Kartikeya Date

Tendulkar and Kohli in ODI chases: who's better?

A proper assessment needs to take the rest of the team into account

Kartikeya Date
The statistics presented here are current up to the end of the Sri Lanka-India ODI series. Only results against the eight oldest Test-playing nations are considered in all data presented here
This article follows on from this one, which asked how Virat Kohli ranked in comparison to ODI greats of the past, such as Sachin Tendulkar and Viv Richards.
A central reason for the high regard in which observers hold Virat Kohli is his record in run chases, which is, without question, superb. At the time of writing, in successful run chases, Kohli averages 95, an all-time high for any player who has participated in at least 20 successful run chases. In all run chases, he averages 64. This is also an all-time high. AB de Villiers averages 90 in wins and 60 overall. MS Dhoni also averages 90 in wins. In terms of raw numbers, these are phenomenal. It is impossible to achieve these numbers without belonging in the most elite group in any era so far.
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Is Kohli up there with Tendulkar and Richards as an ODI batsman?

His numbers are spectacular, but they need to be viewed in context

Kartikeya Date
Virat Kohli scored his 30th ODI hundred in his 194th ODI (186th innings), against Sri Lanka, recently. This put him joint second with Ricky Ponting on the all-time list of ODI centurions. Sachin Tendulkar is first, with 49 hundreds.
The frequency with which Kohli scores ODI hundreds is unsurpassed in the history of ODI game. However, when comparing Kohli in an all-time list, it is worth placing the comparison in context. Especially in ODI cricket, where the balance of power between bat and ball has shifted in favour of the batting as the format as matured.
Are Kohli's numbers exceptional? To answer this, first let us compare Kohli to four other players - Viv Richards, Tendulkar, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers. Amla and de Villiers can be considered Kohli's contemporaries. Richards and Tendulkar have been chosen because they were the pre-eminent ODI players of their respective eras.
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What third-innings scores can tell us about batsmen

Whether dealing with a lead or deficit, they are a better measure of a batsman's ability than first- or fourth-innings scores

Kartikeya Date
The existence of the draw as a valid result makes batting and bowling asymmetrical skills in unlimited-overs (four-innings) cricket. In first-class and Test cricket, bigger individual scores do not guarantee a higher chance of an outright win, but they do guarantee a lower probability of outright defeat. By contrast, bigger individual wicket hauls (in the innings or in the match) guarantee a higher probability of outright wins.
This central asymmetry means that batsmen and bowlers are not equally capable of producing "match-winning" performances. In fact, the overwhelming majority of batting performances in first-class or Test cricket are concerned with setting matches up or saving them. Low scores can at most be said to fail to set matches up or to save them.
The implication these structural facts have for unlimited-overs cricket is that first-innings batting becomes the most significant type of batting. There is a temptation for fans to look at fourth-innings records to compare players, but these records tell us almost nothing about the value of a player, or even of the skill of a player.
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Why are there fewer close ODIs if teams are more evenly matched now?

Increasingly, teams are more equally matched in ODIs, but there also are more one-sided games, where power-hitting dominates

Kartikeya Date
The Champions Trophy of 2017 was a topsy-turvy tournament. Teams won thumping victories one day, only to suffer big defeats the next. India beat Pakistan by 124 runs in the league match on June 4, and lost the final to them by 180 runs on June 18. Sri Lanka, who had beaten India in only four of their previous 21 meetings dating back to the 2011 World Cup final, comfortably chased down 322 with more than an over to spare - and did little else of note in the tournament. England came into the semi-final with a perfect record and were comprehensively thumped by Pakistan with 77 balls and eight wickets to spare.
The form book suggested that this would be one of the most open ICC tournaments ever. For much of the 2000s, such was Australia's dominance in world cricket that they started almost all ICC tournaments as overwhelming favourites. Since then, the absence of any one outstanding team has contributed to a sense of parity. The relative regularisation of playing conditions - pitches, boundary sizes, outfield quality, rules favouring the bat - has meant that playing in England or Australia is no longer as distinct from playing in India or Sri Lanka as it once was. This has also contributed to the sense of parity.
What stood out, however, was the complete absence of competitive finishes. In almost all games, by the 40th over of the second innings, it was clear that one of the two teams was in the ascendant. The results in the Champions Trophy are part of a larger trend in ODI cricket towards greater parity among teams and wider margins of victory in individual games.
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Who are the greatest T20 players of them all?

How do you pick an all-time T20 world XI? You use data

Kartikeya Date
The 11 greatest performers over the first 15 or so years of T20 are Chris Gayle, David Warner, AB de Villiers, Kevin Pietersen, Shahid Afridi, Kieron Pollard, Shane Watson, Sunil Narine, Lasith Malinga, Saeed Ajmal and Dale Steyn. Statistically, Andre Russell would be a certainty in any such list but I've set him aside due to his current ban for breaking anti-doping whereabouts regulations.
This list has been built using two quantitative measures as guides (these measures have not determined the composition of the list). It has also been compiled with studious disregard for the popularity of individual players or for individual performances in high-profile games. There is no logical or cricketing merit to assigning arbitrarily higher significance to specific games. All competitive games are precisely that - competitive games. Players want to win all the games they play in.
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Why Gayle is the prototype of the pure T20 batsman

The West Indian power-hitter's boundary-centric approach has made him perhaps the greatest exponent of successful T20 batting

