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ESPNcricinfo's stats editor S Rajesh looks at the stories behind the stats

Cook's stunning rise in ODIs

Once thought to be too slow for the format, Alastair Cook has transformed himself into one of the best ODI openers going around today

S Rajesh

June 22, 2012

Comments: 48 | Text size: A | A

Alastair Cook helped give England a solid start, England v West Indies, 2nd ODI, The Oval, June 19, 2012
Hashim Amla is the only opener to average more than Alastair Cook in ODIs since the beginning of 2010 © Getty Images
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At first glance, nothing about Alastair Cook suggests that he could be in for a great ODI career as an opening batsman. Though he has a reasonable range of strokes, Cook's forte has been his ability to bat long periods with unflagging concentration, a skill that doesn't count for much in 50-over cricket. In Test cricket, he scores his runs mostly through pushes and nudges - not the free-stroking batsman you'd want at the top of the order in a format that places a premium on quick scoring.

In the first three seasons of his ODI career, Cook's performances were in line with this analysis: his urgency at the start was well below par, especially in an age when openers are expected to make full use of the fielding restrictions. Splitting his 47-match ODI career into two halves, in the first 23 he scored at a strike rate of less than 70. His average of 30.52 during this period was reasonable, but at the end of 2008, England's selectors decided that Cook didn't fit into their ODI plans: from the beginning of 2009 till the middle of 2011, Cook played only three of England's 56 ODIs, as they tried as many as nine other openers alongside Andrew Strauss during this period. Only two of them - Ravi Bopara and Craig Kieswetter - played more than ten innings each, but neither made the job his own. Bopara's stats were very similar to Cook's - an average of 29.45 and a strike rate of 69.97 - while Kieswetter was more aggressive, but inconsistent. During this period, Cook played three games in Bangladesh in 2010 and did well, averaging 52 at a strike rate of 90. However, he then missed out on the ODIs at home that season and in Australia, and the World Cup in 2010-11.

Since his return to ODI cricket in 2011, though, Cook has been an absolute revelation, scoring six fifties and four centuries in 21 innings; clearly, his outstanding Test form has given him the confidence to play more freely in ODIs too. Overall, in 24 innings, including the tour to Bangladesh in 2010, he has averaged more than 54 at a strike rate of 91.47, a far cry from his stats in his previous 23 innings.

Alastair Cook's ODI career
Period Matches Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Till Dec 2008 23 702 30.52 68.15 1/ 3
Jan 2010 onwards 24 1191 54.13 91.47 4/ 8
Career 47 1893 42.06 81.17 5/ 11

One key difference between Cook the ODI batsman in these two phases has been his ability to play fewer dot balls over the last couple of years. It's true that his boundary percentage has also increased - and all four of his ODI sixes have been struck in his last 24 matches - but the bigger difference has been the decrease in dot balls. From a very high 62.52% in his first 23 innings, it has gone down to less than 50%. Some of it, admittedly, is also because he has survived the Powerplay overs more often in the last two years - batting in the middle overs has obviously allowed him to rotate strike more freely and reduce his dot-ball percentage.

Scoring patterns for Alastair Cook in ODIs
Period Runs/ Balls Run rate 4s/ 6s Boundary % Dot-ball %
Till Dec 2008 702/ 1030 4.08 77/ 0 43.87 62.52
Jan 2010 onwards 1191/ 1302 5.48 134/ 4 47.02 49.00

You'd think that batting against spin might have been his bigger problem in his early days, but fast bowlers had far more success against him during his first couple of years. Before December 2008, he was dismissed 20 times by fast or medium-fast bowlers, and his run rate against them was only 3.99. Since 2010, his stats against pace have improved dramatically.

Cook v pace and spin in ODIs
Period Pace-dismissals Average Run rate Spin-dismissals Average Run rate
Till Dec 2008 20 30.15 3.99 2 49.50 4.75
Jan 2010 onwards 11 62.63 5.68 10 50.20 5.23

Cook's remarkable numbers mean he is easily among the best ODI openers going around today. Among batsmen who have opened the innings at least 20 times since the beginning of 2010, Cook's average has been bettered only by one - South Africa's Hashim Amla. Amla and Cook are the only openers to average more than 50 during this period. The fact that nine of the ten openers in the list below have a strike rate of more than 88 also indicates how high the benchmarks have been raised for openers. Cook has risen to the challenge, and all these runs will only add to his confidence in future matches.

