With England eight wickets away from Ashes victory as I type this (or Australia 400 runs from triumph, depending on how you look at it), this seems a good time to talk about cricket. Specifically, the Undercover Economist’s plan to abolish the pre-match coin toss from cricket, to be replaced with (what else?) an auction.
Both captains would ‘bid’ for the right to decide who bats first – by offering free runs (’bid byes’) to the opposition. Say we use a first price, sealed-bid auction – so each captain writes a number of runs on a scrap of paper, they hand their ‘bids’ to the umpire, and the captain who offered the most runs gets to decide who bats first, while conceding his ‘bid’ runs as a head start to the opposition. Tim Harford is enthusiastic:
The advantage should be auctioned off to whoever is willing to concede the most compensation to the opposition. The idea is absolutely equitable, intrinsically more exciting than a coin toss, and puts the emphasis on the judgment of the captains. Thankfully, since not all coin tosses are equally important – especially in cricket – the auction price reflects conditions on the day.
Is this a good idea? Cricket Burble suspects not:
Maybe people want a bit of luck in their cricket games anyway. An MCC sub-committee considered the auction proposal last year and ‘found no enthusiasm’ – just not cricket apparently.
Presumably we could push this idea even further. Let’s say that after losing the auction, the captain of the fielding team can make another offer to the opposition: we’ll give you another 60 runs (say), in exchange for the wicket of your opening batsman. Or 100 runs for your opening pair. Or 350 runs for your entire team, and we’ll just skip to the next innings.
In fact, we could settle the entire match without a single ball being bowled – just a bit of haggling by both captains and a calculator. And wouldn’t that be a glorious sporting spectacle?