The Friday Column October 29, 2004

Dravid goes defensive, and Kartik's favourite captain

S.Rajesh plays the Numbers Game

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:

Dravid the stodger
Over the last couple of years, Rahul Dravid's approach at the crease has undergone a significant change. The diffident, ultra-defensive mindset has been replaced by a more purposeful, aggressive intent. The results have been there for all to see: Dravid has scored more runs, at a quicker rate, and against high-quality opposition. Against Australia, at home in 2001, and away in 2003-04, Dravid totalled 957 runs from 11 completed innings, at an average of 87. In the ongoing series, however, the Dravid in action has been the one from the pre-2001 era, occupying the crease for long periods of time but struggling to translate it into runs on the board.

In the four innings this series, Dravid has faced 428 balls for 107 runs - that's a scoring rate of 1.5 runs per over. Jog your mind back nearly five years to India's tour to Australia in 1999-2000, when Dravid finished with a miserable average of 15.50, and scored at almost exactly the same rate. In contrast, when Dravid made all those runs against Australia in the two earlier series, the rate of scoring had been much quicker, as the table below indicates. In fact, in five of the last six series (excluding the current one), Dravid scored at 45 runs per 100 balls - the only series when he didn't was in extremely difficult conditions in New Zealand in the two-Test series in 2002-03. Reverting to a more aggressive approach might be just what could lift the Indian batting from the shambles it currently finds itself in.

Dravid v Aus Innings Runs Balls Ave Strike rate
in 1999-2000 6 93 368 15.50 25.27
in 2000-01 6 338 795 56.33 42.51
in 2003-04 8 619 1203 123.79 51.45
in 2004-05 4 107 428 26.75 25.00

Kartik's favourites
When Sourav Ganguly pulled out of the Nagpur Test, it was a blow to the Indian team, but to one member, perhaps, it was a sign of good things to come. Murali Kartik has only been an intermittent member of the Indian team, and the sample size hence isn't a significant number, but Kartik's performances, in both Tests and one-dayers, are remarkably co-related to the man at the helm. When it's Ganguly, the stats are downright abysmal; when it's someone else (Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar), they're quite impressive.

Kartik made his Test debut against South Africa in 1999-2000, and did reasonably well the two matches of the series when Tendulkar was captain. Then, in three games under Ganguly - including the Sydney Test in 2003-04, when he returned figures of 1 for 211 - he did little of note. In Nagpur, he has taken 5 for 108 from 41 overs so far, to Anil Kumble's 2 for 161 from 38. The contrast is equally stark in the ODIs, when Kartik has blossomed under Dravid, but has mostly struggled under Ganguly.

Kartik in Tests Matches Wickets Ave Strike rate
Under Ganguly 3 4 79.75 158.2
Under others 3* 11 28.09 69.82
* Stats upto third day of Nagpur Test

Kartik in ODIs Matches Wickets Ave Economy rate
Under Ganguly 12 9 62.44 5.40
Under Dravid 4 5 33.79 4.33

The numbers aren't dissimilar to Andrew Flintoff's, who has flourished under Michael Vaughan after struggling when Nasser Hussain was captain. Flintoff's stats, though, the numbers clearly reflect a more mature cricketer who is enjoying Vaughan's more open style of leadership. In Kartik's case, it might just be a statistical quirk which will even out as the sample size becomes larger.

Flintoff in Tests Matches Bat ave Wkts Bowl ave
Under Hussain 20 21.48 32 48.65
Under Vaughan 17 48.69 51 29.05

Flintoff in ODIs Matches Bat ave Wkts Bowl ave
Under Hussain 35 26.62 33 29.39
Under Vaughan 25 65.06 31 18.16

A bounty for left-arm spin
The two-Test series between Bangladesh and New Zealand was a dream-come-true for connoisseurs of left-arm spin. While Daniel Vettori took three six-fors and finished with 20 wickets, Bangladesh had their own exponents in Mohammad Rafique, Enamul Haque and Manjural Islam. Of the 56 wickets that fell in the series, 34 went to left-arm spinners. To put those figures in perspective, though, the pitches in Bangladesh were expected to take turn, and the leading spinners for both sides were left-arm spinners. However, over the last few months, left-arm spinners have had a pretty good run: Ashley Giles had an excellent summer in England, Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath showed plenty of promise in the recent Faisalabad Test, and even Kartik took a few wickets when given the opportunity. So are we finally seeing a revival of left-arm spin?

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.