One would wonder where the relationship between cricket and economics is but cricket can essentially be summed up as a game of strategy. You have the bowler and the batter who, similar to a penalty taker and goalkeeper, have to guess what each other’s strategies will be. There is also the captain’s strategy as to the best way to position his field in order to limit the amount of runs that the batsman can take or to try and get the batsman to make a shot that will get him out. Another interesting facet of the game is the toss at the beginning of the game between the two captains. The captain that wins the toss can decide to bat first or second. As opposed to most other the games, the toss in cricket is seen as an important determinant of the outcome of the game as factors such as the condition of the playing surface or even weather may give a distinct advantage to a team batting first or second.
Recently published research in the Journal of Sports Economics by Abhinav Sacheti, Ian Gregory-Smith and David Paton (here) has looked at this in more detail using data from international Twenty20 cricket matches. Contrary to the perceived wisdom, they find little evidence to suggest that winning the toss or choosing to bat first improves the likelihood of winning. More interestingly however they argue that the captain’s choice after winning the toss may be influenced by social pressure resulting in incorrect judgements of how the game will play out. The “irrational behavior of captains may be because captains are making batting order choices that shield them from media criticism” pg 17. They further suggest that a potential cause of this irrational behaviour is the competitive nature of international cricket matches and thus paradoxically if competition is reduced more rational behaviour could be created. They also make the analogy between this and the decisions made by stock market investors and corporate managers and their potential irrational behaviour in making decisions based on market sentiment rather than in the best interests of the client.