Tests during 2012: an alternate look
Unlike last year this review has come out on 1st January itself, thanks to the 200-over finish of the MCG Test.
1. Cricket Oscar of the year
There is a wonderful end-of-the-year award called Chess Oscar which is awarded to the best Chess player of the previous year. It is my proud moment to inform that Vishwanathan Anand has secured it six times. I have decided that I would institute a Cricket Oscar for the player who was the most effective cricketer who contributed most to the game during the previous year. It will mean something for the readers of the blog at least.
This year the award goes to Alastair Cook of England. He scored 1200 plus runs during the year, scored 4 hundreds in his first four Tests as captain, led from the front and took England to an unlikely victory in India. I expected the series to end 2-1, albeit in India's favour. Cook, almost single-handedly, turned the tide in the second innings at Ahmedabad and then, with help from Pietersen, Panesar, Swann, Anderson and Trott completed a famous series win.
Michael Clarke was the only other contender. His batting was divine and captaincy, most of the times, was flawless. However Australia's inability to close out the Adelaide Test, leading to a home series loss, held out against Clarke.
2. A look at performance of teams during 2012
This is the traditional 2-1-0 method of evaluating team performance, with a tweak. I have analysed the matches from home-neutral-away points of view. I have used the 2-1-0 values for the neutral matches and weighed the home matches down by 10% and the away matches upwards by 10%.
South Africa was the team of the year. Completion of the home series win against Sri Lanka was followed by three away series wins against the two top teams, England and Australia and the difficult-to-tour New Zealand. 5 wins and 5 draws adorned their year. Australians were very good, barring the unexpected series loss at home to South Africa. Pakistan did quite well, in matches played away and in neutral locations. West Indies had an up-and-down year but finished at 50% score.
England, India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand were good in patches. They ultimately ended the year with negative results. England finished the year on a high with their unexpected away series win over India. New Zealand finished the year well, drawing the away series in difficult Sri Lanka with a Taylor-made win. It was unfortunate that Taylor was stripped of part-captaincy and the issue remains unresolved.
3. An alternate look at performance of teams during 2012
|Team||Own RpW||Oth RpW||Difference||Own WpT||Oth WpT||Difference|
I can hear impatient calls of "Where is this "alternate look"?" Ah! that is coming now. Why were the teams successful. Good bowling and batting and fielding is fine. But what are the numbers. In this table I look at two sets of numbers to throw light on the success of certain teams and failures of the others.
First the RpW (Runs per wicket) values. I have compiled the "own RpW" and "other RpW" values and got the difference. This difference will indicate the success or lack of, for various teams. Note the huge positive differences for Australia and South Africa.
My other comparison is between "own WpM (wickets per match)" and "other WpM". After all a team has to take 20 wickets to win. Australia and South Africa have big positive differentials in this measure.
4. The top team performances
2027 2012 Aus 82.09 vs Ind 17.91 Australia won by an innings and 68 runs 2029 2012 Aus 81.14 vs Ind 18.86 Australia won by an innings and 37 runs 2031 2012 Aus 80.16 vs Ind 19.84 Australia won by 298 runs 2033 2012 Nzl 89.26 vs Zim 10.74 New Zealand won by an innings and 301 runs 2049 2012 Saf 80.37 vs Eng 19.63 South Africa won by an innings and 12 runs 2054 2012 Ind 83.54 vs Nzl 16.46 India won by an innings and 115 runs 2068 2012 Aus 86.18 vs Slk 13.82 Australia won by an innings and 201 runsThese are the seven imposing wins during 2012. The criteria for selection is match rating points of 80 and above for the winning team. The first three matches came and went in the space of a month. Then three different teams achieved it during the rest of the year. Australia ended the year with the biggest hammering of a team in years defeating Sri Lanka in two-and-a-half days.
