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November 23, 2013

Tendulkar's ODI career: an alternative look

Anantha Narayanan
Sachin Tendulkar is a close second to Viv Richards in ODIs, and then there is daylight  © AFP
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The number 18426 has been repeated a million times during the past few days. This is the last time I will use the number in this article. Similarly, the number 49. Since Sachin Tendulkar's ODI career has been analysed and discussed every which way, I will attempt something different in this article, the first of two Tendulkar-career summaries. The second one, on Tendulkar's Test career, will follow within a week.

Readers will remember that a few months back I did a mammoth two-part analysis of the top ODI batsmen. The articles (part 1 and part 2) covered the top 15 ODI batsmen from about 20 analyses points and can be viewed by those who missed them.

I admire and appreciate all that Tendulkar has achieved. However, in my opinion, he is not the greatest sportsman India has produced nor the greatest cricketer the world has produced. I neither worship him (as in "He is God") nor do I go on a Tendulkar-bashing spree. This enables me to take an objective view of his magnificent career, something which, unfortunately, most ex-players, commentators and commenters could not or would not do recently, especially over the past few days. He is truly a great sportsman, both on and off the field, and would be in my top-three of virtually any such list. There will be truly a huge void but cricket will live after Tendulkar and we can appreciate his greatness more after his departure from the scene he graced so beautifully.

In this article I will look at the following.

- A look at the highest and next highest scores of top ODI batsmen, including Tendulkar.
- A comparative look at the strike rates of top ODI batsmen and the teams, including Tendulkar.
- A graphical look at Tendulkar's career - by match.
- A graphical look at Tendulkar's career - by 5 career segments.
- The top-25 ODI bowling performances of Tendulkar: and a startling revelation.
- A comparative look at the three top ODI opening pairs, including Tendulkar-Sourav Ganguly.
- A look at Tendulkar's performances in the important late order world-level tournaments.

When a batsman top-scores in an ODI innings, there is no denying that he has contributed very significantly to the team cause. Yet, it need not necessarily be the real match-winning innings. However the innings would have gone a long way in helping the team cause. Earlier I have done some analysis considering the top-score situations in their absolute form. However I have since realised that I have to take care of radically different situations such as the two top scores being 108 and 100 and 108 and 27. In the first case the top scorer has had excellent support with a score nearing his own. In the latter case, there has been very little support. It is also essential that the 100 in the first case has to be given significant recognition.

Hence I have now worked out a very accurate and simple algorithm. If a batsman is the top scorer, he gets an index value equal to "Batsman score / the next highest score". Thus the batsman who scored 108 in the first match will get 1.08 points. The batsman who scored 108 in the second match will get 4.0 points. Similarly the batsman who scored 100 in the first match will get 0.926 points ("Batsman score / the highest score") and the batsman who scored 27 in the second match will get 0.25 points. The points are summed and divided by the number of innings played to arrive at a High Score Index (HSI). The batsman score has to be either the top score or the next highest one to be considered for the index calculation. I included batsmen who have scored 3500 ODI runs and have a batting average of 20 or higher.

1. Analysis of highest scores and second highest scores in innings
BatsmanInnsTSTSPts2TS2TSPtsTotPtsTSI
HM Amla 76 19 36.020 15.1 51.10.673
IVA Richards167 53 90.625 16.4107.00.641
SR Tendulkar452126229.266 46.3275.40.609
MD Crowe141 44 73.116 10.6 83.80.594
CG Greenidge127 29 53.628 19.9 73.50.579
V Kohli113 31 53.717 11.1 64.70.573
GA Gooch122 30 52.623 16.5 69.10.566
NV Knight100 26 45.615 10.4 55.90.559
DL Haynes237 53 98.947 31.9130.90.552
Javed Miandad218 55 96.136 23.9120.00.550
CH Gayle249 54106.838 28.2135.10.542
BC Lara289 70124.249 32.1156.30.541
G Kirsten185 49 79.629 19.6 99.20.536
DM Jones161 35 63.034 23.2 86.20.535
Saeed Anwar244 60105.032 23.9128.90.528
NJ Astle217 51 95.626 18.3113.90.525
JH Kallis307 76126.247 34.4160.60.523
ME Trescothick122 25 47.622 15.5 63.10.517
GR Marsh115 24 45.620 13.8 59.40.516
AJ Lamb118 25 44.224 16.4 60.60.514
GA Hick118 27 48.316 11.7 59.90.508
Tamim Iqbal124 26 52.015 10.7 62.70.506
A Flower208 48 76.638 28.6105.20.506

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Similarly, the result determines the validity of the analysis. Here we have that working, in spades. The top five batsmen are outstanding ODI batsmen. Hashim Amla and Virat Kohli, first and the sixth in this table, are on their way to ODI greatness and will, one day, surely challenge the other giants. Viv Richards, in second place, is considered by many to be the greatest. Tendulkar has possibly been relegated to second place in ODIs, only because of the incandescence of Richards. Finally, they are accompanied by a truly-world class batsman from New Zealand. Gordon Greenidge, the important wheel in the West Indian juggernaut of the '80s and '90s is in the fifth place. There is place in the top ten for the feisty Javed Miandad.

It is obvious that a HSI value of above 0.50 signifies a top-class ODI batsman who has delivered consistently for his team. Amla is on top with a mind-boggling HSI value of 0.673. Where is he going to end at? Then comes Richards, with 0.641. This is an amazing value, considering he played in a very strong batting team. He top-scored in 32% of the innings he played and in these innings, out-scored the next best by over 60%. Tendulkar has top-scored in about 28% of the innings he played and weighs in with a huge number in the second-best tally. Martin Crowe has similar top-scoring figures. Greenidge, in a strong West Indian team, has an excellent HSI of 0.579. Kohli's HSI is an impressive 0.573.

Tendulkar's HTI value of 0.609 is outstanding by any standards, considering the fact that he played 452 innings, over 23 years. He played a significant innings 40% of the times he went in to bat. This, in a team stuffed with top batsmen. /p>

I have shown in the article the batsmen who exceeded a HTI value of 0.5. This is a list of the top ODI batsmen of all time. The full list can be downloaded.

The second analysis is based on the batsman strike rates as compared to the strike rate achieved by the rest of the team. The extras are taken off to derive the correct scoring rate. This is not a sum of the ratios but rather a ratio of the sums so that a 4 in 1 ball innings does not distort the picture. The ratio is called Strike Rate Index (SRI). This is a true peer analysis in that it takes away the periods, pitches, teams, bowling strengths et al from the comparisons.

2. Analysis of batsman strike rates in relation to team strike rates
BatsmanRunsBallsS/RT-RunsT-BallsT-S/RSRI
Shahid Afridi 7413 6462114.7 69736 92905 75.1152.8%
N Kapil Dev 3783 3979 95.1 37057 55208 67.1141.6%
IVA Richards 6721 7451 90.2 28838 43065 67.0134.7%
V Sehwag 8273 7929104.3 46471 57818 80.4129.8%
ST Jayasuriya1343014725 91.2 74419102143 72.9125.2%
L Klusener 3576 3977 89.9 31606 42374 74.6120.6%
AC Gilchrist 9619 9922 96.9 53420 65878 81.1119.6%
CL Cairns 4950 5874 84.3 36445 51168 71.2118.3%
PA de Silva 928411443 81.1 47185 68579 68.8117.9%
BB McCullum 4966 5522 89.9 38436 49313 77.9115.4%
ME Trescothick 4335 5087 85.2 19828 26646 74.4114.5%
AJ Lamb 4010 5308 75.5 19376 29144 66.5113.6%
CH Gayle 874310378 84.2 40236 54223 74.2113.5%
MD Crowe 4704 6476 72.6 20495 31956 64.1113.3%
SR Tendulkar1842621367 86.2 77335101182 76.4112.8%
A Ranatunga 7456 9571 77.9 41797 60334 69.3112.5%
Shakib Al Hasan 3688 4717 78.2 20160 28986 69.6112.4%
BC Lara1040513086 79.5 46496 65595 70.9112.2%
SM Pollock 3519 4059 86.7 59433 76789 77.4112.0%
JN Rhodes 5935 7336 80.9 43877 60667 72.3111.9%
Tamim Iqbal 3702 4723 78.4 19547 27857 70.2111.7%
A Symonds 5088 5504 92.4 38426 46215 83.1111.2%
Ijaz Ahmed 6564 8174 80.3 43287 59486 72.8110.4%
AB de Villiers 6010 6471 92.9 28299 33541 84.4110.1%
Saeed Anwar 882410938 80.7 39680 54086 73.4110.0%
A Flower 6786 9097 74.6 33434 49293 67.8110.0%

The results are as expected. Shahid Afridi leads the table, by the proverbial mile. His SRI is a huge 152.8%. That means, in all the 350 odd matches he played, he has outscored his team-mates by more than 50%. He scored at 114.7 while his team-mates scored at 75.1. That is out of the world and excuses his low average considering that he also captured over 350 wickets. Kapil Dev outscored his team-mates by a huge 141.6% (95.1 as against the somewhat low 67.1). How can we keep Richards out of any top ODI table? He scored at 90.2 as against his team-mates' 67.1, resulting in a SRI of 134.7%. Then come the two buccaneers, Virender Sehwag and Sanath Jayasuriya, who clock in with SRI values either side of 127%.

