January 31, 2014

India's bowling woes in overseas ODIs

All aspects of India's bowling have been a shambles in recent ODIs, be it pace or spin, bowling with the new ball or in the slog overs

With just a year to go for the 2015 World Cup, India's performances in their last two ODI series have caused plenty of concern. On the tour to South Africa earlier this season, they were thrashed in two games and might well have lost the third as well if not for the weather; their three defeats in New Zealand have been by smaller margins, but that isn't any consolation for a team that started this tour as the No. 1 side in the world. India will go into the 2015 World Cup as the defending champions, but based on their recent record they'll not be favourites, especially because the tournament will be held in Australia and New Zealand.

Since their 2011 World Cup win, India's overall ODI record looks impressive: 43 wins, 26 losses in 75 matches, for a win-loss ratio of 1.65, the best among all teams during this period. However, their overall numbers hide their poor record in Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa during this period. Despite the win in the Champions Trophy in England last year - a tournament in which they achieved a clean 5-0 win-loss record - India's stats in these countries since 2011 is eight wins and 12 losses, and a win-loss ratio of 0.66. Five teams, including Sri Lanka, have a better win-loss ratio in these countries during this period.

On the other hand, when not playing in those countries, India have been unstoppable, winning 35 and losing 14, easily the best win-loss ratio among all teams. However, their record in Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa will worry them, given that they also don't have too much time to set things right.

The table below shows that India's batting average drops to 32.65 when playing in these four countries, from 40.79 everywhere else. However, India's batting run rate is marginally higher in these four countries - 5.58 to 5.53. The bowlers, though, have struggled to keep the runs down, conceding 5.67 runs per over in these countries, up from 5.22 everywhere else. When compared with other teams who've played in these four countries during this period, India's record is worse than all teams except West Indies, who've gone at 5.72 to the over.

India's ODI record since the 2011 World Cup
  Matches W/ L Ratio Bat ave/ RR Bowl ave/ ER
In Aus, Eng, NZ, SA 25 8/ 12 0.66 32.65/ 5.58 36.61/ 5.67
In other countries 50 35/ 14 2.50 40.79/ 5.53 31.19/ 5.22
ODI records of teams in Aus, Eng, NZ and SA since the 2011 World Cup
Team Matches Won Lost Ratio
England 41 22 15 1.46
New Zealand 26 14 10 1.40
Australia 40 21 16 1.31
South Africa 34 17 14 1.21
Sri Lanka 30 13 15 0.86
India 25 8 12 0.66
Pakistan 11 4 7 0.57
West Indies 14 3 10 0.30

MS Dhoni has often complained about his lack of bowling options overseas where the pitches are truer and don't offer much turn, and the numbers below bear out his complaint. India's bowlers - both pace and spin - have fared much worse in Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa than in other countries. In those four countries, the fast bowlers have averaged almost 40 runs per wicket and six per over; in other countries both their averages and the economy rates are better. The wicket-taking ability of the spinners takes a major hit in these countries - best illustrated by R Ashwin's recent struggles - as the average goes up from 30 to 44. The lack of wickets usually means opposition teams have more wickets in hand to go after the bowling in the slog overs.

How India's bowlers have measured up since the 2011 World Cup
  Type Wickets Average Econ rate Strike rate
In Aus, Eng, NZ, SA Pace 92 39.48 5.88 40.2
  Spin 55 44.16 5.21 50.8
In other countries Pace 184 34.90 5.41 38.7
  Spin 180 30.06 4.78 37.6

Admittedly, spin bowling in those countries isn't an easy task, given that pitches are usually true and don't turn much, but even so the stats for Indian spinners are worse than those of any other team, both in terms of averages and economy rates. Pakistan's spinners average almost 40, but they've conceded only 4.62 runs per over, compared with India's 5.21. England's spinners have conceded 5.06 per over - the only side other than India to concede more than five - but they've averaged 35.18, considerably better than India's 44.16. India's spinners have taken 55 wickets in 25 matches, but that's more a reflection of the number of overs they've bowled per match: they've bowled about 19 per game, but they haven't actually given the team control in terms of curbing the runs or taking wickets.

