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February 20, 2010

Test cricket

Analysing Test results by host country

Anantha Narayanan

Analysis of Test results - by team has been done quite often. This article covers the other aspect, viz., by host country. I have taken a single theme of Test match results by country for the last four decades. The period has been selected because of the immediate relevance and to study the impact of the ODI games. The only measures are number of matches played, results and the result %.

For this particular analysis it does not matter whether the results were home wins or away wins. It is also quite possible that an innings win might be a dull mach when compared to a close draw. However I have a limited perspective here of looking only at results. In another later article I will look at excluding "dull" results and including "exciting" draws.

|<-1970-2010->|<---1970s-->|<---1980s-->|<---1990s-->|<---2000s-->|
|   M   R   % |  M   R   % |  M   R   % |  M   R   % |  M   R   % |
ALL|1277 831 65.1|197 113 57.4|267 144 53.9|347 223 64.3|460 346 75.2|

AUS| 216 165 76.4| 43 35 81.4| 55 35 63.6| 56 42 75.0| 60 51 85.0| BAN| 32 28 87.5| | | 1 1 100| 29 25 86.2| ENG| 231 151 65.4| 47 26 55.3| 57 35 61.4| 57 37 64.9| 70 53 75.7| IND| 153 86 56.2| 34 18 52.9| 42 17 40.5| 30 22 73.3| 47 29 61.7| NZL| 131 76 58.0| 21 11 52.4| 28 12 42.9| 40 24 60.0| 42 29 69.0| PAK| 122 65 53.3| 14 4 28.6| 43 19 44.2| 34 21 61.8| 31 21 67.7| SAF| 96 75 78.1| 4 4 100| | 36 24 66.7| 54 46 85.2| SRI| 96 65 67.7| | 12 7 58.3| 30 15 50.0| 54 43 79.6| WIN| 156 92 59.0| 34 15 44.1| 30 19 63.3| 41 27 65.9| 51 31 60.8| ZIM| 44 28 63.6| | | 22 10 45.5| 22 18 81.8|

Country analysis

Barring the disastrous 1980s, Australian matches have produced results over 80% of the time. This figure is going up year by year. No doubt due to the sporting nature of the pitches there.

Not worth talking about Bangladesh since most of the results there are Bangladeshi losses. No offence meant.

England had a very dull 1970s decade but recovered well and are now comfortably having results in three out of four matches.

India seems to have the worst record amongst all countries. Even in the last decade, when the rest of the world, especially outside the subcontinent, produced result-oriented pitches, India had only a 60% result value. This is quite low for the modern game of Test cricket desperately trying to maintain spectator interest.

New Zealand was very poor during the first two decades but seems to be improving steadily. However it must be mentioned that quite a few results there are the result of diabolic poor quality pitches, especially during thge early-2000s.

There was a time when Pakistan had a result % of 28. Now they have progressed to 2 out of 3. Still ranks with India as not conducive to results.

South Africa must be the most improved country in this regard and are mirroring Australia in producing pitches with opportunities for both Batsmen and Bowlers. Incidentally there were two great exciting draws there recently.

Srilankan pitches were flat as recently as last decade with a result % of only 50. Now there is a sudden improvement and they have a lot more results, mostly for the home team (and Muralitharan).

West Indies are nearly as bad as India. Only around 60% of the matches produce results. The West Indies situation, with progressively weakening teams, is understandable.

Zimbabwe is somewhat like Bangladesh. They lose home matches quite regularly. However they have at least managed to draw quite a few home tests as shown by the low results %.

Decade analysis

Over the past 40 years, the result % has been 65, no doubt aided by the recent spurt in result matches. The last decade has been excellent with over 3 out of 4 matches decisive.

The 1970s were average with only 57% being result matches. Australia were the only exception to the safety-first method employed by home countries. Pakistan was exceptionally poor.

The 1980s was the nadir with even Australia falling into this mire. No country exceeded 64% and only around half the matches produced results. Pakistan improved but India and New Zealand fell back.

There was a marked move up in the 1990s. The result % moved up to 64. Australia had 75% result matches but the real improvement was in India with 73% result matches, possibly through Kumble.

