Cricket critique

13th October, 2007

Dear Economist,

As an Englishman who has been living in Chicago for five years, I remain perplexed by baseball, a game that lacks cricket’s sophistication. However, I am unable to persuade my American friends to take cricket seriously. They lack the patience for a game that takes five days and may end in a draw. Is there an economic justification for cricket’s superiority?

Andrew, Chicago

Dear Andrew,

Howard Wall, now a research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, faced the mirror image of your situation: he worked for five years in London. Those years resulted in the definitive survey of the economic benefits of cricket versus baseball.

Reviewing the literature, Wall cited such out-of-print classics as Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest, Money and Cricket, and charted the debates between the Marylebone School and the Polo School. But such debates were inconclusive without modern econometric techniques.

It was left to Wall to end the debate with a statistical analysis demonstrating that the typical baseball-playing nation enjoyed a total of more than 180 per cent economic growth between the years of 1960 and 1990, compared with just 60 per cent cumulative growth for the typical cricket-playing nation.

At first glance, then, your American friends seem to be right. However, since Wall’s analysis was published by the Royal Economic Society, India has enjoyed a sharp increase in its growth rate while one of the world’s leading baseball powers, Japan, has entered a long slump. It seems that given enough time, cricket will produce a result eventually – something all Englishmen instinctively appreciate.

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