The other top batsmen in the top ten are Adam Gilchrist and Aravinda de Silva. I have shown the batsmen whose SRI was over 110. The complete list can be downloaded.

Tendulkar is in the top 20 of this table with a very creditable SRI of 112.8%. This is quite creditable since he played alongside attacking batsmen like Sehwag, Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Kohli and Suresh Raina. Tendulkar's strike rate of 86.2 compares very favourably with the team-mates' 76.4. Since Tendulkar has probably bettered his team-mates' average by about 20-25%, the combined effect is well over 35%.

3. Tendulkar's ODI career graph

Tendulkar in ODIs - batting average and strike rate across career  © Anantha Narayanan
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Tendulkar's start to his ODI career was quite average. After the first 50 matches, his career lowest average was 30.55 and this was reached at the end of the 64th match. He averaged only around 36 in his first 100 matches. Then the average picked up and he went past the 40 mark after about 130 matches. Suddenly, there was a sudden drop in form and he went to around 38. Afterwards he picked up his average and reached 40 again around the 180th match. After that period, he has never looked back and has oscillated between 42 and 45. Nearing the end of the career, Tendulkar went past 45 again and reached his career-high figure of 45.23 during 2011. He dropped slightly to finish his career at an outstanding 44.83. His last two matches pushed his average up by 0.18.

Tendulkar's strike rate has had a much less tumultuous ride. Let us ignore the first few matches in which even a strike rate of 100 was reached. Then there was a dip, coinciding with the average dip, and Tendulkar's strike rate even went below 80. Then the strike rate picked up and reached a career-high value of 87.1 around the 210th and 220th matches. The strike rate remained around the 86.4 mark for well over 250 matches and Tendulkar finished with an excellent strike rate of 86.2. Look at the flatness of the curve over the last 250 matches.

4. Tendulkar's ODI career - split into 5 parts

Tendulkar's ODI career split into five parts  © Anantha Narayanan
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In order to get a good handle on the way Tendulkar's career progressed, I have split his career into five equal parts. The advantages are many. This allows a start-up period, a settling-down period, a peak period, a winding-down period and a closing period. This will encapsulate the way the key indices have moved across these five periods. This time I have plotted three key measures: the average, strike rate and the average balls-per-innings. This will let us look at the dynamics between scoring quickly and taking a conservative approach.

The first period, covering 90 matches and the years 1989 and 1995, was eminently forgettable. All indices were below par. Then, during the second period, covering the years 1995 to 1998, there was marked improvement and the indices went past the figures of good batsmen. The middle period, covering the years 1998 to 2001, was the golden era as far as Tendulkar's ODI career was concerned. A batting average exceeding 50, an average balls-per-innings-value exceeding 50 and a strike rate of 92.3. This figure only dropped slightly during the next period of 2002 to 2006. However, note one very important feature. The average balls per innings actually increased indicating that Tendulkar was batting a lot more carefully. Consequently, the strike rate dropped significantly to 84.0 and the average dropped slightly. The last period of six years saw a slight drop of average balls per innings but an increase in strike rate to 87.1 and a slight drop in average.

A very instructive graph, indeed! Especially, the subtle changes seen during the last two periods.

5. Tendulkar's top bowling performances
MtIdYearInnsRunsBallsAnalysisResultBat!!!
130019981 8 1110.0-1-32-5Won
223520051 4 410.0-1-50-5Won
068319912 11 2710.0-1-34-4Won
1360199811411289.1-0-38-4Won***
220220041 47 429.0-2-54-4Won***
157420001 12 2810.0-0-56-4Lost
214420041 18 254.0-0-21-3Won
215220042 781035.0-0-28-3Lost***
138119992 23 198.3-0-34-3Won
170120011 12 1510.0-0-35-3Lost
214920042 8212610.0-0-35-3Won***
093619942 8 2410.0-0-36-3Won
087919941 1 58.0-0-43-3Won
127619982 95 787.0-0-45-3Won***
159720002 36 256.0-0-24-2Won
248520071 0 68.0-0-25-2Won
136319981 8 1410.0-1-29-2Lost
094419941 62 5410.0-2-29-2Won***
094119942 34 478.0-0-31-2Lost
077019921 15 2710.0-1-25-1Lost
084619932 26 3010.0-2-27-1Won
233120062 0 39.0-0-27-1Won
165220002 5 1110.0-0-28-1Lost
108119962 65 8810.0-1-34-2Lost***
069219911 1 91.0-0-5-1Won
085619931 15 311.0-0-3-0Won

