The Friday Column January 30, 2004

Turning around poor starts, and West Indies' slide

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

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

Stuttering starts
India may have won all three matches against Zimbabwe so far in the VB Series, but it hasn't quite been one-way traffic for them: at Adelaide, they squeaked through by three runs despite being reduced to 4 for 3. Not only was that India's worst start in an ODI (least runs scored for three wickets down), it was also the worst start by a team which has then gone on to win the match.

Turning around poor starts into wins against Zimbabwe is something that the Indians have done before, most famously in the 1983 World Cup, when Kapil Dev's glorious 175 not out pulled through an Indian team precariously placed at 9 for 4 and then 17 for 5. Both those scores remain the poorest starts - teams losing four and five wickets for least number of runs - by victorious teams. In both those games, India lost their openers for ducks. For those interested in trivia, here's one from the two matches: in the 1983 game, Sunil Gavaskar lasted two balls and Kris Srikkanth 13 - in the VB Series match, Sanjay Bangar lasted two minutes, Parthiv Patel 13.

Worst starts in victories

Score Team Against Won by Venue, year
Three down 4 India Zimbabwe 3 runs Adelaide, 2003-04
5 Sri Lanka New Zealand 5 wickets Dhaka, 1998-99
Four down 9 India Zimbabwe 31 runs Tunbridge Wells, 1983
15 Australia West Indies 5 runs Mohali, 1995-96
Five down 17 India Zimbabwe 31 runs Tunbridge Wells, 1983
21 South Africa England 38 runs Johannesburg, 1999-00

India had the ignominy of being reduced to 4 for 3, but teams have suffered worse plights - there have been three instances of teams losing their first three wickets without a run on the board. Pakistan have been on the receiving end twice - in the 1983 World Cup match against New Zealand and against South Africa in 1997-98 - while Bangladesh were at the wrong end of a Chaminda Vaas blitz in the 2003 World Cup. In all three instances, the teams couldn't quite recover from the early setbacks.

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From bad to worse
Meanwhile, for West Indies, the misery doesn't seem to end. After being thrashed in the Tests by South Africa, there was little to savour in the first one-day international either, when they were bundled out for their lowest ODI total of 54 (handily beating their previous lowest, 87 against Australia at Sydney in 1992-93). In the process they also suffered their worst-ever defeat - by 209 runs.

A look at some of West Indies' most comprehensive losses only confirms the woeful slide of what was once a great side - nine of their most humiliating defeats have all come in the last five years, during which period they have been dismissed five times for less than 150. West Indies' win percent since 2000 is a measly 45% - surprisingly, New Zealand, with a win record of just 42%, have an even worse record during this period.

West Indies' worst ODI defeats (in terms of runs)

Margin Against Opp score WI score Venue & Season
209 South Africa 263-4 54 Cape Town, 2003-04
138 Pakistan 255-5 117 Sharjah, 1999-2000
134 Australia 253-9 119 Sydney, 2000-01
132 South Africa 287-4 155 Grenada, 2000-01
130 Pakistan 260-5 130-9 Sharjah, 1999-2000

West Indies' worst ODI defeats (in terms of wickets)

Margin Against Opp. score WI score Venue & Season
10 wkts England 171-0 169-8 Chester-le-Street, 2000
10 wkts Australia 124-0 123 Adelaide, 2000-01
9 wkts Sri Lanka 146-1 145 Sharjah, 1999-2000
9 wkts Australia 236-1 234-8 Brisbane, 2000-01

Win-loss record of all teams since January 1, 2000

Played Won Lost Win %
Australia 115 87 23 79.09
South Africa 125 79 41 65.83
Sri Lanka 113 66 44 60.00
Pakistan 138 79 57 58.09
India 127 66 56 54.10
England 84 40 41 49.38
West Indies 95 41 50 45.05
New Zealand 113 46 63 42.20
Zimbabwe 114 30 80 27.27

Bangladesh have not been included in this table because they have not won a single one-dayer since 2000.

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The Nel-Lara monitor
Not only did South Africa maintain their stranglehold over West Indies, Andre Nel continued his dominance over Brian Lara too, albeit with some help from umpire Ian Howell, who adjudged Lara leg-before to a delivery which pitched outside leg. That was the sixth time Nel nailed Lara in nine tries - not bad for a bowler who wasn't even a regular in the team till a few months back.

Nel v Lara in 2003-04

Balls Runs Dismissals Ave
237 99 6 16.50

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.