The last decade was an excellent one overall with 75% result matches. The only two countries pulling down the result figure are India, with 61.7% and West Indies, with 60.8%. As already stated, West Indies situation is understandable. However, the Indian scene, with a team aspiring and succeeding to go to the top and possessing an outstanding team is inexplicable. I hope the Indian pitches change quickly and we see a 75+% during the coming decade.

What I would like to see in the 2010s decade is for the overall figure to go upto 80%. I would prefer that this is achieved through India and West Indies consistently reaching 75% results.

I have stayed away from a graphic representation of these numbers since the figures any readers would be interested in are readily available and the readers can draw their own conclusions. Nothing is gained by doing a graph for the sake of showing something visual.

From this month onwards I will be doing at least two light-weight posts such as this and the preceding one. Over the past few weeks many readers have asked for special types of analysis and most of these would fall into this category.

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems

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Posted by Sam on (March 2, 2010, 2:45 GMT)

"However it must be mentioned that quite a few results there (NZ) are the result of diabolic poor quality pitches, especially during thge early-2000s." Are you talking about 2 green wickets ordered by NZ Cricket when India toured? Around that series were some of the fastest, bounciest pitches NZ has produced. [[ Sam Fast and bouncy pitches should allow teams to score 300+ and win matches. Not first innings scores of 100. I am equally critical about Indian pitches like the Mumbai one agsinst Australia or Kanpur one against South Africa last year. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Youvi on (February 24, 2010, 3:14 GMT)

I would venture to say that the type of pitch laid is part of the home team's "tactics" perhaps. Through the 50s/60s when India played, the primary purpose was not to lose the game and this was an "achievement" when playing stronger teams (Aus/Eng/WI esp). Later, during late 70s/early 80s Gavaskar was criticized for being too defensive a captain and I believe he said his first duty was to the team so that they don't lose ! Not surprisingly, even against Packer-weakened Australia and WI teams Gavaskar-led India drew most of the matches played at home. Surely, that psychology must be reflected in the type of the pitches laid. Not surprisingly, thru the years the Indian domestic scene is one major run riot more often than not. One would think that as India have gotten stronger over the last few years, a la Aus/SA more sporting wickets are produced. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be happening too often.

Posted by Ravi on (February 23, 2010, 9:07 GMT)

Great Analysis Ananth. It would good to take the weather factor out of the draws and see if India improves. I remember quite a bit of time lost in Indian matches due to bad weather, most famously the 2004 Ind-Aus Chennai match. One in which Jason Gillespie established himself as the best lower order batsman (also analysed by you). Thanks Ravi.

Posted by DK on (February 23, 2010, 6:34 GMT)

I think SA pitches are the best ones around. I don't agree with concept of pitches good for batting for 3 days and then breaking up to make batting tough (eg: Kolkata, Sydney). It should be a constant battle between bat and bowl, where any day is capable of producing atleast 250-350 runs and 5-10 wickets (more if teams bowl well or bat poorly) DK I agree with you. All five days should be an equal contest between bat and ball. I am surprised to see that you have not considered Kolkatta as a good pitch. A few more minutes by any batsman and South Africa would have saved the match. And Indian score of 600+ was at least 25% due to South Africa's unusually poor fielding. If they had restricted India to 400nor so, they would have had a fighting chance. Ananth

Posted by David on (February 23, 2010, 0:33 GMT)

Abhi, I've been pondering to what extent relative team strength is or isn't relevant to the analysis Ananth has given us. That is, he's asking the question simply about which countries produce the most results, not what result is produced (victory or loss). So if it's Ind v Zim, there should be a result regardless of where the match is held. Therefore, the figures in Ananth's tables could only be skewed if one country played a sufficiently high proportion of its home tests either against similarly strong opposition (leading to fewer results) or against vastly different-strength opposition (leading to more results). Breaking the data into decades, as Ananth has done, should minimise that skewing effect, and therefore relative team strength loses a lot of its relevance. The 80s are a case in point: while the dominant WI team had a relatively high score (63.3%), that score is very similar to WI in the 00s (60.8%), and LOWER than AUS in the 80s (63.6%) - two very average teams David That was the very essence of my analysis. However a matrix will let the readers get more insights whether the metrix is read in a vertical or horizontal manner. Ananth

