Bhuvneshwar on course for super series
He didn't win the Man-of-the Match award in either Test, but almost everyone will agree that Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been the most influential player of the series in the first two Tests in England. Murali Vijay is the only one who runs him close, with 317 runs from four innings, but Bhuvneshwar's all-round show has been unmatched so far: to go with his 209 runs, he has also taken 11 wickets. His batting average is 69.66, and his bowling average 16.81; the difference between the two, which is a convenient way to measure all-round excellence, is 52.84. His lowest score with the bat in four innings is 36, and two out of three times with the ball he has returned a five-for. It used to be said about Bhuvneshwar that he is only effective at the start of an innings when the ball is new, but in England he has mixed it up well: of his 11 wickets, five have been with a ball that's less than 15 overs old (first or second new ball), and six with a ball older than that.
Given that this is a five-Test series and only two have been played so far, Bhuvneshwar is theoretically heading for a bounty with both bat and ball. It's unlikely that his batting form will continue blemish-free over the next three Tests, while the conditions at The Oval, for instance, might not give him the best chance for a five-for, but if he does continue at the current rate of scoring runs and taking wickets, he will finish the series with 522 runs, and 27 wickets. That'll make him only the second player, and the first in over 100 years, to score 500-plus runs and taken 25-plus wickets in a series. (South Africa's Aubrey Faulkner scored 545 runs and took 29 wickets in a five-Test series against England in 1910.)
That, admittedly, is a rather tall order and quite far-fetched. What isn't so far-fetched is Bhuvneshwar scoring 300-plus runs and taking 20-plus wickets in the series, if he stays fit and plays all of the remaining three Tests. If he does manage that, it'll only be the 16th such instance in Test history, and Bhuvneshwar will become the 13th player to achieve such a feat. The last player to score 300-plus runs and take 20-plus wickets in a Test series was Andrew Flintoff, in the 2005 Ashes.
Over the last couple of decades, instances of players doing well with both bat and ball in a series have become increasingly rare, because the breed of high-class allrounders has gradually been on the decline. If ever proof was needed about Garry Sobers' all-round genius, here's one stat to illustrate his greatness: between 1962 and 1966, Sobers achieved this feat three times - at home against India in 1962, and in England in 1963 and 1966. That means 20% of all such instances in Test history have come from one player alone. In the 1966 series, Sobers scored 722 runs at an average of 103.14, and took 20 wickets at 27.25; the difference between the two averages was 75.89, which is the highest such differential among these 15 instances; against India in 1962 the difference was 50.10, the third-best among the lot. Apart from Sobers, the only other player who achieved this feat more than once was Australia's Keith Miller. Both his instances were against West Indies - at home in 1951-52, and in the West Indies in 1955.
In the early 1980s, three of the four great allrounders of that era entered this club: Ian Botham achieved it in the unforgettable 1981 Ashes series, Richard Hadlee did it against England in 1983, while Kapil Dev achieved the double in the home series against England in 1981-82, in a series where Botham scored 440 runs and took 17 wickets. Imran Khan, surprisingly, never achieved this double. He scored more than 300 in a series only once, in India in 1986-87, but in that series he took only eight wickets to go with his 324 runs. The closest he came to this double was on India's tour to Pakistan in 1982-83, when he took 40 wickets and scored 247 runs; however, Pakistan's top-order batsmen were so good in that series that Imran batted only five times in six Tests. (Click here for Imran's series-wise stats.)
However, since those exploits by Hadlee in 1983, there have been only two instances of a player scoring 300-plus runs and taking 20-plus wickets. Between August 1983 and February 2001, there were no such instances, before Shaun Pollock scored 302 runs and took 20 wickets in the West Indies. If Bhuvneshwar does get there, it'll only be the third such double in the last 30 years.
|Player||Series||Matches||Runs||Bat ave||Wkts||Bowl ave||Ave diff|
|Garry Sobers||India in WI. 1961-62||5||424||70.66||23||20.56||50.10|
|Garry Sobers||WI in England, 1963||5||322||40.25||20||28.55||11.70|
|Garry Sobers||WI in England, 1966||5||722||103.14||20||27.25||75.89|
|Tony Greig||England in WI, 1973-74||5||430||47.77||24||22.62||25.15|
|Ian Botham||The Ashes in England, 1981||6||399||36.27||34||20.58||15.68|
|Kapil Dev||England in India, 1981-82||6||318||53.00||22||37.95||15.04|
|Richard Hadlee||NZ in England, 1983||4||301||50.16||21||26.61||23.54|
|Shaun Pollock||SA in West Indies, 2000-01||5||302||75.50||20||23.20||52.30|
|Andrew Flintoff||The Ashes in England, 2005||5||402||40.20||24||27.29||12.90|
Of the 15 times this double has been achieved in a Test series, eight have been at home and seven overseas, with Sobers being the only one to do it twice away from home.
Among Indians, Kapil's effort against England in 1981-82 is the only one that meets the 300 runs, 20 wickets criteria. However, reducing the entry points to 250 runs and 15 wickets ensures there are six other performances, but none since February 1983, when Kapil, again, scored 254 runs at an average of 42.33, and took 17 wickets at 24.94 against the mighty West Indians on their home soil, in a five-Test series India lost 2-0. That means it's been more than 30 years since an Indian achieved this double. Kapil himself struggled towards the end of his career: only twice in his last 18 series did he take 15 or more wickets, but he contributed four of the seven instances of Indians achieving the double of 250 runs and 15 wickets.
In the last 31 years, there've been, excluding Bhuvneshwar's performance in England, only five instances of Indians scoring 200-plus runs and taking ten or more wickets in a series. R Ashwin came close to the 250-run, 15-wicket double in the home series against England in 2012-13, but his 14 wickets came at a high average of 52.64 (which is about as much as the difference between Bhuvneshwar's batting and bowling averages in the current series). On a tour to Australia, Manoj Prabhakar came close too, scoring 224 runs and taking 19 wickets.
Currently, the difference between Bhuvneshwar's batting and bowling averages in this series is 52.84, which captures, in a nutshell, what an extraordinary series he has had so far. It might not look quite as good by the time the series ends, but in these two Tests, Bhuvneshwar has served notice - as much by the manner in which he has batted and bowled, as by the actual numbers - of just how good he can be.
|Player||Series||Matches||Runs||Bat ave||Wickets||Bowl ave||Ave diff|
|Chandu Borde||England in India, 1961-62||5||314||44.85||16||28.75||16.10|
|Salim Durani||India in WI, 1961-62||5||259||28.77||17||35.29||-6.51|
|Rusi Surti||India in Australia, 1967-68||4||367||45.87||15||35.20||10.67|
|Kapil Dev||WI in India, 1978-79||6||329||65.80||17||33.00||32.80|
|Kapil Dev||Pakistan in India, 1979-80||6||278||30.88||32||17.68||13.20|
|Kapil Dev||England in India, 1981-82||6||318||53.00||22||37.95||15.04|
|Kapil Dev||India in WI, 1982-83||5||254||42.33||17||24.94||17.39|
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter