January 5, 2012

Why newcomers steal the show

Debutants seem likelier to succeed these days than their established team-mates. It wasn't always this way
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Military historians have a saying about how we cling to widely held beliefs even though they are badly out of date. "Generals are always fighting the previous war - 30 years too late."

It is time cricket reassessed a favourite cliché that is no longer true. For years we have heard about the brutally intimidating "step up" to Test cricket, the "pressure cooker" of the Test arena. As a result, it has been blithely assumed that debutants are unlikely to succeed when they pull on the national jersey for the first time.

But the evidence no longer fits the theory. Far from being doomed to nerve-ridden failure, debutants outperform their peers. And that is especially true for batsmen, who are supposed to suffer from crippling nerves.

In fact, if you want a good bet in modern cricket, have a punt on the debutant stealing the show. They usually do. We saw it again in the first innings of Australia's Boxing Day victory over India - when ESPNcricinfo columnist Ed Cowan top-scored with 68.

Look at the current England squad. Almost every batsman top-scored on debut or made a century. In 2004, Andrew Strauss made a century, and 83 in the second dig. Kevin Pietersen top-scored in both innings against Australia in 2005. In 2006, Alastair Cook cruised to 60 and 104 not out. In 2007, it was the turn of Matt Prior, who smashed a run-a-ball 126 not out. In comparison, Ian Bell's assured 70 on debut almost qualifies as a failure.

My personal favourite is the success of Jonathan Trott. In 2009, when England needed an extra batsman for the deciding Test of the Ashes series, many pundits advocated persuading Marcus Trescothick out of retirement, or even recalling the 40-year-old Mark Ramprakash. Leading commentators agreed that it was far too great a risk to elevate "a mere county player" into such a big game, the assumption being that the gulf between first-class cricket and Tests would "find him out".

Indeed, when Duncan Fletcher was England coach, he used to talk about "knocking the county out" of new players, as though they could never be proper Test cricketers until they had first unlearnt the habits they had acquired en route to the Test arena. No one told Trott, who helped England win the Ashes with 41 and 119. The trend holds for players who are no longer in the England team. Marcus Trescothick made 66 and 38 not out on debut, in 2000. Anthony McGrath chalked up 69 in 2003. Owais Shah made 88 during a tense Test in Mumbai in 2006. Wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Ambrose scored 55.

The instant success of Test cricketers is not just an English phenomenon. Consider the batsmen in the current India-Australia series. Rahul Dravid made 95 on debut, Virender Sehwag 105, Michael Clarke 151, Shaun Marsh 141, VVS Laxman top-scored for India with 51, and Ricky Ponting just missed a debut century by four runs. (Incidentally, in the same match, in 1995, Stuart Law made 54 not out on debut - and was never selected again.)

Early success in Tests is broader than just debuts. New players tend to have outstanding first seasons in international cricket. If anything, their performances slightly deteriorate when they get used to playing Test cricket. In his first calendar year, Cook averaged 46, better than he managed in any of the following three seasons. Strauss has never enjoyed as good a season as 2004, his first.

Many of the current opinion-makers in cricket - the most distinguished broadcasters and pundits - played much of their own Test cricket in the '80s. They made their debuts against Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding, or perhaps Patrick Patterson and Courtney Walsh

The evidence suggests the hard thing is not making the step up to Test cricket. No, arguably the hardest challenge is retaining hunger and ambition once the novelty has worn off.

These counter-intuitive facts lead us to two further - and interconnected - questions. First, why has the idea endured that is so hard to succeed immediately in Test cricket? Secondly, what has changed; why do today's newcomers emerge into the Test arena all guns blazing?

The first question takes us back to the glory years of terrifying fast bowling: the 1980s. Many of the current opinion-makers in cricket - the most distinguished broadcasters and pundits - played much of their own Test cricket in the '80s. They made their debuts against Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding, or perhaps Patrick Patterson and Courtney Walsh.

