January 6, 2012

Mind the gap

Rahul Dravid is one short of equalling the record for being bowled most often in Tests, but which player has the highest percentage of such dismissals?

In the first Test of the ongoing Australia-India series at the MCG, something quite unexpected happened: Rahul Dravid was bowled three times - twice legitimately, and once off a no-ball. It was only the fourth time in his entire Test career that he had been bowled in both innings of a Test, and the first time in 49 matches. And when Ben Hilfenhaus dismissed him in the same manner in the second innings in Sydney, it meant Dravid had been bowled in six times in his last eight innings - he had also been dismissed in that manner three times in the home series against West Indies. During this period, his tally of bowled dismissals in Tests increased from 46 to 52. At this rate, he'll take over from Allan Border as the batsman to be bowled most often in Tests well before this series is over - Border's record stands at 53.

Dravid has played the second-highest number of innings in Test cricket, so perhaps it shouldn't be such a surprise that he has also been dismissed bowled the second-most number of times. However, it goes against the enduring image of Dravid, which is of him playing an exaggerated defensive shot with everything - bat, pad, body - between the ball and the stumps.

Obviously, plenty has been written and said about these recent dismissals, which makes it a pretty good time to check out the numbers, for Dravid and for other batsmen who've played over a significant period of time. A cut-off of 175 innings ensures that most of the modern greats make the cut. (There are a couple of bowlers in there too, but they can safely be ignored.) This excludes some of the top players from an earlier age, but then a comparison across eras in this aspect isn't a fair one anyway: batsmen in an earlier era had a greater likelihood of getting bowled due to the variable bounce of uncovered pitches and the lack of enough protective gear.

Wally Hammond, for instance, was dismissed 124 times in Tests of which 38 were bowled (30.65%); Len Hutton was out bowled 31 times out of his 123 dismissals (25.2%); Don Bradman was bowled 23 times out of his 70 dismissals (32.86%). In Tests before 1960, bowled dismissals constituted 30.85% of total outs; since 1970, it's dropped to 17.71%.

However, in the list below all the batsmen save one have played their cricket after 1970. And it so happens that the batsmen who've been bowled often also have a high percentage of such dismissals: Border, Dravid and Jacques Kallis, who are among the top four in terms of bowled dismissals, are also in the top five percentages (calculated as a percentage of total dismissals for each batsman).

For Border, almost a fourth of his dismissals were bowled: he was out in that fashion 53 times. Malcolm Marshall was chief tormentor, getting him out bowled five times, while Kapil Dev and Shivlal Yadav got him three times each. (In all, Marshall dismissed him 11 times and Kapil 10.) No bowler has dismissed Dravid bowled more than three times: Shane Warne leads with three, while a bunch of others have got him twice.

In percentage terms, though, Viv Richards was out bowled more often than Dravid - out of 170 dismissals, Richards was bowled 36 times, with Dennis Lillee getting him out in that manner three times. (Click here for the list of bowlers.)

VVS Laxman figures prominently too - he is one of six batsmen with a percentage of 20 or more. (A lot of high-class fast bowlers are among those who've dismissed him bowled more than once.) Sachin Tendulkar has got out bowled 48 times, but in percentage terms that's a relatively lower 17.52.

The only batsman from an earlier era in this list is Colin Cowdrey, who played between 1954 and 1975. He was bowled 31 times out of 173, a percentage of 17.92.

Highest percentage of bowleds (among batsmen* with at least 175 innings)
Batsman Innings Dismissals Bowled Percent (of dismissals)
Allan Border 265 221 53 23.98
Mark Boucher 202 179 39 21.79
Viv Richards 182 170 36 21.18
Jacques Kallis 254 215 45 20.93
Rahul Dravid 282 250 52 20.80
VVS Laxman 220 186 38 20.43
David Boon 190 170 32 18.82
Alec Stewart 235 214 40 18.69
Steve Waugh 260 214 39 18.22
Colin Cowdrey 188 173 31 17.92
Graham Thorpe 179 151 27 17.88
Geoff Boycott 193 170 30 17.65
Sachin Tendulkar 307 274 48 17.52
Desmond Haynes 202 177 31 17.51
Graham Gooch 215 209 36 17.22
* Excludes the specialist bowlers

At the other end of the scale are the batsmen who seldom got out bowled. That has no correlation to whether they were better or worse batsmen than those in the list above, but their techniques were different, which meant they got out in other ways more often than they got bowled.

Take Dilip Vengsarkar, for instance. He played 116 Tests, 185 innings, was dismissed 163 times, of which just 16 were bowled. He was lbw more often than he was bowled (19 time), while he was caught 120 times, which is almost 75% of his total dismissals. Kumar Sangakkara's stats are very similar to Vengsarkar's: 167 dismissals, of which 17 are bowled and 124 caught.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul's technique isn't the most pleasing aesthetically, but it's worked wonderfully for him, especially in keeping the deliveries from knocking his stumps over. Chanderpaul's pronounced shuffle has kept his bowled percentage down to 11.17 (22 out of 197), but that technique has resulted in him being lbw 43 times, almost twice as many as his bowled dismissals. Similarly, Javed Miandad was bowled only 21 times, but lbw on 33 occasions.

On the other hand, Dravid has been bowled 52 times, but lbw on 34 occasions; for Border the ratio is even more skewed - 53 bowled, 16 lbws.

These ratios indicate the different batting techniques going around, but to get the extremes in the ratios, we need to move over to the bowlers, for all these batsmen in the list are bookended by two legendary bowlers. Among those who've batted at least 175 innings, the one who got out bowled most often was Courtney Walsh: out of 124 dismissals, 37 were bowled (29.84). And the one with the least percentage of bowled dismissals is Shane Warne. He dismissed 116 batsmen in that fashion, but was himself bowled only 12 times out of his 182 dismissals, a measly percentage of 6.59.

Batsmen with low percentages of bowleds (Qual: 175 innings*)
Batsman Innings Dismissals Bowled Percent (of dismissals)
Dilip Vengsarkar 185 163 16 9.82
Ian Healy 182 159 16 10.06
Kumar Sangakkara 179 167 17 10.18
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 234 197 22 11.17
Matthew Hayden 184 170 21 12.35
Javed Miandad 189 168 21 12.50
Mahela Jayawardene 213 200 25 12.50
Inzamam-ul-Haq 200 178 23 12.92
Ricky Ponting 273 245 32 13.06
Stephen Fleming 189 179 24 13.41
* Excludes the specialist bowlers

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter