April 13, 2012

The best Test batsmen at home

Shivnarine Chanderpaul is among the best batsmen in the world in home Tests, which was demonstrated once again against familiar opposition, Australia

After the second day of the Barbados Test between West Indies and Australia, Shane Watson almost seemed at his wits' end as he tried to search for ways to curb Shivnarine Chanderpaul after he had defied Australia's bowlers for almost six-and-a-half hours in scoring an unbeaten 103. "The way he plays, getting back and across and being able to use his hands to get the ball into the gaps, and he does it for such a long period of time, it's hard to actually find a way for him to play a false shot because of the way he's set up for these conditions here," Watson said. Australia did find a way through Chanderpaul's defenses in the second innings when Ryan Harris produced a gem which took the outside edge of his bat, but by then he had already become the highest run-getter in Tests in Barbados, and had scored five centuries in seven home Tests against Australia.

Chanderpaul's overall career stats are pretty impressive, but at home those numbers take another dimension altogether. Of the nine teams he has played against, he averages more than 63 against five of them. The Indians have suffered more than most teams, also because they've played against him in home conditions so often - 17 Tests have fetched him 1547 runs, which is almost 30% of the total Test runs he has scored at home.

The only team that has kept his runs under control in the West Indies over a significant number of matches is England: in 18 home Tests against them, Chanderpaul has managed only two hundreds, and an average of 40. In fact, England is the one team against whom Chanderpaul has a much better away average - 64.66, in 13 Tests.

Despite that blip against England, Chanderpaul's overall home average is more than 58, which puts him in the top ten among batsmen who've scored at least 4000 runs at home. The table below lists the batsmen with the highest home averages (with the cut-off mentioned earlier), and also lists the difference between their home and away averages. Chanderpaul's is 16.27, which is one of the higher differences - in fact, the only batsman with a higher difference is Mahela Jayawardene, whose away average of 37.94 is nowhere near his mean in home Tests.

On the other hand, there are three batsmen for whom the difference is less than five. Two of them are contemporary names, and among the greatest batsmen ever - for Jacques Kallis, the home average of 58.59 is quite an achievement given that pitches in his home country often offer a fair amount of assistance to the bowlers. Sachin Tendulkar's averages in Australia and England are the stand-out ones among his overseas numbers. The third among those three is Don Bradman, who only played in Australia and England, and clearly preferred playing in England.

Highest averages in home Tests (Qual: 4000 runs)
Batsman Home Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s Away ave Difference*
Don Bradman 33 4322 98.22 18/ 10 102.84 -4.62
Garry Sobers 44 4075 66.80 14/ 12 50.73 16.07
Mahela Jayawardene 72 6646 63.90 22/ 30 37.94 25.96
Javed Miandad 60 4481 61.38 14/ 17 45.80 15.58
Kumar Sangakkara 60 5186 59.60 16/ 19 49.95 9.65
Ricky Ponting 89 7546 58.95 23/ 38 46.87 12.08
Brian Lara 65 6217 58.65 17/ 26 47.80 10.85
Jacques Kallis 82 6738 58.59 22/ 32 54.76 3.83
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 67 5213 58.57 17/ 26 42.30 16.27
Virender Sehwag 44 4248 58.19 12/ 19 44.65 13.54
Matthew Hayden 56 5210 57.88 21/ 16 42.68 15.20
Sachin Tendulkar 82 6765 56.37 22/ 29 54.74 1.63
* Home average minus away average

Coming back to Chanderpaul, his home-away stats against Australia presents an interesting contrast: at home against them, he is completely on top of his game. His last nine Test innings against them at home reads thus: 104, 118, 11, 107*, 77*, 79*, 50, 103* and 12 - 661 runs for five dismissals, at an average of 132.20. No wonder Watson seemed so frustrated when he spoke about Chanderpaul. But he also mentioned "in these conditions", because on Australian pitches, Chanderpaul has hardly been as prolific. His overall average in 11 Tests in Australia is only 30.20, and his last ten Test innings there read thus: 2, 7, 39, 10, 25, 4, 2, 2, 62, 27 - 180 runs at 18.00.

The difference of 51.20 between Chanderpaul's home and away averages against Australia is a significant one, but the table below shows that there are quite a few instances of even higher differences between home and away averages for batsmen against a particular team. On top of the list is Zaheer Abbas, with his record against India: at home against them he was unstoppable, scoring six centuries - all of them 150-plus scores - in 13 innings; in India, though, Zaheer's record was quite disappointing, with only score of more than 50 in 12 innings. The difference between his home and away averages was a staggering 130.10.

In fact, India is a recurring name in the opposition column in the table below - five of the top 12 differences in averages have been against India. That indicates a couple of things: how effective the Indian bowlers are in home conditions, and how poorly they adjust overseas. There are also a couple of Sri Lankans there, and Jayawardene is one of three batsmen whose name appears twice in the list below. Given that his overall overseas average is so much below his home stats, that isn't a surprise. He recently had another fantastic home series against them, but his overseas numbers against them and South Africa are quite ordinary.

Peter May and Virender Sehwag are the others with twin appearances in the table below. May had superb numbers at home against West Indies and South Africa, but didn't much enjoy touring those countries - in South Africa, he averaged only 15.30 in five Tests. Sehwag started his international career with some stunning knocks in South Africa, Australia and England, but over the last few years, his away stats have taken a beating, which is reflected in his home average being more than 13 runs higher than his away average.

Highest home-away difference in average for a batsman v an opposition (Qual: 5 Tests*)
Batsman Opposition Home-Tests, average Away-Tests, average Difference
Zaheer Abbas India 11, 158.55 8, 28.45 130.10
Thilan Samaraweera India 7, 130.40 6, 24.12 106.28
Mahela Jayawardene South Africa 7, 105.27 8, 27.87 77.40
Mudassar Nazar India 10, 97.54 8, 29.83 67.71
Harbajan Singh New Zealand 7, 81.00 6, 13.50 67.50
Peter May West Indies 5, 97.80 8, 35.50 62.30
Ricky Ponting India 15, 86.04 14, 26.48 59.56
Virender Sehwag South Africa 7, 84.00 8, 25.47 58.53
Tom Graveney West Indies 9, 91.45 10, 35.07 56.39
Mahela Jayawardene England 11, 89.00 10, 34.11 54.89
Peter May South Africa 7, 68.45 5, 15.30 53.15
Doug Walters India 5, 94.00 5, 40.86 53.14
Virender Sehwag New Zealand 5, 71.87 5, 20.00 51.87
Mohammad Azharuddin England 6, 93.29 9, 41.67 51.62
Adam Parore Zimbabwe 5, 79.25 6, 28.00 51.25
Shivnarine Chanderpaul Australia 7, 81.40 11, 30.20 51.20
* Five Tests each at home and away

Some stats contributed by Travis Basevi.

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