The Shocking Fact About Success in Indian Cricket and Your Birth Month!
On 3rd February 2018, Saturday, Our Indian Under-19 cricket team rewrote history books by clinching the world cup title for the fourth time. The team played wonderful cricket, were dominant in all the three departments and remained unbeaten throughout the course of the tournament. A special, happy and proud moment for every Indian.
After going through the scoreboard, I opened the player’s profile page and had a look at their Date Of Births. Something strange caught my attention. Have a look at their Date Of Births.
Did you get it? For some reason, out of 15 players, 10 have their birthdates in the months of October, November and December. Surprising!
Let’s check the birthdates of the Under-19 team that played in 2016 Worldcup.
Oh! More players are born in the months of October, November and December than any other quarter. 10 players out of 15!
Let’s have a look at the birthdates of Under-19 team that played in 2014 world cup.
Again 10 players out of 15 players. If you add September too, then 13 players out of 15 for were born in those four months.
2012 Worldcup Under-19 team
The story repeats. Now, 8 players out of 15.
2010 Worldcup Under-19 Indian Team
7 Players out of 15.
From the above tables, we could see that 45 players out of 75 players have birth dates in the months of October, November and December.
An overwhelming 60% of the players were born between October to December. Average player contribution from one of these three months is 15 players. Whereas, the other nine months contributed an average of 3.3 players per month.
15 players per month to 3.3 players per month — Massive Difference!
IMPACT ON INDIAN TEAM SELECTION
Does it affect Indian senior team selection? Let’s look at the last few debutants in Indian ODI team from Jan 2017 till date.
India had four debutants in 2017. Washington Sundar, S Iyer, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav.
How about their DOB’s? W.Sundar — 05, Oct 1999, S.Iyer — 6 Dec 1994, S. Thakur -16 Oct 1991, Kuldeep Yadav — 14 Dec 1994.
Oh, This is again shocking!
Then I further checked the list of debutants from 1998 to December 2016. (Note: I included Hrishikesh Kanitkar, though he debuted in December 1997).
53 players out of 111(47.7%) players have their birth dates from Oct to Dec. Jan-Mar share is 16.2%. Apr-June’s share is 16.2%. July-Sep’s share is 19.8%.
The number of players born in Oct-Nov quarter is three times more than the first two quarters. Oct-Nov contributed an average of 17.66 players per month over this period, whereas, other months have contributed an average of 6.44 players per month.
If we include September too, along with October to December, the average drops to 5.6 players per month for the other eight months.
PRESENT INDIA SQUAD
Let’s look at our current Indian team squad playing in South Africa at present. I’ve shared the list of all players chosen for ODI, Test and T20.
12 players out of 28(42.2%) from the months of Oct-Dec. An average of 4 players per month whereas the other nine months have an average of only 1.8 player/month. If we remove the September, the contribution from other months has become 1.63.
I had a look at the MCA’s under-14 team list and the under-16 team list. The Sep-Dec pattern continues.
We could see that the players born in the months of Sep-Dec have an undue advantage.
What would be the reason? Astrology? Magic? Fudging the dates?
In the 1980s a Canadian Psychologist named Roger Barnsley noted this kind of Birthdate asymmetry in Canadian Junior Hockey League teams. He found this peculiarity in the teams of eleven-year-olds, thirteen-year-olds, fifteen-year-olds, Seventeen-year-olds and Nineteen-year-olds. He discovered that the majority of players were born in January, February, March or April in those teams.
After brief research, he figured out the reason for this lopsided result — In Canada, the eligibility cutoff date for age-class hockey is January 01. Similarly, for under-19 cricket, the cut off date is September 01.
A guy who is born on or after September 02(After the cutoff date) would be playing with other players, who would be at least 8–11 months younger to him. Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers’ mentions that “At that age, in preadolescence, an eleven or twelve-month gap in age represents an enormous difference in physical and cognitive maturity”.
Those kids who are elder by 10–12 months than others would have already got additional months of cricket practice, stamina, fitness along with the critical months of extra maturity. He would have played more games than other younger guys in that age group. As they had more practice, their performance would be better than others for most of the time. Obviously, these guys would be viewed as talented. They would continue to get better coaching, encouragement, mentor sessions with international players.
In the book ‘Outliers’ authored by Malcolm Gladwell, Barnsley says that these kinds of skewed age distributions exist whenever you make a decision about who is good and who is not good at an early age; If you separate the “talented” from the “untalented” and if you provide the “talented” with a superior experience, then you are going to end up giving a huge advantage to that small group of people born closest to the cutoff date.
In our Indian Cricket, the present system is not an efficient one and is giving undue advantage to a particular group(born in Sept-Dec). Those born in the period from June to August rarely get opportunities. Who knows we might have prematurely written off some kids as failures. Players born in other months have been dealt a big disadvantage by the system, though for no fault of their own.
Society sometimes determines who makes it and who doesn’t. We sometimes overlook that many factors play a role in success and failure — Malcolm Gladwell
References: Wikipedia, Cricinfo.com and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.