A chink in the armour
During the South Africa-India series, there was a mini stat displayed that revealed that Cheteshwar Pujara, in his brief career, has been bowled 25% of the innings he has played.
This seemed incredible for someone whose defence is top-class and who is touted as the successor to "The Wall". Quite difficult to believe!
Then I suddenly remembered that Rahul Dravid himself had a high "bowled" percentage. So I thought that here is the basis for a good analysis here. And so it proved to be.
The selection criteria are simple - at least 100 dismissals and a batting average exceeding 20. That means the exclusion of Don Bradman, Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe, Everton Weekes and Andy Flower, but cannot really be helped.
The second criterion keeps out Anil Kumble, Chaminda Vaas and of course, Chris Martin.
As it stands, 123 batsmen qualify. As a concession, I will provide the summary of these five batsmen at the end.I will provide the basic analysis first.
Then I will look at how the out percentages varied between home and away matches and against pace bowlers and spinners.
These additional analyses will be done only for the four basic forms of dismissals: bowled, lbw, caught by keeper (Ctbywk) and stumped. Let us first look at the basic table.
I have shown the top 20 batsmen by dismissals. The complete table is available in the downloadable set of files.
Rahul Dravid, Allan Border, VVS Laxman and Mark Boucher are the four batsmen who have been bowled over 20% in their career. It is indeed a surprise with Border and Dravid, who are not really attacking batsmen. Alastair Cook is the only batsman to clock in a bowled percentage of below ten.
The lbw percentage throws out more surprises. Sachin Tendulkar, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Graeme Smith, Graham Gooch and Cook exceed 20%. Chanderpaul, with his crouched open stance, is a candidate for lbw, and Smith's weakness against the left-hand bowlers is known. But Tendulkar and Cook are surprises.
Compare the bowled and lbw figures of Cook and Border, varying in different ways. Note how low Kumar Sangakkara's lbw percentage is.
This table lists the career summary figures for the players with top-20 count of dismissals. Almost all the top scorers are covered. I am going to point out some salient features from this huge table. I will let the readers locate more gems.
Many batsmen have Ctbywk figures exceeding 25%. The ones to stand out are Tendulkar and Inzamam-ul-Haq, with sub-15% CtbyWk figures. Cook's percentage is nearly 30. Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag have nearly 50% CtbyOthers values. Border has been stumped more often than the others. Surprisingly for an opener, Mark Taylor has also been stumped quite often. But the two batsmen who stand out are Mahela Jayawardene and Chanderpaul, who have never been caught outside the crease in their career, not even once. I am not sure whether Chanderpaul has even stepped out of his crease once. There are many batsmen, led by Tendulkar, who have been stumped once. Ponting has been run out more often than others and Dravid also stands right up there, in terms of being stranded short.
In this lot of top 20 batsmen, Gooch is the only batsman to have a combined bowled+lbw percentage of 40. Surprisingly, for the excellent defensive technique of Tendulkar, he comes in second, at 39.5%. Smith, with his pronounced weakness against left-arm pace bowlers, comes in next at 39.2%. At the other end, we have Sangakkara with the lowest combined figure of 20.2%, followed at some distance by Jayawardene, at 24.9%.
Now we will see the special tables, by dismissal type.
These tables are sorted by the percentage of dismissal type. Why should John Reid be dismissed bowled four times out of nine is a mystery. As we will see later, it has nothing to do with the type of batting. There seems to be a flaw in technique. Another surprise, in the form of Wally Hammond, but much lower than Reid. At least one could say that Hammond, Gundappa Viswanath, Mike Gatting and Neil Harvey are relatively more attacking players.
But what does one say of three top-20 entries, viz. Len Hutton, Bob Simpson and Dravid. All top-order batsmen with impeccable technique, not known for attacking batting, clocking in at higher than 22.5%. Is it possible that the chances of a batsman getting bowled increases with the number of balls faced or faced defensively? The attacking batsman is more likely to make contact and be dismissed caught while the defensive batsman is caught in the crease. Fairly specious argument, but the only one I have. But look at the other end. Graeme Wood, a typical dour opening batsman, has a bowled percentage of five. Why?
Most batsmen in this list, including the top two, seem to be bowled more often at home than away. Probably because their home pitches are more conducive to bowling. However Dravid having a home bowled percentage value of 26.9 against away value of 19.7 seems strange. Was he more comfortable playing outside India? His higher away average seems to confirm this.
Most of the top batsmen like Hammond, Viswanath, Michael Clarke and Dravid etc have been bowled by pace bowlers far more than by spinners. This is understandable. There are many wicketkeepers in this collection. Most of them seem to have followed the pattern of the major batsmen. The only exceptions seem to be Harvey, Hutton, Simpson, and surprisingly, Saleem Malik. For Hutton and Saleem Malik, more than a third of the spinner dismissals have been through bowled. Quite strange.
The lbw table is headed by the two English batsmen of the 1980s-90s. Possibly the effect of playing many matches against the top-quality pace attacks of Australia and West Indies. It is interesting to note that Gatting is the only batsman represented in both bowled and lbw tables. Together, his defence has been breached an amazing 52% of his dismissals. Then comes Chanderpaul, with his open crouched stance. Smith and Tendulkar also appear in this table. I am surprised to see Ken Barrington here.