Tendulkar was a far more effective bowler in ODIs than in Tests. His range of deliveries and variations in spin, speed and line puzzled many an established batsman and he often turned up with excellent figures. I have displayed in this table his best 26 bowling performances. The last two make their appearance only because of the unbelievable decision of Mohammad Azharuddin to give Tendulkar the ball, and Tendulkar delivering an impossible ask each time. The first was during 1991. India score 126 runs. West Indies were 76 for 8 and 113 for 9. The score was 121 for 9 at the end of the 40th over. Ten overs remained but the four recognised bowlers had completed their quota. Tendulkar took the ball and delivered a one-wicket-five-run over and tied the match. The second one, two years later, was even better. Tendulkar had five runs to work with and delivered a three-run over to win the match.

But what amazed me most was the correlation between the excellent bowling performances and lacklustre batting performances. It was as if he was desperately trying to compensate for the batting failure (if India batted first) with an excellent bowling performance. Out of the 25 bowling success situations there are only seven reasonable batting efforts. In the other 18, he did very little of note with bat. The seven instances are highlighted with "***" at the end. Very interesting to note that there have been 17 wins out of these 25 matches. This way-above-the-percentage of wins achieved in the 463 matches Tendulkar played, which is around 50%. The total runs scored in these 25 matches is 806, leading to a runs per innings value of 32, which is about 20% below Tendulkar's career value.

6. The top three opening pairs analysed
PartnershipNumPSRunsRpISuccess%NumBallsBallsRuns S/RAvgeBpIWinsWin %
Greenidge & Haynes102521251.105755.9% 0 0 0.0 0 0.07169.6%
Hayden & Gilchrist114537247.126657.9%114540547.4537299.48776.3%
Tendulkar & Ganguly136660948.606547.8%113660658.5569786.26547.8%

Now for an analysis of the very effective opening partnership Tendulkar forged with Ganguly. It is an open secret that these two were the leading opening partnership of all time, in terms of runs scored: 6606 runs, to be exact. Only two other pairs have exceeded 5000 runs together and I would like to take a look at these three partnerships which are the top three opening partnerships in ODI cricket. The other two partnerships are Greenidge-Haynes and Hayden-Gilchrist. The above table compares these three pairs. We have already seen the measure of number of runs. Tendulkar-Ganguly have a comfortable lead of well over 1000 runs over Hayden-Gilchrist.

In terms of runs per innings, Greenidge-Haynes are comfortable leaders, their compilation of 51.1 well ahead of Tendulkar-Ganguly's 48.60 and Hayden-Gilchrist's 47.12. In the 102 matches in which Greenidge-Haynes opened, West Indies won 71 matches, a creditable 69.6%. Hayden-Gilchrist are ahead of this figure with an impressive 76.3% (87 wins out of 114 matches). Tendulkar-Ganguly are way behind with 47.6% (only 65 wins out of 136 matches). Considering any opening stand below 25 runs (runs have to be used rather than balls in view of the non-availability of the latter for all matches) as a failure, we have Greenidge-Haynes with a 55.9% success rate, Hayden-Gilchrist, 57.9% success rate and Tendulkar-Ganguly are some distance behind, with 47.8%.

Now I come to a measure that is not available for Greenidge-Haynes: the scoring rate. For Hayden-Gilchrist we have this data for all the matches they opened in and they scored at a strike rate of almost 100. That is some start they gave Australia. This data is available for 113 out of the 136 matches Tendulkar-Ganguly opened in and the scoring rate is a very good 86.2, which is Tendulkar's career scoring rate. In these qualifying matches, Hayden-Gilchrist lasted for 47.4 balls, on an average and Tendulkar-Ganguly lasted for 58.5 balls.

All things considered, I would put Greenidge-Haynes at the top, followed by Hayden-Gilchrist and then Tendulkar-Ganguly.

