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August 22, 2012

Laxman: the alternate word for elegance and grace

Anantha Narayanan
VVS Laxman's 281 helped India come back from the brink against Australia  © AFP
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I had planned to publish a comprehensive analysis on Test wicket-keepers next week. I am pleased to present this interim article now. The "wicket-keepers" article will appear within the next 10 days.

To define Laxman in numbers is like defining Federer in numbers. How can numbers define the languid grace, elegance, poetry in motion and pure pleasure these two brought to their respective arenas? 17, 281, 96, 292 are ordinary numbers but acquire an aura when associated with these gentlemen. However it is necessary to do a numbers-based analysis, if only to enable us to live through those instances of fantasy we were all privileged to witness.

Let me clearly state this. Unlike Federer, Laxman's numbers are not that great. There are many others who have scored more runs, more hundreds, at much higher averages and faster. However, to say that his contributions to Indian cricket scene, especially the Test scene, are legendary, seems inadequate. There are other writers who can pen much better prose than me and I will leave it to them to do justice. If you have not already done so, please read Murali Kartik's moving and personal tribute to Laxman, in the form of a letter.

Overall summary

Mat Ins  NO  Runs   Avge 100 50 Freq Balls StRt
134 225  34  8781  45.97  17 56 13.2 17788 49.4

Team runs while at crease : 18859 Batsman's % Runs contribution : 46.6% Balls faced while at crease : 17788 Team balls while Laxman was at crease : 36133 % of balls faced while at crease: 49.2% Average balls per innings faced : 81.2 Team-Run-Share: 8781 out of 72578 - 12.1%

Batting in difficult situations most of the times prevented Laxman from having a better scoring rate than around 50. Laxman's conversion rate of 50 to 100 is quite poor: understandable since he batted often with the late order. Not a high balls per innings: again indicative of conditions batted in.

I have since done the work on runs added with late order batsmen also. This cannot be a complete analysis since quite a bit of data is unavailable. We all know when a batsman came in but "when he got out" is the information available only over the past 15-20 years. So for batsmen like Lara and Tendulkar complete data is not available. The other important factor is that I know when the sixth wicket fell. But I would not know what the concerned batsman's score was at taht time. Similarly I would know when the concerned batsman got out. But not what the other batsman's score was. So I have presented below only concrete facts, which are stated below.

These represent only the team runs added from the fall of the sixth wicket to the time the concerned batsman was dismissed. Of course, if he remained not out, there is no problem. I have given below the data for six top current batsmen. It shows clearly that Kallis and Laxman are the leaders. It is possible that Lara might have better figures. But not certain.

Batsman   Num Runs  R/P

Kallis 17 1212 71.3 Laxman 27 1876 69.5 Hussey 14 802 57.3 Dravid 23 1236 53.7 Ponting 16 828 51.8 Sangakkara 13 566 43.5

The Num colum indicates the number of such instances.

I have also uploaded the complete career data file which can be downloaded. This gives the details of these numbers also. To download/view the Career data file, please click/right-click here.

Innings analysis

I No  Runs   Avge 100  50 Freq

Inns 1 60 5 2158 39.24 6 8 10.0 Inns 2 74 9 3152 48.49 6 25 12.3 Inns 3 53 9 2376 54.00 4 16 13.2 Inns 4 38 11 1095 40.56 1 7 38.0

Laxman's best innings has been the third one, an average of 54. The mammoth 281 itself has contributed 6-plus runs to the average. The 167 another 4 more. Overall a very good team-second-innings average of 48.9.

Batting position analysis

I No  Runs   Avge 100  50 Freq

Bat-Pos 1 13 1 432 36.00 1 2 13.0 Bat-Pos 2 12 0 253 21.08 0 2 12.0 Bat-Pos 3 37 1 1611 44.75 4 8 9.2 Bat-Pos 4 11 1 500 50.00 1 4 11.0 Bat-Pos 5 74 13 2877 47.16 6 17 12.3 Bat-Pos 6 67 12 2760 50.18 5 20 13.4 Bat-Pos 7 9 5 346 86.50 0 3 9.0 Bat-Pos 10 1 0 2 2.00 0 0 Avge Batting Position: 4.59

To average nearly 50 in the difficult middle order positions of 5 and 6 shows the quality of Laxman. Unlike ODIs these positions do not normally offer higher chances of remaining unbeaten.

