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Diminishing returns in the West Indies

In the 1980s, Test run rates in the West Indies used to be higher than in any other country; since 2000, it's become the lowest

S Rajesh

April 20, 2012

Comments: 29 | Text size: A | A

Herschelle Gibbs drives on his way to a half-century, Pakistan v South Africa, 1st Test, Karachi, 1st day, October 1, 2007
Herschelle Gibbs had a strike rate of 34.41 in nine Tests in the West Indies; outside the West Indies, his strike rate was 52.79 © Getty Images
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Over the last couple of weeks, the two extreme forms of cricket have given the viewers a good example of just how different the two versions are. While batting teams have motored along at about seven-and-a-half to the over in the IPL (which itself is relatively slow by IPL standards), the West Indies-Australia series has produced runs at the rate of 2.69 to the over (going into the final day of the second Test in Trinidad).

There used to be a time when cricket in the West Indies used to be about quick pitches which encouraged bowlers to bowl fast and batsmen to score quickly - in the 1980s the West Indies was the only region in which the average scoring rate in Test cricket was more than three runs per over. Those were the golden days of West Indian cricket, when most of the batsmen were aggressive and bowlers bowled fast.

That, though, was more than 20 years back. Now, cricket in the West Indies is often characterised by slow pitches and slow outfields, which means batsmen don't get value for their shots, fast bowlers don't get much out of it, and bowlers in general struggle to get batsmen out quickly. In the two Tests of the ongoing series, the only innings in which a team scored at three an over or more was in the fourth innings of the first Test, when Australia had a target before them and limited time to get the runs in - they scored at 4.08 per over to get to 192 in 47. Other than that, the highest run-rate has been West Indies' 2.93 in their first innings in Barbados. In the two completed innings in Port-of-Spain, the run-rates have been 2.30 and 2.45, and most of the stats highlights have been about slow scoring or slow bowling: in the Australian innings, four bowlers bowled 15-plus overs at economy rates of less that two, the first time this had happened since 1961; when West Indies batted, Australia opened the bowling with Michael Beer, the first time since 1938 that a slow bowler had shared the new ball for Australia in the opposition first innings. This is also the first time since 2000 that Australia's run rate in a series is less than three runs per over.

The table below lists the run-rates in each country since 2000, and West Indies is right at the bottom of the list (among countries that have hosted at least 20 Tests; UAE is lower at 2.88, but they've hosted only 12). In fact, from the 1980s, when they were the only country with a three-plus run rate, they've now become the only ones with a rate of less than three. The average runs per wicket stat is similar to many of the other host countries, but the lower scoring rate means more overs used up to make those runs. That, coupled with weather interruptions, means the result percentage in the West Indies is the lowest among all countries.

Host-nation-wise batting stats in each country since 2000
Host country Tests Results Percentage Average Run-rate
England 85 66 77.65 34.32 3.44
Australia 72 62 86.11 35.62 3.36
South Africa 64 54 84.37 32.31 3.30
Pakistan 32 22 68.75 37.35 3.26
New Zealand 51 35 68.63 32.42 3.17
Bangladesh 37 32 86.49 32.27 3.17
India 57 36 63.16 37.53 3.15
Sri Lanka 65 48 73.85 33.22 3.10
Zimbabwe 25 21 84.00 33.09 3.03
West Indies 61 37 60.65 33.67 2.98

The conditions in the West Indies has made quick run-scoring tough for many batsmen, as is reflected in the table below. Among those who've faced at least 750 deliveries in the West Indies since 2000, several batsmen have much lower strike rates in the West Indies than over their entire careers. Jimmy Adams' overall strike rate in the West Indies was 36.85, only marginally below his career number, but in the five Tests since 2000, it went down to less than 28. The more surprising stat is Herschelle Gibbs's strike rate in the West Indies: 34.41, compared to a career rate of more than 50. His strike rate outside the West Indies was 52.79, which means his scoring rate dropped by about 35% when he played in the Windies. The strike rate is all the more surprising as Gibbs' average in the West Indies was reasonably good, which means he spent a fair amount of time at the crease. But as this list of innings shows, on several occasions he failed to increase his scoring rate despite spending long periods at the crease: the list includes 45 off 195 balls, 49 off 206, and 87 off 275 - numbers that you'd seldom associate with Gibbs.

A couple of slots down the table is Michael Hussey, another batsman who's played plenty of deliveries in the West Indies without quite converting them into runs. Till the end of the first innings in Trinidad, he'd played 766 balls and scored only 290; had he scored at his career strike rate of 49.49, he'd have scored 379 runs in those deliveries. Even Darren Bravo has been far more subdued at home (average 33.30, strike rate 37.58) than abroad (average 70.25, strike rate 55.17). Further down the list, the strike rates for Rahul Dravid and Shivnarine Chanderpaul are almost the same in and outside the West Indies, with similar averages too.

Batsmen in the West Indies in Tests since 2000 (Qual: 750 balls)
Batsman Tests Runs Balls faced Average Strike rate Career SR
Jimmy Adams 5 315 1130 63.00 27.87 37.57
Neil McKenzie 5 301 952 33.44 31.61 42.00
Herschelle Gibbs 9 583 1694 41.64 34.41 50.26
Darren Bravo 7 433 1152 33.30 37.58 47.87
Michael Hussey 5 290 766 32.22 37.85 49.49
Ryan Hinds 11 320 825 20.00 38.78 40.56
Ashwell Prince 6 359 905 71.80 39.66 43.70
Jacques Kallis 12 942 2369 55.41 39.76 45.59
Rahul Dravid 12 1151 2797 63.94 41.15 42.51
Marlon Samuels 15 606 1451 22.44 41.76 46.01
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 51 4173 9988 61.36 41.78 42.60

On the other hand, there're very few batsmen who've scored faster in the West Indies than in other countries during this period. The table below lists the batsmen with the highest scoring rates in the West Indies (with a 750-ball cut-off). Only three batsmen in the list below have scored significantly quicker in the West Indies, compared to their overall rates: Justin Langer, Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood. Clearly, quick scoring and the West Indies no longer go together, which is a pity considering the adventurous batting and boundary-hitting that the West Indies used to be famous for a few decades ago.

