India in Australia 2011-12 January 17, 2012

Undone by pace and swing

Over the last four years, Sehwag has been the most successful Test batsman in Asia, but outside the subcontinent his stats have plummeted

One of the tweets doing the rounds towards the end of the first day's play in Perth said this (or words to this effect): 'Finally saw a Sehwag innings. Only, it came from Warner.' The comment captured how destructive David Warner had been in the last session on that day, when he scored 104 from 80 balls, but it also showed up Sehwag's failure to play the sort of innings that has defined his batsmanship.

When he first burst onto the international scene, Sehwag was thought to be someone who'd be utterly destructive in good batting conditions, but would struggle on juicier pitches abroad. As soon as he got an opportunity, he went about busting that notion. A stunning debut hundred in Bloemfontein was followed by hundreds at Trent Bridge, Melbourne, and Adelaide, plus other emphatic performances outside the subcontinent.

Since scoring that game-saving century in Adelaide in January 2008, though, his ability to dominate and score runs in conditions conducive to seam, swing and bounce seems to have diminished considerably. You wouldn't know that looking at his overall numbers, for those haven't changed much at all: his career average till January 2008 was 50.46; since then, it's 51.50, in 41 Tests. There's some difference in his strike rate - 74.89 to 92.04 - and in his conversion rate of fifties into hundreds - 50% to 33% - but the average is as strong as ever.

However, look at the details and more significant differences emerge. Since that 151 in Adelaide, Sehwag's stocks outside the subcontinent have fallen: in each of the last tours to New Zealand, South Africa, England and Australia, Sehwag's average hasn't touched 30 - it was 28 in New Zealand, 24 in South Africa, 10.25 in England and 19.67 so far in Australia. That's 21 innings in which he has managed only two fifties, and a highest score of 67.

What's kept his overall average at the same heights of old are his stats in the subcontinent: his average of 64.28 in Asia compensates for his lean spell overseas. In 11 series in Asia during this period, he has averaged 49 or more in eight of them, and 65-plus in six. He has notched up scores of 319, 293 and 201 not out, plus six more hundreds in 53 innings. That's in stark contrast to no score of more than 70 in 21 innings abroad.

The strike-rate stats are interesting too. Before February 2008 Sehwag was already scoring pretty quickly, with a Test match strike rate touching 75, but since then, it's rocketed up to 92 runs per 100 balls. His attacking instincts have worked well in the subcontinent, when he has been more dominant than ever - no one has scored more runs in Asia during this period - but not in conditions that have aided the quick bowlers.

Two phases of Sehwag's Test career
Period Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
2001 to Jan 2008 54 4441 50.46 74.89 13/ 13
Feb 2008 onwards 41 3657 51.50 92.04 9/ 18
Career 95 8098 50.93 81.77 22/ 31
Sehwag in and outside Asia in these two periods
Period Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Till Jan 2008 - in Asia 30 2634 57.26 74.93 8/ 8
Feb 2008 onwards - in Asia 30 3214 64.28 95.03 9/ 16
Till Jan 2008 - outside Asia 24 1807 43.02 74.82 5/ 5
Feb 2008 onwards - outside Asia 11 443 21.09 74.95 0/ 2

Against the quick bowlers, Sehwag's numbers have fallen significantly outside the subcontinent in the last four years. Till January 2008, he'd averaged 46 against them, but since then, it has fallen to 25, with 16 of his 21 dismissals coming against them. The lack of runs hasn't affected the strike rate, though.

Sehwag against fast bowlers outside the subcontinent*
Period Runs Dismissals Average Runs per over
Till Jan 2008 1426 31 46.00 4.25
Feb 2008 onwards 401 16 25.06 4.35
* Excludes matches played in Zimbabwe

The bowlers who've done well against him have all been those whose primary weapon, apart from pace, is swing. In the ongoing series in Australia, not only has Ben Hilfenhaus dismissed Sehwag three times, he has also kept him on a tight leash, conceding only 33 runs from 88 deliveries. Dale Steyn got him three times too in the series in 2010-11. (Overall, Sehwag averages 51.67 against Steyn in Tests in India, and 13.25 in Tests in South Africa.)

On the tour to England last year, Sehwag tried to dominate James Anderson right from the start, but there's no question about who won that battle: though Sehwag scored 22 runs in 13 balls, he was also dismissed by him twice.

On the other hand, against Morne Morkel, a bowler who mostly bowls back of a length and hits the deck hard, Sehwag scored 47 from 53 balls, and was dismissed just once.

Fast bowlers v Sehwag in Tests outside subcontinent since Feb 2008
Bowler Runs Balls Dismissals Average Runs per over
Ben Hilfenhaus 33 88 3 11.00 2.25
Dale Steyn 49 91 3 16.33 3.23
James Anderson 22 13 2 11.00 10.15
James Pattinson 36 56 2 18.00 3.85

One of the criticisms about Sehwag recently has been that he tends to play too many extravagant strokes early in his innings, which become low percentage in conditions aiding seam and swing. As argued in this piece, in some of his big innings outside the subcontinent earlier, his first few runs came at a relatively slow rate. However, a comparison of his numbers in the first 15 overs during these two periods show that the strike rates aren't too different. What it does show, though, is that Sehwag is scoring about 10% faster despite being in poorer form now.