7. Tendulkar in important world level tournament matches
MtIdYearRunsBallsAnalysisResultEventVs
19932003 4 53.0-0-20-0LostWC-FAus
3148201118 142.0-0-12-0WonWC-FSlk
1639200069 8310.0-1-38-1LostIC-FNzl
18882002 0 06.0-0-36-1N/RIC-FSlk
18892002 7 228.0-0-36-0N/RIC-FSlk
....
1081199665 8810.0-1-34-2LostWC-SfSlk
19922003831016.0-0-28-2WonWC-SfKen
3147201185115WonWC-SfPak
....
1078199631 595.0-0-25-0WonWC-QfAus
14731999 0 41.0-0-4-0LostWC-S6Aus
1476199945 65WonWC-S6Pak
1480199916 223.0-0-14-0LostWC-S6Nzl
19832003 5 12WonWC-S6Ken
1985200397120WonWC-S6Slk
1988200315 165.0-0-20-0WonWC-S6Nzl
3143201153 682.0-0-9-0WonWC-QfAus
....
13631998 8 1410.0-1-29-2LostIC-SfWin
1638200039 505.0-0-32-2WonIC-SfSaf
1886200216 294.0-0-32-0WonIC-SfSaf

There is a general perception that Tendulkar did not really deliver in important World Cup and other similar level knockout matches. Let us see what he did in these important matches.

World Cup finals: It is an open secret that Tendulkar failed in the two World Cup finals he played. In 2003, even if he had played a substantial innings, the Australian total of 359 was out of reach. In 2011, the others did the job. So his dismissals probably did not matter in the overall context.

ICC Trophy finals:He had mixed fortunes in the ICC Trophy finals. India did not win any of the three matches he played in. In the first rained-off match, Tendulkar played a good innings of 69 to help India reach a competitive total. In the other two, he failed.

World Cup semi-finals: But let us give the little master his due credit. In all the three World Cup semi-finals he played in, he delivered with bat and, often, with the ball. The top-quality innings against Pakistan during 2011 was probably the most important one since that was a truly match winning innings. And he cannot be blamed for the Calcutta disaster in 1996. He did his bit with an excellent all-round performance.

WC-S6-QF/ICC-SF: In the other matches, there are 11 matches in all, Tendulkar performed reasonably well. One outstanding match winning innings against Sri Lanka and four other good innings are par for a top order batsman. The 1999 World Cup was not great for Tendulkar in these matches while 2003 World Cup was better.

In conclusion, while it is evident that Tendulkar did not deliver anything of note in the finals, he performed quite competently in the earlier matches. Maybe slightly below what was expected from a world-class batsman, but nowhere can the overall performances be classified as well below par. Readers could point to Sharjah 1998. Frankly, I do not consider tri-nation tournaments as anything worth considering. They were dime a dozen: around 150 at last count.

As I have already mentioned, I will do a similar special coverage of Tendulkar's Test career after one week instead of the usual two weeks. This has been one tough analysis and I hope readers can glean something new about Tendulkar's career. The Test analysis will also cover some unusual aspects of Tendulkar's career.

I have a single negative take as far as Tendulkar's ODI career was concerned. This was the farce enacted during the last four years. He was allowed to pick and choose series. From match number 2670 up till 3263, the last match of Tendulkar, India played 160 matches and Tendulkar played 54 matches, only 33%. He came back and got his 100th hundred in a lacklustre manner. A retirement at the end of the 2011 World Cup would have been perfect. 18,111 runs at 45.16 was excellent. The ten matches he played during the next year did not add any value to his career.

In conclusion, it is clearly difficult for anyone to dislodge Richards from his unassailable position as the best ODI batsman ever. The reasons are plenty. An average of 47.00, a strike rate in excess of 90.00 when 75 was par, two World Cup wins, 138 and three run-outs, contribution towards a very high degree of ODI successes for the team and finally the jewel in the crown: the 189, almost certainly the best ODI innings ever played. However there is no one else to challenge Tendulkar's second position. He is close to Richards and then there is daylight. Let us see whether Amla, AB de Villiers, Kohli or Dhoni make a case to usurp this position in the years to come.

Tendulkar's long speech at the end of the Mumbai Test was from the heart and moved one and all. He exhibited immense humility and great character, typical of someone who passed the test of greatness before he was 25. He touched everyone's hearts and I could understand why his followers went bananas. Sachin, you are one of a kind. The mould was thrown out after you were made. The Bharat Ratna is something else. I have no problems with this well-deserved award, provided other deserving sportsmen are awarded within the next two years.

To download/view the documents containing the seven complete tables, please CLICK HERE.

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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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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