Highest averages for openers in ODIs since Jan 2010 (Qual: 20 innings)
Batsman ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Hashim Amla 35 2033 61.60 95.67 8/ 12
Alastair Cook 24 1191 54.13 91.47 4/ 8
Gautam Gambhir 25 1132 49.21 89.91 3/ 6
Andrew Strauss 28 1319 47.10 93.28 3/ 9
Sachin Tendulkar 23 1032 46.90 92.30 4/ 3
Shane Watson 49 2046 44.47 97.15 2/ 16
Paul Stirling 30 1290 43.00 99.53 4/ 5
Virender Sehwag 29 1156 41.28 116.53 3/ 2
Martin Guptill 32 1144 40.85 82.48 1/ 9
Tillakaratne Dilshan 70 2613 40.82 88.93 8/ 10

Apart from Cook, Strauss has also contributed mightily at the top of the order in the last two and a half years, averaging 47.10 at a strike rate of more than 93 in 28 innings. (Click here for a look at England's openers during this period.) More recently, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell have shone in that position as well, ensuring that at least one England opener has scored a century in the last six ODIs.

Since 2010, England's openers have averaged almost 43 runs per dismissal, and more than 47 runs per partnership - both of these are the second-highest among all teams. South Africa's openers have a slightly higher average, but a lower average stand, while Sri Lanka's average partnership is higher, despite a lower average for their openers. In the last year, England's openers have had even more incredible numbers - they average 51.32, with seven hundreds in 44 innings. New Zealand's openers have a higher average, but that's almost entirely due to high scores against Zimbabwe.

Opening batting and partnerships averages for each team in ODIs since Jan 2010
Team ODIs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s Ave stand 100/ 50 stands
South Africa 39 43.28 87.51 9/ 17 42.38 1/ 16
England 53 42.92 92.51 11/ 27 47.67 7/ 13
Sri Lanka 74 40.04 84.01 15/ 26 49.95 10/ 15
Australia 66 36.85 84.99 5/ 32 42.29 7/ 15
India 72 35.15 88.54 10/ 19 34.04 3/ 16
New Zealand 44 32.65 84.73 4/ 16 39.20 4/ 7
Pakistan 64 32.63 74.41 7/ 24 39.68 6/ 11
West Indies 52 30.88 76.65 4/ 19 35.20 3/ 10
Bangladesh 51 30.10 75.00 2/ 23 28.23 1/ 9
Zimbabwe 40 26.52 70.73 3/ 12 25.70 3/ 5

All these runs in the last couple of years mean Cook's average is third-highest among the 25 England batsmen who have scored more than 1500 ODI runs. Jonathan Trott leads the list, while Pietersen, who has already retired from the format, is marginally ahead of Cook (42.51 to Cook's 42.06). Given Cook's outstanding run, though, it's very likely that he'll move even higher on that list pretty soon.

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

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Posted by the_blue_android on (June 24, 2012, 23:36 GMT)

Respect for the man! The best test batsman in the world for the last 2 years and one of the best ODI batsmen. BCCI should force guys like Sehwag and Gambhir to watch test innings of Cook. He is by far the best judge of which ball to play and which ball to leave.

Posted by   on (June 23, 2012, 18:57 GMT)

@navjot2000 Cook? An overrated player?? His record speaks for itself! He's been solid and very consistent. He can only play who is infront of him, and he hasn't disappointed very often.

Posted by anantbio on (June 23, 2012, 17:54 GMT)

Cook has a had a good season, but his performance is nothing compared to Sachin Tendulkar, Sachin has been the most prolific opener in ODI. Cook has a long way to go to match Sachin

Posted by JG2704 on (June 23, 2012, 17:54 GMT)

@Gaurav Kapoor on (June 23 2012, 00:18 AM GMT) This thread is purely on Cook . Anderson has nothing to do with it but thanks for your classy comments

Posted by JG2704 on (June 23, 2012, 17:47 GMT)

I actually wonder if Cook could not play T20 too? I sometimes feel that some of our big hitters are not scoring at all when they're not hitting boundaries

Posted by JG2704 on (June 23, 2012, 17:46 GMT)

@navjot2000 on (June 23 2012, 07:31 AM GMT) Obviously not over rated by everyone then?