Result/location analysis

Desc    T   I  N  Runs  Avge 100 50 Freq TRuns   %

Home 57 91 18 3767 51.60 8 24 11.4 31688 11.9 Away 77 134 16 5014 42.49 9 32 14.9 40890 12.3

Won 47 71 10 3410 55.90 7 23 10.1 26319 13.0 Drawn 46 72 18 3380 62.59 8 22 9.0 26557 12.7 Lost 41 82 6 1991 26.20 2 11 41.0 19702 10.1

More runs away, but at a lower average.

Country analysis

I No  Runs   Avge 100  50 Freq

Australia 29 54 5 2434 49.67 6 12 9.0 Bangladesh 3 4 1 117 39.00 0 1 England 17 28 3 766 30.64 0 6 New Zealand 10 17 3 818 58.43 2 6 8.5 Pakistan 15 25 7 775 43.06 1 6 25.0 South Africa 19 31 5 976 37.54 1 6 31.0 Sri Lanka 13 22 3 900 47.37 2 8 11.0 West Indies 22 36 6 1715 57.17 4 11 9.0 Zimbabwe 6 8 1 280 40.00 1 0 8.0

A near-50 average against Australia is the highlight of Laxman's career.

Year analysis

T   I No  Runs   Avge 100  50 Freq

1996 2 4 0 77 19.25 0 1 1997 6 9 2 212 30.29 0 2 1998 2 3 0 116 38.67 0 1 1999 6 12 0 221 18.42 0 1 2000 3 5 1 208 52.00 1 0 5.0 2001 10 16 0 869 54.31 1 5 16.0 2002 15 23 4 984 51.79 2 5 11.5 2003 5 10 3 595 85.00 2 3 5.0 2004 12 16 0 513 32.06 1 2 16.0 2005 8 12 1 508 46.18 2 3 6.0 2006 10 18 4 561 40.07 1 4 18.0 2007 8 14 5 496 55.11 1 3 14.0 2008 15 27 4 1086 47.22 2 7 13.5 2009 6 9 2 471 67.29 1 5 9.0 2010 11 18 4 939 67.07 2 7 9.0 2011 12 23 4 773 40.68 1 6 23.0 2012 3 6 0 152 25.33 0 1

The first four years and the last 14 months have been average. Otherwise Laxman has maintained a good run of 12 years.

Career slice analysis

T   I No  Runs   Avge

1- 10 10 16 2 405 28.93 11- 20 10 19 1 461 25.61 21- 30 10 15 0 850 56.67 31- 40 10 15 3 718 59.83 41- 50 10 18 4 1026 73.29 51- 60 10 14 0 326 23.29 61- 70 10 14 2 517 43.08 71- 80 10 19 3 575 35.94 81- 90 10 18 5 780 60.00 91-100 10 17 4 723 55.62 101-110 10 16 4 755 62.92 111-120 10 17 3 767 54.79 121-130 10 19 3 723 45.19 131-140 4 8 0 155 19.38

High 42- 51 1031 18 4 73.64 Low 54- 63 293 14 0 20.93

A string of 10 Tests in which Laxman accumulated above 1000 runs was during the second quartile of Laxman's career.

Peer comparisons

Peer-All-T7 45.97 15301 575547 37.61 1.22
Peer-Ind-T7 45.97  1280  52459 40.98 1.12

Laxman exceeded his contemporaries, across the world, by 22%. When compared to his own more illustrious band of colleagues, the figure drops to 12%.

Now for a selection of 12 of Laxman's best innings. My own selection, may not be complete, possibly biased, certainly subjective and done in a hurry. Also presented in a non-descriptive manner. So, if you have a better suggestion, please feel free to come in with your comments.

