‘Crickonomics: The Anatomy of Modern Cricket’ by Tim Wigmore and Stefan Szymanski (2022)

Part history, part data analysis, part reflection on the sport’s future, Crickonomics is exactly what the title suggests – a diagnosis of the state of professional cricket through the lens of data analysis economics.

Tim Wigmore previously co-wrote the excellent Cricket 2.0 (recently shortlisted for best sports book of the 21st Century so far) which was a brilliant and comprehensive look at the global spread of T20 cricket. Stefan Szymanski, an economics professor, may be best known to many for co-writing the excellent Soccernomics (or Why England Lose). Together, they are an ideal pair to take a data fueled look at cricket’s past, present and future.

Crickonomics examines a wide variety of assumptions and unanswered questions about the sport to see what light can be shed and what myths can be shattered. The book also looks to explain the modern evolution of the game, both on and off the oval, with the benefit of data powered hindsight.

The level of research is impressive with a vast array of writers and studies quoted (including very interesting work by Duncan Stone on the social history of cricket in England which is covered in his recent book Different Class).

The book’s strength is the breath of issues covered, moving swiftly between broad topics such as whether private school offers players a major advantage in making a professional career or whether bowlers are undervalued by teams and why. Different questions will be of differing levels of interest to readers but the book never falls into the trap of overburdening readers with too much raw data. It’s also great to see plenty of focus on the rise of women’s cricket and especially the opportunity it presents for new countries to compete with the established powers.

My main takeaway from the book, much like from Soccernomics, is that inevitably everything boils down to money. More money helps players develop as youngsters, decisions on the future of the game will be shaped by what draws eyeballs and wallets, and a small amount of money could (but probably won’t) globalize the game (for both men and women) if targeted correctly.

Highly recommended for any cricket fans. Crickonomics will be published by Bloomsbury on 26th May.

‘Cricket 2.0: Inside the T20 Revolution’ by Tim Wigmore & Freddie Wilde (2019)

Long before Ireland achieved miraculous results in the Cricket World Cup and gained Test status, I was a relatively rare Irish cricket fan.  Long rainy summers stuck indoors were improved immeasurably by Channel 4’s coverage of test cricket.  I was first exposed to T20 cricket (or Twenty20 as it was then known) during the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) over a decade ago as I spent exam study leave watching (and gambling on) every single IPL game of that season. 

For those who aren’t familiar with it, T20 cricket is a limited duration form of the game.  Each team is bowled 120 balls (20 overs of 6 balls) to score as many runs as possible. Originally it met with some resistance as being too radical a departure for the game, but now, in large thanks to the IPL, it has become a hugely popular sport in itself.

Cricket 2.0 is an absolutely brilliant account of the first decade of T20 cricket.  But it is also so much more than that.  The level of analysis and insight into the strategies and tactics used by successful T20 teams is fascinating.  It’s also a brilliant oversight of the overall global spread of T20, how it is changing how cricketers train and prepare, and an insightful chronicle of the formats first true superstars.   The authors cover almost every conceivable angle that merits covering – the increased gambling risks of T20 domestic leagues, the struggles for any other league outside of the IPL to make the economics work, the rise of long overlooked talent from non-traditional cricket nations.

I absolutely loved this book.  It is strength is its how ambitious its scope is while also managing to give fascinating insights into the mindset of players, coaches and team owners.  The book really brings out the level of work, sophistication and talent needed to excel at T20 cricket.   I particularly enjoyed the focus and analysis on how T20 has turned bowlers from attackers to defenders and vice versa for batsmen. 

I cannot recommend this book highly enough for any cricket fan.  Even those with a limited understanding of the game should find it fascinating.  It is superbly well written and just a generally brilliant book.

Cricket 2.0