5. The important series result summary
Australia - India : 78.8 - 21.2 Pakistan - England : 72.7 - 27.3 New Zealand-South Africa : 38.7 - 61.3 England - West Indies : 61.8 - 38.2 Sri Lanka - Pakistan : 56.7 - 43.3 England - South Africa : 35.5 - 64.5 Australia - South Africa : 44.6 - 55.4 India - England : 42.5 - 57.5
6. The Team performance summary
Team P W D L Team Rating Pts Total For Vs
Australia 11 7 3 1 719.7 65.4 - 34.6 South Africa 10 5 5 0 623.6 62.4 - 37.6 Pakistan 6 3 2 1 347.9 58.0 - 42.0 West Indies 10 4 2 4 512.0 51.2 - 48.8 England 15 5 3 7 726.4 48.4 - 51.6 Sri Lanka 10 3 2 5 428.0 42.8 - 57.2 India 9 3 1 5 379.7 42.2 - 57.8 New Zealand 10 2 2 6 399.9 40.0 - 60.0 Bangladesh 2 0 0 2 52.2 26.1 - 73.9 Zimbabwe 1 0 0 1 10.7 10.7 - 89.3
This table is a summary of the Match rating points secured by teams. Even though Australia's overall results are slightly inferior to South Africa, their comprehensive innings wins have helped them move to the top of the table. During the year, on an average, they were 65-35 against opponents. South Africa were slightly behind. Pakistan and West Indies also performed creditably and finished on the positive side. The other six sides finished on the negative side.
For those of you who may have come in recently and wonder what the Match Rating is all about, please CLICK HERE to read the analysis done by me after the England - India tour of 2011. It is a single comprehensive index summarizing the team performances in the match.
7. The top batting performances
2038 2012 Jayawardene D.P.M.D Slk Eng 180 225.9 2049 2012 Amla H.M Saf Eng 311* 220.9 2034 2012 Azhar Ali Pak Eng 157 204.5 2027 2012 Clarke M.J Aus Ind 329* 203.1 2062 2012 Pietersen K.P Eng Ind 186 199.1
These are the top 5 batting performances. Jayawardene's 180, a very much under-rated one, is an all-time classic and has moved into the all-time top-20 too. It is an innings reminiscent of Clem Hill's 188. Sri Lanka is reduced to 15 for 3. Jayawardene, with a next highest score of 27 to support him, scores 180 of the next 300 runs added, against a very good English attack. Ultimately this is a match-winner in a match of low scores.
Amla's 311, played away, against a good English attack and ultimately a match-winning innings is a truly wonderful effort. Let us not be fooled by the fact that South Africa lost only two wickets. England's strong batting line-up lost 20 wickets for similar runs. Clarke's 329 was, in many ways, the ultimate innings. Australia's win in the first Test was not very convincing. In reply to 191, they were floundering at 37 for 3. Then walks in Clarke and makes the ultimate statement. Unbeaten on 329 runs, two partnerships either side of 300, a disdain for records and a bone crusher delivered. India never recovered. They disappeared off the series.
Azhar Ali's innings was very different. After two forgettable two first innings, completed in 7 hours, Pakistan were 40 in arrears and lost two wickets before the arrears were cleared. Azhar Ali held the innings together, first with Younis Khan and then with Misbah-ul-Haq and took Pakistan to a respectable 365. Then they won comfortably. 442 balls of utmost patience and Azhar Ali came of age. Pietersen's 186 was quite different. On a square turner, India posted a respectable 327 and soon England were in trouble at 68 for 2. Pietersen played one of the great modern day innings, scoring 186 runs off 233 balls. A scoring rate of 80 on a treacherous pitch where the rest struggled. This innings changed the path of the series and afterwards India were always behind, home advantage notwithstanding. Only Pietersen could have played such an innings.
The other performances worthy of a mention are Samuels' match-winning effort of 123 against New Zealand, Pujara's top-drawer double hundred at Ahmedabad and Warner's 180 on a difficult Perth pitch against India.
My selection for the batting performance of the year is Pietersen's epochal 186.
8. The top bowling performances
2030 2012 Saeed Ajmal Pak Eng 24.3 7 55 7 171.5 2062 2012 Panesar M.S Eng Ind 22.0 3 81 6 163.3 2032 2012 Abdur Rehman Pak Eng 10.1 4 25 6 162.8 2038 2012 Herath HMRKB Slk Eng 38.0 9 97 6 152.9 2053 2012 Philander V.D Saf Eng 14.5 4 30 5 150.7
On the first day of the first Test at Dubai, Ajmal set the tone of the series with a sterling performance capturing 7 for 55 and dismissed England for 192. Although England had their moments, they did not recover afterwards. Panesar's 6 wicket haul at Mumbai helped secure an easy win for England. The ball was turning a lot but Panesar's skill in prising out top order wickets, especially those of Sehwag and Tendulkar, was worthy of special mention.