A selection of Laxman's best innings

Year MtId  Vs Loc R BP Runs(Balls) In at

1996 1338 Saf H W 6 51 (125) 4/ 82 2000 1481 Aus A L 1 167 (198) 0/ 0 2001 1539 Aus H W 3 66 ( 82) 1/ 18 2001 1569 Saf A D 6 89 (121) 4/ 47 2002 1599 Win A W 6 69* (123) 4/218 2003 1673 Aus A W 6 148 (282) 4/ 85 2006 1823 Saf A W 5 73 (154) 3/ 41 2008 1862 Aus A W 7 79 (156) 5/125 2010 1968 Slk A W 6 103* (149) 4/ 62 2010 1972 Aus H W 7 73* ( 79) 5/ 76 2010 1987 Saf A W 5 96 (171) 3/ 48

LaXman. The X-factor was in Laxman's name. Great in a crisis, under-rated, unsung, always with the Damocles' sword hanging above, totally unselfish purveyor of top-quality batting.

What! There are 100 comments in the first two hours ripping me to shreds. "How dare you miss the greatest innings ever by an Indian batsman". Fine, I will make amends and do a special graphical tribute to that innings.

Graph of VVS Laxman's 281
© Anantha Narayanan

Just to round off the article: Laxman scored 2338 ODI runs, almost all in the pivotal no.3 position. Probably nothing compared to the mountains of runs others have scored. But he never got a fair run despite scoring 6 hundreds in the no.3 position. He was sacrificed on the altar of mobility and utility. Players who could not hold a candle to him in batting were selected because they could run/field better or could roll the arm over for a few overs.

Are we going to see the like of him again? Certainly not in my lifetime. VVS, thank you for all what you have done. Two great Indian batsmen, both gentlemen to the core and wonderful role-models, have left the scene within a period of 6 months. Let me stop here before emotion sets in.

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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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Keywords: Nostalgia, Stats,

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Posted by Sekhar Ganapathy on (December 4, 2012, 14:03 GMT)

Dear Ananth, 4th Dec. 2012 I know Pakistan's Saeed Anwar has also scored 3 ODI hundreds inside a week as VVSdid during his tour of Australia(2003,I think)VVS scored 2 against Aussies and 1 against Zimbabwe,the second touring team, on a Monday,Wednesday and Friday.He was also primarily responsible for touring India's victory in both the test as well as the ODIseries in Pakistan with timely knocks (a century and a high 70),as was pointed out by his skipper Ganguly himself in his post match press conferences. He scored a century and took two brilliant catches(notin the slips as may be imagined but in the outfield!)against the touring NZteam at home.YET HE WAS NOT CONSIDERED FOR 2WORLDCUPS on frivolous charges of being poor runner&fielder! VVS himself stated that even if he did nottake risky singles of each ball,he would ensure one 4&a couple of other runs to ensure a strike rate of ateast run a ball.Only selectors may know how/why DineshMongia(later ICLplayer)was preferred over him!

Posted by Murray Archer on (November 20, 2012, 22:08 GMT)

What a wonderful player VVS has been. Absolutely beautiful to watch bat AND... I can tell you that like most Australians; whenever V India, a feeling arose that we had the upper hand, rejoicing NEVER occurred until Laxman was out.

Posted by Allan Scott Schoenherr on (September 3, 2012, 16:35 GMT)

Just seen this, must have missed it amongst the VVS tributes. It is great to see a statistcal analysis for a batsmen for whom stats did not tell even half of the picture. Thanks for putting this together, just another way to ignore the fact that my favourite Test batsman has retired. I particularly like the 'team runs added from the fall of the sixth wicket to the time the concerned batsman was dismissed' stats. I would be interested to see how Lara's stats hold up, I have a feeling he would in 3rd. [[ As I have explained Lara and Tendulkar do not have complete data. Maybe I should do this for the available data and post. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Praveen S on (September 2, 2012, 17:01 GMT)

@Ananth: Yes, I meant Waugh,as "Junior" is nick name and not Tendulkar's junior! Haha ..looking the way things are going, we shouldn't be surprised if that happened.

Yes, I agree that complex weighting mechanism wouldn't be understood by many, however, my point was to communicate -- scores in tougher matches should be rated higher.

Best, Praveen.

