Any time he is praised, the most successful active NFL head coach reverts to milquetoast quotes that downplay his role in his team’s success. One of his staples is “players win games”. To me, this is very profound. American media especially ESPN constantly idolize coaches comparing them to leaders and fathers rather than paid professionals. The ardent fan or casual viewer can be led to believing in the omniscience of the person in charge of the actual athletes.
But the words of the best coach there is in sport today remind us that – Even in a sport that expects 46 different individuals with highly specialized skills and goals to work in unison towards a common goal for three hours every Sunday, the role of the coach is secondary to those on the field.
What does all this have to do with the Indian Premier League (IPL)? If you are trying to make predictions on who will advance from the league stages of IPL V, go ahead and pick the four teams that you think have the best players. Use Benny’s list here as a starting point for the same if you’re not familiar with some of the newer faces yet. If you’re a fan of the sport and have above average awareness on the skills of players on the teams, you are as likely to be correct in your predictions as any one else! This post and the next few are about some peripheral factors that will play a role in determining winners and losers albeit a secondary role to the abilities of the players involved. These factors however are real and will have marginal impact on the league stages of the tournament. Use these factors as tie-breakers or as secondary factors in your decision tree towards picking, previewing or predicting winners and losers.
Factor # 1 – Back-to-backs
There is extensive literature available on the internet on the impact of back-to-back games on teams in the NBA and NHL. There is even advice to bettors on the role back-to-back games and four games in five nights have on spreads.
I am not yet aware of such research for cricket. But logic tells me that schedule and back-to-back games will play a significant role in a high intensity tournament played in the heat of the Indian summer. Since the IPL does not require any team to play games on successive days, I equated playing two games in three days (1 day gap) to a back-to-back. I analyzed the schedules of the IPL seasons of the last two years in addition to IPL V.
In both 2010 and 2011, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) were among the teams with the fewest back-to-backs. In 2011, the other team to have as few back-to-backs (only 3 all season) as CSK? Drum roll please…..the other finalist – Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). In 2010, one of the other teams to have as few back-to-backs as the eventual champion? Drum roll please….the other finalist – Mumbai Indians (MI).
Coincidence does not mean correlation or causation but can anyone question the fact that having fewer back-to-backs is not helpful to a team winning ?
For IPL V, the teams with the fewest back-to-backs are RCB (with four back-to-backs in all) and Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians (with six)!
If you think the salary cap produces rosters of fairly equal strength and are having trouble predicting which teams will advance to the IPL V playoffs, the above information can be an useful point of reference. The table below expands on back-to-backs and gaps between games for the teams participating in IPL V.
In part II, I will evaluate the impact of run totals from the past two seasons and in part III I will try and identify the teams that may be best rested thru the tournament.
Please let me know what you think either in the comments below or via email at shyam dot uw at geemail or Twitter at shyamuw !