In the Abu Dhabi Test, England were set 145 to win and everyone must have expected a comfortable win. But Abdul Rehman, rather than Ajmal, who played the supporting role, was unplayable and the leaden-footed English batsmen were skittled out for 72. A few months later the same team tackled spin as if they were batting on a feather-bed. That indicates the quality of bowling of Rehman and Ajmal.
At Galle, England were set a difficult, but not impossible, task of scoring 340 for a win. Herath captured 5 of the top 7 wickets and won the match for Sri Lanka, with a spell of 6 for 97. It was not an easy win. Finally the top pace bowling performance of the year. England were again set 340+ to win and tie the series. With the no.1 position on the line this was a nervous period for both teams. Philander's opening spell when he dismissed Strauss, Cook and Bell sealed the victory. Afterwards he dismissed Prior when he looked like taking England to an unlikely win and then captured the last wicket. An excellent match-winning performance.
My vote goes to Saeed Ajmal.
9. A look at the Test batsmen of 2012
Batsman Cty M I N Runs Avge
Clarke M.J Aus 11 18 3 1595 106.33 Cook A.N Eng 15 29 3 1249 48.04 Amla H.M Saf 10 17 2 1064 70.93 Pietersen K.P Eng 14 25 1 1053 43.88 Trott I.J.L Eng 15 28 2 1005 38.65 Chanderpaul S Win 9 15 5 987 98.70 Kallis J.H Saf 9 15 1 944 67.43 Hussey M.E.K Aus 11 18 3 898 59.87 ..... Gambhir G Ind 9 15 0 474 31.60 Sehwag V Ind 9 16 0 505 31.56 Guptill M.J Nzl 10 19 0 567 29.84 Tendulkar S.R Ind 9 15 0 357 23.80 Swann G.P Eng 14 20 4 376 23.50
This was the year of Clarke. 4 double centuries (including a triple), an average exceeding 100, nearly 150 runs a Test, all make this Clarke's year and possibly the best year for a batsman. Cook and Amla follow next. Pietersen and Trott also completed 1000 runs during the calendar year. Mike Hussey scores 898 runs at 59.87 and then decides to retire after the Sydney Test. That is the true meaning of quitting while at the top. One of the rare times when the question "Why now?" has full meaning.
The tail-end of the table presents a sorry figure for the Indian batsmen. 3 of the last six are from India and explains why India has performed poorly. Tendulkar had a forgettable year. Sehwag and Gambhir were only slightly better.
10. A look at the Test bowlers of 2012
Bowlers Cty M W Runs Avge
Herath HMRKB Slk 10 60 1418 23.63 Swann G.P Eng 14 59 1766 29.93 Anderson J.M Eng 14 48 1416 29.50 Philander V.D Saf 9 43 908 21.12 Siddle P.M Aus 8 41 947 23.10 ..... Saeed Ajmal Pak 6 39 802 20.56 Hilfenhaus B.W Aus 9 37 802 21.68 ..... Lyon N.M Aus 10 36 1195 33.19 Bracewell D.A.J Nzl 10 26 972 37.38 Ashwin R Ind 8 37 1397 37.76
It is difficult to think of 2012 as anything else but Herath's year, closely followed by Swann. Herath is the unheralded and under-rated bowler getting very little of the headlines. But he is a master of his craft. He led in both wickets and bowling average tables. 64 wickets at 20.0 tells the story. Most of his wickets were captured in Sri Lanka. However he performed admirably down under towards the end of 2012 and earlier in South Africa. His 9 wickets were the catalyst for the famous Durban win. Swann bowled skillfully right through, often as the leading spinner but when required, a supporting spinner, shouldering burdens with consummate skill, ease and poise. Anderson was wonderful in India.
The other end of the table tells the other side of the Indian debacle. Ashwin's 37 wickets at 37.7, bowling on the helpful Indian wickets, indicates a lack of penetrating power of the main Indian bowler.
11. The players who excelled on debut
2057 2012 Sohag Gazi Bng Win 23.2 2 74 6 87.5 Debut
Sohag Gazi had an excellent debut and showed lot of skill in capturing 6 West Indian wickets.
