September 5, 2008

Bad times for Dravid and Kallis, and England's new No. 3

Kallis and Dravid have been the mainstays of their batting orders for a while now, but 2008 has been a particularly bad year for both


Rahul Dravid struggled against the guile of Mendis, while Jacques Kallis had his own battles to fight in England © AFP
 

Their Test careers began within six months of each other in the mid-1990s, and since then, the paths of Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid have been similar in more ways than one. Both favour a defensive, orthodox approach to Test cricket, and have been the mainstays of their teams for the better part of the last decade. Dravid has played only two more Tests than Kallis' 123, while Kallis' average and scoring rate are just a touch better than Dravid's. Kallis has a better conversion rate of fifties to hundreds than Dravid, but there's nothing to choose between the number of 50-plus scores they've managed - 78 for Kallis, and 77 for Dravid.

Over the first seven years of this decade, these two were easily among the five best batsmen: only Ricky Ponting and Mohammad Yousuf averaged more during this period. The numbers for the two were remarkable as much for their similarity as for the success both achieved - Dravid played one more Test, averaged 0.08 runs less per dismissal, scored 1.5 fewer runs per 100 balls, and scored exactly the same number of fifties but two fewer hundreds. The only significant difference was their boundary-scoring pattern: Dravid scored 86 more fours, but 39 fewer sixes (the second stat reveals a facet of Kallis' batting that, many would argue, he has chosen to keep under wraps for most of his career).

Kallis and Dravid in Tests from 2000 to 2006
Batsman Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s 4s/ 6s
Jacques Kallis 71 6223 61.61 45.32 19/ 30 717/ 49
Rahul Dravid 72 6400 61.53 43.82 17/ 30 803/ 10

Over the last two years, though, things have changed. Dravid had a poor 2007, though Kallis excelled, but this year both have been in wretched form. The most recent series for both highlighted their recent slump: Kallis needed 143 runs to reach the 10,000 club, but managed just 104 from seven innings, making it his second-worst Test series ever (of three or more matches), and his worst in more than 11 years. Dravid, meanwhile, failed to come to terms with Ajantha Mendis and Co., scoring just 148 runs in six innings in Sri Lanka for the third-worst series (of three or more Tests) of his career.

Dravid and Kallis' year-wise Test averages
Year Dravid - Tests Average SR 100s/ 50s Kallis - Tests Average SR 100s/ 50s
1996 7 39.63 37.42 0/ 3 1 7.00 10.76 0/ 0
1997 12 61.50 36.93 1/ 9 5 28.25 30.91 1/ 1
1998 5 45.88 37.85 1/ 3 15 34.13 39.76 1/ 4
1999 10 48.05 42.44 4/ 1 10 69.16 35.65 3/ 5
2000 6 78.00 49.44 2/ 1 11 48.75 40.47 2/ 3
2001 13 46.75 40.28 1/ 6 13 70.00 40.34 2/ 7
2002 16 59.00 41.92 5/ 5 9 64.18 49.09 2/ 5
2003 5 100.37 51.37 2/ 3 8 49.85 47.77 2/ 1
2004 12 63.06 42.49 2/ 4 11 80.50 50.70 5/ 7
2005 8 53.33 45.58 2/ 4 11 72.21 47.11 4/ 4
2006 12 60.83 42.26 3/ 7 8 44.28 42.96 2/ 3
2007 10 35.64 41.79 1/ 3 9 86.42 52.17 5/ 6
2008 9 36.13 38.14 1/ 3 11 29.93 44.68 1/ 2
Career 125 53.92 41.93 25/ 52 123 55.46 43.90 30/ 48

Kallis did little of note with the bat in England, but the slump has been much longer for Dravid. Leave aside the runs he scored against Bangladesh last year and he has struggled in every series since he led India to a famous win in the West Indies in 2006. He played a couple of key innings in Australia, but even those weren't made with the solidity that has been his forte, while his performances in South Africa and England were decidedly below par. Not a quick scorer at the best of times, the lack of runs recently has - quite understandably - reduced his scoring-rate even further: in 2008, Dravid's strike-rate for the year has, for the first time since 1999, slipped to less than 40 runs per 100 balls. The early criticism against Dravid was to do with his tendency to get bogged down and his inability to turn the strike over; there's some justification for repeating those charges against him now.

