September 19, 2008

Why Australia will miss Symonds in India

Andrew Symonds' ability to score big quickly and handle spinners competently suggests his team will miss him in India


Andrew Symonds has been Australia's best batsman over the last 20 months, scoring plenty of runs, and at an outstanding strike-rate too © Getty Images
 

"We are happy he is not coming because he can change the course of a match any time. It is a loss for cricket, but we're happy." This was Virender Sehwag's honest assessment of the news of Andrew Symonds' absence from the Australian squad to tour India. Plenty of thought has obviously gone into the Australian board's decision, and it's an opportunity for Shane Watson to cement his place as a Test allrounder, but whatever spin Australia put on the move, there's little doubt that Ricky Ponting and Co. will severely miss Symonds' presence, especially given his stirring form over the last 20 months.

Over the first two-and-a-half years of his Test career, Symonds had little going his way with bat and ball. He had just two half-centuries to show in his first ten Tests, during which he averaged a paltry 19.06. In 15 innings, 11 times he was dismissed for less than 25.

All that, though, changed with the Ashes series of 2006-07, and his average in his last 12 Tests is nearly four times that in his first ten. In 19 innings during this period only seven times has he been dismissed for less than 40.

Symonds' Test career in two halves
Span Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Before Dec 2006 10 286 19.06 57.31 0/ 2
Since Dec 2006 12 1009 72.07 69.68 2/ 7
Overall 22 1295 44.65 66.51 2/ 9

Australia's batting line-up still boasts plenty of class - Ponting, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey and Matthew Hayden are all still around, but Symonds has been on a higher plane than all of them over the last 20 months. During this period only three batsmen have managed a higher average. Symonds' contribution as a batsman, though, is more than just the sheer number of runs he scores. The rate at which he scores them ensures that if he stays at the crease for a reasonable period of time, the fielding team is invariably on the defensive - in these 12 Tests, Symonds has scored his runs at a strike-rate of nearly 70 runs per 100 balls, with 16 sixes. Among the batsmen in the list below (top ten averages, with a run qualification of at least 500), only Sehwag has scored at a higher strike-rate and hit more sixes. With Adam Gilchrist no longer in the mix, Australia could struggle to find a batsman who'd offer similar middle-order impetus.

Best Test batsmen since December 2006 (Qual: at least 750 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s 4s/ 6s
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 11 1265 105.41 44.27 5/ 9 135/ 4
Kumar Sangakkara 14 1560 86.66 62.60 7/ 4 189/ 5
Andrew Symonds 12 1009 72.07 69.68 2/ 7 110/ 16
Michael Clarke 12 1033 68.86 57.22 5/ 3 98/ 2
Mahela Jayawardene 15 1507 68.50 53.91 7/ 3 160/ 7
Neil McKenzie 10 960 64.00 47.10 3/ 2 124/ 4
Matthew Hayden 9 858 61.28 60.04 4/ 1 86/ 4
Michael Hussey 13 1100 61.11 49.75 4/ 4 107/ 7
Virender Sehwag 11 1091 54.55 84.37 3/ 2 137/ 17
Jacques Kallis 21 1728 54.00 49.69 6/ 8 196/ 8

During this period Symonds has also been largely instrumental in holding Australia's lower order together, featuring prominently in partnership stats for the lower half of their innings. Clarke and Gilchrist have been the most prolific, but Symonds is a part of all the other combinations.

Plenty has been said about Clarke's role in Symonds' current predicament, and interestingly, while they've batted together plenty of times, the runs haven't come at the rate you'd expect. In 11 partnerships together - ten of which are for wickets five to ten - they've only managed two 50-plus stands and an average of just 32.90. Their last seven stands have only yielded 112 runs, with a highest of 39. (Click here for the full list.)

Australia's best partnerships for wickets 5-10 since Dec 2006 (Qual: at least 4 innings)
Pair Innings Runs Average stand Runs per over 100s/ 50s stand
Clarke-Gilchrist 4 355 118.33 5.36 1/ 2
Gilchrist-Symonds 7 33 56.33 4.64 1/ 2
Haddin-Symonds 4 215 53.75 3.80 0/ 2
Lee-Symonds 4 169 42.25 3.54 1/ 0
Clarke-Symonds 10 321 35.67 4.39 0/ 2

Australia will probably face a severe examination by spin during the India tour, and Symonds has shown that he is adept at handling the slow stuff. Though he has scored more runs against the faster bowlers, he has still averaged an impressive 52.71 against spin, and equally importantly, scored at a strike-rate that ensured the bowling team didn't hold the whip all the time. He was equally imposing against Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, India's two leading spinners, scoring 188 runs off them from 283 balls, and being dismissed only three times, for an average of 62.67.

Symonds v pace and spin since Dec 2006
Bowling type Runs Dismissals Average Runs per over 4/ 6s
Pace 640 7 91.42 4.01 85/ 3
Spin 369 7 52.71 4.50 26/ 13

Luckily for Australia, though, the rest of their line-up is very competent against spinners as well, with Ponting leading the way. He averages nearly 84 against spin since 2004, while Hussey and Clarke both average more than 50. The Symonds factor may be a considerable weapon in the Australian batting armoury, but the numbers below are reason enough to believe the team still has enough ammunition to quell the Indian spin threat.

Australian batsmen against spin since Jan 1, 2004
Batsman Innings Runs Average Runs per over
Ricky Ponting 64 1510 83.88 3.55
Michael Hussey 35 750 68.18 3.24
Michael Clarke 42 959 56.41 3.39
Matthew Hayden 53 1241 45.96 3.48
Simon Katich 30 597 37.31 2.87
Phil Jaques 11 240 34.28 2.95

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.

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