Michael Jeh October 5, 2010

Laxman's second-innings average gives India hope

With a fascinating final day's cricket in prospect in Mohali, it will be hugely interesting to see if India can defy the law of averages and chase down this target of 216
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With a fascinating final day's cricket in prospect in Mohali, it will be hugely interesting to see if India can defy the law of averages and chase down this target of 216. History suggests that chasing runs in India is not the easiest proposition, even with the greatest batsman of our time still at the crease and looking very solid. You'd think that if there was one batsman in the world who might be able to achieve this feat, Sachin Tendulkar might be the first name that springs to mind. Yet, intriguingly, if batting average is meant to be any sort of guide, India's salvation may be on the back (literally) of one of the few players I can think of whose second innings average is actually superior to his first innings one - VVS Laxman.

Tendulkar, like just about every other stellar batsman in Test cricket, has a significantly higher average in the first innings. Encouragingly for India, his recent performances in the second innings have been much improved, so this may provide some comfort for nervous Indian fans this afternoon. More encouragingly, Laxman is actually one of the very few players in history who has a higher batting average in second-innings digs so if his back spasms can be managed effectively, India can still dream of glory. And to make matters better, MS Dhoni's numbers show no significant variation between first and second-innings averages so that too augurs well. (Click here for first-innings averages for Indian batsmen who've played 40 Tests or more. Click here for second-innings averages.)

Clearly, throughout history, there has been obviously a massive advantage for batsmen in the first innings of a Test match. In the subcontinent where heat and dust and soil conditions generally result in more uneven bounce and increased 'rough', thereby assisting the slow bowlers, one can understand why this may be the case. What surprises me, though, is that elsewhere in the world, particularly in say Australia, New Zealand and England, this trend continues to manifest itself. I would have thought, perhaps, that in some countries, green, seaming decks that dry out and become better for batting would help reverse this trend.

Perhaps opening batsmen would be among those most likely to see a trend reversal between first and second-innings performances. They often have to bat first on a pitch that needs to have enough moisture in it to last five days and this must surely balance out the times when the pitch is at its best on the first day. Looking at Sehwag's numbers, though, this theory doesn't hold out at all. His average almost doubles when you compare first innings averages to second innings ones.

I haven't had time to sift through Statsguru and try to find batsmen, especially openers, who can match the Laxman phenomenon. If any reader can name some exceptions, it would then be fascinating to figure out where they played most of their cricket and whether this can be attributed to my (unproven) theory that it must be as difficult to bat on some first day pitches as it is to bat on fourth or fifth day decks. If we come up with any names, I'll take a guess that these batsmen will most probably come from places like England, New Zealand, maybe even places like Brisbane and Colombo where the morning dew might make it really tough for batsmen on a fresh pitch which flattens out as the game progresses.

Must dash now and watch the cricket to see if Tendulkar, Laxman or Dhoni can turn this game around. Looking forward to some blogger responses, especially anyone who can take us back a few decades, to see if we can identify any clear patterns for players who have performed significantly better in the second innings. Surely Laxman can't be that much of a freak, can he?

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Manjala Wijenayake-Angammana on October 9, 2010, 6:12 GMT

    Inida is the best team in the world and they will pull up. In our Light House Street Cricket Team had the same fuss but my Malwanna came with his band and solve the matter. Good chap. Laxman is a so handsome than my husband, I lose all my thinking. Hope to see Laxman in galle again. So handsome boy. I love you Laxman and Malwenna.

  • Manjala Wijenayake-Angammana on October 8, 2010, 16:17 GMT

    Yes of course India is the best. I love cricket so much and Indian cricket. I am from Galle Sri lanka but love Indian cricket. Laxman is looks like my Malwenna. So handsome. I like him so much. Keep it up. I am from Light House Street Galle, perhaps you may know me by the time. I love Laxman so much, same as my Mal.

  • ultrasnow on October 7, 2010, 9:56 GMT

    Why do we have suffer commentators like Manjrekar? He played at a time when our players had a defeatist attitude and tried to draw most test matches (ending up on the losing side in the process)

  • Vasudev.A on October 7, 2010, 2:38 GMT

    Laxman very very specially proved you right Mr.Jeh! Your prediction was spot-on.

  • Sid on October 7, 2010, 1:56 GMT

    Well done sir!