Posted by andrew27994 on (June 23, 2012, 16:06 GMT)

Aside from the recent ODI stats of Cook's performance, he has also scored a T20 domestic century which can't possibly happen if Cook is meant only for tests. And in case you forgot Cook was one of the faster scorers for England in the ODI series against Pakistan in the UAE. And you don't neccesarily have to hit 6s consistently to be a good batsman in ODIs. If you can make use of most of the deliveries you face by taking 1s and 2s and occasionally finding the boundaries, you make a very successful ODI batsman. Just look at Dhoni , for example. He has the strength to clear the boundaries but yet the main secret for maintaining a good strike rate is that he also rotates the strike well and cleverly leaves the big hitting towards the end thereby also giving him an average of over 50. Big hitters like Pollard, Afridi are of no use if they use up too many dot balls and end up taking too many risks and eventually losing their wickets.

Posted by EdgyDave on (June 23, 2012, 13:54 GMT)

Cook's a pretty solid opener. If Cook and Bell play like this they're not going to miss KP in limited overs. The only reservations I have is that Cook's one day form might be to the detriment of his test batting.

Posted by JG2704 on (June 23, 2012, 12:17 GMT)

@Dravid_Gravitas on (June 23 2012, 09:36 AM GMT) Fully agreed , so long as the end result is there. I mean even many of the reputable ODI players don't go at much more than a SR of 80/85 , so a SR of 90 is excellent whether it is achieved by starting slowly and hitting big towards the end or by consistently picking up ones and twos ...

Posted by ZachAd on (June 23, 2012, 11:20 GMT)

@navjot2000 Its unfair to take away credit from Cook's Ashes exploits just because the Aussie bowling attack is a shadow of what it was. The star studded Indian batting lineup were annihilated last year. You wouldn't call the likes of Dravid, Laxman etc overrated, would you? But I do agree the standards of the bowling attacks across teams have been on the decline and it will be interesting to see how he fares versus the best bowling line-up these days - South Africa on bowler friendly wickets. Nowhere does this article suggests that he is an ODI great. But his fantastic improvement in this format as reflected in the statistics is praiseworthy.

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas_Atheist on (June 23, 2012, 9:36 GMT)

IMO, he is probably the most under-rated batsman in present day cricket. All this just because he doesn't play to the gallery. Very unfair. When do we learn to give a player his due based on his utility rather than his flamboyance?

Posted by JG2704 on (June 23, 2012, 7:48 GMT)

@Balumekka on (June 23 2012, 04:27 AM GMT) So who do you rate as an ODI batsman? I'm sure there are top ODI players all over the world who have failed somewhere or another

Posted by jr2012 on (June 23, 2012, 7:31 GMT)

Over-rated player, especially in ODIs. His runs have come on docile UAE pitches, Bangladesh and below par bowling teams. Look at his record further and you can clearly see him struggle. Similarly for Tests, this guy has made runs against "has been" bowling attacks. Remember his career was nearly finished by the Pakistani bowlers in Aug 2010 only to given reprieve by average Australian bowling, hopeless Indian trundlers. Cook one of the most over-rated player going around filling his shoes with easy runs, much like Mahela,but I don't blame him for that.

Posted by Balumekka on (June 23, 2012, 4:27 GMT)

@Shan156: For your information: I did't compare Cook with anyone. Neither I rate Sehwag or Gambhir as great ODI batsman.

Posted by RandyOZ on (June 23, 2012, 2:23 GMT)

Cook is a good bat. I must admit I am a fan of this lad. Humble and seems like a future test captain. Best of all he is actually English!