The legacy of that era lives on. If I had to nominate one season for scarring English cricketing consciousness, it would be 1984. West Indies whitewashed England 5-0. But the perception was even more powerful than the scoreline. Opening batsman Andy Lloyd was half an hour into his debut when he was taken to hospital after being hit on the head by Marshall. Paul Terry was drafted into the side, and promptly had his arm broken by Winston Davis. It wasn't so much a "revolving door" selection policy as a revolving ambulance. The fearsome brutality of going out to bat in an international jersey was seared into everyone's mind.

But that was then, this is now. First-class cricketers prepare more professionally than ever - wherever possible, they prepare just like Test players. Satellite television has demystified Test cricket by bringing it into everyone's living rooms. Helmets offer far more complete protection. Perhaps fast bowling had a dip after the decline of the famous West Indian quartet (though it is looking distinctly exciting again now).

There may be deeper social reasons for the ascent of the newcomer. When cricket was considered a craft, players talked of learning their trade and earning a spot in the dressing room. Today's iPod generation has no qualms about shooting straight to the top.

Andrew Strauss recently said that getting into the England side should be "damned hard". Just as well, from a selector's point of view. Once, the risk of picking new players was that they were likely to fail abjectly. Now the risk is that debutants are so likely to succeed that it will confuse your existing pecking order.

Well, it's a much nicer kind of headache than getting knocked out by a Malcolm Marshall bouncer.

Former England, Kent and Middlesex batsman Ed Smith is a writer with the Times. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • RandyOZ on January 8, 2012, 4:41 GMT

    @Jacques Small - spot on. The talent is wafer thin in England. There are no young English batsmen or bowlers coming through. They'll say someone like Bairstow, but we all know what happened to him haha. Worrying times ahead for the United XI.

  • christy29 on January 8, 2012, 0:09 GMT

    dont forget dean brownlie mate, best baatsmen in new zealand team in the aussie series

  • on January 7, 2012, 15:41 GMT

    what about the success of the debutant bowlers in 2011 then?

  • Romanticstud on January 7, 2012, 2:37 GMT

    One would also like to point out ... that contradictory to this trend the stats of Kallis ... He had a measly average of 22 at one stage ... He now has an average of 56 ... However, it seems like most of the batsmen, burst onto the scene ... The bowlers work out their style and weaknesses and then ... its the same old story ... where batsmen get out the same way to their opposition ... I recall Herschelle Gibbs exposed to the inswinger a number of times ... without playing a shot ... and being bowled ...

  • Evangelyst on January 6, 2012, 16:44 GMT

    I think Ed is not quite accurate with his arhuments. There have always been individuals who made excellent debuts in the 70's and 80's including Sandeep Patil (Remember the seried against Aus where he retired hurt with 65 and then cracked 174 in the next test), Azharuddin with his 3 centuries on debut and several others. Also there have been many example of cricketers who did not have a memorable debut, but blossomed as international cricketers later in their careers.

    The criteria for newcomer's success should not be just their debut tests, but how they fare in the first 15-20 tests, after debut.

  • on January 6, 2012, 4:56 GMT

    @adm1; ed is not trying to argue that everyone debut is successful as that is obviously not the case. He is simply making the point that there is enough examples of players performing well on debut to question the commonly held belief that players always struggle on their international debut.

  • on January 5, 2012, 23:32 GMT

    I haven't studied the stats, but could it be that players are often blooded against weaker opposition? Less these days, I suspect, than preveiously but there are more weaker teams than there used to be.

    The best current all-rounder, by the way, has never played against Bangladesh!

  • on January 5, 2012, 20:07 GMT

    I think highlighting the case of established cricketers debuts is misleading. perhaps what this article proves is "if you're good enough for test cricket, you're good enough from the start." what it doesn't show is that despite domestic form, a lot of players aren't good enough for test cricket and it can be difficult to tell the genuine class players from the county plunderers. in the last 5 years there have been 70 batsmen debuting in the top 6, out of that lot there have been 9 100s and 15 50s. 24 out of 70 still gives you less than half a chance a player is going to succeed in his first test despire the selectors thinking he's ready.

