The Friday column July 7, 2006

Lopsided lbws, and England's ODI worries

In the West Indies-India series, India won 19 lbws while West Indies only got six in their favour. The difference of 13 was among the highest in any Test series

Terry Alderman enjoyed the English summer of 1989, getting 41 wickets, of which 19 were lbws © Getty Images

Though West Indies ran India close in the just-concluded Test series, finally going down in the last Test, there was another parameter in which the gulf was far more significant: the ability to trap the opposition batsmen in front. The Indian bowlers nailed 19 lbw decisions in their favour; their West Indian counterparts, by comparison, managed just six.

Poor umpiring, some of the locals might complain. Over the last couple of seasons, West Indies have had some cause to carp at the officiating, especially on their tour to Australia in 2005-06. While both teams had some reason to protest this time - West Indies got a few rough ones in the first Test, while India were repeatedly denied by Brian Jerling in the third - the reason for the lopsided stats wasn't the umpiring, a fact that Jeff Dujon, former West Indian wicketkeeper and current commentator, realised when he gave a more straightforward explanation: the Indian bowlers attacked the stumps more regularly and hence gave themselves a greater chance of winning lbw decisions, while the West Indian attack was mostly directed outside off, either to contain the batsmen or hope for an edge to the slip cordon.

The difference of 13 between the lbws won by the two sides is among the all-time highest in a series: it has been bettered on only five occasions. the highest difference, of 20, came during the 1989 Ashes series, when England had no answers to the swing and guile of Terry Alderman, who finished with a rich haul of 41, 19 of which were lbws.

The table below lists the top five instances when the lbws against one team were far more than against the other. It's interesting to note that while five different teams have been at the receiving end, Australia and Pakistan have both inflicted the damage on the opposition twice each. And for those insinuating home bias, the top two in the list have both gone against the home team, though the second one - Australia in New Zealand - happened when neutral umpires had taken over charge in the middle. The last three instances, however, look like typical cases of examples which might have prompted the ICC to opt for third-country officials, though the presence of the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz meant that Pakistan were always likely to get a fair number of lbw decisions in their favour.

Highest difference between lbws in a series
Series Team - lbw against Team - lbw against Difference
Ashes 1989 England - 30 Australia - 10 20
Australia in New Zealand 2004-05 New Zealand - 27 Australia - 9 18
West Indies in Pakistan 1990-91 West Indies - 21 Pakistan - 4 17
Australia in India 1979-80 Australia - 24 India - 9 15
India in Pakistan 1982-83 India - 21 Pakistan - 6 15

Apart from the West Indies-India series, there have been seven other series in which the difference between the lbw count has been 13 - England, New Zealand and West Indies have all been at the receiving end twice, while India have been the beneficiary four times.

Getting the combinations right
With the World Cup just about nine months away, most teams have been looking at getting the right combination in place, and have succeeded in varying degrees. One team which has struggled more than most in making any progress in that direction has been England. Usually the number of players used over a period of time is a good indication of just how settled a team is. Going by that yardstick, England - thanks to a combination of injury worries and befuddled planning - have been having a rather tough time of it since the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

In three years and a bit since that tournament, they have used 39 players to play 69 ODIs: the ratio of 0.57 is among the highest for all teams, as the table below indicates - only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have a higher ratio. Even West Indies, who have struggled with contract problems and have hence been forced to use more players than they would have otherwise, have a lower ratio than England, whose corresponding ratio in Tests is far more acceptable. Not surprisingly, England have only won 31 out of 69 ODIs during this period, of which 13 victories have been against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Ireland. Meanwhile, Australia's ratio in both forms of the game tells a rather convincing story about how well-prepared they are in both forms of the game.

Player-match ratio for all teams since April 2003
Team Tests - players/ matches ODIs - players/ matches Tests - players per match ODIs - players per match
Australia 30/ 46 33/ 91 0.65 0.36
Pakistan 35/ 28 36/ 87 1.25 0.41
India 26/ 35 40/ 89 0.74 0.45
South Africa 33/ 40 34/ 72 0.83 0.47
Sri Lanka 32/ 34 40/ 80 0.94 0.50
New Zealand 30/ 29 37/ 68 1.03 0.54
West Indies 39/ 40 41/ 73 0.98 0.56
England 37/ 44 39/ 69 0.84 0.57
Bangladesh 36/ 27 34/ 58 1.33 0.59
Zimbabwe 34/ 18 43/ 68 1.89 0.63

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo. For the stats, he was helped by Arun Gopalakrishnan.