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The Cricket Toss … No more ‘heads’ or ‘tails’

The decision by the Big Bash marketers to replace the coin toss with a flip of a bat has brought a smile to the faces of backyard cricketers across the country.

Rather than calling “heads” or “tails”, team captains will be guessing if the bat will land with its flat side upwards (called “flats”) or downwards (“hills”) in BBL8.

Most seasoned veterans of backyard cricket tend to favour a call of “hills”, thinking that the bat will more likely roll over if it lands on its uneven side, compared with if it lands flat.

The Big Bash League’s Kim McConnie is confident predictability will not be an issue. She said bat-maker Kookaburra had developed a special bat for this purpose:

“You’d be surprised at the science that’s gone into this. It is a specially weighted bat to make sure that it is 50-50”.

Although the flip will bring a different look, the philosophy behind the toss remains unchanged. The new method though raises questions over the fairness of the process.

Howzat for fairness?

Professor Stephen Woodcock (Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at Sydney University Of Technology says even a standard coin, whose two sides are far more evenly weighted and shaped than any cricket bat, can never be said to be truly a 50-50 proposition.

The simple fact is that there is no such thing as a coin that is absolutely fair. Even a completely symmetrical coin could be biased towards one outcome – whether deliberately or otherwise – by the action of the person tossing the coin.

Some people’s technique will push the coin higher. Others might give the coin more rotation.

In a 2009 study, researchers at the University of British Columbia concluded that even a regular coin could easily be made to produce biased outcomes when the person tossing it was told “how to manipulate the toss of a coin” and incentivised to make it so.

Of 13 participants, each flipping the coin 300 times, all managed to produce more heads than tails. Overall, of the 3,900 tosses, 57% landed heads. One participant was able to obtain heads more than twice as often as tails.

Put to the test

In the haphazard and improvised spirit of backyard cricket, I decided to see how a cricket bat would land when flipped. I, of course, did not have access to one of the new Big Bash League bats so had to make do with the old battered bat from the back of the garden shed.

With a nod to procedural fairness, I decided to try two different techniques: low rotation (aiming for two of three flips while in the air) and a high rotation (as many flips as I could manage). Each of these techniques was applied 100 times to the bat being flipped from “hills” up in my hands, and 100 times from “flats” up.

I’ll be the first to admit that this resembles serious scientific rigour about as much as the browning patch of grass next to your parents’ Hills Hoist resembles the MCG.

A greater sample size would have been preferable, but this was as much as I could muster in fading light in a suburban backyard.

Keeping score

Based solely on the results of my backyard testing, you can likely chalk this one up as a win for conventional wisdom.

Especially when the bat was flipped with high rotation, it appeared to exhibit bias towards landing “hills”: 68 times from a “flats” up and 63 times for “hills” up position.

For the less vigorous flipping technique, its initial orientation influenced the outcome more and the results were closer to 50-50: the “hills” 58 times from a “flats” up and 48 times for “hills” up position.

In fairness to the league and its equipment suppliers, I would imagine that the bats used will be a little less prone to bias than the one available to me.

Nonetheless, whatever results Kookaburra’s testing machine produced with its bat, it is difficult to believe that a large, asymmetrical bat will be less susceptible to bias by the flipper’s technique than a simpler, smaller coin.

Finishing off the tail

Even if the bat flip is indeed not as unbiased as confidently claimed, it probably doesn’t matter. The decision to ditch the coin flip for its more unconventional counterpart is not one driven by a desire for sporting equity.

It’s a move designed to further distance the loud, brash, big-slogging and brightly dressed T20 league from traditionalists’ cricket, and to generate hype for the forthcoming season. With all of the international headlines that followed the surprising announcement, the decision already appears to be a huge success for Australian cricket.


Far From Over The Hill

Victorian veteran Darren Hill smashed 159 runs off just 78 balls to steer his team to a comfortable second round victory over Western Australia in the National over 50s Championships in Brisbane this week.

