The Friday column December 1, 2006

Tendulkar's bogey bowlers, and Pollock's bunnies

The bowlers have troubled Tendulkar the most, and the batsmen who have been easy prey for Pollock

Got you again: Pollock dismisses Tendulkar for the ninth time in ODIs © AFP
When Sachin Tendulkar nicked Shaun Pollock to Mark Boucher at Port Elizabeth, it was the ninth time Pollock had nailed him in ODIs, equalling Chaminda Vaas's success rate against Tendulkar. In his long career, Tendulkar has fought, and won, battles against many bowlers, but this is one fight he is clearly losing.

Click on the link above and you'll find that Tendulkar's dismissals off Pollock have almost always come early in his innings - he averages 5.22 in those nine innings. Among the bowlers who have troubled Tendulkar the most in ODIs since September 2001, Pollock is on top of the tree with five dismissals and an average of ten runs conceded per dismissal. In contrast, Vaas's record against Tendulkar in the period under consideration is quite ordinary - 133 runs conceded in 169 balls, for an average of 44.33 per dismissal.

Among the other bowlers who have won their battles against Tendulkar are Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie, while Darryl Tuffey's successes can, at least partly, be attributed to the kind of tracks he bowled on when India toured New Zealand in 2002-03. The other interesting name in the list is that of Mohammad Sami. His lack of control and consistency has meant a largely unfulfilled career so far, but one achievement he can be proud of is his record against Tendulkar - three dismissals in 103 balls, conceding only 67 runs.

Bowlers who've done well against Tendulkar in ODIs since Sept 2001 (at least 50 balls)
Bowler Runs conceded Balls bowled Dismissals Runs per wkt
Shaun Pollock 50 117 5 10.00
Darryl Tuffey 31 63 3 10.33
Glenn McGrath 31 58 2 15.50
Shoaib Malik 63 59 3 21.00
Nuwan Zoysa 85 101 4 21.25
Mohammad Sami 67 103 3 22.33
Jason Gillespie 46 70 2 23.00
Brett Lee 69 80 3 23.00

So Pollock clearly has the upper hand against Tendulkar, in ODIs at least. What about Pollock versus other top-class batsmen? The next table lists out his bunnies in one-day internationals. One look at it and you get a fair idea why Pollock averages 18.40 against India during this period, against an overall average of 24.95. Almost the entire Indian top order makes an appearance in the table: Mohammad Kaif's stats against him are even worse than Tendulkar's, while Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag have also had their share of problems.

And now here's a quiz question - name one Indian batsman who has handled Pollock with conviction over the last five years. If you came up with the name Sourav Ganguly, you've hit Bulls Eye - Ganguly, in the 114 balls he's faced from Pollock, has scored 90 runs and been dismissed just twice, for an average of 45. During the debacle at Port Elizabeth, the commentators were harping on the fact that India didn't have a single left-hander in their top order (Dinesh Mongia and Suresh Raina weren't in the playing XI). Would the presence of Ganguly have helped?

Apart from the Indians, the presence of one other name is especially interesting: Mohammad Yousuf has received plenty of attention over the last few months, and all of it has been - entirely deservedly - positive. Here's one not-so-glowing stat about Pakistan's most prolific batsman: in 86 deliveries from Pollock in ODIs, Yousuf has been dismissed four times at a paltry average of 9.50 per dismissal. With Yousuf in the form of his life and Pakistan due to tour South Africa next, that's one battle that promises some excitement.

Pollock's ODI bunnies (since Sept 2001, at least 50 balls bowled)
Batsman Runs Balls Dismissals Average
Mohammad Kaif 36 79 4 9.00
Mohammad Yousuf 38 86 4 9.50
Sachin Tendulkar 50 117 5 10.00
Aravinda de Silva 31 57 3 10.33
Marcus Trescothick 71 127 5 14.20
Nathan Astle 46 87 3 15.33
Michael Vaughan 37 79 2 18.50
Adam Gilchrist 157 233 7 22.42
Rahul Dravid 47 102 2 23.50
Virender Sehwag 118 156 5 23.60

Also, while Pollock has dominated the Indians, he has found the Australian batsmen much tougher to dislodge. Hayden averages 78 against him, while Ponting (63) and Katich (57) have also kept him at bay. None of them score at more than 3.75 per over against him, which indicates Pollock has had his moments against them too, but the Australians have clearly adopted the tactic of keeping him at bay and scoring off the other bowlers. The way the Indians have been batting, though, they'll need Graeme Smith to come into the attack to score a few.

Batsman-friendly Adelaide

England's batsmen had a tough initiation to the Ashes series at the Gabba, but the Adelaide Oval should be friendlier for Andrew Strauss and co. Over the years, Brisbane, Perth and sometimes Melbourne have offered plenty of assistance to the fast bowlers while Sydney has favoured spin, but Adelaide has almost always been a batting paradise, right from the days of Sir Don Bradman to more recently, when Brian Lara scored that magnificent 226 en route to becoming Test cricket's highest run-getter. Adelaide has clearly been Lara's favourite Australian ground: he averages 76.25 here, but only 31.81 elsewhere in the country.

The tables below indicate that Adelaide is among the best venues for batting anywhere in the world. In Tests since 1980, teams average more than 35 per wicket here, the fourth-highest among venues which have hosted at least 15 Tests during this period.

Best venues for batting since 1980 (Qual: at least 15 Tests during this period)
Venue Tests Runs per wkt Run rate
Antigua 21 38.37 3.03
Chennai 16 37.17 3.15
Old Trafford 22 35.61 3.01
Adelaide 27 35.39 2.97
The Oval 27 35.09 3.09
Lahore 28 34.75 3.07
Lord's 43 34.36 3.10
Cape Town 16 34.35 2.98

Spinners often get some assistance later in the game, but over the first three days the Les Burdett-prepared pitch is usually a beauty for batting - in the first two innings of a match teams average 39.28 per dismissal. Only Chepauk and Antigua has been more friendly for the batsmen.

Best venues for batting in the first two innings since 1980 (at least 15 Tests)
Venue Tests Runs per wkt Run rate
Chennai 16 40.62 3.08
Antigua 21 40.58 3.11
Adelaide 27 39.28 3.07
Bulawayo 17 37.54
The Oval 27 37.41 3.20

For both teams, though, the key will be to get the runs on the board in the first innings. In the fourth innings, the runs-per-wicket stat drastically reduced to 25.68, which ranks 13th in the list of all venues.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo. For some of the stats, he was helped by Satish Kumar.