Why Australia will miss Symonds in India
"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.
|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|
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.
|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.)
|Pair||Innings||Runs||Average stand||Runs per over||100s/ 50s stand|
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.
|Bowling type||Runs||Dismissals||Average||Runs per over||4/ 6s|
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.
|Batsman||Innings||Runs||Average||Runs per over|
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.