March 1, 2010

Why is Sreesanth playing ODIs?

S Rajesh

Sreesanth is one short of playing 50 ODIs, but he still hasn't figured out a way to concede fewer runs © Associated Press
To start with, I must admit that I've always enjoyed watching Sreesanth bowl. He has a smooth, rhythmical action, has a classical side-on delivery motion, and, when he gets it right, the outswinger is wicked and a thing of sheer beauty. None of these things matter, though, when the format is limited-overs cricket, because then the rule is that Sreesanth will get clobbered no matter what he tries.

When Sreesanth returned to the ODI team with much fanfare at the beginning of the year, I had my doubts. Sure, he'd taken five in an innings against Sri Lanka in a matchwinning performance in the Kanpur Test, but this was a different format. Consistency has never been his forte, and on these benign subcontinent pitches, I feared he would be ruthlessly exposed.

And so it happened. Sri Lanka milked him for 47 off seven overs, while even Bangladesh too 54 and 53 off eight overs in the triangular tournament in Dhaka. More punishment from Sri Lanka in the final - none for 72 in 9.3. If anything, it got worse in the three-match home series against South Africa, with 74 and 83 runs - the fifth-highest for an Indian in ODIs - going off his nine overs in two of those matches.

Which brings us to a pertinent question: should Sreesanth be considered at all for one-day cricket? Let's look a little more closely at his ODI stats: he has bowled in 48 matches so far, and 15 times - very nearly one third of all innings - he has gone at seven runs an over or more. Another eight times he has conceded more than a run a ball. That means 23 out of 48 times - almost 50% - he has leaked in excess of a run a ball. In contrast only 11 times has he gone at less than five an over.

Admittedly, his strike rate is reasonably impressive - a wicket every 34 balls - but his profligacy completely undoes his wicket-taking ability. Compare him with Irfan Pathan, who has the same strike rate but has an economy rate of 5.25, which is way better than Sreesanth's 6.03. And we're not even starting on the relative batting capabilities of the two.

And did you know that Sreesanth belongs to a highly exclusive club of which he is the only member? Of those who've bowled at 1500 balls in ODIs, he is the only one with an economy rate of more than six. Which means Sreesanth in the team is excellent news for the opposition, but if I were MS Dhoni, I would much rather have him in my Test line-up than in the ODIs.

Worst economy rate among ODI bowlers (Qual: 1500 balls)
Bowler ODIs Wickets Average Strike rate Econ rate
Sreesanth 49 68 34.20 34.0 6.03
M Nkala 50 22 71.36 71.9 5.95
Elton Chigumbura 103 73 36.94 37.7 5.87
Ishant Sharma 41 56 32.48 33.5 5.81
Henry Olonga 50 58 34.08 35.5 5.76
Sean Ervine 42 41 38.07 40.2 5.67
N Odhiambo 45 46 35.95 38.0 5.67
Shahadat Hossain 46 42 43.42 45.9 5.67
Tapash Baisya 56 59 41.55 44.2 5.64
Naved-ul-Hasan 74 110 29.28 31.5 5.57

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Posted by Sriram on (March 10, 2010, 17:00 GMT)

its the apathy of Indian bowling reserves, the cupboard looks empty or weak hence we keep going back to Sree and Ishant, though poor guys they hardly play domestic cricket to iron out thier flaws. Unless they play a full domestic season and learn few tricks its going to be a long while before they become effective. For now we have no choice but to toss between Sree,Ishant,PK and Nehra

Posted by Glyn Powell on (March 8, 2010, 13:10 GMT)

I have seen Sreesanth bowl abroad in limited overs matches for Warwickshire last year and he was effective with his pace and movement. I was also very impressed with his attitude; after Warwickshire had beaten Sussex in a 4 day match on the way out he joined 2 boys in a scratch game bowling slow left arm ( and looked quite natural! )

Posted by mahesh on (March 7, 2010, 0:04 GMT)

Sree's surely a test bowler but we need to work on him. Irfan and ajit are better Batsmen but their bowling when dropped was really bad even in not such batting pitches. I don't know what's happening to India's bowlers; we have many good potential bowlers; RP, Munaf, Irfan, Dinda(I think, he has some potential too)and may be Agarkar for ODI's and Sree, Ishant should mostly be used for Tests. Praveen (in ODI's) and Zaheer (in all formants) are doing good job. Sree surely has potential and he can do better but we need to nurture him well. Also, why do all indian bowlers loose pace? any clarifications? Now, I am an optimist and I hope, we are going into the world cups with our bowlers in much better form and rhythm. I hope, sree, RP, irfan, agarkar all sort it out before world cup since they have it all and just need to deliver it at the right time!

Posted by Kartik (the original one) on (March 5, 2010, 7:24 GMT)

I agree that it is ridiculous that Irfan Pathan is not in the XI.

India really has no other all-rounder. Irfan would either strengthen the tail at #8, or bat at #7 and allow 5 bowlers.

Hell, Irfan has more justification of being in the team than even Yusuf Pathan.

Agarkar, too, was dropped too soon from ODIs. He may be too old now, but he was India's 3rd highest wicket taker in ODIs, and with a strike rate better than Srinath.

Posted by Kartik (the original one) on (March 5, 2010, 7:20 GMT)

Unrelated but interesting :

Sri Lanka has won a grand total of 60 Tests since they first gained Test status.

53 out of thsoe 60 wins featured Muralitharan, bowling at an average of 16 runs per wicket.

Once Murali retires, Sri Lanka will find it very hard to win Tests again. They have no other bowler that can take anywhere near 6 wickets per Test.

No other country is currently so dependent on any one player.

Posted by Ravs on (March 4, 2010, 23:57 GMT)

Well....uh, I reckon...the players who perform extremely well in the county season should be given a chance...and the players who are not able to perform well consistently...be it a spinner...or a batter or a bowler...he should be given some rest and made to regain his confidence

Posted by Tanwir on (March 4, 2010, 7:53 GMT)

I think Sreesanth doesnt fit in the ODI scheme of things.better to find someone who is more mature in his approach. But I dont consider Irfan too to be a good replacement.Zaheer,pk are fixed for me.. other than them in Indian conditions R.P,nehra can be persisted with.but seriously speaking here in India we need a few really good fast bowlers..regarding agarkar lets see how he fares in IPL..

Posted by suresh on (March 4, 2010, 5:19 GMT)

I think Sreesanth is good bowler, please encourage him to take his potential by supporting him as we dont have any other talented bowler otherthan than Saheer. TKS

Posted by Saravanan M on (March 4, 2010, 2:02 GMT)

Continuation of my previous comment.... I would like to see ajit agarkar back in action soon in ODI’s… He has done well in the domestic season as well if people do remember the epic ranji final where he took 5 wickets and also throughout that season he has scored 400 runs as well… of all our frontline bowlers since 2005 agarkar has a strike rate of 33.3 which is next only to Nehra and also agarkar has the best bowling average of 27.85.

Posted by ajay.s on (March 4, 2010, 0:35 GMT)

The only way 4 india to shine in bowling by giving chance to Agarkar& Irfan.Both were good allrounders and Strike bowlers tooo

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

S Rajesh
Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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