India in Australia, 2003-04

The power of strokeplay

Why India should score their runs quickly and open with a right-left combination in Australia

S Rajesh

December 2, 2003

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Why India should score their runs quickly, and open with a right/left-hand combination in Australia:

Make 'em snappy
What does it take for a batsman to succeed against Australia? Apart from a reasonable technique and the ability to cop some chatter in the middle, it's the ability to score the runs quickly which separates the batsmen who have done well from those who have not. As the list below shows, the six most successful batsmen against Australia since the 1999-2000 season have all scored their runs at a rate of more than 55 per 100 balls. Jacques Kallis, at seventh spot, is the highest name in the list with a sub-50 strike rate.

On the other hand, the three batsmen at the bottom of the list all have a scoring rate of below 46. Among the failures is Sourav Ganguly, who, in six matches against Australia, has scored 283 runs from 631 balls.

Batsmen against Australia in last four years (min qual.: 5 Tests)
Most successful
Tests
Runs
Balls
Ave
Strike rate
Vaughan
5
633
1091
63.30
58.02
Laxman
6
724
1155
60.33
62.68
Astle
6
489
857
48.90
57.06
Tendulkar
6
582
1017
48.50
57.22
Lara
9
854
1385
47.44
61.67
Cairns
6
515
753
46.82
68.39
Kallis
6
429
924
42.90
46.43
Least successful
Tests
Runs
Balls
Ave
Strike rate
Ganguly
6
283
631
23.58
44.84
Atherton
5
221
484
22.10
45.66
Campbell
5
187
616
18.70
30.36
(All figures since October 14, 1999)

* * * *

Left is right
Sadagoppan Ramesh did manage to find a place in the squad, and if Australia's past record is anything to go by, the Indian think-tank would do well to include him in the Tests. Over the last four seasons, a left-right combination at the top of the order has achieved far greater success against Australia on their home turf than an opening pair consisting of two right-handed batsmen.

As the table below indicates, the average opening partnership between two right-handers is a paltry 17.03, with the 61-run stand between Trevor Gripper and Dion Ebrahim for Zimbabwe at Perth earlier this year the highest partnership in 26 tries. Throw in a left-hander, though, and the average almost doubles to 32.95, with a highest of 147 between Wavell Hinds and Sherwin Campbell in 2000-01.

It can be argued that the right-left combinations who played during this period were more accomplished players (Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan, Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten), but this trend continues down the order as well, though the contrast isn't quite as stark. Among partnerships for the first four wickets, right-left pairs have performed better in three of them - only for the fourth wicket have right-handed pairs done marginally better. In fact, of the 33 century stands against Australia since October 1999, 18 have been made by right-left combinations, and just 12 by right-handed pairs. Interestingly, all-left partnerships have posed a few problems for Australia. Have India missed a trick by leaving out both Yuvraj Singh and Hemang Badani from their squad?

Batting partnerships against Australia
For wicket
Right-left pair
Both right
Both left
1st Innings
69
26
-
Ave
32.95
17.03
-
100/ 50 p'ships
4/13
0/2
2nd Innings
42
40
14
Ave
30.67
28.63
42.69
100/ 50 p'ships
2/6
1/6
1/3
3rd Innings
46
44
14
Ave
39.89
34.05
30.57
100/ 50 p'ships
5/ 6
2/ 8
0/ 1
4th Innings
50
41
4
Ave
34.42
37.80
63.00
100/ 50 p'ships
4/ 9
2/ 5
1/ 0
(All figures since October 14, 1999)

* * * *

The southpaw factor
Plenty has been written about why Murali Kartik should have been in the Indian squad to Australia. Here's another reason: over the last couple of years, left-arm spinners have had more than reasonable success in Australia. As the table below shows, left-arm spinners have taken more than 30 percent of the team's wickets in matches they have played. The list includes Daniel Vettori and Ray Price, but also the less likely Ashley Giles, who took six of the 15 wickets in the only Test he played in Australia.

Team
Matches
Wkts taken by team
Wkts by LOS
% of wkts by LOS
LOS in team
Eng 1 15 6 40% Giles
NZ 3 36 13 36% Vettori
Zim 2 17 6 35% Price
SA 3 38 12 32% Henderson, Boje
(LOS - left-arm orthodox spinners)

* * * *

India down under
A quick reality check on how the Indians have performed in Australia: Sachin Tendulkar is the only batsman who has consistently scored runs there, while Ajit Agarkar shone as a bowler on the 1999-2000 tour (though he is remembered - rather unfairly - for his horrendous run with the bat). Especially glaring is the lack of success of Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble: Dravid averaged a meagre 15.50 last time around, while Kumble's five wickets came at an exorbitant 90.

Indians in Australia
The batsmen
Tests
Runs
Ave
Career Avg
Diff
Tendulkar
8
646
46.14
56.37
-10.23
Dravid
3
93
15.50
54.37
-38.87
Laxman
3
221
36.83
44.26
-7.43
Ramesh
2
60
20.00
37.97
-17.97
The bowlers
Tests
Wkts
Ave
Career Avg
Diff
Agarkar
3
11
31.91
46.57
-14.66
Kumble
3
5
90.00
28.21
61.79

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.

The article appeared in the December issue of Wisden Asia Cricket. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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