Informed Analyst vs Prejudiced Fan - 42 fallacies of cricket discussions

There is a difference between the “fan” and the “fanatic” ” an subtle but unmistakable and important difference. The latter is governed by blind loyalty and complete absence of reason © Getty Images

Michael LaBossiere, Professor of Philosophy at the Florida A&M University, listed of 42 categories of erroneous arguments which frequently occur in conversations to propel them to deadlocks or wrong conclusions. Arunabha Sengupta opines these fallacies are nowhere more singularly showcased than in cricket discussions between the analyst and the hardcore fan. In this article, each of the 42 fallacies has been mapped to cricket discussions.



Fallacies can be broadly defined as arguments with logical loopholes. In his book 42 Fallacies, Dr. Michael LaBossiere, professor of philosophy at Florida A&M University, lists 42 different types of such arguments that hasten a discussion to a deadlock or try to force them to wrong conclusions.


In this article each of these fallacies has been mapped to very familiar scenarios of cricket discussions.


Each interaction given below takes place between an “Informed Analyst” and an archetypical “Prejudiced Fan“.


Please note:


1. All these arguments have been directly or indirectly experienced by this writer and his colleagues at Cricketcountry.


2. The players denoted by X, Y, Z can be substituted for real life cricketers as required. Most of the cases listed will be very familiar to the follower of the game.


3. In discussions about Indian cricket, these fallacies are abundant. Whenever certain icons like MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar or Sourav Ganguly polarise opinions, almost all the 42 fallacies are played out in the most graphic detail.


List of fallacies


1. Ad Hominem – reason against the person and not the analysis


Informed Analyst:  According to my analysis player X is better than player Y.


Prejudiced Fan: Only those who think numbers can explain everything would say so. Stats are not everything. Y is way better.


2.  Ad Hominem Tu Quoque – You too?


Informed Analyst: Batsman X has failed in the last 10 Tests. He needs to be dropped and batsman Y needs to be given a chance.


Prejudiced Fan: Didn’t you write a long article last year waxing eloquent about X? Now you say he should be dropped?


3.  Appeal to Authority – it does not have to be cricketing authority.


Informed Analyst:  According to my analysis X is the best person to lead the side.


Prejudiced Fan: Mr. Pomponius, the well-known economic historian, has said that X should be removed. Mr. Pomponius is famous, so I will go with him. 


4.  Appeal to Belief


Informed Analyst:  My analysis shows that the performance of X is better than Y.


Prejudiced Fan: Wrong! Y must be the best. Everyone I know thinks so, and they can’t all be wrong.


5.  Appeal to Common Practice


Informed Analyst:  These are the reasons why what X said the state of Indian cricket is wrong.


Prejudiced Fan: X is always right. He always speaks his mind. It is customary for all members of this forum to agree with his views. He can’t be wrong.


6.  Appeal to Consequences of a Belief


Informed Analyst:  X was not as successful as is made out to be. Here is the proof.


Prejudiced Fan: If X was not successful then all that my friends and I have claimed all these years will turn out to be false, and we will look like fools. Hence, X was definitely successful. For the time being, let me counter by saying that the analysis is biased.


7.  Appeal to Emotion


Informed Analyst:  According to my analysis X has a poor record.


Prejudiced Fan: I like the way X looks when he plays that stroke and also the way he talks. Hence, his record must be good.


8.  Appeal to Fear


Informed Analyst:  According to my analysis X has a poor record.


Prejudiced Fan: We have sent rowdy messages to your Twitter account and created a hate page in your honour on Facebook. The next time you say something like this, the consequences will be even worse.


Please note: Writers of cricketcountry have often been targets of this ‘logical’ manoeuvre.


9.  Appeal to Flattery


Informed Analyst:  According to my analysis X has a poor record.


Prejudiced Fan: That was a singularly brilliant analysis. Now, could you please also do a similar study and somehow show that Y sucks at least as much as X?


10.  Appeal to Novelty


Informed Analyst:  According to my analysis, X is still the right man for the job.


Prejudiced Fan: Y is better because he is new. We want change. 


11.  Appeal to Pity


Informed Analyst:  X had a poor record as a batsman during a very long period.


Prejudiced Fan: The time when X played poorly was one of the worst periods for his team, and he was treated unjustly by the administrators. He struggled because of that. It should not be held against him.


12.  Appeal to Popularity


Informed Analyst:  X’s record against pace bowlers is not as good as it is generally made out to be.


Prejudiced Fan: In a recent poll at a fan-site, X was voted the best against pace. So what you say cannot be true.


13. Appeal to Ridicule


Informed Analyst:  My analysis shows that X’s away record is very poor.


Prejudiced Fan: Only idiots would say that. You will be laughed at if you try to present this.  


14.  Appeal to Spite


Informed Analyst:  X is the greatest batsman of modern times.


Prejudiced Fan: X chickened out at that time when the team needed him. So we don’t agree X is a great batsman.


15.  Appeal to Tradition


Informed Analyst:  My analysis shows that X is not the best batsman ever to play for the country.


Prejudiced Fan: He has to be. My grandfather said so, my father said so, many experts say so. If a belief is that old, it has got to be true.


16.  Bandwagon


Informed Analyst:  My analysis says that the performance of X is significantly better than that of Y.


Prejudiced Fan: That’s what academics would say. Look at the opinions of the following who have played some sort of cricket. Records and stats can go to hell.


17.  Begging the Question – premises of reason include that the conclusion is true.


Prejudiced Fan: X had a hard time when Y was in charge.


Informed Analyst:  How do you know?


Prejudiced Fan: It says so in the Book X’s times.


Informed Analyst:  Why should I believe what’s written in X’s times?


Prejudiced Fan: It’s written by X, so it’s got to be true.


18. Biased Sample


Informed Analyst: According to the records X is not as successful as is made out to be.


Prejudiced Fan: On that very difficult tour, X did well. So he is successful. 


19.  Burden of Proof Appeal to Ignorance – my claim is true unless you can prove it false.


Prejudiced Fan: You cannot prove that the team won because of P, Q and R’s performance and not because of X’s presence. Hence, X was the cause of victory.


20.  Circumstantial Ad Hominem attack on the motivation


Informed Analyst:  X is not a great player as shown by this analysis.


Prejudiced Fan: Of course you would say that, you are a racist and a fan of Y. 


21.  Composition – parts taken to be indicator of whole


1. Prejudiced Fan: Batsman X hits more fours and sixes than batsman Y. So X scores faster than Y


2. Prejudiced Fan: X doesn’t show emotion. So X is not interested in the game.


22.  Confusing Cause and Effect


Prejudiced Fan: X failing and the team in crisis has happened together a few times. Hence X fails when the team is in crisis.


23.  Division – what is broadly true is true for the specific case.


Prejudiced Fan: Players from Country C sledge more than players from Country D. So, X who is from C is more abusive on the field than Y who is from D.


24.  False Dilemma – Black and White


Informed Analyst:  The figures say Y is a great player.


Prejudiced Fan: That means you hate X. Everyone knows what X had to go through.


25.  Gambler’s Fallacy*


Informed Analyst: X has failed too often in recent times. He needs to be dropped.


Prejudiced Fan: X has been failing regularly, so by law of averages, he is due a big one. He should play.


26.  Genetic Fallacy – finding defect in the origin of the argument


Informed Analyst:  The media report says X is mediocre.


Prejudiced Fan: You know the credibility of the media. These journos are only interested in masala.


Prejudiced Fan: Statistics do indicate X is better than Y. But just look at what stats say about the Indian poverty line and you will know how much we can trust numbers.

27.  Guilt By Association


Informed Analyst:  Y is the right man for the job.


Prejudiced Fan: Coach C said so as well, and you know what a villain he is. So, Y is not the right man.


28.  Hasty Generalization


Prejudiced Fan: X made centuries against pace bowlers on that tour. Hence, he was always successful against pace bowling.


29.  Ignoring a Common Cause


Informed Analyst:  These losses are probably because of an aging middle order, the figures show they have not been performing.


Prejudiced Fan: The team is losing because there is an imbecilic captain.


30.  Middle Ground


Prejudiced Fan: Team won because of X.


Informed Analyst:  The team won because of P, Q, R, S, T and not X. My research shows that when P, Q, R, S, T performed team always won, whether it was under X or Y.


Prejudiced Fan: Okay, X should get half the credit.


31.  Misleading Vividness law of small numbers


Prejudiced Fan: Y failed in two finals. So, Y fails whenever the stakes are high.


32.  Personal Attack – Ad hominem abusive


Informed Analyst:  According to my analysis, Y is better than X.


Prejudiced Fan: I hate all specialists, particularly statisticians. They are idiots. The analysis is useless.


33.  Poisoning the Well


Informed Analyst:  Z has shown Y is better in these conditions than X.


Prejudiced Fan: You know what sort of a man Z is. He is a womaniser. I will go with X.


34.  Post Hoc


Informed Analyst:  Y has been a very successful captain.


Prejudiced Fan: Y took over from X, so Y reaped the results of whatever X had done for the team.


35.  Questionable Cause*


Prejudiced Fan: Y has played a lot of T20s and now he has a hundred in Test cricket. So T20 is good for cricket. 


36.  Red Herring – introducing a supposedly connected statement and changing the subject.


Prejudiced Fan: Yes, X failed, but the cricket board has treated him shabbily. A lot of things need to change in the cricket board. Any suggestions?


37. Relativist Fallacy


Informed Analyst:  X has been very successful


Prejudiced Fan: That may be true but I don’t like him. I would much rather go with Y.


38.  Slippery Slope – asserting that some strange events will follow if logical reasoning is allowed.


Informed Analyst:  The data shows the following trend in batting stats.


Prejudiced Fan: We can’t accept that. Next they will ask Statisticians to select Test squads.


39.  Special Pleading


Prejudiced Fan: I know Y’s record is not great, but he is someone who cannot be judged by numbers.


Informed Analyst:  Test Cricket has been played for 135 years and all players have been judged by numbers.


Prejudiced Fan: Not Y. One has to look at the circumstances 


40. Spotlight – victim of media’s selective projection


Prejudiced Fan: You see these articles, and these television programmes … everywhere we see X has scored a hundred and the team has lost.


Informed Analyst:  The articles conveniently ignore the occasions when X scored a hundred and the team won.


Prejudiced Fan: But, look at the instances quoted in the articles. Aren’t they true? Therefore X scoring a hundred means the team will lose.


41. Straw Man – Distorting a stance


Prejudiced Fan: Y (from state S) is the best player.


Informed Analyst:  My analysis says X is better.


Prejudiced Fan: Aren’t you from state S? And you find it trendy to be against players from S. It is because of people like you that S is in such a deplorable condition.


42.  Two Wrongs Make a Right


Prejudiced Fan: Why should X give his best in a difficult situation? I guess you have forgotten how the team treated him when X was going through a bad patch.


* Denotes fallacies to which even experts succumb regularly.


(Arunabha Sengupta is trained from Indian Statistical Institute as a Statistician. He works as a Process Consultant, but purifies the soul through writing and cricket, often mixing the two into a cleansing cocktail. The author of three novels, he currently resides in the incredibly beautiful, but sadly cricket-ignorant, country of Switzerland. You can know more about him from his author site, his cricket blogs and by following him on Twitter)