  • on January 5, 2012, 19:36 GMT

    Funny that most of the english debutants mentioned were born in South Africa, so not really an English phenomenon, more a lucky migration of talent.

  • on January 5, 2012, 19:27 GMT

    Ed- there is no doubt you are a fine writer and an intelligent man. However, a "revolving ambulance," just wouldn't work, would it? Unless you used the revolving ambulance to sling shot the afflicted in to the hospital, which, with a broken arm or a case of concussion would surely only compound the problem. Ambulances travel linearly for a reason. Just a thought.

  • RandyOZ on January 8, 2012, 4:41 GMT

    @Jacques Small - spot on. The talent is wafer thin in England. There are no young English batsmen or bowlers coming through. They'll say someone like Bairstow, but we all know what happened to him haha. Worrying times ahead for the United XI.

  • christy29 on January 8, 2012, 0:09 GMT

    dont forget dean brownlie mate, best baatsmen in new zealand team in the aussie series

  • on January 7, 2012, 15:41 GMT

    what about the success of the debutant bowlers in 2011 then?

  • Romanticstud on January 7, 2012, 2:37 GMT

    One would also like to point out ... that contradictory to this trend the stats of Kallis ... He had a measly average of 22 at one stage ... He now has an average of 56 ... However, it seems like most of the batsmen, burst onto the scene ... The bowlers work out their style and weaknesses and then ... its the same old story ... where batsmen get out the same way to their opposition ... I recall Herschelle Gibbs exposed to the inswinger a number of times ... without playing a shot ... and being bowled ...

  • Evangelyst on January 6, 2012, 16:44 GMT

    I think Ed is not quite accurate with his arhuments. There have always been individuals who made excellent debuts in the 70's and 80's including Sandeep Patil (Remember the seried against Aus where he retired hurt with 65 and then cracked 174 in the next test), Azharuddin with his 3 centuries on debut and several others. Also there have been many example of cricketers who did not have a memorable debut, but blossomed as international cricketers later in their careers.

    The criteria for newcomer's success should not be just their debut tests, but how they fare in the first 15-20 tests, after debut.

  • on January 6, 2012, 4:56 GMT

    @adm1; ed is not trying to argue that everyone debut is successful as that is obviously not the case. He is simply making the point that there is enough examples of players performing well on debut to question the commonly held belief that players always struggle on their international debut.

  • on January 5, 2012, 23:32 GMT

    I haven't studied the stats, but could it be that players are often blooded against weaker opposition? Less these days, I suspect, than preveiously but there are more weaker teams than there used to be.

    The best current all-rounder, by the way, has never played against Bangladesh!

  • on January 5, 2012, 20:07 GMT

    I think highlighting the case of established cricketers debuts is misleading. perhaps what this article proves is "if you're good enough for test cricket, you're good enough from the start." what it doesn't show is that despite domestic form, a lot of players aren't good enough for test cricket and it can be difficult to tell the genuine class players from the county plunderers. in the last 5 years there have been 70 batsmen debuting in the top 6, out of that lot there have been 9 100s and 15 50s. 24 out of 70 still gives you less than half a chance a player is going to succeed in his first test despire the selectors thinking he's ready.

  • on January 5, 2012, 19:36 GMT

    Funny that most of the english debutants mentioned were born in South Africa, so not really an English phenomenon, more a lucky migration of talent.

  • on January 5, 2012, 19:27 GMT

    Ed- there is no doubt you are a fine writer and an intelligent man. However, a "revolving ambulance," just wouldn't work, would it? Unless you used the revolving ambulance to sling shot the afflicted in to the hospital, which, with a broken arm or a case of concussion would surely only compound the problem. Ambulances travel linearly for a reason. Just a thought.

  • OhhhMattyMatty on January 5, 2012, 18:56 GMT

    I'd say it is far easier to make it in Test cricket these days, simply because there is always a Bangladesh/New Zealand to boost your average against and keep you in touch. But the likes of Broad, Anderson and Bresnan all got in the side young, had to learn their games in International cricket and have developed into world beaters. So it is not just a case of instant success all the time.

