The Numbers Game November 7, 2003

Gavaskar's chink, Bevan's successor and Bangladesh's faith

Perhaps numbers do never reveal the full story, but they tell a large part of it fairly well

Perhaps numbers do never reveal the full story, but they tell a large part of it fairly well. Every Friday, The Numbers Game will take a look at statistics from the present and the past, busting myths and revealing hidden truths.

Mythbuster of the week - Sunny not so flash after all?
There is little doubt that Sunil Gavaskar would rank among the best openers in the all-time Test list. What is slightly over-rated, though, is his record against West Indies. At first glance, the stats are awe-inspiring: an average in the mid-60s, with an equally impressive record both home and away, and a hundred every two Tests over a span of 27 matches.

Gavaskar against West Indies
Tests
Runs
Ave
100s
50s
Home
14
1345
61.13
6
3
Away
13
1404
70.20
7
4
Total
27
2749
65.45
13
7

Dig a little deeper, and a few chinks appear. Gavaskar's two best series against the West Indians came when their bowling attack was a far cry from the four-pronged battery of fast bowlers that had been synonymous with their cricket in the 1980s. First, the sensational debut series in 1970-71, which fetched Gavaskar 774 runs from four Tests. The pace-bowling attack consisted of Vanburn Holder (career record - 109 wickets from 40 Tests at 33.27), Gregory Shillingford (15, 7, 35.80), Keith Boyce (60, 21, 30.01), Uton Dowe (12, 4, 44.50), John Shepherd (19, 5 25.21) and Garry Sobers (235, 93, 34.03). Hardly fearsome stuff.

Then, when West Indies came with a team weakened by the Kerry Packer exodus, Gavaskar feasted again, with 732 runs in six Tests. The pace bowlers this time were Holder, Norbert Phillip (28, 9, 37.17), Sylvester Clarke (42, 11, 27.85) and a raw Malcolm Marshall, who managed measly returns of three wickets at an exorbitant 88.33 in the Tests.

Series-wise break-up
Year
Tests
Runs
Ave
100s
Pace attack
1970-71 (Away)
4
774
154.80
4
Holder, Shillingford, Boyce, Dowe, Shepherd, Sobers, Dowe
1974-75 (Home)
2
108
27.00
-
Roberts, Holder, Julien
1975-76 (Away)
4
390
55.71
2
Roberts, Holding, Julien, Daniel, Holder
1978-79 (Home)
6
732
91.50
4
Phillip, Clarke, Holder, Marshall
1982-83 (Away)
5
240
30.00
1
Holding, Roberts, Garner, Marshall
1983-84 (Home)
6
505
50.50
2
Marshall, Holding, Roberts, Daniel, Davis

The two series in which Gavaskar did have to confront a four-pronged pace attack, he didn't enjoy quite as much success. The tour of 1982-83 was especially miserable: his only score of note in nine innings was an unbeaten 147 on the fifth day of a Georgetown Test which was meandering towards a draw after rain had washed out two of the first four days. Remove that knock, and his eight remaining innings in that series fetched him a mere 93.

The home series in 1983-84 was far more rewarding - his century at Delhi and 90 at Ahmedabad were memorable innings - but almost half his total runs in the series came from one innings, an unbeaten 236 in the last Test, at Chennai, in another rain-affected match after West Indies had already sealed the series in emphatic style. Michael Holding, in his autobiography Whispering Death, suggests that Gavaskar was a fair-weather batsman - impenetrable in good batting conditions, but not quite as impressive when the going got tough. Does he have a point there?

* * * * * *

The new Michael Bevan
It's probably sacrilegious to even mention them in the same breath, but there's an uncanny similarity between Michael Clarke's performances in his short international career so far, and Michael Bevan's record at the same stage of his career. In their debut ODIs, both made unbeaten 39s, anchoring their teams to wins in run-chases. Bevan's ODI stats have been dominated by a significant number of not-outs, and Clarke seems to be going the same way too: three unbeaten innings out of seven, exactly as many as Bevan had at the same stage. Bevan's first half-century only came in his tenth ODI, though; Clarke already has two in seven. His average will surely come down from its current lofty perch of 70.25, but, if his early matches are anything to go by, Australia have probably found a key member of their batting line-up for a long time to come.

After their first seven innings ...
M
I
NO
Runs
Ave
50s
Bevan
9
7
3
225
56.25
-
Clarke
7
7
3
281
70.25
2

* * * * * *

Unchanged in defeat and ... defeat
The recently concluded two-Test series against England resulted in just the second instance of Bangladesh fielding an unchanged team in two consecutive Tests. The only other occasion it happened was in their two-match series in New Zealand in 2001-02, both of which they lost by an innings. The 11 players who represented them were: Javed Omar, Al Sahariar, Habibul Bashar, Aminul Islam, Mohammad Ashraful, Sanwar Hossain, Khaled Mashud (capt & wk), Khaled Mahmud, Mohammad Sharif, Mashrafe Mortaza, Manjural Islam.

Five of those players - Omar, Bashar, Mashud, Mahmud and Mortaza - played in both Tests against England as well.

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.