As the ICC World Cup cricket tournament closes in on quarter finals, Ram Tamara explores the economic incentives influencing team and individual player performance in 50-over cricket matches. What motivates teams to compete to their utmost? What motivates individual players to perform their best for the team?
Tamara points out that teams expend effort in response to reward structures, the “thrill of victory,” and the size of the prize. Understanding the alignment between individual players’ motivations and team performance requires understanding what “size of the prize” means in a broad context. For example, a professional cricket player’s first motive is financial: to win a contract to play for a team—national, regional, or T20 franchise. The team manager, in turn, must figure out how to evaluate and reward players in terms of the type of cricket being played.
Commenting on wasteful play in certain matches in the World Cup tournament, Tamara notes that individual players on many teams took risky shots that squandered opportunity. Such shots would have been right in the more concentrated T20 matches, but were inappropriate in the strategic context of the longer 50-over format. Why did they do this? Were they playing to the crowd? Auditioning for lucrative T20 contracts? Or responding to the performance metric of strike rate?
In sum, are the metrics for judging and rewarding players in 50-over games getting the best from the players? By the end of the tournament there may enough data on hand to answer this question.