Posted by   on (June 23, 2012, 0:18 GMT)

Really want this average Jimmy boy to be thrashed.. the most overrated bowler who has one two good seasons... Every dog has his day. Hez had it n that'll be the end of it

Posted by 5wombats on (June 22, 2012, 23:11 GMT)

@jonesey. You really really don't have a clue do you. What you always forget is that Warner and friends will be facing Anderson, Broad, Swann, they know how to take Australia apart and have already done so many times. Cook will only be facing .... er... who? Going to love reading your excuses BTW - or are you just going to cut and paste from the 2010-2011?

Posted by JG2704 on (June 22, 2012, 20:22 GMT)

@rahulcricket007 on (June 22 2012, 06:15 AM GMT) - Boycott actually said last year - even when Bell was on bad ODI form - so that's wrong for a start. We'll see what happens when they get set a higher target. I'd say 250 is certainly not beyond them as they are both naturally striking between 80 and 93. I do still have my reservations for when they play against a different bowling attack in different conditions with Bell,Cook,Trott and Bopara in the same side , if they have to chase larger totals but we'll just have to see.

Posted by Clive_Dunn on (June 22, 2012, 19:40 GMT)

I think we've yet to really understand the impact that 2 new balls has on the role of an opener in 50 over cricket, certainly in "English" conditions it would appear logical to assume that the assumption you need to get off to a flyer in order to post 300+ is redundant. I'd go further and suggest that in conditions where the ball and bat are evenly matched, the importance of seeing off the new ball(s) outweighs an openers need to hit fours and sixes and I'm pretty sure Cook does this better than anyone else in world cricket.

Posted by   on (June 22, 2012, 19:04 GMT)

its astonishing to see dishan has played 70 one dayers since 2010 almost double than the next best

Posted by JG2704 on (June 22, 2012, 17:30 GMT)

@Ebenesh Ebi on (June 22 2012, 08:16 AM GMT) This is why I slightly worry about having too many accumulators in the same side. Then again Trott was scoring quicker than Bell before this series so maybe he could up his SR if he needed to?

Posted by Shan156 on (June 22, 2012, 16:34 GMT)

@Balumekka, @tusharkardile, going by your logic, Sehwag must also be a pathetic batsman. For God's sake, just scoring a double century in flat Indian wickets against WI in an ODI is not good enough. He has to prove himself in the swinging and seaming wickets of England where he averages a dismal 27.80 in tests. Same goes for Gambhir who has a miserable average of 17 in Blighty and 22.6 in Australia. Hey, even Dravid had a sub-30 average in SA. Must be a mediocre batsman too. Not. Cook had an average series in India, yes, but just like how his performances everywhere else doesn't mean he is great, his Indian performance doesn't mean he is bad either. This article only shows how Cook has improved as an ODI batsman. No one claims that he is a great ODI batsman.

Posted by   on (June 22, 2012, 15:12 GMT)

Alistair Cook will soon become a "legend" in cricket. Hes 27 and has already played 80 test matches and averages nearly 50 with nearly 20 centuries...if he plays the next 8 years the same way...do the math, he will end up being like the Dravids and Tendulkars (whom have played over 150 odd matches) with tons of runs and alot of centuries. I think he will easily hit the 40+ centuries mark in tests and be in the league of Sach and Punters.

Keeping up this pace in ODI cricket will further his legend (like those of Kallis, Ponting, and Sachin). Although i feel he should stay FAR FAR away from T20's. With the fate of ODI in danger during his career, he should make the best of it and through out concentrate on Tests...as i feel that will be his strong suit.

Posted by whatawicket on (June 22, 2012, 14:46 GMT)

rahullcricket007 im not sure how to answer your question as that was 18 month

Posted by AllroundCricketFan on (June 22, 2012, 14:34 GMT)

Amla's strike rate and average is out of this world - for a Test batsman to score at that rate and that average.... Wow. I think he is still the number 1 ODI batsman in teh world.

Posted by jb633 on (June 22, 2012, 14:33 GMT)

@rahulcricket, I think India will struggle to defend any score of under 340 tbh mate. It is going to be hilarious watching India in Oz during the world cup. Granted Eng were terrible in the last ODI series in Oz and they are not a good one day side, but India will get pummeled there. Can't wait to see that pace attack go the distance.