  • cloudmess on January 5, 2012, 16:58 GMT

    One reason that England players have often debuted so well in the last 10 years (Ed Smith modestly did not include his own 64 v South Africa in 2003) is the greater influx of foreign players into county sides. I realise this is not a universally popular phenomenom, that it has made the game more commercial, and taken away some of the old-fashioned club spirit - but it has undeniably raised standards too. Contrast this with the 1990s when invincible-looking cricketers would be plucked from their county sides and made to foolish at international level - at a time when county sides were allowed to field one foreign player at most (and sometimes didn't even do that). I'd love to see a brief study of England's test results in the 15 years before 1987 (after which counties were then restricted to one overseas player), their results through this period of one overseas player, and their results since the restrictions were relaxed via Kolpak et al.

  • adm21 on January 5, 2012, 16:36 GMT

    I think there is a bit of selection bias going on here. All of the players mentioned are successful test players, and given this, should perform reasonably well on debut. It does not include those players who bombed out in their first few tests and were never heard from again.

    Looking at all years from 2004 to now (this is 1st year mentioned) the only years when debutants in the top-6 exceed the overall average in those positions are 2009 and 2010.

  • pxm1969 on January 5, 2012, 15:55 GMT

    If there is one reason for this phenomena it is surely the amount of analysis of likely opponents carried out by the best organised Test teams these days. The habits and weaknesses of established batsmen and bowlers are well known and ruthlessly exploited.

    This is all well and good, but I think sometimes teams have become too reliant on this sort of pre-planning. They can therefore quickly run out of ideas when confronted with a player that has not been planned for. Of course this is only a problem if the players coming in are of good quality (as many of England's have been in recent years for instance).

    Some of Ed's examples are poorly chosen - Antony McGrath's debut was against a weak Zimbabwe side that were probably worse than most county sides.

  • 2.14istherunrate on January 5, 2012, 14:33 GMT

    What Jonesy2 really means is why is this not all about Australia.

  • on January 5, 2012, 14:17 GMT

    Furthermore, i do not think this is a factor only affecting batsman. Developments in technology has allowed batsman to study every intricacy of bowlers from the around world. Video analysis can often nullify a bowler. A very good example of this in action is with Mendis. When he first came on the scene he was a complete mystery bowler and was a huge threat as a result. But now people can readily access footage of him and his variations mush of his mystery has disappeared along with his effectiveness at taking wickets.

  • on January 5, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    Following on from what what some have said about video analysis. It is a common trend in the modern game for newcomers to go through a honeymoon period in the early stages of their career. As in this period there is limited footage of the players in action. However the more they play international cricket the more footage that becomes availble and thus the greater the awareness of players weaknesses. I think now the biggest challenge for an international batsman is overcoming this and working on well known weakness. A good example of this currently is Pietersen working to combat his frailties against slow left armers.

  • ygkd on January 5, 2012, 14:02 GMT

    One other point I'd make - "today's ipod generation has no qualms about shooting straight to the top". I see that attitude as cockiness and expect that will sow seeds of ultimate failure for some. Sure cockiness has always existed, but I think players generally used to be more grounded. And that wasn't a bad thing. For one, it meant that young bats tried hard to avoid the trap of being just great players of bad bowling - a fault which seems to be pretty prevalent today (especially with a professional cv mainly consisting of rather pointless limited overs matches) and, in my view, one of the main reasons why the last year has seen the bowlers come to the fore again.

