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Study: Batsmen put personal milestones before team

Batsmen who were close to reaching personal milestones were likely to alter their strategy in a way which, at first sight, seems detrimental to the team, new research suggests.

Suresh raina Virat Kohli
Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli are players not known to play slowly when they close in on landmarks

Melbourne, Feb 11 (IANS) Batsmen who were close to reaching personal milestones were likely to alter their strategy in a way which, at first sight, seems detrimental to the team, new research suggests.

"We found clear evidence that the behaviour of batsmen is affected by their personal rewards in the game," said Professor Lionel Page from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) who collected data on more than 3,500 one-day matches between 1971 and 2014.

Professor Page and researcher Romain Gauriot from QUT business school examined the behaviour of batsmen reaching landmark scores in ODI matches. The research found that players were likely to bat more conservatively as they approached a half-century or century to maximise their chances of reaching it.

"We found players react to individual-specific incentives in ways which can be detrimental to the team as a whole. For example, if a batsman is close to making 50 or 100, he will play more conservatively and hence score at a slower rate," Page added.

This increases his chances of reaching the landmark score, but at the cost of the team's winning chances.

"That is because in ODIs, batsmen should adopt a relatively high strike rate, taking the risk of losing their wicket to score more quickly," Page pointed out.

Contrary to the belief when batsmen reach the "nervous nineties" - the idea they are more likely to be dismissed as they approach a century - the researchers found adopting a conservative style at that stage reduced their chances of dismissal.

"We observed that while batsmen are conservative on their way to a milestone, they switch to a more aggressive strategy straight after reaching it, possibly to catch up with lost time," the authors noted.

The data showed the batsmen's strike rate jumped more than 40 percent after reaching a century compared to the period leading up to it.

"This leads to a sharp increase in the rate of dismissals," they wrote.

Analysing more than 2,000 Test matches from 1880-2014, professor Page found captains were far more likely to declare an innings when a batsman had reached a landmark rather than when he was just below one.

"One of the most interesting findings from this study shows that team captains also react to individual-specific incentives by accommodating them," he said.

The evidence suggests that team captains are willing to trade a cost to the team in favour of a substantial reward to a particular player - for example eating up valuable time and delaying a declaration so a batsman can reach his individual milestone.

The research is forthcoming in the journal American Economic Review.

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