  • prabhu on October 6, 2010, 16:14 GMT

    Please deliver humble pie to Sanjay Manjrekar for stating that this test was going to be dud. For once stats don't lie, and I am happy for it. Sa for Ponting and co. though. They did everything right, including a runner to VVS. They should had won this one. Just shows that when its not your time, it just is not enough. I wish this were a 5 test series, followed by Ind Aus series in Australia.

  • Srikanth on October 6, 2010, 13:22 GMT

    Bang on Target :)

  • Deeksha on October 6, 2010, 12:45 GMT

    An excellent prognosis. Obviously MJ is a true cricket afficionado and not just a pretender, like most of our 'expert' commentators are. Reposing faith in a man who has delivered time and again makes eminent cricket sense. Laxman has given us reason to cheer on so many occasions! it is his probably his misfortune that he was born under the same sun as a Sachin, a Sehwag and a Dravid. Else, he would have ranked right up there. But to be honest, he is not a person who 'shields' tail enders and this has been his undoing on more occasions than one.Several times he has frsutrated by taking a single off teh first ball and exposed the tail. The very fact that Ishant scored 31 runs, is testimony to this fact. True, Laxman belongs to the number 3/4 position and to ask him to bat at number 6 is not fair. In fact, he was sent even after Yuvraj Singh on some occasions!!!So this might be frustrating and he cannot be faulted for feeling that way.Nonetheless Laxman is a priceless possession for India

  • Arun on October 6, 2010, 11:22 GMT

    Dear Michael,

    I must admit that I was taken by surprise that someone could predict something so accurately especially in team sports game. I read this article after I listened to one of the experts (who played for the country) predicting that the game was headed to a draw.... It felt nice reading your article. Needless to say... you will now be followed very closely.... Cheers Mate..

  • Thomas Bangkok on October 6, 2010, 6:38 GMT

    Michael " Paul"- that was fantasic, Great work. I just read it today, Couldn't believe it. Keep it up. Good Luck

  • Manjala Wijenayake-Angammana on October 9, 2010, 6:12 GMT

    Inida is the best team in the world and they will pull up. In our Light House Street Cricket Team had the same fuss but my Malwanna came with his band and solve the matter. Good chap. Laxman is a so handsome than my husband, I lose all my thinking. Hope to see Laxman in galle again. So handsome boy. I love you Laxman and Malwenna.

  • Manjala Wijenayake-Angammana on October 8, 2010, 16:17 GMT

    Yes of course India is the best. I love cricket so much and Indian cricket. I am from Galle Sri lanka but love Indian cricket. Laxman is looks like my Malwenna. So handsome. I like him so much. Keep it up. I am from Light House Street Galle, perhaps you may know me by the time. I love Laxman so much, same as my Mal.

  • ultrasnow on October 7, 2010, 9:56 GMT

    Why do we have suffer commentators like Manjrekar? He played at a time when our players had a defeatist attitude and tried to draw most test matches (ending up on the losing side in the process)

  • Vasudev.A on October 7, 2010, 2:38 GMT

    Laxman very very specially proved you right Mr.Jeh! Your prediction was spot-on.

  • Sid on October 7, 2010, 1:56 GMT

    Well done sir!

  • prabhu on October 6, 2010, 16:14 GMT

    Please deliver humble pie to Sanjay Manjrekar for stating that this test was going to be dud. For once stats don't lie, and I am happy for it. Sa for Ponting and co. though. They did everything right, including a runner to VVS. They should had won this one. Just shows that when its not your time, it just is not enough. I wish this were a 5 test series, followed by Ind Aus series in Australia.

  • Srikanth on October 6, 2010, 13:22 GMT

    Bang on Target :)

  • Deeksha on October 6, 2010, 12:45 GMT

    An excellent prognosis. Obviously MJ is a true cricket afficionado and not just a pretender, like most of our 'expert' commentators are. Reposing faith in a man who has delivered time and again makes eminent cricket sense. Laxman has given us reason to cheer on so many occasions! it is his probably his misfortune that he was born under the same sun as a Sachin, a Sehwag and a Dravid. Else, he would have ranked right up there. But to be honest, he is not a person who 'shields' tail enders and this has been his undoing on more occasions than one.Several times he has frsutrated by taking a single off teh first ball and exposed the tail. The very fact that Ishant scored 31 runs, is testimony to this fact. True, Laxman belongs to the number 3/4 position and to ask him to bat at number 6 is not fair. In fact, he was sent even after Yuvraj Singh on some occasions!!!So this might be frustrating and he cannot be faulted for feeling that way.Nonetheless Laxman is a priceless possession for India

  • Arun on October 6, 2010, 11:22 GMT

    Dear Michael,

    I must admit that I was taken by surprise that someone could predict something so accurately especially in team sports game. I read this article after I listened to one of the experts (who played for the country) predicting that the game was headed to a draw.... It felt nice reading your article. Needless to say... you will now be followed very closely.... Cheers Mate..

