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February 3, 2014

On Flower, Kruger, and why stats don't matter

Martin Jones

England coach Andy Flower hopes his side improve their form from the New Zealand tour, Lord's, May 15, 2013
While Andy Flower is taking flak for his keenness in stats and processes, it's good to remember that, sometimes, statistics only tell the tiniest, least important part of a story © Getty Images

As you will already be aware, Andy Flower has lost his job as England coach. Statistically, it is indisputable that he is one of the most successful international coaches of recent times. Arguably, though, it was the human side (or lack thereof) of the team that he fostered that ended up losing him his job. Sometimes, statistics aren't as important as what players have had to go through to achieve them.

The best example of this that I can think of is Hong Kong's Courtney Kruger. A quick glance at his stats would indicate that he is a very ordinary cricketer, not one who would warrant a mention on a article, let alone being the subject of an entire article. His batting averages (4.88 in List A cricket, and 6.00 in T20s) suggest he's just another batsman who failed to make the transition to international cricket.

Kruger made his ODI debut in 2008 against Pakistan. For quite some time prior to that, doctors were uncertain whether he would so much as survive to see 2008. Less than a year earlier, he was travelling back from the ACC Twenty20 when he complained of vicious headaches. Once he had found that pain relief did not so much as touch the problem, he sought medical advice.

He wasn't expecting to be diagnosed with an abscess in his brain. As numerous options were tried to relieve the pressure, Kruger's condition deteriorated. In the end, the doctors had to choose between letting him die and performing life-threatening surgery. Kruger's last hope was to have half of his skull removed in order to relieve the pressure for as long as it took. Three bedridden months later, they put the skull back. It was three more months before he could get back to training. His chances of reclaiming his place in the national side were thought to be negligible, let alone his chances of doing so in time for the Asia Cup. Forget the scores of 0 and 3 that he made, Courtney Kruger's mere presence in Karachi was a far bigger achievement than Suresh Raina's century.

World cricket as a whole, and the England cricket team in particular, appear from the outside to be excessively concerned with statistics and targets, and not sufficiently with the human side of sport. A cursory look at the England side in action will reveal that they are one of the best-drilled and best looked-after cricket sides in history. There are coaches and specialists and gofers for every conceivable eventuality, and several more besides. And yet their Ashes tour scoreline was a resounding 12-1, across formats.

The most important story from this tour took place off the field. I'm talking about Stuart Broad and Matt Prior saving a man's life in Sydney. Lack of runs be damned, Prior's Ashes tour was a success.

And so was Courtney Kruger's ODI debut. Sometimes, statistics really do only tell the tiniest, least important part of a story.

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Martin Jones is a teenage swing bowler. He blogs regularly at the Popping Crease, and has an avid interest in the game at all levels.

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Posted by ramachandra on (February 6, 2014, 6:01 GMT)

Yes, all this is correct. but 'cricketing-wise' the Ashes was a nightmarish disgrace. If you look at other things, they all have [most of them] good healthy families which is a success. But we are here to discuss cricket arent we?

Posted by Ashok on (February 4, 2014, 11:03 GMT)

Superb article. I think players and fans alike frequently forget that cricket is, after all's said and done, a mere game that has no impact on real life.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 3, 2014, 19:23 GMT)

Cheers Shubham. It's always good to hear things like that!

Posted by Android on (February 3, 2014, 15:02 GMT)

Great article. That's why sometimes just playing and fulfilling tur dreams is far more joyous than achieving success. The happiness after achieving our dream is too much to compare to anything. Success is just rewards which try to show the result but only u know what pain, hard work, determination, sacrifices u had to do to achieve it.

Great article! !!!

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