The table below lists the bowlers who have troubled these two stars recently, and while there are some handy names among them, there are also some unlikely ones. You wouldn't normally expect Andrew Symonds to trouble Dravid with his flat offspinners and medium pace, but in Australia, Symonds dismissed him thrice (once, admittedly, in extremely dubious circumstances in Sydney) at the cost of just 34 runs, going at less than two per over. James Anderson has got the better of both Dravid and Kallis, while the rejuvenated Andrew Flintoff and Ryan Sidebottom offered Kallis no respite in England.

Bowlers who have troubled Dravid and Kallis in Tests since Jan 2007
Batsman Bowler Balls Runs Dismissals Average Runs per over
Dravid Shahadat Hossain 23 12 2 6.00 3.13
Dravid Andrew Symonds 103 34 3 11.33 1.98
Dravid Morne Morkel 106 26 2 13.00 1.47
Dravid Danish Kaneria 97 33 2 16.50 2.04
Dravid Ajantha Mendis 143 67 4 16.75 2.81
Dravid James Anderson 85 47 2 23.50 3.31
Dravid Mitchell Johnson 216 68 2 34.00 1.88
Kallis Andrew Flintoff 46 12 2 6.00 1.56
Kallis James Anderson 72 21 2 10.50 1.75
Kallis Ryan Sidebottom 57 22 2 11.00 2.31
Kallis Harbhajan Singh 128 62 3 20.67 2.90

The redeeming feature for Kallis has been his bowling: his ten wickets in the Test series against England cost him 29.50 each, the best average among all South African bowlers. He managed four dismissals in the ODIs too, but his batting in four innings there was another huge blow to South Africa: 68 runs at an average of 17, which is another low for him. In series in which he has played more than three ODIs, this is only the third time he has finished with an average of less than 20.

England's new No. 3 hope
"He deserved a go at three. He's played some fantastic shots, and the way he was talking when I was batting with him was a really good sign of things to come." Those were the words of Kevin Pietersen, England's brand new captain, and the batsman he was referring to was Owais Shah, who made an unbeaten 40-ball 44 in the fourth ODI at Lord's, an innings that impressed Pietersen enough to suggest Shah would be given a long run at No. 3.

The table below suggests that position hasn't been filled with much success by England since 2000. Twenty batsmen have tried their hand at the spot since 2000, but their collective average is only an ordinary 31.34, ten runs fewer than table-toppers Australia. Among the top eight teams, only New Zealand have a lower average.

In a limited-overs game, batting at No. 3 would ideally allow the batsmen enough time to notch up significant scores, but it clearly hasn't worked that way for England. In 191 innings at that position, only three times have England batsmen scored a century - Nasser Hussain, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell are the ones to achieve this feat in this period. Michael Vaughan scored 11 half-centuries at No. 3 position from 43 innings, but he never got a score of more than 90. Shah has only scored 83 runs from his five ODI innings in that position, but England will expect more from him than his predecessors managed. (Click here for the list of England batsmen at No. 3 in ODIs since 2000.)

Team-wise batting averages of No. 3s in ODIs since 2000
Team No. of batsmen Innings Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Australia 19 238 41.44 83.88 20/ 55
South Africa 25 224 40.70 74.83 14/ 46
India 27 266 35.37 75.47 16/ 52
Pakistan 22 243 34.99 73.55 12/ 58
West Indies 21 200 34.88 69.69 9/ 42
Sri Lanka 19 236 34.55 70.30 8/ 47
England 20 191 31.34 70.37 3/ 39
New Zealand 22 202 30.23 71.40 6/ 38
Zimbabwe 23 192 26.81 63.31 3/ 34
Bangladesh 16 149 21.00 68.47 1/ 20

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.