Spinners in Aus, Eng, NZ and SA since the 2011 World Cup
Team Matches Wickets Average Econ rate Strike rate
Pakistan 11 29 39.48 4.62 51.2
Australia 40 45 42.13 4.76 53.0
New Zealand 26 40 39.70 4.83 49.2
South Africa 34 45 40.24 4.85 49.7
Sri Lanka 30 46 43.82 4.89 53.6
West Indies 14 22 41.22 4.96 49.8
England 41 55 35.18 5.06 41.6
India 25 55 44.16 5.21 50.8

If India's spinners have less-than-flattering stats abroad, then the fast bowlers aren't much better. When playing in Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa, they've averaged 39.48 runs per wicket, and 5.88 per over. In both these parameters, only West Indies have done worse than India, averaging 43.09 per wicket and 5.93 per over. On the other hand, the best teams are way better than India: South Africa average 26.61 at an economy rate of 4.88; Australia average 28.36 at an economy rate of 4.99. (Click here for the full list.)

Whether it's operating with the new ball in conditions that offer something to the quick bowlers, or bowling at the death when opposition batsmen are in search of quick runs, India's pace attack has been equally toothless. In the first ten overs, they've conceded, on average, 4.91 runs per over and almost 40 runs per wicket, worse than all teams except West Indies. The best in class, South Africa, are streets ahead - they average 28.65 per wicket, and 3.99 per over. In the last ten, India's seam attack leak 8.33 runs per over and again share the bottom place, this time with New Zealand, whose fast bowlers do significantly worse at the end of the innings than they do at the start. India's pace bowlers don't take too many wickets either at the death, averaging more than 33 per wicket. The best in class, South Africa again, concede about half the number of runs per wicket, and only 6.20 per over.

The last column in the tables below further illustrates the proclivity of the Indian fast bowlers to ease pressure, by frequently conceding boundaries. In the first ten overs, they concede a four or a six every 8.58 balls - the worst of the lot - while the best in class is Australia's 11.61. In the last ten, they concede a four or a six every 6.51 balls, worse than all teams except New Zealand. The top teams in this category - Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia - make the opposition batsmen wait more than 8.5 balls per boundary. Mohammad Shami has been the worst offender in this category, conceding 25 fours or sixes in 108 balls in the last ten overs, an average of one every 4.32 balls. His economy rate at the death is 9.88. Ishant Sharma has had his share of forgettable spells at the end, but overall his slog-over stats are better: an economy rate of 7.28, and a boundary every 7.64 balls. Umesh Yadav is similar, with an economy rate of 7.27, and a boundary every 6.60 balls.

Fast bowlers in the first 10 overs in ODIs in Aus, NZ, Eng, SA since Apr 2011
Team Inngs Wickets Average Econ rate Balls/4 or 6
South Africa 33 44 28.65 3.99 10.58
Pakistan 11 15 28.26 4.15 10.03
New Zealand 26 36 29.02 4.24 10.04
Australia 40 56 29.05 4.26 11.61
England 39 55 30.32 4.31 10.70
Sri Lanka 30 37 35.59 4.77 9.80
India 25 30 39.36 4.91 8.58
West Indies 14 15 40.73 4.91 8.78
Fast bowlers in the last 10 overs in ODIs in Aus, NZ, Eng, SA since Apr 2011
Team Inngs Wickets Average Econ rate Balls/ 4 or 6
South Africa 25 49 17.59 6.20 8.60
Sri Lanka 23 42 24.80 6.70 9.61
Australia 27 63 22.34 6.94 8.82
England 30 65 23.56 7.39 7.10
Pakistan 9 10 26.60 7.86 6.15
West Indies 9 12 35.08 8.09 6.64
India 19 28 33.57 8.33 6.51
New Zealand 18 32 26.00 8.33 5.65

And finally, a look at the Indian bowlers who've sent down more than 50 overs in these four countries during this period. Whichever way you look at it, these numbers don't make for impressive reading. The bowlers with reasonably good economy rates average more than 40 runs per wicket; those who average less than 30 go at about six an over or more. Umesh Yadav, who some experts reckon should be playing in the ODIs in New Zealand, averages almost 60 runs per wicket and goes at a run a ball. No wonder Dhoni has been wondering aloud about his bowling options for the 2015 World Cup.

Indian bowlers in ODIs in Aus, NZ, Eng, SA since Apr 2011 (Qual: 50 overs)
Bowler Overs Wickets Average Econ rate Strike rate
Bhuvneshwar Kumar 80 9 44.00 4.95 53.3
R Ashwin 198 23 43.26 5.02 51.6
Ravindra Jadeja 186.4 24 40.04 5.14 46.6
Praveen Kumar 57 6 49.50 5.21 57.0
Vinay Kumar 68.5 11 34.45 5.50 37.5
Ishant Sharma 70 16 25.87 5.91 26.2
Umesh Yadav 98.4 10 59.90 6.07 59.2
Mohammad Shami 62 19 23.15 7.09 19.5

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