The Friday Column February 11, 2005

Youhana steps it up, and Aussie appeals

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:

From good to great?
For a long time now, Yousuf Youhana has been recognised as one of the most elegant batsmen in the game today - he has a grace and fluidity to his game which is so easy on the eye - but for all the skill, Youhana has been unable to transcend from the merely good to the great. Along with adjectives like elegant and graceful, the tag of a `soft' player has often been labelled against him. Now, after seven seasons in international cricket, it seems Youhana is finally ready to shed that tag and be counted among the best batsmen to have played for Pakistan.

In the past few months, Youhana has showed the stomach for a fight - exactly the trait he was accused of lacking for so many years - more than once. Last September, in the ICC Champions' Trophy, he struck an excellent unbeaten 81 in a low-scoring one-dayer to guide Pakistan home in a tense run-chase against India. Then, leading the team for only the second time in Tests at Melbourne against Australia, he scored an outstanding century to keep a rampaging Australian attack at bay. Both were situations in which the Youhana of old would probably have dazzled briefly, scored an enchanting but utterly inconsequential 30, and then thrown it away.

Youhana's one-day stats has been especially indicative of this trait - till the 2003 World Cup, Youhana clearly preferred batting first to the pressures of a run-chase: he averaged 48.31 in innings when Pakistan set a target, and less than 33 when they chased one. Since the World Cup, though, Youhana's stats in second innings have zoomed up - he averages 58.44, an increase of nearly 26 runs, or 80%. He's also been instrumental in Pakistan winning many of those matches, averaging more than 91 in the 17 successful run-chases for Pakistan during this period. During the same period, Inzamam-ul-Haq averaged 48.94 when Pakistan batted second, and 56 in successful run-chases.

Yousuf Youhana in ODIs Matches Runs Average
In run-chases till World Cup 2003 52 1335 32.56
In run-chases after WC 2003 27 1052 58.44
In victorious chases since WC 2003 17 729 91.13
In run-chases exceeding 230 17 649 46.36

In just over three weeks, though, Youhana will be facing one of his biggest challenges when Pakistan tour India. The last time the two teams clashed in Tests, in that historic series in March 2004, Youhana had his moments, but his highest score - 112 at Multan - was a `typical' Youhana knock, scored in a completely lost cause with nothing at stake. Since then, he has proved that he can put in match-turning performances too. Pakistan will expect nothing less.

Lee the striker
Last season was a frustrating one for Brett Lee - eager to break into the Test side, he was kept out by Michael Kasprowicz, who consistently turned in sterling displays to shut out any debates about his place. However, in the few opportunities Lee got in the one-dayers, he showed he hadn't lost any pace, and had enhanced his accuracy and control.

Lee has often been left out of ODIs due to his profligacy, but in low-scoring games, he has shown that he can staunch the runs as well as nail the wickets. The most recent example of such a performance was in the first VB Series final at Melbourne, when he returned outstanding figures of 3 for 23 from ten overs, but he has turned in some memorable spells in the past too, most notably at Port Elizabeth in the 2003 World Cup. Defending only 208 against New Zealand, he destroyed them with his burst of 5 for 32; a few days later, he was at it again, and Sri Lanka were at the receiving end, finishing up well short of their target of 212. The table below indicates just what a force Lee has been on the rare occasions when Australia's batsmen have done a less-than-satisfactory job.

Brett Lee in ODIs Matches Wkts Average Economy rate
In all ODIs 99 176 22.47 4.73
Defending < 240 12 26 16.85 3.39

Aussies' appealing appeals
Australia are undoubtedly the leaders of the pack in terms of cricketing skills, but if Bob Woolmer and Mark Richardson are to be believed, they have added a cutting edge to their appealing technique as well - both claimed that the Australians influence the umpires to give more decisions their way than in favour of opposing teams. Well, those might only be the comments of sour losers, but the stats seem to back their case as well.

In the recently concluded VB Series, Australia had 47% of their lbw appeals upheld, while for Pakistan and West Indies, the other two teams in the competition, that figure was less than 14%. Of course, ask John Buchanan about it and he'll probably say that the Australians were choosy about their appeals, while Pakistan and West Indies went up for everything.

LBW appeals during VB Series Total appeals Given % given
Australia 21 10 47.6
West Indies 15 2 13.3
Pakistan 20 2 10

In fact, in all ODIs in Australia since April 2002 - when one third-country umpire was made compulsory for one-dayers - only 6.7% of Australian dismissals have been lbws (15 out of 222), while the percentage goes up to 9.3 for overseas players (28 out of 300). Simply a statistical quirk, or the result of scientific appealing?

Let us know what you think

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo. For some of the data, he was helped by Arun Gopalakrishnan, the operations manager in Cricinfo's Chennai office.