IPL 2014 May 27, 2014

Run, batsman, run

Why do batsmen not attempt to run until they are run out off the final ball of an innings, when it might bring an extra run for their team?

The venue is the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. Rajasthan Royals are nine down and need 24 in the last over to overhaul Chennai Super Kings' total of 140. Dhawal Kulkarni swats R Ashwin for two sixes and brings the equation down to nine off two balls. He hits the fifth ball to long-on and the only way Royals can stay in the match is if the batsmen run two, so Kulkarni can try and hit the final ball for six to tie the game.

Kulkarni recognises this and pushes for the second run to get on strike. His partner Pravin Tambe, however, has turned down the second, though it would leave him needing to score eight runs off one ball. Kulkarni carries on and the confusion ends with Tambe being run out at the non-striker's end and Royals losing. Why did Tambe not run? Was it his inexperience, a brain freeze or the high probability of being run out that dissuaded him?

Tambe's inaction is not the only instance of batsmen not running when there was almost nothing to lose for the team. In Hyderabad, Royal Challengers were setting Sunrisers a target, with Sachin Rana facing the final ball of the innings. He missed Dale Steyn's delivery but did not run even though his partner Mitchell Starc had tried to steal a bye to the wicketkeeper. Starc was run out.

Even an experienced player like Kieron Pollard has not always run flat out off the final ball of an innings. Every run is important - to state the obvious - and 55 T20s and 26 ODIs have been decided by a one-run margin.

Looking beyond the IPL, Ravindra Jadeja was guilty of not running when everything was at stake in an ODI. In Auckland, India needed two off the final ball to pull off an incredible chase, and this is an excerpt from ESPNcricinfo's report of the game: "Jadeja failed to beat cover, finished the single comfortably, but for some reason didn't go for the second. The second was not on, but you never know what fielders are liable to do under such pressure situations. Jadeja and Aaron had nothing to lose with the second, but they didn't go for it. It was a difficult night to explain."

It is indeed difficult to explain why some batsmen won't put their wicket on the line for an extra run - however improbable - in the final moments of an innings. Perhaps it is to safeguard his batting average, because better numbers might mean a higher bid at the next IPL auction. Perhaps the player weighs the likelihood of being dismissed against that of scoring a run and decides the probability of making it is miniscule. But, however miniscule it may be, surely it is in the team's interest for the player to try and get an extra run - even if he fails 98 out of 100 times at the cost of his wicket?

In the IPL, if two or more teams are tied on points and net run-rate (a remote possibility), the team with the greater number of 'wickets taken per balls bowled' will have a higher position on the league table. The necessity of such a tiebreaker is remote and the players' awareness of it is rather unlikely.

If a batsman runs until he is run out off the final delivery, there is at least a chance the fielder will buckle under pressure and fumble the ball - or that a wayward throw will result in overthrows - and an extra run may accrue. In the worst case, the batsman will be dismissed. So what if he is?

Bishen Jeswant is a stats sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 28, 2014, 18:55 GMT

    ashwin incident is a blunder, clear blunder... I remember readin a hilarious page 2 article regarding same too, on how ashwin forgets everything. India had nothing to loose and infact he was run out because he was slow to react.... West indies needed 2 wickets on last ball to win, India needed 2 runs to win. Ashin hit it to long on and was slow to start and slow to react...

  • Rupesh on May 28, 2014, 18:24 GMT

    Absolutely correct point. I can only imagine that they don't run to protect their averages. Then it is the coach's fault. They must drill into players that they must run in the last 1-2 balls, otherwise they would get a yelling from the coach and captain.

  • Kshitij on May 28, 2014, 9:33 GMT

    Oh I love this article. And one instance etches out for me. In one of the t20 world cups when India performed miserably - Dhoni and Yousuf Pathan DID NOT run a third run (which was not completely impossible) on the second last ball.. and they needed 8 off the last ball. I can clearly remember how frustrated they left me.

  • RAJARAMAN on May 28, 2014, 8:01 GMT

    @facebookuser ... the Ashwin incident you mention is a risky one .. if the run-out had been effected, India stood to lose the match instead of a draw ... that would have been ridiculous

  • RAJARAMAN on May 28, 2014, 7:58 GMT

    last-ball running at least, that is what the article demands ... what about converting ones-into-twos, twos-into-threes, routinely ... many "high-priced" players with the exception of very few (like MSD, ...) just don't RUN ... they only AMBLE across ... athleticism is not a virtue in cricket, especially for Indian players ... they like slamming boundaries, even at the cost of losing ... attitude change is the only way ... a lot better among youngsters nowadays ... but still it is an enigma

  • Harry on May 27, 2014, 17:21 GMT

    There is another explanation to this - batsmen are so used to looking for maximum that they forget to run their runs. Batting coaches should help all 11 players practice with no boundaries but to run all their runs to get that habit back. Once it is a habit batsmen will not give up on the last ball and will try to get that extra run by running. If you look at players like Yuvi, Gayle and Pollard they are horrible when it comes to running - they wast 2 or 3 deliveries in an over not going for singles or twos but looking for boundaries. Batsmen should realize you can play bowlers like Narine and Malinga by scoring 7-8 runs in singles and twos not needing to score a boundary. Then they dont lose wickets and gain valuable runs.

  • Al on May 27, 2014, 14:54 GMT

    Good article and analysis, I myself have always wondered. Not just about "running." This is especially true of the subcontinent. It is as if they don't have any situational awareness. There are times when there is NO risk or harm in taking an extra run at the last ball even with a risk of loosing a wicket. This has a lot to do with communication and strategy between the team and coaches. Another thing about "running" I have noticed batsmen not dragging their bats getting to the other end AND keep running long after completing a run without checking to see if there's another one possible. This is again very common among teams from the subcontinent, especially the last 5/6 batsmen.

  • Dummy4 on May 27, 2014, 14:32 GMT

    Not always true... Just to give example Nzcored 10 for 314. India had scored 9 for 314. If player throws his wicket now who knows what may come into equation and when. I remember days if run rates are same they used to see no of wickets fallen. Also if you have played cricket you will know that sometimes it just very obvious. Having said that most of the batsmen are guilty of not trying enough is true and probably has to do with inbuilt habit of avoiding runouts stops them from that run attempt.

  • Rajesh on May 27, 2014, 13:04 GMT

    The Pravin Tambe runout that you mentioned now becomes more important when you realise that RR lost the place in playoffs only because of falling a run or two short.

  • Dummy4 on May 27, 2014, 9:14 GMT

    How about the draw, where Ashwin was reluctant to run the second. http://www.espncricinfo.com/india-v-west-indies-2011/content/story/542209.html

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