Saturday, October 20, 2007

No balls and incentives

An interesting piece of statistics from the recently concluded seven one day India-Australia series. India conceded just 3 no-balls (of which only one was for overstepping) in 317.2 overs bowled, and Australia 6 (of which 5 were from Brett Lee) in 284.3 overs bowled. To put this in its proper perspective, in the seven one-dayers played between India and England early this year, England bowled 20 no-balls and India 14. The ICC had started implementing the free-hit rule for no balls from this series. Under this, if a front foot no ball is bowled, then the batsman has a free hit for the next ball without any change in the fielding positions, and he cannot become out except by being run out. The dramatic fall in no balls is attributed to this new rule, which imposes unacceptably high costs on the bowler.

The lesson from this - with appropriate incentives and dis-incentives, it is possible to cut down on undesirable practices, that are within the control of the individual players (so it may not be possible to similarly control wides), even in a sports field. Incentives become effective if the deterring cost is prohibitively high enough for for the agent to change the behaviour. For example, I am not sure monetary fines would have deterred no balls. Another important area for similar intervention is for bowling all the overs within the specified time.

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