  • Thomas Bangkok on October 6, 2010, 6:38 GMT

    Michael " Paul"- that was fantasic, Great work. I just read it today, Couldn't believe it. Keep it up. Good Luck

  • Gaurav on October 6, 2010, 3:53 GMT

    Please keep writing such fabulous blogs every time before Indian plays :)

  • SAS on October 6, 2010, 2:36 GMT

    I think fist innings specialists like Sehwag have a place because he puts you in front right away with a good first innings score, so a fight back if needed, is not too big. Earlier, India used to have massive 1st innings deficits due to lousy openers and fight backs were very difficult. In the last two Tests Laxman did not have to produce that 281 type biggie; those are hard to repeat. Not to take anything away, both types are needed in a team. Against England at Chennai, Sehwag showed that he can give explosive starts for a 4th innings chase that was large (387) and Sachin did the rest. Laxman is that great insurance policy or a "get out of jail card" in a sticky situation. He will be tough to replace when he hangs up his boots. In fact all these guys are going to be tough to replace...

  • spinoza_lb on October 5, 2010, 22:12 GMT

    If anyone predicts the outcome so accurately then the match must have been fixed! Let the investigations begin.

  • Chi Square on October 5, 2010, 18:35 GMT

    Hi Michael,

    I am sure you will do a great job in analyzing what you have set out to do. For once I feel we are in safe hands. Lately, on some other forums, meaningful stats has become a dirty word and simple descriptive stats are being offered without qualification sometimes supplemented by outdated management oriented tricks like BCG charts etc.

  • Brahma Reddy on October 5, 2010, 18:25 GMT

    Great Job Michael, simple logic. numbers there for everybody to see and you got it absolute right! Kudos!!!

  • manasij on October 5, 2010, 17:52 GMT

    wonderful Mr Jeh...you are spot on...how on earth could you hit the bull's eye even before VVS came to bat...Anywayz what a wonderful day for cricket only to realize this is such a small series...Indeed Ind-Aus series should be upgraded to the level of Ashes and should consist 5 matches every year.....for the game to survive in its sublime format

  • VivaVizag on October 5, 2010, 15:35 GMT

    Yes, V(VS) can. In fact, V(VS) did it!

  • Mahesh on October 5, 2010, 15:08 GMT

    MJ - Awesome call. To add to Thiru Dinesh's list, maybe John Wright from NZ would have a better 2nd inns avg than his 1st?

  • Salian NK on October 5, 2010, 14:56 GMT

    Spot on Jeh,great analysis, and on further analysis of all Indian Batsmen Past and Present , only the Great Gavaskar, VVS, M Amarnath and VL Manjrekar have / had , better second inning ave,compared to their 1st innings Ave.

  • Dinesh on October 5, 2010, 14:02 GMT

    Great analysis and prediction Jeh. Kudos to you

  • Sam on October 5, 2010, 13:51 GMT

    I think you should try looking for allrounders such as Kapil or Imran/Wasim or Botham or Hadlee who more often than not had to work hard in the second innnings to save the match theryby increasing their second inning average.

  • Alkings on October 5, 2010, 13:43 GMT

    Michael you are just being humble, its not a fluke it require some analysis and watching of player closely to make those kind of prediction..If you would have asked any Indian who follow cricket would have put there money on VVS and not Sachin..Sachin is easy prey under pressure unlike VVS..I am very happy that India won but also sad about the fact that new players are not working hard towards there cricket because they got flame very easily by playing T20..If we take out Sachin,Dravid,VVS and Viru from the test team we have not much left..no bench strength at all..

  • Stefan on October 5, 2010, 12:42 GMT

    Hey, guess what, INDIA WON!!!!!!!and another guess??Laxman was the highest scorer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Sameer on October 5, 2010, 12:04 GMT

    I know you are in touch with the bookies and fixed the match. Anyway - good thing you fixed an Indian win... otherwise.. :)

  • Michael Jeh on October 5, 2010, 12:02 GMT

    Darshak old friend, thank you for your comment. I should have known you'd be right in the thick of it! For those unaware of Darshak's reputation - he is one of the most articulate and well connected Indo-Aust cricket people in the world. He knows just about every cricketer on first name terms and is utterly fearless in calling a spade a spade. Darshak, which batsmen do you think are better second innings players? You've seen a lot of cricket so you must have some thoughts on this issue so throw some names out there and we'll try to rip you to shreds!