Batsmen with highest strike rates in the West Indies in Tests since 2000 (Qual: 750 balls)
Batsman Tests Runs Balls faced Average Strike rate Career SR
Justin Langer 4 483 788 69.00 61.29 54.22
Ricky Ponting 8 903 1542 69.46 58.56 58.98
Brian Lara 33 3177 5449 58.83 58.30 60.51
Andrew Strauss 5 541 943 67.62 57.37 49.16
Inzamam-ul-Haq 4 462 815 77.00 56.68 54.02
Paul Collingwood 5 430 780 61.42 55.12 46.44
Chris Gayle 45 2777 5225 38.56 53.14 59.10
Ridley Jacobs 25 974 1859 37.46 52.39 47.80
Graeme Smith 7 876 1728 73.00 50.69 60.39

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

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Posted by TheDoctor394 on (April 21, 2012, 10:03 GMT)

@Stephen Miller - I'm not questioning the amount of Indians writing on here, but why so many people write ABOUT India all the time, even when the original article was a focus on another country and/or player.

Posted by Srini_Chennai on (April 21, 2012, 6:47 GMT)

@Shan156: England is playing test cricket since 19th century and they should have won in all countries because the others are relatively new to cricket. I'll ask you 1 thing. Can you name any England XI for last 10 year with all English men in it? At least whatever and wherever we won, its due to our local players and not the imports. How many test matches does your mighty United XI won in India for last 25 years? 1 and lost 6, ya, only 1 test in last 25 years. In that same period India won 4 tests in your country and losing 7. If you take out last year's disaster, India actually leading 4-3 in your country. India is the only team to challenge and beat Australia when they're at their prime. England was literally thrashed left and right during that period. Forgot the good old thrashings? Cricinfo please publish.

Posted by   on (April 21, 2012, 2:16 GMT)

@TheDoctor394: I don't know what all the whinging about the focus on India in comments is about. The country has a population of about one and a quarter billion, which probably means about two thirds of all cricket fans are Indian. Of course their fans are going to dominate discussion---and what's wrong with that?

Posted by Shan156 on (April 20, 2012, 23:25 GMT)

@G.Sri, For starters, England have won test series in all countries. India are yet to win one in Australia and SA. Yes, England lost 4 tests in a row and that is poor. But, what to make out of the 8 successive, huge defeats suffered by the mighty Indians?

Posted by TheDoctor394 on (April 20, 2012, 23:11 GMT)

Why is it that, no matter what the article on CricInfo, no matter what country is the topic, no matter which players are mentioned, the majority of replies are arguments about India? :-|

Posted by Meety on (April 20, 2012, 22:54 GMT)

@AdrianVanDenStael - the table for "Batsmen with highest strike rates in the West Indies in Tests since 2000 (Qual: 750 balls)" is interesting in that it there are as many batsmen with significantly higher S/R in WI v Career! However, obviously by & large most are lower. Also I'd like to know if Pakistan home e/r include UAE, I'd like to see the UAE seperate.

Posted by   on (April 20, 2012, 22:49 GMT)

A very informative article. And answers many puzzling questions. And this might not be only in the WI, but many other cricketing nations. However with global warming & stuff we may not be able to do much with the pitches. I don't know. I had made a suggestion that the new ball becomes available at the 65th or 70th over. A shiner & harder ball will befit all concern;more stroke play,faster bowling, spinners have a harder ball, less injuries to the pacers etc. MORE wickets will fall, crowd excitement. Food for though. Change what u can change, leave the rest to GOD. Think about it.

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (April 20, 2012, 21:23 GMT)

The West Indies team of the late 1970s and whole of 1980s. Has there ever been a better cricket team in the history of cricket? I doubt it. I am sure we will never see a more impressive cricket team like the West Indies team of the late 1970s and 1980s ever again. Oh they were good days if you were a genuine cricket fan.

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (April 20, 2012, 17:12 GMT)

@Technical-1: when I began to read this article I was expecting part of the reason for the slowing of run rate in the West Indies to be a decline in the quality of batting in the side who by definition provides 50% of the line-ups that contest tests in the West Indies (i.e., the home team); Ganga and Samuels aren't Greenidge and Richards, e.g. However, much of the evidence of this article contradicts both my point and your point, I think, in suggesting that even batsman who have scored quickly elsewhere have tended to score slowly in the West Indies. If we object to low scoring rates, therefore, the point is that it is not slow batsmen who should be discouraged, but slow pitches. I remember Stuart Broad for instance complaining about dead pitches in the West Indies, and the likes of Michael Holding have also complained about test pitches globally getting slower and lower, partly as a result of commercial demands for matches that last 5 days (although ironically draws are rare now).

Posted by Srini_Chennai on (April 20, 2012, 13:33 GMT)

@Valavan: Before criticising others for the inaccuracy in their comments, you get your's right. India have won the test series in NZ in 09 by 1-0 which is 3 years back, so they won 2 series abroad in last 4 years. India have 2 ODI world cups, 1 T20 world cup, no.1 in tests for nearly 2 years, sure, they aren't a team, right? Then what is your sorry England(or United XI) achieved since 1889? Apart from 1 T20 world cup which is won with the help of SA, you guys haven't done anything to gloat about. Maybe a whitewash from Pakistan is not enough for you. Cricinfo publish.

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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