Posted by Ramesh Kumar on (February 22, 2010, 16:56 GMT)

Pitch quality needs a bit more clarity. All of us say that a good one has something for batsmen and bowlers. What drives that? Is it bounce? Australian & SA wickets offer more bounce and would that be the standard? English & NZ conditions offer more movement in the air and hence can aid swing bowlers. Not sure whether these conditions can be replicated in other places. Assuming soil plays a big part, how do we make Indian wickets "true" ? Are the low and slow bounce wickets not suitable for results? A bit more study is reqd in this area. I would feel bored if all wickets are same like astroturf hockey surface. Science needs to help prepare a local pitch variety which offers purchase for both batsmen and bowlers. I also feel that Batsmen oriented teams like India tend to produce more draws. You need international class bowlers to get results esp in First innings. Ramesh I was only contrasting Eden Gardens and some other earlier Indian pitches. I am sure there would be sufficient variations, subtle in some cases, which would make each pitch unique. My definition of a good sporting pitch is one with 90% possibility of result through good to great bowling efforts. Back-to-the-wall efforts can still produce a few wonderful draws, as Eden nearly did. What I hate are pitches on which 95% of the Satta money offered is on a draw. Eden always offered the bowlers a chance. 200 for 1 did not automatically translate to 600 for 5. The Indian bowlers did bow really well before and after tea on the first day. I agree piihes are an integral part of Cricket. However as you can see in tennis, there are enough variations in the courts to test the players' skills. Ananth

Posted by Abhi on (February 22, 2010, 4:08 GMT)

Gizza Right of course. Who used to say(Crowe?) that there are only 3 things certain in life : "Death,Taxes and a Hundred at the Adelaide Oval."

So obviously the 3 factors on which match results depend upon are Pitch quality, Team mentality, and Team strength(relative)...Difficult to pin point the exact percentages of each.

Posted by Gizza on (February 21, 2010, 23:10 GMT)

Whether a venue (and by extension a country) is more result-oriented than another depends on at least three factors: Pitches, Aggressivenees/mentality of the bowlers and the quality of the bowlers.

Some Australian grounds are flatter than many in the subcontinent, prime example being Adelaide Oval. If two subcontinental teams played each other on Adelaide 95% of the time it will be drawn. When Australia plays however, with their aggressive field placings and quality of bowlers, still manage to get a result most of the time (although recently it is becoming harder without Warne and McGrath). Gizza What you say makes a lot of sense. I should do a matrix analysis of Teams/Countries. Australia forces teams to raise their games. Good teams like India/Saf end of doing well and even West Indies, sorry no offence, played above their abysmal levels. One cannot go there thinking to play safely. Hats off the Eden Gardens curator for withstanding the pressure and produce a great cricket wicket. I wish more Indian pitches are like that. There was always a fair contest between bat and ball. The Indian high score was achieved through good batting, supported by an unusual poor South African fielding display. Ananth

Posted by Abhi on (February 21, 2010, 6:46 GMT)

Ananth, perhaps we can get a handle on "mentality" if we consider match results of various teams in the different countries? That is quite easily done. However in the presentation that I am going to find it difficult. It is re ally a matrix. Let me see. Ananth

Posted by Abhi on (February 21, 2010, 6:26 GMT)

David you seem to have joined the previously incomparable trinity of xolile/alex/unni in making very insightful observations not easily noticed by the vast majority like us!

yes, indeed, "mentality" would definitely be a prime reason for a higher percentage of match results -but unfortunately it cannot be quantified. Abhi You are being quite modest since you have also made quite a few meaninghful observationa. Ananth

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anantha Narayanan
Anantha spent the first half of his four-decade working career with corporates like IBM, Shaw Wallace, NCR, Sime Darby and the Spinneys group in IT-related positions. In the second half, he has worked on cricket simulation, ratings, data mining, analysis and writing, amongst other things. He was the creator of the Wisden 100 lists, released in 2001. He has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket, and worked extensively with Maruti Motors, Idea Cellular and Castrol on their performance ratings-related systems. He is an armchair connoisseur of most sports. His other passion is tennis, and he thinks Roger Federer is the greatest sportsman to have walked on earth.

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