The Friday Column October 22, 2004

Martyn conquers the subcontinent, and Rafique's rise

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:

Magnificent Martyn
When Damien Martyn first came onto the international scene, he was regarded as a player who was great on the eye - the elegance and grace he displayed at the batting crease was a sheer delight for spectators - but perhaps not quite so effective on the utility front. His famous waft against South Africa at Sydney in 1993-94 singled him out, rather unfairly, for plenty of flak, but in his latest avatar, Martyn is the perfect embodiment of grace under pressure.

For a player bred on the bouncy tracks of the WACA in Perth, Martyn has taken to subcontinental conditions remarkably well. Batting on those pitches is an onerous task for most overseas batsmen, but usually it is even more so in the second innings, when the surface often crumbles and the bounce gets progressively uneven: in the last 108 Tests in the subcontinent since 1998, 146 centuries have been scored in the first innings, and only 46 in the second.

Martyn, though, has relished the challenge, and has been far more successful in the second innings than in the first. In fact, of his last five second-innings efforts, three have been hundreds. (He scored a couple on the tour to Sri Lanka.) All three times, he has battled another handicap - Australia have trailed on the first innings on all those occasions. Martyn's centuries have helped Australia win two of those games, and save the most recent one, at Chennai earlier this week.

Martyn in subcontinent Innings Runs Ave 100s
In 1st innings 8 187 23.38 0
In 2nd innings 6 445 74.17 3
Overall 14 632 45.14 3

The table below shows just how difficult it is to do what Martyn has done over the last few months: only six other batsmen have scored three or more centuries in the subcontinent after their teams have trailed in the first innings, and they have all been involved in many more such Tests than Martyn. Also, Martyn is the only one who doesn't belong to one of the subcontinental teams, which is an indication of just how tough an ask it is.

2nd inn. 100s in subcontinent
after trailing on 1st inn
Matches 100s
Aravinda de Silva 30 6
Salim Malik 25 4
Sunil Gavaskar 34 4
Damien Martyn 4 3
Mohammad Azharuddin 13 3
Sachin Tendulkar 14 3
Dilip Vengsarkar 27 3

The three recent occasions, though, are the only times that Martyn has scored a second-innings hundred in the 11 matches he has played when Australia have conceded the first-innings lead. So who have been the best batsmen in these back-to-the-wall situations, in all conditions, against all opposition? The usual suspects are in the list, with Sunil Gavaskar leading the way - his nine hundreds is yet another testimony to his ability to soak in the pressure and come up with his best with his team in strife. However, being in a weak Indian team also meant that he got such an opportunity 62 times. Don Bradman hit up seven centuries in only 20 such games, while Mark Taylor's stats in this regard are a bit more surprising - six tons in 30, that's one every five matches. Tendulkar has six too, but he has played 12 more matches.

2nd inn. 100s after
trailing on 1st inn
Matches 100s
Sunil Gavaskar 62 9
Martin Crowe 38 8
Allan Border 68 8
Don Bradman 20 7
Brian Lara 65 7

Rafique on the rise
Bangladesh's bowling attack is unlikely to cause too many rival batsmen to spend sleepless nights, but there's one name which is quickly climbing up the bowlers' charts. The 6 for 122 that Mohammad Rafique took against New Zealand in the ongoing Test at Dhaka took him past the 50-wicket mark in only his 13th Test. Rafique has been a part of less than half the 31 Tests (including the current one) that Bangladesh have played, but has taken 52 out of 223 wickets taken by all the their bowlers - that's more than 23%. Remove Rafique from the list, and the bowling cupboard looks rather bare - next in their wicket-takers' list is Tapash Baisya, with 29 from 16 Tests, and Manjural Islam, the left-arm seam bowler (not to be confused with Manjural Islam Rana, the left-arm spinner playing at Dhaka), with 28 from 17.

Not only is Rafique streets ahead of the other Bangladesh bowlers, his stats also compare favourably with the other contemporary left-arm spinners.

Left-arm spinners 50th wicket in match no. Current ave
Mohammad Rafique 13* 30.31
Daniel Vettori 14 37.83
Ray Price 15 35.86
Paul Adams 16 32.87
Ashley Giles 19 36.81
* includes the ongoing Test at Dhaka

S Rajesh is an assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.