Cricket and its First Principles


What is First Principles thinking?


A simple definition would be 'Break until it can't be broken '. Ancient wisdom sees everything around us as just a combination of 5 things(Air, Water, Space, Fire and Earth). This is one such good example of First Principles thinking.

I personally applied this principle when I learned about Space and its Dimensions(Too nerdy but it works :p)

Let me explain:

Dot = Zero dimension
If 'dot' time travels in one direction in space = We get line = One dimension
If 'dot' time travels in both direction in space = We get Square = Two dimension
If 'dot' time travels in 3 directions in space = We get cube = Three dimension
If 4 direction = Tesseract(Interstellar climax)

Likewise, we can go till infinite dimensions. But here first principle thing is 'Dot' and the abstract thing is 'Time'(i.e You can control the time only if it is in the lower dimension). We control 2D because our world is limited to 3D.


Cricket is the perfect place for First Principles

Let us break till its unbreakable part! Nothing wrong with so naive while reaching the first principle.

Begin from the broader picture. Cricket just boils down to a game with an objective to win.

Who wins? Obviously,Team that makes the fewest mistakes.

Why is this statement in itself is first principle thinking? Let's see alternative answers.


Can I say the team that scores more runs wins? Certainly not. See this scorecard below.



Australia approached this match that they have already won which is completely natural because 434 was the highest total then.

Any biases in decision making process will lead to errors

Can I say the team that takes more wickets wins? Certainly not. Again the same match gives you evidence(RSA lost 9 wickets while Australia managed to score 434 under 4 wickets)





South Africa maintained its run rate. Scoring runs on the board is a priority here. They chose runs over wickets.

Identify the most dominant factor needed to achieve the objective and prioritize it.

Remember everything comes with a cost. This match can't be victorious for RSA if they lost another wicket. They prioritize scoring runs at the cost of losing wickets.


Prioritization boils down to calculating Oppurtunity Costs

This essentially means the benefits of choosing runs is higher than wickets.


I know it gets boring and monotonous. Let's shift to other aspects.


Is winning strategy the same in Cricket? First, it depends on format - T20 vs Test vs ODI

Applying the first principle here, What difference or factor makes the strategy dynamic for these formats?

We approach this question by identifying one factor that changes between formats.

When the problem is dynamic,identify the common factor which makes them dynamic! Resulting common factor would be first principle of that problem.

Here the common factor would be Overs. What does it mean? You score or take wickets with over constraints.

11 players or wickets spread over 20 overs is different than 50 overs. In the case of the test, it is 5 days or unlimited overs. That's why test match is an altogether different ball game than the other two formats.


Cost of Wickets = Test > ODI > T20.

Cost of Dot balls = T20 > ODI > Test.


The team which don't care about wickets will dominate T20 - West Indies flashes in my mind. Notice I use the word dominant and not winning.


Similarly, the team that has batters who can face many balls will dominate Test cricket - 90's Kids Australian team is a perfect example(Pointing, Gilly, Hayden, Langer, Martyn era).


ODI sits between these two. It requires choosing one strategy over another depending on the situation.


Does one legend like Tendulkar is enough to win the matches consistently? No, Cricket is a team game.


It starts with individual players performing well as a team. This is the problem of Team Selection.


This problem is an interesting one because it has many aspects and follows up questions.

The selection process is the same as the Dream 11 team choosing.

We have Batters, Bowlers and All-rounders.


For example, Batters selection for T20 is based on,

Internal factors:

Strike rate - How quickly are runs scored? Slog over batters needs to have a strike rate

A proper balance of Left and Right

Who will play the No-3 anchor role - Williamson and Kohli in all formats.

Who will play the role of strike rotation - Dhoni when Yuvraj or Kohli has a partnership with him

External factors:

Depends on the pitch - Pitch is the most important factor. For example, Flat track is favourable to batters because the ball doesn't turn more. Dry or Soft track is favourable to spinners, choose a batter who adapts to turns. Spinner friendly pitches are mostly in the subcontinent and matter the most in Test cricket-Sachin, Sehwag, Dravid and Laxman era. Australian/England(Ashes) pitch favours fast bowlers/pacers - Here the ball moves after picking - James Anderson. Batters here should be able to handle surprise balls - Steve smith and Kevin Peterson.

Opposition Weakness - Be it bowling or batting. We can't put Pakistan and England on the same plate.

Fall of wickets dynamics - Yusuf Pathan can't play an anchor role when wickets are early and Rahane is not the perfect fit for slog overs.


Selection Process is essentially a Jigsaw problem where we need to find the perfect fit for the puzzle

We can still write for bowlers/all-rounders for each format. It will be exhaustive.

I conclude this article by saying this '50% of the match is decided out of the field'

Normal thinking sees the problem while First Principles thinking sees the solution.



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Disclaimer: This article is me speaking to me through this blog! Short Intro: If you want to innovate in a particular field, you need to understand how things work in the first place. Innovation is a