  • stornjo on January 5, 2012, 13:59 GMT

    Normally agree with most of what you write , but I think you're a bit off kilter here. I do think that although there have been some greats about , the general standard of bowling is diminished in the last 10 years or so. Also , a lot of the players you mention are quality players coming in to good sides . In the eighties there were a lot of desperate selections in the face of ongoing failure. Also the familiarity factor. It's the same in County cricket . A player's 2nd season is often his hardest . It's not just video evidence . The bowlers have seen the player once and now know where to bowl to him . This is even more the case if he got a big score the 1st time ;-)

  • ygkd on January 5, 2012, 13:49 GMT

    I tend to think the reason debutants (or 2nd testers like Dave Warner) succeed (in batting at least) is because of the emotion of debut coupled with the obvious point that the opposition hasn't worked on them enough yet. Will they go on is the bigger question. How many more golden ducks will Shaun Marsh get? Will he be but a flash-in-the-pan? Today's pace bowlers may not be as good as those in the 1980s or as frightening given they're faced under modern helmets, but with all the techno backup, you'd expect them to be able to come up with strategies to counter what used to be known as beginner's luck. As for knocking the county out of batsmen, the trouble with Australian bats today is largely the lack of county opportunities. South Africans like Jonathon Trott have gotten those opportunities instead and hasn't he made the most of his? But getting into the England team damned hard? Not in ODIs and T20s. For batsmen, that's the real difference - the stepping stones in place today.

  • wrenx on January 5, 2012, 13:45 GMT

    Nice article. Always appreciate some thinking applied to something that is so steeped in tradition such as Test cricket.

  • andrew-schulz on January 5, 2012, 13:37 GMT

    Amazing, Ed, that you have only mentioned batsman's figures. 2011 was certainly the year of the debutant. But to say first-gamers outperform their peers is simply not true over an extended period. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary. Hilfenhaus and Siddle started their careers poorly. Hussey and Elliott froze in the spotlight. Hayden failed. Warner looked out of his depth. Healy dropped catches left right and centre. So did Marsh. (Rod). For New Zealand, Rutherford and M. Crowe were hopelessly out of their depth. Starc was pathetic. Warne obviously. What about others this century who left Test cricket making no mark at all: on your side of the world Ward, Afzaal, Batty, Hamilton, and a cast of dozens, while over here, just think of very recent times and Beer, Khawaja, Doherty, Bollinger, McDonald, McGain (there's a good one), Casson, Hogg (B), Manou-enough counter evidence to make the Blithe statement 'Debutants outperform their peers' look fairly stupid.

  • on January 5, 2012, 13:25 GMT

    Ed Smith modestly omits to mention that he himself is a case in point. On debut in 2003 he made 64 in the first innings against SA. Alas after that it was all down hill... a first-baller in the 2nd innings and then scores of 0, 7 and 16 in his only other two Tests. Sorry, I couldn't resist it!

  • on January 5, 2012, 12:27 GMT

    Very interesting points made by Ed Smith (who is too modest to mention his own useful debut) and the commenters above. In the case of the England set-up, another important point factor is the vastly improved selection policy under David Graveney and, in particular, Geoff Miller. Players now tend to be selected only when they are deemed ready for test cricket (perhaps after a spell with the Lions or one of the one-day squads), and thus they have a better chance of feeling prepared and at home in the set-up when they make their debuts. Daren Pattinson apart, I find it hard to think of a rash selection in the last 5 years or so.

  • tomhedley on January 5, 2012, 12:04 GMT

    Read the whole article jonesy2 you Philistine. I don't recall Dravid, Sehwag, Ponting, Clarke and Laxman playing for England.

  • dave_mar on January 5, 2012, 10:57 GMT

    Interesting article Ed, but one remark irks a bit: "Satellite television has demystified Test cricket by bringing it into everyone's living rooms."

    Satellite TV has removed Test cricket from most living rooms, in the UK at least. I haven't seen live Test cricket on TV since 2005, and have only seen the highlights. However I think the internet has changed things where communication is now faster and more complete. It so much easier now to find out about players strengths and weaknesses. For example, Ajantha Mendis' carrom ball very quickly lost its mystery because the technique was analysed by the cricket media and spread quickly online. If he was around in the 80s or earlier then his mystery would have remained one for a few years.

  • tfjones1978 on January 5, 2012, 10:09 GMT

    I agree that this article has some good points, but what it lacks is facts. How many players made debuts since 2000? How many made debuts in 90s? How many in 80s? How many for each decade going back to WWII? Of the debutants, how many batsmen got 50s or 100s on debuts for each decade? And how many is that as a percentage of the total for that decade? In comparison, how many "experienced" players played during each decade? How many 50s or 100s did each "experienced" player score? Its easy to give some examples and just say that players do better on debut now days, but please, some actual proof would be nice!