Posted by Selassie-I on (June 22, 2012, 14:12 GMT)

@Rahulcricket007... Cook didn't play in either the 09 or 2010/11 ODI series losses to Australia, in fact he's never even played an ODI against Australia.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (June 22, 2012, 14:02 GMT)

Cook has consigned Australian fans to months, years of nightmares, just at hearing his name. 700 runs. That's right: 700 runs in the Ashes, in Australia. And now he's replicated it in the one-day game. That he'd walk into any test or one-day side in the world is not in question. Just as the last three years in cricket have been England's, they have also been Cook's. What a batsman. A true English legend of the game already.

Posted by segga-express on (June 22, 2012, 13:54 GMT)

@Rahulcricket - Equating the performance of the current England ODI team with the last one to tour Australia or compete in the world cup creates a false conclusion of the worth of this team. The core of the batting line-up has changed dramatically since those series with only Trott and Morgan maintaining the same role in the team. Even the rules won't be the same next time England compete in an ODI in Australia. England have never been the best one day side in the world (T20 is a different story however) and that is predominantly because we have been inconsistent with selection and our players haven't been good enough due to the perception of ODIs being second rate cricket. Now however we are placing more emphasis on ODIs and improvements are being seen - unbeaten at home in 6 series, winning our last 6 matches. This is a work in progress with a team that has yet to settle on its best line-up, the current one contains promise and hopefully will blossom into a competitive team.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (June 22, 2012, 13:17 GMT)


Posted by dariuscorny on (June 22, 2012, 13:04 GMT)

@HatsforBats i fully favour you mate one cannot compare Warner with Cook,as warner is in the mould of Gilchrist.you canot compare Dravid with Gilly specially in odis.yes as a batsman cook can keep his place intact..but noways you can never in the world would compare Warner with Cook as an opener

Posted by   on (June 22, 2012, 12:45 GMT)

@Hatsforbats well over the same time frame Cook has averaged 20 more than Warner at a higher strike rate so I'm not clear on what your selection criteria are, unless you are picking your opening batsman on their bowling! Let not write history with hindsight, beating India was only a given after we did it, before the series everyone thought India were going to be a real test.

Posted by simon_w on (June 22, 2012, 12:16 GMT)

Just heard Tony Cozier (a fine and impartial judge) say on the radio that he doesn't think Australia (that's World ODI #1 ranked Australia) don't look close to being as good as England, having watched both at close quarters in the last few months... just sayin'...

Posted by simon_w on (June 22, 2012, 12:13 GMT)

to me, the only surprise here is that people are surprised. if you judge based on a self-justifying and self-perpetuating reputation alone, then you will come to the conclusion that Cook is a "Test Batsman" who is unsuited for limited-overs cricket. if you actually watch him bat, without already having made your mind up before he takes guard, you'll see that he has all the talent, timing, temperament, technique and range of shots required to be the success, you'll no longer be surprised to discover, that he is...

Posted by Deuce03 on (June 22, 2012, 12:07 GMT)

Alastair Cook a more effective ODI opener than Virender Sehwag? Who'd-a thunk it?

Posted by Balumekka on (June 22, 2012, 12:02 GMT)

Scoring heavily on England, Abu Dahbi or Bangladesh definitely will not be enough to judge him. If he also had performed in difficult batting pitches with lot of turn in SL we can accept that he is a good ODI batsman. Just see his pathetic performances in ODIs against India last year!

Posted by Selassie-I on (June 22, 2012, 11:18 GMT)

Do people even read the article I wonder? how can warner possibly be better than cook? look at the list since Jan 2010, it cover the openers with the highest average...m is warner above cook, no.. is warner in the top 10, NO! his career average is LOWER than cook's with a lower strike rate, let's not even bring the last 2 years into it where cook averages 22 more than warner with a higher strike rate?! Jsut beacuse someone can clear the ropes doesn't mean they are better than someone who regularly scores more at a quciker pace, without taking the risks. I really can't understand how people can say that he's not a good ODI opener.. look at the results and the stats. It's nto like he's had a good series, he's had a good 2 years, all over the world, in all conditions.

