Impact Index is the closest anyone has come to produce cricket's Moneyball moment.
- Lawrence Booth, Editor, Wisden Almanack 2012
Romanticism has always been a big part of cricket, perhaps more than any other sport in the modern era. Test cricket, the greats it spawned and the literature around it - all of it is clothed with an affection and reverence that is still only accentuated by the standards that measures them.
The system of batting and bowling averages has always been considered flawed for decades and yet that same obstinate romanticism has held onto it, decade after decade. It is that same romanticism that also fed it - total runs in career, total centuries, highest tally of wickets, 50-plus batting averages and so on.
The new forms of the game challenged that romanticism somewhat - with ODI cricket redefining standards of excellence - in batting averages, 40 became the new 50; 4-wicket hauls became the new 5-wicket achievement; in highest scores, 200 became the final frontier. But overall, the romanticism was gradually not around numerical achievements but around great moments (Tendulkar is the big exception, of course), especially World Cup moments.
T20 has queered that pitch even more. None of those stats make much sense any more; none of them give a reliable picture. On their own, batting and bowling averages are now a very small part of the story in T20 cricket. Taken in tandem with strike rates and all the other paraphernalia of conventional aggregate statistics, a more realistic picture may emerge sometimes. But the amount of number-crunching that necessitates does not harmonise with a sport seeking to find newer followers through its new format.
After 134 years of Test cricket, 41 years of one-dayers and 6 years of T20, cricket analysis has found a way forward. . .by jettisoning the romanticism.