  • jonesy2 on January 5, 2012, 9:42 GMT

    just saying. such a strange article because it is so inappropriate to be about english batsmen that you wouldnt accept payment to watch when guys in this current year like pat cummins, vernon philander, nathan lyon, james pattinson, marchant de lange, shaun marsh have taken 5 fors and made tons on debut, these are players that one would pay to watch.

  • FatBoysCanBat on January 5, 2012, 9:11 GMT

    Without reading the article most people can easily ascertain the answer to the title - 'Why newcomers steal the show.' The reason for this is because of the amount of video of every international player. Guys who have had awesome debuts/debut years - the likes of Philander, Pattinson, Lyon, de Lange, Bracewell - were virtually un-seen until their debuts. Over the next year we will see these players flatten out and be 'found out' by opposition teams because there is already so much video to analyse - just look at Ajantha Mendis...he's still good but not as great as he appeared. You can not judge a player [be it a bowler or batsman] on a year of international cricket. The true great ones are noticed after 3-4 years where they haven't been found out. @Dale-force_winds_steyn_the_pitch: To find out who these performances were against just click on the links for the scorecards.

  • heph on January 5, 2012, 9:09 GMT

    I agree with the general conclusion but one of the main reasons why the 2nd year is harder is because they are found out by bowlers. Everyone knows Alistair Cook's frailties and strengths. In subsequent, weaknesses are targeted, that is why Test is the real test. The second reason is more subjective but usually true for young players. They are fearless; almost unaware of failure and play their natural game.

  • Jimlad on January 5, 2012, 8:22 GMT

    @jonesy2 because that is what he knows most about. But those are just examples the theme of his article is universal, it's about cricket in general, so it should be of interest to all. Frankly, a lot of people care about cricket so plenty of people would care about this.

  • on January 5, 2012, 8:15 GMT

    This phenomonon seems to be working for the bowlers too - at least this year it has.

  • Sundar217 on January 5, 2012, 7:30 GMT

    Excellent analysis! Worth to mention Atapattu here. He is exactly negative to this column.

  • Dale-force_winds_steyn_the_pitch on January 5, 2012, 7:28 GMT

    @jonesy2: At least its not all about India!

    Ed, would you mind stating the teams that these debut scores were against? Cheers.

  • rossus on January 5, 2012, 7:18 GMT

    Article is a bit biased towards batsman especially given that 2011 was a record year for bowlers getting a 5 wicket hauls or more on debut.

  • on January 5, 2012, 7:06 GMT

    While I agree, the players have fared markedly better on debut off late.. it's hardly 'cuz the step up isn't that intimidating anymore. Agreed, the general bowling standard has gone down a bit, video analysis are available - but the successful ones have to do the hard yards. Without toughing it out in county cricket, or first class games the players can rarely develop their skills to adapt to all various kind of pitches and bowling on offer. All the players you cite ( mostly Englishmen) were grizzled veterans of county circuit - Strauss, Trott were 27, Hussey was past 30; Cook, Dravid and Pietersen were 22, 23, and 24 respectively but already with formidable first class level experience of 3 years behind them. Marsh, Clarke and Philander even had international experience before they debuted. Plus, IPL and Champions League seldom leaves an international opposition a complete mystery like Abdul Qadir once was. Ponting and Sehwag were just highly talented exceptions.

  • on January 5, 2012, 6:56 GMT

    Richard Cowles is correct... Post-debut, the opponents have a lot of footage to work with to sort the debutant out.

  • KarachiKid on January 5, 2012, 6:43 GMT

    I think the reason is pretty obvious. When a talented and good cricketer enters test cricket, he is being seen first time by the opponents and if he is good, he will have a good start. Later on, teams bascially understand the technical deficiencies throgh video analysis and lay a plan for them. What do you think if it was Dravid's first series in Australia, would Aussies be able to find a gap between his bat and body, consistenly bowling him out ?