Posted by HatsforBats on (June 22, 2012, 10:30 GMT)

@ Badgerofdoom (best tag ever) & jmcilhinney, I wasn't disparaging England's recent positives (their wins against Pakistan particularly were good to see, though beating SL & Ind in their current states at home should be a given), but overall their odi success is inarguably underwhelming (the last WC for example). My point was,I guess, that their record aginst Australia is even less flattering; however, it looks like it will very competitive (and I'm looking forward to it). My 2 cents on Cook; at the moment he's brilliant, but yes like jonesy2 probably would, I would take Warner. He's a better fielder, better bowler and so far his first 26 matches are better than Cooks, and he can do things Cook can only dream of.

Posted by tusharkardile on (June 22, 2012, 10:16 GMT)

For God's sake, he has scored most of his runs in England, Bangladesh or on flat wickets of Dubai. In only testing conditions he played (in India), he averaged 26.60!!!

Posted by   on (June 22, 2012, 8:16 GMT)

Excuse me..... WC 2015 is in Australia openers need to start steadily, its not India to go about trashing the bowlers. Cook & Bell are scoring quick enough for Aussie conditions, Trott is the one who has to improve. Inability to score fast is different from not choosing to do so.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (June 22, 2012, 7:46 GMT)

@rahulcricket007 on (June 22 2012, 06:15 AM GMT), I'm not sure that characterisation of Cook as a Test batsman is completely fair any more. If Ian Bell really is stepping up to the level that he should be able to play at then I think they will become a very effective opening partnership. They probably won't be as feared as some because they won't have the same boundary-clearing ability but that just means that they will be underestimated. I think that Trott is the key. He has a very good average and that steady hand has been required while the England ODI team has been shaky. If they can gain some consistency as a team then they may be prepared to sacrifice a few runs in average for a higher strike rate. I believe that Trott is capable of lifting his strike rate as he's shown on a few occasions. It's not natural to him though so he may eventually be the one to go if young players like Bairstow, Buttler, Taylor and Stokes really step up.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (June 22, 2012, 7:38 GMT)

@jonesy2 on (June 22 2012, 05:07 AM GMT), your ability to ignore facts and state the complete opposite is equalled only by that of one of your compatriots. Did you actually read the numbers or did you just come here to say yet again England = bad? In his last 24 ODIs Cook has an average of 54.13 and a strike rate of 91.47. I think that it probably goes without saying that you'd rather have David Warner in your team. Well, you can have him, along with his average of 33.69 and strike rate of 85.79 in his 26 ODIs. I guess if Cook is one of the worst then Warner must be THE worst.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (June 22, 2012, 7:30 GMT)

@HatsforBats on (June 22 2012, 06:16 AM GMT), not really sure how you can say no real results. Cooks team got walloped in India with Cook's batting being one of the brighter points, but they have also beaten SL and India in England as well as whitewashed Pakistan in UAE and now WI in England. With their next three series being against the #1, #2 and #3 ranked ODI teams, England have a big opportunity to move up the rankings or show that they don't deserve to.

Posted by Badgerofdoom on (June 22, 2012, 7:17 GMT)

@HatsforBats have England not won their last 6 ODI's in a row? Anyway we'll see how he gets on against Aus. @Jonesy2 Looking at the stats he'd walk into the Aussie ODI side right now, compare him to Warner and Cooks averaging almost 20 more in the same period and at a higher strike rate to boot @Rahulcricket Did you not read the article? Cooks scoring rate is not a problem and England have the fastest scoring opening partnership of any team since Jan 2010

Posted by sugwas on (June 22, 2012, 7:13 GMT)

In Australia, with two new balls 250 might be a pretty decent score

Posted by HatsforBats on (June 22, 2012, 6:16 GMT)

Strong figures for England, but no real results as a reward. Hopefully the up coming Aus-Eng odis will prove to be hard fight and exciting.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (June 22, 2012, 6:15 GMT)


Posted by jonesy2 on (June 22, 2012, 5:07 GMT)

hahahahaha cook is one of the worst openers ODIs have ever seen and its not surprising that england has produced him. he is a good test player and i have some respect for cook because he is quiet and goes about his business with minimal fuss but an ODI player he is not. if england were a half decent side he would be a test player only.

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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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