February 29, 2008

Tendulkar and the run-chase quandary

Sachin Tendulkar has been outstanding when batting first in ODIs, but has been outshined by many of his team-mates in run-chases



Sachin Tendulkar: a champion in the first innings, but not so immense during a run-chase © Getty images

To bat first or to bat second in ODIs? Teams obviously make up their mind based on the weather and pitch conditions, taking into account their past record at the venue. But perhaps another equally crucial factor is the manner in which their players - both batsmen and bowlers - respond to the different types of pressures that come with setting a target or chasing one. Some batsmen prefer the freedom of not having a target before them, while others relish the challenge of a run-chase. The Indian team is clearly a mixed bag.

When Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed for 2 against Australia in Sydney on Sunday, it continued an especially poor run for him in run-chases. He scored 63 against Sri Lanka a couple of days later, but it still left his second-innings average in ODIs since 2005 at a dismally low 27.87. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, on the other hand, has revelled when batting second: his average of 53.06 is only slightly lesser than Tendulkar's in the first innings. Yuvraj Singh has been just as impressive in run-chases, averaging more than 50 at a strike-rate of greater than 85.

The table below examines the Indian batsmen and their preference for batting first or second. Tendulkar tops the list for batsmen who prefer to set a target: he averages 56.03 at a strike-rate of 82.49 when batting first, giving him a batting index (average multiplied by strike-rate divided by 100) of more than 46. When batting second, his batting index drops drastically to 22.64, a difference of more than 23. Mohammad Kaif, Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid have much better numbers when batting first. Their stats are offset by those of Dhoni, Yuvraj, Robin Uthappa and Suresh Raina, who all have much better stats in run-chases.

Indian batsmen in first and second innings of ODIs since Jan 2005
Batsman 1st bat ave Strike rate Ave x SR/ 100 (1) 2nd bat ave Strike rate Ave x SR/ 100 (2) 2 - 1
Sachin Tendulkar 56.03 82.49 46.22 27.87 81.24 22.64 -23.58
Mohammad Kaif 37.56 72.32 27.16 24.58 63.52 15.61 -11.55
Gautam Gambhir 42.20 84.73 35.76 35.95 74.27 26.70 -9.06
Rahul Dravid 43.12 79.31 34.20 37.02 73.12 27.07 -7.13
Irfan Pathan 28.83 79.23 22.84 22.45 76.11 17.09 -5.75
Virender Sehwag 30.41 97.11 29.53 29.09 100.31 29.18 -0.35
Sourav Ganguly 34.30 67.71 23.22 36.52 70.09 25.60 2.38
Mahendra Singh Dhoni 38.94 93.77 36.51 53.06 87.04 46.18 9.67
Robin Uthappa 20.30 107.40 21.80 33.26 95.41 31.73 9.93
Yuvraj Singh 37.20 85.70 31.88 50.62 85.68 43.37 11.49
Suresh Raina 18.73 67.38 12.62 41.37 77.88 32.22 19.60

The difference between Tendulkar's first- and second-innings numbers is remarkable because of its sheer magnitude. The 28.16 difference in average is more than four times that for the next batsman, New Zealand's Stephen Fleming. In his last 40 innings in run-chases, Tendulkar has only managed eight half-centuries, no hundreds, and 18 single-digit scores, which means a whopping 45% of his second innings have ended before he has reached ten. In contrast, only seven of his 32 first innings during the same period have fetched him less than ten; in his last 13 first innings, only once has he been dismissed for less than 25. There's no question about what Tendulkar's preference will be should Dhoni win the toss in the finals of the CB Series.

Batsmen who've done much better in the first innings than in the second in ODIs since Jan 2005 (Qual: batted at least 20 times in each innings)
Batsman 1st inng ave 2nd inng ave Difference
Sachin Tendulkar 56.03 27.87 28.16
Stephen Fleming 34.96 28.05 6.91
Irfan Pathan 28.83 22.45 6.38
Ramnaresh Sarwan 44.20 37.96 6.24
Rahul Dravid 43.12 37.28 5.84
Dwayne Bravo 29.05 23.61 5.45
Ian Bell 38.41 33.12 5.29
Mark Boucher 40.20 34.92 5.28
Hamilton Masakadza 24.24 19.18 5.06
Herschelle Gibbs 45.63 41.03 4.60
Shahid Afridi 26.79 22.26 4.53
Elton Chigumbura 26.61 22.23 4.38
Paul Collingwood 38.90 35.46 3.44
Kumar Sangakkara 40.47 37.04 3.43
Justin Kemp 34.52 31.17 3.35

At the other end of the spectrum are batsmen who seem to loathe batting first. South Africa's captain Graeme Smith leads this table, with numbers that are almost exactly the opposite of Tendulkar's - Smith averages only 27 in the first innings and nearly 54 when chasing.

Scroll down the list and there are plenty of experienced names here: Bangladesh's former captain and Sri Lanka's current one are both in the mix, while Adam Gilchrist prefers the run-chase too.

Batsmen who've done much better in the second innings than in the first in ODIs since Jan 2005 (Qual: batted at least 20 times in each innings)
Batsman 1st inng ave 2nd inng ave Difference
Graeme Smith 27.00 53.65 -26.65
Habibul Bashar 19.11 39.31 -20.20
Brendon McCullum 24.00 41.00 -17.00
Mahela Jayawardene 35.00 51.67 -16.67
Shaun Pollock 22.40 38.14 -15.74
Adam Gilchrist 30.23 45.65 -15.42
Michael Clarke 44.15 57.87 -13.72
Yuvraj Singh 37.69 50.63 -12.93
Mohammad Ashraful 22.07 34.80 -12.73
Mahendra Singh Dhoni 41.47 53.07 -11.60
Abdul Razzaq 23.40 33.47 -10.07
Chris Gayle 33.36 41.63 -8.27
Kamran Akmal 19.65 27.65 -8.00
Brian Lara 29.04 36.45 -7.41
Aftab Ahmed 24.31 31.69 -7.38

How do these batsmen fare when the target gets stiffer? Put in a cut-off of a target of 240 or more and Ricky Ponting comes out right on top, with a stunning average of 65.11. India's captain follows him closely in second place, suggesting that the two captains could have plenty to do during run-chases during the CB Series finals. In fact, the top six in the list are batsmen who are and were involved in this series, and three of the top four are Australians.

Best batsmen in run-chases of 240 or more since Jan 2005 (at least 10 innings)
Batsman Innings Runs Average
Ricky Ponting 12 586 65.11
Mahendra Singh Dhoni 28 1238 61.90
Andrew Symonds 10 355 59.17
Michael Clarke 13 527 58.56
Mahela Jayawardene 11 464 58.00
Yuvraj Singh 27 1063 53.15
Kevin Pietersen 15 611 50.92
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 22 932 49.05
Inzamam-ul-Haq 14 461 46.10
Shoaib Malik 21 824 45.78

Tendulkar's numbers pale in comparison - 679 runs at 29.52 - but he isn't the only batting superstar who hasn't relished the run-chase of late: in 18 innings, Brian Lara only scored 467 runs at a mediocre average of 25.94.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.