2061 2012 du Plessis F Saf Aus 110* 157.0 Debut 2060 2012 Abul Hasan Bng Win 113 83.8 Debut
Two centuries were scored on debut during 2012. Both were special efforts. du Plessis, one of the great T20 players in the world, turned 180 degrees and played an innings which Atherton, Gavaskar or Boycott would have been proud to own. It fetched rating points which normally a good double century secures. The other century, played by Abul Hasan was an amazing innings. The first time a no.10 batsman scored a century on debut. It is quite possible that Abul Hasan just fades away. However there is no doubting his place in the efforts which grace halls of fame.
12. Abiding memories of 2012: Positive and negative
These are strictly my personal views.
The match of the year was South Africa's pulsating draw against Australia. Nobody would have given South Africa any hope when they were left with a score of 45 for 4, two stroke makers at the crease, a badly injured master and the tail in the pavilion. They battled on for 125 overs and saved the match. De Villiers resisted for 220 balls and Kallis for 115 balls. But the real hero was Du Plessis, known for his T20 exploits, who batted on for 376 balls, one of the all-time great defensive innings. The result was open until the fifth ball of the last over. Test cricket at its best. Only the myopic would complain about the slow scoring.
The partnership of the year was the magnificent 206 run stand between Cook and Pietersen on a turning wicket at Mumbai. Cook defended, Pietersen attacked and India disappeared in a puff of dust. This was the defining 4-hour period which turned the series inexorably towards England. Three spinners on a helpful pitch could do nothing. It was due to the skills of the batsmen. The next significant partnership was the near-300 run stand between Ponting and Clarke at Sydney against India. That they started the partnership at 37 for 3 is significant.
The switch skills specialists were Pietersen and Du Plessis. Known for their outstanding skills, both produced watchful match-winning and match-saving skills. Pietersen scored 73 off 188 to rescue a floundering England at Nagpur. Du Plessis scored 78 in 159 and 110 in 376 to save an almost-certain loss for South Africa.
The double-whammy specialists were the umpires who officiated in the India - England series. Samit Patel got two blatantly wrong decisions at Ahmedabad and Cook got two equally bad decisions at Nagpur. It was fortunate that the team which won the series, England, had a bad decision ratio of 2-1 against India. Otherwise it would have been embarrassing.
The phoenix/Yo-yo team of the year were England. After the euphoria of the 4-0 whitewash of India, they went off Tests for a long time. Then they came down to earth with a 0-3 loss to Pakistan. They then drew 1-1 away at Sri Lanka. Comfortable 2-0 win at home against West Indies was followed by a morale-shattering 0-2 loss at home to South Africa and the loss of the no.1 spot. Everybody expected a big loss ("would be lucky to draw one Test") in India. They had learnt their lessons, applied themselves, prepared wonderfully well and ran out convincing winners. They would now be looking forward to the Ashes with a lot of hope.
Confusion personification was surely Dhoni. India gets a tailor-made wicket (Bat first, bat well, bat big, bowl well and win comfortably) at Ahmedabad and duly win comfortably. What does Dhoni do? He complains about the pitch and asks for pitches which would turn from ball 1. He gets one in Mumbai, India bat well in the first innings and then the script changes. England bat magnificently, India bowl poorly and everything goes southwards. India loses this Test comfortably. Two different pitches follow. England wins the series comfortably. WHY? Why does Dhoni make his quixotic statements. After lot of thinking, I have come to the conclusion that the key was England's second innings in Ahmedabad. If they had folded up for 250, everything would have been fine and Dhoni would have kept quiet. The England second innings unnerved Dhoni. He could see that this was not going to be the expected walks in the park. So these confused statements were basically media distractions, red herrings, advance excuses and tips for the BCCI President to follow.
But let me hasten to add that these comments relate to matches in which the overs are not limited. Dhoni's captaincy is very good, albeit cautious, in the limited over matches and he is one of the all-time great finishers in ODI cricket. Only Bevan and Hussey can match him in this regard.
The non-stories of the year were Tendulkar's ton of tons, achieved after a lot of huffing and puffing and in a losing cause and the various retirement stories circulated, the millions of words written on India's free fall (all destined to have no effect).