  • Anonymous on October 5, 2010, 12:02 GMT

    well done jeh!!!!u were right>> plz pridict about banglore,s hero.............

  • Michael Jeh on October 5, 2010, 11:53 GMT

    Thanks for the comments. Got to be honest and say - it was a lucky call. I had nothing to lose with this prediction. If Laxman had got out cheaply, there would be no shame but if it comes true, I end up looking good. So I'm not going to take too much credit because it's easy to make outlandish predictions and hope that people remember the ones you get correct! That said, I really want to try and explore the issue of which batsmen perform better in second innings and why. I'll try to do a bit more analysis and do a follow-up piece in the next few days with some more stats, esp working through the names that Thiru Dinesh suggested. Thanks again for the kind words. Just a fluke!

  • Harsha on October 5, 2010, 11:44 GMT

    TAKE A BOW!!!!! You have done better than "Paul The Octopus" by betting on VVS.

  • Karan Karayi on October 5, 2010, 11:43 GMT

    The saddest thing to come out of this day of cricket is the realisation that this will only be a 2 test series. That said, Laxman is a phenom and never really did justice to his immense talent, in my opinion. Out of a quartet of Tendulkar, Laxman, Ganguly and Dravid there's only one batsman I'd put ahead of Laxman in terms of pure talent and track record and that's Sachin. VVS is just such a joy to watch when on form.

  • Vijaylovescricket on October 5, 2010, 11:42 GMT

    What a analysis!!

  • Aussie_devil on October 5, 2010, 11:32 GMT

    You are tight Mate

  • albert on October 5, 2010, 11:31 GMT

    Agree with vivekananda. Must hand it to you Jeh. When i read this article in the morning, i was thinking 'Laxman?!? Mr. Bad-back?!?' Against a SL side, maybe, but against the tough as nails Aussies?!? SWEET as hell ;)

  • Goutham Ramesh on October 5, 2010, 11:26 GMT

    You Were Bang on target, Good Insight and analysis!

  • Jaswinder on October 5, 2010, 11:25 GMT

    The Match just got over, and truly VVS was at his best as always, while Sachin, Sehwag usually get more hyped and over hyped poor VVS is not even acknowledged properly for his effort. Yet he keeps on churning match winning performance one after another.Truly a team player and a match winner.

  • Viswambharan on October 5, 2010, 11:22 GMT

    Whoa Jeh...way to go..well to answer ur Q ..Laxman IS a FREAK..and even a half-fit Laxman seems enough to make the Aussies nervous...but wht an advert for Test cricket...Super!!

  • thiru.dinesh on October 5, 2010, 11:21 GMT

    Cool Jeh. I havent explored much but from the international test cricketers the ones i guess to be having a good/better average in 2nd innings as compared to their first are Ind: "The great underrated test legend" Mr.Gavaskar, VVS.Lakshman, Dravid, Aus: Ricky, Hussey, Damien martyn, Gilly Eng: Strauss (i think), Alistair Cook SL: Sanga, Samaraweera SA: G.Smith, Gary kirsten Pak: Inzi, Miandad (maybe) NZ: hmm.. lemme think..hmmm.. Crowe?? WI: Richards, Gordon greenidge, Desmond Haynes Zim: Andy Flower

    Lemme know what u think :)

  • sunder on October 5, 2010, 11:20 GMT

    Brilliant analysis! Excellent call on VVS Mike! Kudos to your astute and sagacious analysis.

  • SrinR on October 5, 2010, 11:14 GMT

    Wow, you got it right there MJ. Looking from hindsight, it's easy to see the point, but you're probably one of very few people who foresaw Laxman playing a match-winning innings.

  • Amit M on October 5, 2010, 11:01 GMT

    Man, probably the first time I've witnessed a cricket 'pundit' get the result of a close contest right before the result actually comes through! Most of them get it hopelessly wrong and are basically experts at postmortem analysis. But you man Jeh, you got it spot on, surely you can't be that much of a freak, can you? :)

  • Suneet Agera on October 5, 2010, 11:00 GMT

    You are an awesome soothsayer!!!

  • Darshak Mehta on October 5, 2010, 10:59 GMT

    Hi Michael,

    Astonishingly prescient!