  • on January 5, 2012, 6:24 GMT

    True analysis by Ed. Weldone. Another point is that, due to the use of todays technology and analysis techniques, the teams mark the weekness' of the batsmen and some times very experienced players are exposed. We have the example of Ganguly exposed to bouncers, Saeed Anwer to the knick etc The players which debut are not marked by the bowlers that is why they mostly succeed in scoring runs. But some of those players when play some cricket are then exposed and failed like Wajahat Ullah Wasti.

  • on January 5, 2012, 5:48 GMT

    Excellent work Ed - quickly becoming my favourite cricket columnist. It seems to me the post-debut decline is also related to the fact that once players arrive on the international scene, their techniques and strategies attract a lot more scrutiny. Kambli, Phil Hughes and Mendis spring to mind.

  • jonesy2 on January 5, 2012, 4:27 GMT

    pfft why is this all about england. no one cares.

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  • jonesy2 on January 5, 2012, 4:27 GMT

    pfft why is this all about england. no one cares.

  • on January 5, 2012, 5:48 GMT

    Excellent work Ed - quickly becoming my favourite cricket columnist. It seems to me the post-debut decline is also related to the fact that once players arrive on the international scene, their techniques and strategies attract a lot more scrutiny. Kambli, Phil Hughes and Mendis spring to mind.

  • on January 5, 2012, 6:24 GMT

    True analysis by Ed. Weldone. Another point is that, due to the use of todays technology and analysis techniques, the teams mark the weekness' of the batsmen and some times very experienced players are exposed. We have the example of Ganguly exposed to bouncers, Saeed Anwer to the knick etc The players which debut are not marked by the bowlers that is why they mostly succeed in scoring runs. But some of those players when play some cricket are then exposed and failed like Wajahat Ullah Wasti.

  • KarachiKid on January 5, 2012, 6:43 GMT

    I think the reason is pretty obvious. When a talented and good cricketer enters test cricket, he is being seen first time by the opponents and if he is good, he will have a good start. Later on, teams bascially understand the technical deficiencies throgh video analysis and lay a plan for them. What do you think if it was Dravid's first series in Australia, would Aussies be able to find a gap between his bat and body, consistenly bowling him out ?

  • on January 5, 2012, 6:56 GMT

    Richard Cowles is correct... Post-debut, the opponents have a lot of footage to work with to sort the debutant out.

  • on January 5, 2012, 7:06 GMT

    While I agree, the players have fared markedly better on debut off late.. it's hardly 'cuz the step up isn't that intimidating anymore. Agreed, the general bowling standard has gone down a bit, video analysis are available - but the successful ones have to do the hard yards. Without toughing it out in county cricket, or first class games the players can rarely develop their skills to adapt to all various kind of pitches and bowling on offer. All the players you cite ( mostly Englishmen) were grizzled veterans of county circuit - Strauss, Trott were 27, Hussey was past 30; Cook, Dravid and Pietersen were 22, 23, and 24 respectively but already with formidable first class level experience of 3 years behind them. Marsh, Clarke and Philander even had international experience before they debuted. Plus, IPL and Champions League seldom leaves an international opposition a complete mystery like Abdul Qadir once was. Ponting and Sehwag were just highly talented exceptions.

  • rossus on January 5, 2012, 7:18 GMT

    Article is a bit biased towards batsman especially given that 2011 was a record year for bowlers getting a 5 wicket hauls or more on debut.

  • Dale-force_winds_steyn_the_pitch on January 5, 2012, 7:28 GMT

    @jonesy2: At least its not all about India!

    Ed, would you mind stating the teams that these debut scores were against? Cheers.

  • Sundar217 on January 5, 2012, 7:30 GMT

    Excellent analysis! Worth to mention Atapattu here. He is exactly negative to this column.

  • on January 5, 2012, 8:15 GMT

    This phenomonon seems to be working for the bowlers too - at least this year it has.