The stories which mattered were the four retirements, all on or before time, which increased the respect the concerned players (Dravid, Laxman, Ponting and Tendulkar in ODIs) have with the watching public. Three other significant retirements were those of Brett Lee, Andrew Strauss and Mark Boucher, three wonderful exponents of their specialized areas of Cricket. And let us not forget Simon Taufel (thanks, Murray): arguably the greatest umpire ever. And one has to wonder what is happening to the Australian pace bowlers, especially Cummins and Pattinson: Injured for long periods.
The ostrich with the huge bank balance. BCCI does not care about implementing DRS although the India - England series was a clarion call for DRS. India lost even though England lost more due to the umpiring howlers. BCCI buries its head in sand. India loses the 12 important Tests 12-1-1-10. In any other place this would call for an overhaul, sackings, a review and self-introspection. Not in India. BCCI buries its head in sand. Arguably the greatest player India has produced is going through very difficult times on field. The least he deserves is a heart-to-heart discussion to clear the cobwebs. But no way. BCCI buries its head in sand. The only problem is that the ostrich is very rich and control everything even when its head is buried in sand.
The comeback player of the year was Marlon Samuels. He returned to the West Indian fold in 2011 but did not do much. This year he was magnificent. 3 centuries: the 123 was a classic and the 260 was huge. 4 useful fifties as well. His return is now complete. Gayle was another prodigal son who returned to the scene seamlessly.
That was a cricketing come-back. But the real heart-warming and on-the-pedestal effort was Yuvraj Singh's comeback. To have a life-threatening illness, fight it off through months of pain, then get oneself fit is not a common every-day occurrence. He came back and did quite well. He should serve India in the limited overs matches for years to come. A determined young man who deserves all approbation.
The bowling spell of the year was Anderson's outstanding mid-afternoon effort on the Nagpur-Jamtha highway, passing off as the pitch. Gambhir, Sehwag and Tendulkar, in a few overs on the deadest of tracks was 100% atonement for all the under-performances earlier.
The meltdown of the year was Sri Lanka's failure to last 25 overs on the last day of Test cricket during 2012. Then comes England's failure to last 37 overs while chasing 140 and being dismissed for 72. Quite close were India's 42 over total of 142 at Mumbai and Pakistan's 54 over capitulation for 100 on a good pitch at Galle.
1258 runs for the loss of two wickets!!! Ponting and Clarke added 288 runs and then Clarke and Hussey added 334 runs against India at SCG. This made a total of 622 runs were scored for the loss of 1 wicket. Move forward the clock by 6 months. Smith and Amla added 259 runs and then Amla and Kallis added 377 at Oval. That meant an addition of 636 runs for the loss of another wicket.
Even though this is a Test-centric article I have to mention a few limited overs related events since I will not be doing a limited overs summary for the year.
The first was the long-awaited T20 World Cup win of West Indies. It was received very well all over the world. Gayle acquitted himself creditably and his integration into the team was complete. Hopefully we should see West Indies do well hereafter.
The same West Indies were brought down to earth a few months after. Bangladesh achieved inarguably their best ever performance by defeating the strong West Indies 3-2 in the ODI series. That too, after being pulled back to 2-2 and without the services of Shakib. Mushfiqur Rahim deserves all accolades for handling the team very well.
Finally the retirement of a giant. Tendulkar's recent Test travails notwithstanding, his standing in the ODI game is right at the top with only Richards good enough to stand alongside him. Not just the number and longevity based achievements but Tendulkar was outstanding in many of the performance based factors. He was a true giant and the world will certainly miss him. No batsman looks likely to emulate him or even come close to him. One only hopes that if he has an average series against Australia, he takes a similar pragmatic decision regarding his Test career also.
The win by the Indian Under-19 team down under was a praise-worthy effort. The youngsters showed nerves of steel to win close matches, especially the Quarter-final and Semi-final. Unmukt Chand led the team with flair and imagination. He and Harmeet Singh could walk into the Indian senior team.
Finally I take this opportunity to wish all you readers a peaceful, healthy, happy and wonderful New Year. May the Force (in whichever form) be with all of you. Special thanks and wishes to Milind, who has taken over the editing duties, for the wonderful insights and support he provides. A quiet person who lets his silence speak: and very effectively too. And to Rajesh and Madhu at Cricinfo.
Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems