Sunday, October 10, 2010

One is equal to two makes for complicated math

The first reaction on reading the news was complete anger. Forget the toilet paper that cost 1600 bucks or the budget outlay that could have hosted a dozen Commonwealth Games, this was the real fiasco. A team did not know how many goals it needed to win by to make it to the next stage? Unpardonable.  Mind it, there were no other matches that could have had an impact, so the hazards of real-time calculation - as Shaun Pollock and the South Africans found out in the 2003 Cricket World Cup - weren't the issue.

It was no rocket science, but it cost the home team a shot at gold. A bit more reading, and the anger diluted to pity. Maybe the manager did not have a good Mathematics teacher in primary school. One who would emphasise on getting the method right, and rechecking a dozen times even when you are a 1000% sure of the answer. Or the fact that a simple concept such as goal difference wasn't so simple after all: when a goal is scored in a match, the goal difference between the two teams involved changes by two.

Here's what happened (the authors of this blog are not responsible if you bang your head and hurt yourself) according to Sify.com:

India needed to beat South Africa by a four-goal margin to advance to the semi-final on superior goal-difference, but eventually won 3-1.

However, manager of the team Rupa Saini informed the players that they had to win by over seven goals, according to coach Sandeep Somesh.

'Had we known that we had to win by four goals margin, we might have approached the game differently,' said Somesh at the post-match Media conference.

At the start of the game, South Africa had a goal-difference of +13 to India's +6. Thus, India had to win by a minimum of four-goal margin to boost their goal-difference that was taken into account to break the tie on points (7 each).

India team captain Surinder Kaur also said that the players were unaware of the four-goal margin. 'We thought it was seven,' she said.

Somesh refused to blame anyone but himself for the gross error in calculations and admitted that it did impact the team's approach to the game.


Anyways, the four-goal margin never materialised, even though the team was aiming for seven. The pressure would have been lesser had it been four, but the stakes were high nonetheless. But, at least nobody could have blamed the math then.

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