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Be skeptical December 8, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in rant, sport.
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Update appended.

I feel great for Saurav Ganguly – what a man ! Scroll down all the way on this page.

Pick any article from Oct 2005 to Dec 2006. And you see things like these

Meanwhile, Indian cricket must move on. It has found a new energy and direction. A fitting tribute to Ganguly would be not to lament about what he could have achieved with a few more opportunities, but to look back at what he gave to Indian cricket. He was immense. And he didn’t go without a fight.

And this.

Ganguly’s Test performances have been patchy at best, and as much as we might have willed him to go out on a high, it was only a matter of time for him.

And now what.

When he was brought back, I really hoped he would do well. Not as much because I was fond of him, but because we needed it. And when I say “we”, I don’t just mean the team as a whole but just about any member of the public who is looking for great examples – if not to emulate, but at least to quote to oneself and others.

More generally, every now and then we need real-life examples of individuals and feats that have proven a large majority of experts wrong. I love to see them their views being discredited ( 😀 ), especially of experts in fields where they don’t really have a good record – political analysts, journalists, social scientists, sportspersons, writers, general mediapeople, stock market experts and the like. These are fields that require having a pulse on the public, second guessing human behavior, and too often on a large scale. And who can ? I would rather toss a coin that go by their predictions. Maybe a biased coin, sometimes. Its somewhat different in the hard sciences – rigorous peer-review process and the very nature of these subjects provide them some insulation (they may have their own problems, but lets leave that aside for now.)

Schadenfreude reigns as you go back to see their writings, predictions and warnings from the yesteryears and how few of those hold up to today’s realities. But they still linger and the fact they continue to accumulate ‘accomplishments’ in spite of their records says a thing or two about these fields and their tolerance for mediocratisation. Who ever asked Tom Friedman about this ?

I once challenged my friend Sadiq that just before the World Cup 2011, we must conduct a poll of former test crickets about likely finalists. And then do something similar for a random sample of avid (and thinking) cricket enthusiasts. If I give you the numbers, can you tell the difference ?

But then think about it – Sambit Bal from Cricinfo that I quoted above – what else could he have said then ? From the statistics and maybe merely watching Ganguly play in those days would have lead pretty much any layperson to arrive at similar conclusions. So I don’t really hold that against them. But then if what experts have to tell us is what we ‘know’ (or can figure out, even if incorrectly just like they did) already….well.

Be skeptical.

Update: Sambit sets the record straight with a lovely article on Ganguly.

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