Big Win Against Lanka Should Be Avoided!

Shankar Raghuraman | TIG

Here’s a bit of contrarian advice. It is crucial that India win their last group match against the Lankans on Friday; but it would be in the team’s longerterm interest not to win big. That’s because India’s chances of making the semifinals would be much better with Sri Lanka in the Super 8 rather than Bangladesh (see accompanying reports). And India can make it almost certain that the islanders and not the Bangladeshis will join them in the next stage if they beat Lanka by a thin margin. Here’s how the maths work out in four different scenarios. (It’s based on detailed numbercrunching and excel-sheet analysis, but we’ll spare you the details and instead give you the bottomline.) Assume that Lanka win against Bangladesh by 55 runs (the average margin of victory they have against Bangladesh in all matches since the last Cup). Scenario 1: If India beat Sri Lanka by 75 runs, that would assure India of qualifying for the Super 8 irrespective of what happens in the Bangladesh-Bermuda match. But, it would also mean that if Bangladesh beat Bermuda by 270 runs or more, they would displace Sri Lanka from second spot and squeak into the next stage on a better net run rate (NRR). Scenario 2: If India beat Sri Lanka by 30 runs, we are still sure of qualifying, but Bangladesh would now need to beat Bermuda by 315 runs, which is near impossible, to get ahead of Lanka’s NRR. Scenario 3: If India win by an even narrower margin, say five runs against Sri Lanka, it is the islanders who become assured of a Super 8 slot. But India’s also as good as certain to make it, because Bangladesh would then have to beat Bermuda by more than 300 runs to get ahead of India’s NRR. Scenario 4: But, what if Sri Lanka itself wins against Bangladesh by only a narrow margin of say five runs? India would still be better off with a narrow win against Sri Lanka. A five-run victory would in such a case mean that India finishes with an NRR above Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which will then have to beat Bermuda by 240 runs or more to get ahead of Lanka. A bigger margin of victory for India would mean a more modest challenge for Bangladesh in its last match. All this, of course, is assuming that Sri Lanka beats Bangladesh and we beat the islanders. If on the other hand Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka and India beat Sri Lanka, then Sri Lanka with just one win and two defeats get knocked out while India with two wins and one defeat and Bangladesh with at least two and possibly three wins go through. There’s no three-way tie and NRRs do not enter the picture. But it’s not a scenario India would relish.