? And these games can last for days! Of course you do get breaks in between, but it doesn’t take away the fact that it is not a girl’s sport.

In case of rain, unlike in football, play will have to be stopped, or delayed. It affects the surface, making it difficult for bowlers and bad light makes it difficult for batsmen to see the ball.

A lot of cricket matches played in countries like India and England are stopped due to rain. This ruins everything because can you imagine paying to see your country a big game and returning home with no result?  How was this to be solved?

Step in, Mr. Tony Lewis and Frank Duckworth.  A statistician and a mathematician. You know what I first thought when I heard that? My two worst subjects... statistics and mathematics. As if cricket wasn’t complicated enough!

As it turns out, the Duckworth-Lewis method is relatively easy to apply. You don’t need to have a degree in mathematics (although that might help).

Applied to 50 over matches, each team has to face at least 20 overs before D/L can decide the game. In Twenty20games, each side has to face at least five overs. It is used to calculate required runs for the team batting second.

The method is based on two "resources" used to score as many runs on the board in order to win a game. One,  would be the over’s and the second would be the amount of wickets in hand.  A table (and a D/L calculator which can be found online) would give you a percentage of the resources. The percentage then gives you the target amount of runs required to win the game with the remaining over’s.

The D/L method has often been criticized for many reasons. One would be because it’s too complicated to understand.

For me, being a cricket still wasn’t easy. Hours of reading up about it and pestering my dad to explain it to me and I was still confused. Over the year, it got less complicated, but this method would understandably confuse a lot of people and even cause them to lose interest in the sport.

Also, according to a few sites on the internet  wickets are (necessarily) a much more heavily weighted resource than over’s, leading to the observation that if teams are chasing big targets, and there is the prospect of rain, a winning strategy could be to not lose wickets and score at what would seem to be a "losing" rate.

The D/L method is not altogether perfect, because it is controlled by humans. In 2003, a game was played between South Africa and Sri Lanka, a wrong calculation while using the D/L method after play was interrupted by rain sent South Africa out of the World Cup.

The score required to win was 229, but one more run would have secured a victory for South Africa and Pollock’s team had miscalculated.  Not pushing for that one extra run, cost them a chance to win the World Cup.

Over all, the Duckworth Lewis method might bring fair play in to cricket but in my opinion its complicated, and makes things hard. Where are those good old days, where when it rained, play was stopped and it seemed easier to understand?

Rain. No game. Oh, that’s understandable.

Now it's:

Rain. Pause. Bring out calculator...What the hell?

If only these mathematicians found a way to build a retractable shelter for the stadiums when it rains. How much more simple would life be?

Sigh. But cricket was doomed to be complicated, which is why we spend hours trying to explain it to others and they go "Hey, football’s on!" in the face of all our hard work!