    Greetings from Chandigarh. Tense day.

    Cheers

    Darshak

  • Pompi on October 5, 2010, 10:44 GMT

    I think ravi shastri has personality??? he always barks like a road dog. and if i get a chance to talk with him what was ur contribution for Indian cricket comparing with Sourav Ganguly or VVS Laxman.. Shastri deserves to get a kick on his buttock from Ganguly or Laxman.

  • phani on October 5, 2010, 10:43 GMT

    undoubtedly this is one of the great finishes for team india,laxman continues to be the tormentor of aussies. He probably is the most under rated batsman by the media, & not the players.

  • Ashok Sridharan on October 5, 2010, 10:39 GMT

    Well Mr. Jeh, I read this article after the game was over. As it happens, you hit the nai right on the head...prophetic words, if there were any!

  • Anil on October 5, 2010, 10:17 GMT

    Michael Jeh = Nostradamus. Dude, your hunch was right there. Laxman has been the nemesis/menace for the Aussies in the last decade.

  • santanu on October 5, 2010, 10:11 GMT

    VVS does it again mate.....as i said before if this sachin/ponting debate does injustice to anyone than it must be to a low profile humble performer like VVS.what a performer.who says test cricket is dull.special thanks to australia for your never say die attitude.n thanks India/Australia for entertaining us.Pls nxt time make sure whoevr wins win it more comfortably so that our hearts are spared

  • ndigits on October 5, 2010, 10:03 GMT

    How Right you were, the VVSness carried India through, even with a bad back!

  • Sudhindra on October 5, 2010, 9:48 GMT

    Well predicted!!!

  • vivekananda on October 5, 2010, 9:21 GMT

    Wow JEH! Your analysis was spot on! And I am sure the Aussies are now wondering why Laxman keeps picking on them :)

  • sanjivat on October 5, 2010, 6:19 GMT

    Who says test cricket is dull and dead. This is the ultimate test. We are in for anail biting finish. Test cricket is here to stay. T20 just for entertainment. ICC please note to play more test matches.

  • sanjivat on October 5, 2010, 6:16 GMT

    Who says test cricket is dull and dead. This is the ultimate test. We are in for anail biting finish. Test cricket is here to stay. T20 just for entertainment. ICC please note to play more test matches.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • sanjivat on October 5, 2010, 6:16 GMT

    Who says test cricket is dull and dead. This is the ultimate test. We are in for anail biting finish. Test cricket is here to stay. T20 just for entertainment. ICC please note to play more test matches.

  • sanjivat on October 5, 2010, 6:19 GMT

    Who says test cricket is dull and dead. This is the ultimate test. We are in for anail biting finish. Test cricket is here to stay. T20 just for entertainment. ICC please note to play more test matches.

  • vivekananda on October 5, 2010, 9:21 GMT

    Wow JEH! Your analysis was spot on! And I am sure the Aussies are now wondering why Laxman keeps picking on them :)

  • Sudhindra on October 5, 2010, 9:48 GMT

    Well predicted!!!

  • ndigits on October 5, 2010, 10:03 GMT

    How Right you were, the VVSness carried India through, even with a bad back!

  • santanu on October 5, 2010, 10:11 GMT

    VVS does it again mate.....as i said before if this sachin/ponting debate does injustice to anyone than it must be to a low profile humble performer like VVS.what a performer.who says test cricket is dull.special thanks to australia for your never say die attitude.n thanks India/Australia for entertaining us.Pls nxt time make sure whoevr wins win it more comfortably so that our hearts are spared

  • Anil on October 5, 2010, 10:17 GMT

    Michael Jeh = Nostradamus. Dude, your hunch was right there. Laxman has been the nemesis/menace for the Aussies in the last decade.

  • Ashok Sridharan on October 5, 2010, 10:39 GMT

    Well Mr. Jeh, I read this article after the game was over. As it happens, you hit the nai right on the head...prophetic words, if there were any!

  • phani on October 5, 2010, 10:43 GMT

    undoubtedly this is one of the great finishes for team india,laxman continues to be the tormentor of aussies. He probably is the most under rated batsman by the media, & not the players.

  • Pompi on October 5, 2010, 10:44 GMT

    I think ravi shastri has personality??? he always barks like a road dog. and if i get a chance to talk with him what was ur contribution for Indian cricket comparing with Sourav Ganguly or VVS Laxman.. Shastri deserves to get a kick on his buttock from Ganguly or Laxman.