Hill went to the crease with the Vic’s in a less than commanding position at 3/48 before imposing his huge hitting talents on the WA attack.

His powerhouse knock included 11 sixes, with one clearing the car park, and 14 fours before his innings came to an end in swashbuckling style when he was caught attempting his 12th six.

Under Veterans cricket rules, Hill’s innings was punctuated by mandatory retirements after 40 runs but returning to the dressing rooms was only temporary relief for the Sandgropers’ bowlers.

Combing each of Hill’s stanzas with the bat, he amassed his first 41 runs from 29 balls, which was impressive enough, but then destroyed the WA bowlers when he resumed his innings when the rest of the Victorian batting line-up were dismissed.

He scored his first 50 runs in 35 balls, his second half century in another 22 balls and the remaining 59 runs in 21 deliveries, which included three consecutive sixes and backed up with a boundary.

So dominant was Hill, that he had only 23 dot balls from the 78 faced throughout his innings.

Hill is relatively new to veterans’ cricket having recently joined the Geelong over 50s side after a 35-year career with Rowville and stints as captain-coach at East Ringwood and Monbulk.

Hill has underlined his importance to the state side with a 41-run innings in the first game combined with bowling figures of 2/18 off nine overs.

Peter Henrys


The Baggy Green

   The Baggy Green

Did you know? On the Veterans Cricket Australia Baggy Green, the word Australia appears on a scroll below a Coat of Arms. But it is not the Australian Coat of Arms as popularly thought. The Coat of Arms on the Baggy Green is often referred to as the Australian Cricket Coat of Arms and predates the Federation of Australia. It is thought to be the only pre-Federation to have symbol of Australia still in use.

The Cricket Coat of Arms comprises (1) a crest – the rising sun, (2) a shield divided into quarters by the southern cross with wool, wheat, mining and shipping in the quarters, and (3) the supporters, kangaroo and emu, which in the original, were on the opposite sides. The Cricket Coat of Arms is used only on the Baggy Green cap and the helmet.

Victorians Bill Blair (32), Craig Gislingham (34) and Darren Hill (36) donned the Baggy Green in 2018 with their selection in the Australian Over 50s World Cup team. Victorian Over 60s players to have represented Australia in ODIs are Arthur Pritchard (11), Alan Stephens (16), Bob Phillips (27), Rex Bennett, John Scales (29), John Costello (30), Ian Rowland (35), Ian Marks (37), Ian Pritchard (47), Ron Kasputtis (48), Rex Bennett (58), David Cordy (59), Ian Southall (64), Robin Court (66), Kevin Lanigan (70), Trevor Selby (71), Les Quarrell (74), Wayne Stokes (78), Trevor Saker (81) and Chris Carr (82).

Vic Over 70s players honoured with a Baggy Green are Norm McLeod (3), Peter Flack (7), Des Lloyd (11), Terry Dunn (14),  Bruce Hotton (16), David Tomlinson (17), Rex Thompson (18), Graham Freshwater (22), Bob Hopkins (32), Ron Kasputtis  (33), Graham Cuddon (39), Peter Dell (40), Ian Hammet (43), Dick Stumbles (51), Greg Johnson (55), Ron Lovell (56), Wavell McPherson (57), Arthur Pritchard (58), Tim Spear (59), Ian A Gibson (62) and Robin Court (67).


CRICKET HOSTING COMING SOON

Veterans Cricket Victoria is canvassing interest in a website dedicated to veteran cricketers who want to play cricket all the year round. www.crickethosts.com  would be a not for profit website that would give Over 60s and 70s cricketers the chance to holiday and play cricket around the world during the off season. No longer needing their country, state or club to arrange a tour to the UK/ Australia, cricket veterans could be matched with like minded enthusiasts wherever cricket is played. Veteran cricketers travelling overseas would be given the opportunity to play with their host’s club or another club in the regionFor more