Sehwag in the first 15 overs of an innings, in Tests outside subcontinent*
Period Runs Balls Dismissals Average Runs per over
Till Jan 2008 743 1005 19 39.10 4.43
Feb 2008 onwards 392 491 15 26.13 4.79
* Excludes matches played in Zimbabwe

After the three defeats in Australia, there's been plenty of clamour over who should be dropped for the Adelaide Test and further into the future. Looking at the stats of India's batsmen outside the subcontinent in the last four years, Sehwag's numbers don't look pretty. On average, he has faced 28 balls per dismissal during this period, which is a ball less than the corresponding average for Harbhajan Singh. In terms of averages, Sehwag's is worse than MS Dhoni and even Suresh Raina.

The last time Sehwag played a Test in Adelaide, though, he batted for almost six hours and scored 151, which remains his only second-innings century in Test cricket. An encore in 2012 won't save the series, but it'll surely end the overseas rut that Sehwag has got into.

Indian batsmen outside subcontinent since Feb 2008 (Excl Zimbabwe)
Batsman Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Sachin Tendulkar 13 1192 51.82 53.98 3/ 6
Rahul Dravid 16 1314 46.92 40.30 4/ 6
Gautam Gambhir 11 933 44.42 43.41 2/ 5
VVS Laxman 16 1018 36.35 48.61 1/ 9
MS Dhoni 15 753 31.37 57.56 0/ 7
Suresh Raina 8 343 22.86 49.56 0/ 4
Virender Sehwag 11 443 21.09 74.95 0/ 2
Harbhajan Singh 11 343 20.17 69.85 0/ 2

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Coolest on January 21, 2012, 6:22 GMT

    Sehwaq needs to be dropped when touring outside the subcontinent. He has NEVER performed and thanks to cricinfo for doing this stats article on him to prove it to everyone. What boggles my mind is that there are so many Sachin haters out there, who are calling for his head. This stats article shows that he has been the best Indian batsmen outside subcontinent since 2008. Another proof for Sachin haters on why he his still the best batsmen on this planet.

  • Nick on January 20, 2012, 2:49 GMT

    India's pitches at home don't do their best players any favours. They need some bouncy wickets to develop batsman and bowlers. They are squandering their talent.

    Sehwag shouldn't be dropped. His form in India shows that he is still a seriously good batsman. Opening the batting is much easier on a dust bowl than on bouncy, seaming wickets in conditions that offer swing. He is the most effective opening batsman in the world in those conditions.

    I think he should move down the order on bouncy wickets to hide him from the new ball. Dravid could open, Kohli at 3, and Sehwag moves down to 5 or 6. He can open in India.

    I'm not sure these guys are still India's best. They should be transitioning guys in now. There is no shortage of batting talent. Dropping them all at once will be a mistake. India's needs atheletic infielders - they are too sluggish. I think the old guys should go in this order over the next 1-2 years - 1. Laxman 2. Dravid 3. Sehwag 4. Tendulkar

  • Praveen on January 19, 2012, 23:27 GMT

    Is Sehwag the only player in the world who plays in Flat Tracks? Lots of people criticise Sehwag and Sachin that they are flat track bullies. Let me ask you this. In a flat track don't we have other batsmen playing in a match. Or is it like Sachin and Sehwag play for both teams. If a batsmen scores run in flat track, then admire them for being best in flat track, where no one else is not as good as Sachin and Sehwag. And don't say that they haven't played good innings in fast tracks. They had.

  • Dummy4 on January 19, 2012, 17:41 GMT

    This statistical analysis just exemplifies that he has become more irresponsible and is riding on his accolades and not thinking of the team before himself. Instead of playing responsible shots and aiming to stay as long as possible at the crease, he is trying to get his job done sooner and rush back to whatever he does when he is not playing. Despicable!

  • Anand Raj on January 19, 2012, 16:12 GMT

    Gizza made a good point there. Because we all think of talented people as someone whose skills are something that can only evolve but which are never lost. With this logic, we can only say when someone someone constantly flops that he is sorted out or found out as against thinking that that somebody might actually have lost his skills that got him success in the first place. It is amazing to see how often and how strongly a man can be affected by amnesia. May be Sehwag's(like Tendulkar's) case is one such of devolution rather than evolution.

  • sunil on January 19, 2012, 13:58 GMT

    To all who say he is a flat track bully,how come all major test playing countries had 300s scored in their country.India was the last and only one300 scored in India.what does it prove?It is difficult to bat in India. How come all other batsmen cannot score on Indian pitches,after all it is the same pitch. FYI 300s scored in countries WI= 7,ENG=6,PAK=4,SL&AUS=3,NZ and IND=1. till 2008 a 300 had never been scored in India,.Which are the flat pitches now? Let me tell you ,Antigua and Sri Lanka,games where 300 scored and no results. Jayasuriya also cried off when he was out for 340.

  • Dummy4 on January 19, 2012, 13:53 GMT

    With so monies in the coffers of BCCI, they should export sub- continent pitch to where ever Mr Mushtanda plays. Bless Mr Mushtanda!!

  • Varnendra on January 19, 2012, 13:00 GMT

    Some people compared Sehwag with Viv Richards!!! One Indian fan once said Sehwag is Viv, Sachin and Lara rolled into one!!! What a shame; he just doesn't have any determination; how come he became a first class cricketer? Should have bribed!!!

  • Dummy4 on January 19, 2012, 12:54 GMT

    He can't play swing.. he can play bounce.. Hilfenhaus was swinging the ball dangerously from middle to outside off.. it's difficult for any batsman in the world.. except few like R Ashwin.. ;)

  • Chamath on January 19, 2012, 11:08 GMT

    yet another example for the difference between test cricket (real cricket) and T20 cricket (commercial cricket)....

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