Posted by Alex on (September 2, 2012, 14:47 GMT)

@Ananth & @Vikram: Pl pardon this diversion. IMO, Naseer is a megastar despite being a character actor only because of extraneous reasons. His highs are highlighted and not the lows. Character actors like Om Puri, Anupam Kher, and Sanjeev Kumar were his equals/superiors but never achieved the megastar status due to that reason alone. Incidentally, growing up in 70's & 80's, our understanding was that the Hindi movies have produced only 5 great actors up to 1980: Motilal, Ashok Kumar, Balraj Sahni, Dilip Kumar, and Sanjeev Kumar. After 1975, the parallel cinema gave a much needed opening for well-trained theater actors like Karnad, Naseer, Om Puri. [[ Edited. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Alex on (September 2, 2012, 14:27 GMT)

@Ananth: Manjrekar asking for a "preservation" of SRT for the SA tour is probably just a euphemism. Keeping SRT on shelf (but mostly off the ground) till then will keep his sponsors happy and will give BCCI the time to build Kohli into a megastar whom they can milk for 12 more years & maybe spot another prodigy.

@Aniruddha: Fitness was _not_ the major issue that led VVS into retirement. By all means, take seniors to SA but don't confuse them with dinosaurs. Sehwag is now 34: at that age, even Viv & Gilly, who were much fitter than him, had lost their reflexes and become ordinary batsmen. He has been asking for a middle order spot since '06. If he is to continue meaningfully then he should be given that now and a new opener (M Vijay or whoever) should be groomed in.

Posted by Vinish Garg on (September 2, 2012, 11:10 GMT)

I am tempted to add another Balraj Sahni classic: *Pavitra Paapi*. His quiet glance and the intensity of motion while repair the clock made it an all-time great moments for me. A very underrated movie, unfortunately.

Posted by milpand on (September 2, 2012, 6:27 GMT)

1972 JNU Convocation address by Balraj Sahni - http://outlookindia.com/article.aspx?266141

and

Sandip Ray admires Balraj Sahni as Salim in Garm Hava - http://in.rediff.com/movies/slide-show/slide-show-1-100-years-of-cinema-sandip-ray-lists-his-top-five-films/20120522.htm [[ Yes, I forgot about the all-time "MSSathyu" classic "Garm hawa". How can anyone forget his "Salim Mirza". Incidentally it was very tough to get to see this film because of the release-related problems. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Aniruddha Gupta on (September 2, 2012, 5:40 GMT)

@Anantha - Wonderful reminders of Balraj Sahni. Sanjeev Kumar seems to be so forgotten when we talk of versatility. He was the one complete actor in Indian Cinema. Kamal Hassan - Am a huge fan but stopped watching his movies since he started making science fiction (Appu Raja, etc) - still he is an all time great (more of the Sijavi Ganeshan school) and dare I say pleasantly different from Rajnikant (MGR school of melodrama and over acting). Sanjay Manjrekar - Now that I mentally analyse this - indeed he is a better commentator than a writer (never thought of this before). However regarding preserving Sachin for 2013 SA - I for one totally agree. We need minimum one senior for that tour and with Dravid gone, Sehwag not willing to "grow up" (mentally), Gambhir mentally struggling - it was a choice between Lax and SRT. Fitness being a major issue - SRT surely is the choice. Regarding choice of shots - SRT is probably rusty (no excuse this).. lets wait till the next series.

Posted by Alex on (September 2, 2012, 4:50 GMT)

@Ananth & @shrikanthk: As is VVS' fate, comments on his tribute now discuss other greats :) Fed & Borg had the reflexes & agility to counter great serve-return players. Even Agassi & Edberg were not big servers but defeated great servers in 80's & 90's. A peak form Stich, a truly great a serve & return player, beat Edberg only as narrowly as 4-6,7-6,7-6,7-6 in '91 SF on way to his title. The semis of Wimbledon read:

'91: Wheaton/Stich/Edberg/Becker '92: McEnroe(!!)/Agassi/Goran/Sampras '93: Courier/Edberg/Becker/Sampras '94: Martin/Goran/Becker/Sampras '95: Agassi/Goran/Becker/Sampras '96: Krajicek/Stoltenberg/Washington/Martin '97: Woodbridge/Stich/Pioline/Sampras '98: Henman/Goran/Krajicek/Sampras '99: Sampras/Henman/Agassi/Rafter

So, barring '98, all SF had at least one weak server. If Fedex/Borg get into that SF spot (which is a reasonable assumption) then they certainly would find it difficult to win 5 on trot but the main reason for that would be Sampras.

Comments have now been closed for this article

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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