At the other end of the table, Doug Walters, Marcus Trescothick and Bill Lawry have sub-10% lbw dismissal values. Surprisingly, in terms of combined bowled and lbw % values, it is a non-batsman, Imran Khan, who leads with a total of only 17%. Amongst the established batsmen, Dilip Vengsarkar stands out with 21%. Who would have thought of these two stalwarts and Sangakkara to have the tightest defence amongst all batsmen?
Now we come to the grey area of lbw dismissals at home or away. Local umpires and lack of standardisation meant that there is a reason to doubt the veracity of quite a few lbw dismissals. However this table only looks at the overall home and away patterns and it is not easy to derive any clear insights. However most of the English batsmen, Gatting, Nasser Hussain, Gooch, Cook, Mark Butcher, Barrington et al, have higher lbw dismissal percentage figures at home than away. That may very well be because of the nature of the pitches. Younis Khan too has more home lbw dismissal percentage than away. However, let us look at two stalwarts. Tendulkar's home lbw percentage is about 70% of his away lbw %. But the most revealing comparison is Javed Miandad: his home lbw % is only around 40% of his away lbw %.
Almost all the batsmen have higher lbw % values against the pace bowlers as compared to the spinners. The exceptions are Smith and Tendulkar who have found the spinners slightly more difficult to handle.
Michael Vaughan has been dismissed caught by wicketkeeper nearly a third of the times. In fact the top five batsmen in this list are all opening batsmen, all from England. England has certainly been a tough place for openers. However, it can be seen that these batsmen do have reasonably high percentage values in away matches too. Look at the huge number of batsmen who batted at Nos. 1, 2 and 3.
There does not seem to be a discernible pattern of CtByWk dismissals whether the matches are played home or away. There are variations on either side. The biggest difference is for Sunil Gavaskar, who has 18% of such dismissals at home and 38% away. Reid and Hammond, who led the bowled charts, are the batsmen with lowest CtByWk values.
Barring one batsman, Trescothick, all the batsman in this table have higher % of caught-behind dismissals off pace bowlers than spinners. Even in Trescothick's case, the spinners have dismissed him only 35 times, a fair proportion of these have been the wicketkeeper catches. Look at the spinner numbers for Vengsarkar and Gavaskar. Around 5% indicating that they were that much sure playing the spinners.
The first comment is that there is no pace/spin classification for stumped dismissals. If I have to explain the reason for this to the readers, either I am a fool or I take the readers as fools, something I never do. However, there are some stumping dismissals that are off pace bowlers. To wit, Sehwag was stumped off Younis Khan, Wasim Akram was stumped off Gooch, and Gavaskar was stumped off Arjuna Ranatunga. These three bowlers have been classified as medium-pacers. And quite a few during the early years. The downloadable zip file has this table also.
Look at the leaders in this table. Hammond and Clarke. Both reasonably attacking players. Hammond was probably deceived by those masters of spin: Clarrie Grimmett and Bill O'Reilly. But Clarke is supposedly a great player of spin. And he has been stumped no fewer than eight times. Taken in this context, I am going to throw a spanner in the best-player-of-spin works. Contrast this with Tendulkar, stumped once off Ashley Giles, Jacques Kallis once caught off crease, and Jayawardene never once caught. And Border: what does one say? Not necessarily an attacking batsman and a middle-order batsman used to playing spin - stumped nine times.
At the other end we have 13 batsmen who have never been stumped. We have already talked about Jayawardene and Chanderpaul. Mike Hussey, Nasser Hussain, Saleem Malik and Harvey are part of this special group. Note the proliferation of left-handers in this group: six out of 13.
Let us not forget one thing. The stumping dismissal is not like the other dismissals: bound to happen at a certain rate when certain numbers of dismissals take place. It shows a deficiency in the batting technique and is absent from many a batsman. Five of the top seven batsmen together have accumulated over 1200 dismissals and have only three stumped dismissals among them.
Let me summarise.
- The high percentage of bowled dismissals of Dravid and Hutton is intriguing. Both masters of technique, but seemed to have a chink in their armour.
- It is an accepted fact amongst the discerning followers that Vengsarkar was an underrated batsman. His 21% combined bowled + lbw dismissals is amongst the best. Only Sangakkara, amongst the established batsmen, has better figures. Also Ian Healy and MS Dhoni.
- Mike Gatting leads the lbw dismissal table and seems to have the leakiest defence amongst established batsmen with 52% of batting and lbw dismissals.
- Michael Vaughan has been dismissed caught-behind more often than anyone else. It is understandable considering he opened the innings.
- Jayawardene and Chanderpaul have been dismissed over 200 times each without a single stumping dismissal. Some sure footwork that is! Tendulkar, Kallis and Dravid have a single stumping dismissal each.
- I would question statements saying that Clarke is the best player of spin for some years. His high number of stumping dismissals indicates a clear weakness. I would put forward Tendulkar and Jayawardene as candidates. Brian Lara is also a possible candidate if one can accept the slightly higher number of stumpings, compensated by his faster scoring.
To download/view the nine complete tables, please CLICK HERE. My take is that many of the questions can be answered if you download this file, extract the component files and view the contents. Instead of asking me obvious questions for which the answers are already in the tables, you could download the file and view the tables.
As promised, I have presented here the career summary of some of the top batsmen who missed the cut-offs: all with batting averages exceeding 50.
Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems