In this article I’m going to look at the use of Net Run Rate (NRR) and how it is calculated in order to determine winners and losers in cricket.
What is NRR in Cricket?
NRR stands for Net Run Rate which is a calculation devised from two separate areas. NRR takes into account the average amount of runs scored by a team across the course of a competition. On the other side of the coin, the average number of runs scored against a team will also be taken into account. The final equation will be the team’s net run rate.
Net Run Rate
When is NRR Used?
Net Run Rate is used in tournaments such as the Indian Premier League, the T20 World Cup or the Big Bash. Many other competitions will employ the system which helps to split teams that have finished on the same number of points.
Each of the tournaments listed above has a league phase ahead of the knockout rounds. At the end of that league stage, NRR can be used if two or more teams finish on the same number of points. In this scenario, the side with the highest net run rate will be placed in the higher league position.
How is NRR Used?
NRR is used in all scenarios during the league phase of a cricket tournament. Calculations are done after each match and the table is updated. It doesn’t matter if a side is clear on points and no other team is tied with them, the net run rate will always be clearly displayed.
While it’s ultimately used to split teams who have finished level on points, NRR can be a good guide in terms of a team’s performance. A high net run rate is a good indicator of how the side is playing and whether or not they are likely to succeed as they go deeper into the tournament.
How is Net Run Rate Calculated?
The first part of the equation involves the number of runs scored by the team while batting. This is calculated, based on runs scored versus number of overs faced.
- For example, let’s say that Team A has 1000 runs scored in the league stage of a tournament and they have faced exactly 200 overs.
- We divide 1000 by 200 to get a run rate of 5. This is a runs per over (RPO) score.
Remember that decimal points will usually be included and it will be rare for a calculation to be as straightforward as this one. This is purely used as an example to make things easier to understand.
- Now we come onto the second part of the equation which involves the number of runs scored against Team A. Let’s say that they have bowled 200 overs and have conceded 600 runs.
- We now divide 600 by 200 to get a rate of 3.
- Finally, we look to get our net run rate by subtracting the bowling rate from the batting rate.
- In this case, it’s 5 minus 3 = 2.
If you’ve ever looked at a league table that involves NRR then you will probably know that minus figures can also be involved. Let’s now discuss the imaginary fortunes of Team B who have finished on the same number of points as Team A.
By using that same formula to calculate the net run rate, we discover that Team B has made an average of three runs per over. They’ve conceded far more runs while bowling with opposition teams scoring at four per over.
Therefore, we calculate the NRR of Team B as:
3 minus 4 = -1
In our final scenario where Team A and Team B finish on the same number of points, Team A has the superior NRR and they will progress to the next round of the competition.
There are other factors to bear in mind here: For the above calculations, we have assumed that both Team A and Team B have been able to bat out their full allocation of overs in each of their games.
It’s the simplest way to describe things but it isn’t always as straightforward as this. If a team is bowled out before they have a chance to bat out their full allocation of overs, NRR is not calculated from the point that the final wicket has fallen.
Instead, the equation assumes that they have batted through their full allocation. For example, if a team is dismissed after 20 overs for 100 runs in a One Day International, they have actually scored at 5 runs per over.
However, under the net run rate calculation, we must use 50 overs in the numbers. Therefore, 100 runs divided by 50 overs gives us a batting run rate of 2. It’s one of the more contentious issues regarding NRR but that’s how the system works at present.
When Was Net Run Rate First Used in Cricket?
The concept of Net Run Rate was first deployed in the Cricket World Cup of 1992. This was the first global cricket tournament to use a Round Robin format in its opening stages and, with nine teams involved in a single league ladder, a new system was required in order to separate any sides that finished on the same number of points.
At the end of that round robin phase, Net Run Rate was required to sort out some of the lower places. The top four teams progressed to the knockout stage and they were clear of the chasing pack in terms of points.
Below the top four, Australia and the West Indies both finished on eight points while India and Sri Lanka ended with five points each. Therefore, this was the first case of NRR being used to determine league placings even though it didn’t have any bearing on the knockouts.
In comparison to Duckworth Lewis which is used to determine winners in games which are shortened by the weather, NRR is widely seen as a fairer system. However, there will always be critics and it’s hard for any format to ever be perfect.
Many of those criticisms concern the NRR calculations that are applied to teams that are unable to bat out their full allocation of overs. If a team is playing a One Day International match and they are dismissed before the end of the full allocation, the NRR is calculated on the basis of a full 50 Overs.
Some would argue that this isn’t fair but the answer is for that side to be better as a batting unit.
Another contentious issue relates to the fact that NRR does not penalise teams for losing a game. A match could be lost but, if the result is close, that defeat won’t have a huge effect on the losing team’s net run rate.
I don’t personally think that’s a problem: Over the course of the competition, wins and losses will even themselves out and that’s the precise reason why the NRR system was introduced.
Like any formula, there may be room for improvement but I feel that net run rate is largely fair and it’s probably the best way in which to split teams when they finish level on points during a league phase.