James Anderson recently became England’s most successful bowler as he took his as he took his 384th wicket, that belonging to Denesh Ramdin and overtaking Ian Botham in the process. This is of course an incredible achievement in International cricket – congratulations Mr Anderson. So I was surprised to see an item on the BBC sports website that attempted to work out who really was/is the best bowler England have ever had.
Sport as you will know has become increasingly dominated by statistics – attempts on target, completed passes, distance run, speed of delivery the list is very long and naturally varies from sport to sport. When winning any sport tournament, many rather dull teams/individuals have argued that its not the manner of the victory, just that there was a victory. I cannot help but think of the time Greece won the 2004 European Football championship (sorry Greece)… or for that matter many Champions League finals, where one team essentially set up camp in their own penalty area hoping to counter attack and steal a victory.
Cricket is not new to adopting statisitical analysis – arguably starting the statistical obsession with John Wisden’s annual almanac started in 1864. So anyone wishing to pour over cricket statistics has had plenty of opportunity to do so. Anyway the BBC asked its pundits to assess England’s top 10 bowlers and ascribe a value to the wicket taken. In short a batsman that averages 50 runs is worth more than one that averages 5. Recompiling the data provides a different twist with Matthew Hoggard topping the list (248 wickets). Whilst this is “all very interesting” sport, like life cannot be metered into a nice, neat formula. There is always a context, which even with a lengthy span of statistical data is flawed. For example – the quality of the opposition is a key ingredient, the prevailing rules, TV replays and so on, let alone the context of the pressure of the moment. Statistics are cold, unrepentent and have no context other than a time period.
Investment returns and the charts that you see plastered on advertising boards or in any media are similarly misleading. Most investors probably know that this is the case, but few behave as if it is. Most investors are tempted to invest once returns are good, most sell when they have been poor, on average chasing returns, receiving below-average market returns at above market cost. Sadly the equivalent best investment “gongs” or awards also measure historic data (there is no other) and the context of this is against peers. Who is the best fund manager? well it rather depends on which sector, what timeframe, what measure of risk is used, and what luck was involved. In short, its an impossible task, yet many play the game and attempt to quantify who is “best”.
In practice, the only investment returns that matter are the ones that you actually get. Cricket, motor racing, football, tennis, golf…are all enjoyable escapes, but again the only best that any sportsman/woman can be is their own best, in the context of their sport, time, team and luck. I have nothing against awards for best this or that, (they can be a lot of fun – especially if you win one or two) but as ever, context is everything. I can only be the best financial planner that I can be, constantly striving to improve and be better than I was last year, last month, last week… and of course our service (like most) is not for everyone, but for those that want and need it… well we try to make it the best possible.
Most of us have probably at some point dabbled in a bit of retail therapy, bought something nice to make us feel a bit better. Invariably the feeling is all too fleeting, which most of us observe and move on, however some, much like addicts, seek out another high or buzz, returning to the shops. Unfortunately most western economies are based upon this reality to a greater or lessor extent.
However, whatever your economy is based on, the cold reality of life will eventually be something that cannot be avoided. You may have seen the rather sad tale of Louise Gray, a widow of the 7/7 London bombings. Mrs Gray received a substantial sum from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and awards were also made to her son and daughter, which were placed into Trust (presumably a Bare Trust) as the son gained access to the funds at 18. However, he simply took funds out and entrusted them to his mother, who it seems had spent her funds and then spent his. Sadly this resulted in her son Adam taking his mother to court to return the money to him, which she couldn’t so was recently sentenced to imprisonment for 2 years and 8 months.
Of course, I know nothing of the detail of this case, but I imagine that Mrs Gray has found it very hard to adjust to life following the loss of her husband and rather than seeking professional help and support sought comfort in things. Of course, she may have sought and even found some counselling, but even if she did, her behaviour suggests that she was avoiding confronting some very harsh realities, which I imagine would be a difficult process for most people.
It would be easy to dismiss her actions as foolish, yet it is plain that it is far easier to avoid reality than face it. The Greek election vote is something of a vote for denial of reality, but then, aren’t our own politicians in a rush to make promises that in reality delay the unyielding inevitability of collective need to get our finances in order? Whether its tax cuts, tax breaks, spending increases, decreases… it all boils down to some basic sums… you cannot continue to spend what you don’t have, without a day of reckoning. Talk of finally paying off the FIRST World War debt (some £1.9billion is still owed) is somewhat flawed… the debt hasn’t been repaid, its been repackaged… much like switching a credit card balance to a cheaper one isn’t clearing debt. Perhaps you thought that the country would have paid for WW1 by now, some 100 years later…war is expensive in every possible sense! How much better off our Nation would be if we had found the courage to repay debt rather than simply maintain it. The truth can be pretty painful can’t it…..