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The number of boundaries was not influenced by the newly laid Eden Gardens pitch, although we did hear such ‘expert opinion’ on the air BCCI (Twitter)

Ex-cricketing commentators spelling out Jay-Bee-H-O-B-B-S and Ess-Eff-B-A-R-N-E-S from the infographics on the television screen is painful enough. But perhaps the demands on their time prevents them from dipping into the history of the game to learn a few basic facts. However, spouting incorrect analysis when all the statistical data, tools and personnel are available is rather unprofessional to say the least. Arunabha Sengupta highlights one of the transgressions during the recently concluded India-New Zealand Test.

These are coveted positions. In the commentary box, airing the game for millions, analysing the details to break down complex stuff into simple enjoyable nuggets for the interested cricketing laymen.

Besides, the jobs pay a lot too. The contracts are gilt-edged.

Hence, if one pops into the MCC Library at Lord s on a pleasant afternoon, one is likely to find Michael Atherton with his nose deep into books about the long forgotten eras of cricket. After all, the ethics of the profession dictates that when one is employed and remunerated as an expert, one should make an effort to be one.

It is not really unpardonable for cricketers to be unaware about the history of the game during their playing days. Making runs and taking wickets does not really necessitate knowledge of the length, breadth and depth of the beard of WG Grace. But, when they move into the seat of the commentator, the knowledge is necessary to provide a fair deal to the follower of the game.

A broad view of the game is required to provide a wide and balanced perspective. The window of one s own time, no matter how magnificent the view when opened through pink shades for the purposes of reminiscence, may be quite myopic in the context of the generations that the game has been played and continues to be played.

Atherton is one of the men who understand this, in spite of having played the game at the highest level for many, many years. There are others who do.

Unfortunately, the awareness of this responsibility and accountability is not universal. Especially in an environment where fame equated with known faces is the major currency for expertise and not the nitty-gritties and correctness of cricketing facts.

Hence we get experts who have played a few Tests with run-of-the-mill career numbers but refuse to strain themselves to peep beyond the window of their experience. Thus, when names as phenomenal as Jack Hobbs and Syd Barnes are displayed as infographics on the television screen, we get them painstakingly reading out Jay-Bee-H-O-B-B-S and Ess-Eff-B-A-R-N-E-S . That the J stands for Jack may be computed by these stalwarts with lavish help of probability. However, it would take quite some miracle to divine the Sydney that stands obscured behind the S .

Perhaps we can grant them the lack of historical knowhow. After all, commentating can be a hard round the clock job, especially when appended with mauka-mauka commercials and perhaps, at least in some cases, singing songs scripted by Aar-Enn-T-A-G-O-R-E .

Perhaps one can say that they are just analysts of the present and not historians living in the dead past.

But then, analysis does include thinking and er analysing. It is not making up theories on the fly and pronouncing them as gospel.

It is perhaps also okay for a mathematically challenged commentator to come up with such sterling inference from an infographic: When he gives away less than 3.8 runs per over his team wins 52% of the times. Hence, when he gives away more than 3.8 runs per over, his team loses 48% of the matches. After all, an ex-cricketer need not be a mathematical genius, or even number-savvy.

But the commentators are equipped with the tools, numbers and even qualified personnel for statistical analysis. When they make inferences, they can be robust without any effort other than asking the personnel to make use of the available tools to check whether the claims are indeed robust or not.

Alas. Cricket here has for so long been a sport of heresy and bestowed expertise, where the voice of a known face carries more weight than factual verification. Hence, one hears the commentator scream, This is a re-laid surface at Eden, and so you are seeing far more boundaries than on a normal Eden wicket.

Perhaps there had been a somewhat more boundaries in the session than expected by the perceptions of the commentator. Perhaps there had been a spate of boundaries exactly when the man s consciousness had latched on to the present rather than dwelling on the glory days of the old when he would have been dressed in whites. However, like most perceptions, the claim was erroneous.

The fact is that such pseudo-expertise is wrong. Such a statement tends to add layers of expertise with which our man has been entrusted. The interplay between the cause and the effect followers of the game find so scintillating.

Yet, strip it of the confident manner of exposition, and you are left with raw data directly opposite to the expertise spewed by our man.

Yes, it is a newly laid surface.

No, the number of boundaries in the 2016 Test was not significantly more than what we have seen in the past at Eden.

The explanation of the cause and effect was pure nonsense. There was no noticeable effect on the number of boundaries.

During the just-concluded Test between New Zealand and India, the difference with the other Tests played in recent times was not in the way balls sped to the boundary.

The difference was purely in the difficulty with which runs were scored: 23.22 runs came per wicket, lower than any other Test in Eden this century. The strike rate of 48.99 was also on the lower side, although not the lowest.

However, only 59.85% of the runs came from boundaries, which is quite the norm. In 2012, the England vs India Test saw 60.32% of the runs coming off boundary hits. The 2004-5 Test against Pakistan had 59.37%, the 2002-3 Test against West Indies 59.83% and the famed 2001 Test against Australia as much as 61.07%.

During this Test, 7.07% of the balls bowled were struck for boundaries or sixes. This is not exactly high either. The 2001 Test is again the highest with 7.78%, followed by the Test against West Indies in 2011-12 with 7.69%. The current Test is ranked a low 8th among the 10 Tests that have been played in the ground this century.

The information can be found from the table below.

Eden Tests in this century

Eden Test R Ave SR 4s 6s Boundary

Runs

% boundary

runs

% balls hit for

boundary

Australia, 2000-01

1382

37.35

51.95

199

8

844

61.07%

7.78%

West Indies, 2002-03

1277

45.6

49.03

182

6

764

59.83%

7.22%

South Africa, 2004-05

974

30.43

41.57

109

4

460

47.23%

4.82%

Pakistan, 2004-05

1324

33.94

51.73

186

7

786

59.37%

7.54%

Pakistan, 2007-08

1400

60.86

54.6

186

4

768

54.86%

7.41%

South Africa, 2009-10

1132

43.53

50.22

143

6

608

53.71%

6.61%

West Indies, 2011-12

1208

44.74

61.5

134

17

638

52.81%

7.68%

England, 2012-13

1071

32.45

48.19

148

9

646

60.32%

7.07%

West Indies, 2013-14

818

27.26

51.96

107

5

458

55.99%

7.12%

New Zealand, 2016-17

929

23.22

48.99

124

10

556

59.85%

7.07%

Well, numbers used in this rigour can be very uncomfortable. Especially for expertise that is rounded with throwaway comments.

However, when this data is at hand, it is not too difficult to steer clear of such pseudo-analysis.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history of cricket, with occasional statistical pieces and reflections on the modern game. He is also the author of four novels, the most recent being Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes. He tweets here.)