Monday, January 10, 2011

Cricket and data: all is not always as it seems

I've been copping a lot of flak from my English friends over the past few weeks.

You see, Australia and England have been competing in The Ashes series over the past two months. For those not familiar with cricket or The Ashes, check out the history of the series here.

For those in North America, think Canada v USA in the hockey. Or the Lakers versus the Celtics. Bitter sporting rivalries that ignite two nations, or two cities and sets of crazed fans. For those wondering what the hell cricket is, think a longer version of baseball with two batsmen, 11 players on each team and five day games.

Have I lost you yet? Stick with me, there is a point...

The upshot is that England annihilated us, winning the series 3-1. Which wouldn't be as hard to take except for the fact that until recently the tables have been turned. In fact Australia ruled the cricket world for the best part of two decades.

Now we're losing and we don't like it.

So the ribbing between mates has been at an all time high recently, and I in particular have been bearing the brunt of it (I'm now wishing that I shut my mouth during my time living in England).

But I got a chuckle this morning when my Aussie mate Tyron, living in the UK, sent an email, with a rather amusing story attached including the following graph. It plots the relative success in Ashes history over the last three decades with the relative employment levels of each country.

In short the story and chart suggests an inverse relationship between holding the 'Urn' (the trophy awarded to the winning team) and the health of the country's economy.

The blue line plots the Australian unemployment rate minus the UK unemployment rate, the red line showing the net result in the Ashes encounters.

Amazing. Win ashes, economy suffers. Sluggish economy, great cricket team?

Wish it was that simple, for fear of the humiliation we've put up with recently, I'd trade it for double figure unemployment. It would spare me the barrage of insults from my northern friends.

Not really.

The point?

Data is not always what it seems. As the adage I often refer to explains, data + insights = intelligence. And as much as I'd like to point the fingers at our insipid cricketing performance to our strong economy, I think that's a long bow to draw.

Don't look too hard for something you desperately want to be there. Ensure you're armed with the right information, all of the context, and not seeing things through rose tinted glasses, merely to see the picture you want.


Here's more on the Ashes and economy relationship via Business Spectator.

1 comment:

'Sean is always learning' said...

I think you were desperately looking for any excuse here for the flogging. And forgot to mention that Australia didn't just lose they were hammered, with a couple of whole innings victories thrown in! I hear the Queen will be knighting a couple of Aussies for services to England.