Kartikeya Date
A hundred years ago, a revolution was in the offing in baseball. The dead-ball era was about to come to an end. The greatest champion and mascot of the new baseball was Babe Ruth, a strong, larger-than-life power-hitter who played for the New York Yankees, and laid the foundation not only for baseball as we know it today but also for the dominance of the Yankees over the last 100 years. The rules of baseball were changed at the end of the dead-ball era to favour power-hitting.
It would not be wrong to view Christopher Henry Gayle as the Ruth-like talisman of the T20 game. Few elite international players have embraced the format as Gayle has. As he approaches 10,000 T20 runs, he is over 2500 ahead of the next on the list. He has also hit nearly 300 sixes more than the closest competitor. It is not just the magnitude of his records, it is the revolutionary manner in which he has produced those numbers that makes him not just the front runner to be considered T20's Ruth, but perhaps the only T20 veteran who can claim such a mantle.
T20 is now well into its adolescence. For many reasons, it has struggled to establish itself as a sport in its own right, distinct from cricket - significant among them is the absence of a language that describes this new sport's distinctive measures of virtue. Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the language deployed by professional observers is wholly borrowed from limited-overs cricket and even Test cricket.
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Why you can't approach a T20 chase the same as an ODI one

In 20-over cricket, individual scores that may appear outstanding might actually be detrimental to the team's cause

Kartikeya Date
Peshawar Zalmi lost the first qualifying final of the 2017 Pakistan Super League against Quetta Gladiators by one run. Thanks to Kevin Pietersen's 40 off 22 and Ahmed Shehzad's 71 off 38, Quetta had made an even 200 batting first, despite having struggled in the final third of their innings. Pietersen and Shehzad added 90 together in seven overs.
The run chase followed a similar pattern. After two early wickets, Mohammad Hafeez and Dawid Malan added 139 in 12 overs before Hafeez was out. Malan was at the wicket for the first 91 legal deliveries of the run chase. Of these, he faced 30, and made 56 runs. Hafeez was out to the fifth ball of the 14th over, having faced 47 of 72 balls bowled while he was at the wicket.
Despite Shahid Afridi's 34 in 13 balls, Peshawar lost by one run. From a cricketing point of view, this game is easily read. The conclusion is that despite Hafeez's brilliant 77, and support from Malan (56) and Afridi (34), Peshawar lost a game they ought to have won.
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Double trouble

Which bowling pairs have enjoyed the most success in home Tests?

Kartikeya Date
Stats current to before the start of the Hyderabad Test
India beat England 4-0 in their recent Anthony D'Mello Trophy series in India. Normally such a scoreline would suggest Indian dominance with bat and ball. In Test cricket this usually means three high-quality bowlers and four or five high-quality batsmen. Duncan Fletcher's theory of a successful team involved a minimum of eight regulars who were successful and picked themselves. While Mohammed Shami (ten wickets at 25 apiece) was fit and available, it could be said that India had three outstanding specialist bowlers. But take the series as a whole and you find that R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja took 54 wickets between them at 28 runs apiece, while the other Indian bowlers combined for 36 wickets at 38 apiece. Amit Mishra's five wickets cost 55 runs each. It didn't help that Mishra played on the two most batsman-friendly wickets of the series, in Rajkot and Chennai.
Famous teams are marked by famous bowling trios and even quartets. But these are well known precisely because they are so rare. It is hard enough to find one Test-quality bowler for a given set of conditions, let alone three. For the most part, Test success is built on the backs of a pair of reliable, experienced bowlers. It is difficult to isolate such pairs. Even if we consider iconic combinations like McGrath and Warne, or Ambrose and Walsh, they tended to have above-average support bowling.
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Why Yuvraj's selection makes sense, regardless of his form

He is one of the best middle-order power-hitters in the world - and India need one

Kartikeya Date
Yuvraj Singh's return to India's limited-overs side has proved to be triumphant. He made his highest ODI score, in Cuttack, and in the process took India from the peril of 25 for 3 to the safety of 281 for 4.
It is tempting to conclude, based on this effort, that the selectors have been proved right. But this would be just another side of the fallacy holds that, had Yuvraj failed in all three games, the selectors would have been proved wrong. The merit of a selectorial decision does not depend on the player's performance over a single series; perhaps not even over a year.
Selection is a thankless job. It involves expert judgement, which can be difficult to write about, because the inner logic that produces it is often inaccessible to a non-specialist audience. Journalists do not have systematic access to a selection committee meeting. There is no tradition of transcripts or minutes being published. As such, it is difficult to coherently argue the merits of a selection committee's decisions. Beyond the words of the chairman in the press conference and the odd leak or whisper, all one has to go on is the little other information that is publicly available. As a result, it is difficult to write intelligently about selection decisions. This should it make more difficult, not less, for writers to argue that the selectors made dumb choices.
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The ball-tampering law is clear. But it's not enforceable

It's time everyone reached an agreement on what objects can be brought on to the field and be acceptably used on the ball

Kartikeya Date
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis was found guilty of tampering with the condition of the ball in the Hobart Test of the recent series between South Africa and Australia. He has appealed the ruling. The MCC's world cricket committee reviewed the situation and decided that no change to Law 42.3 was required.
Du Plessis' case, which recalls an earlier case against Rahul Dravid, prompted three issues. First, as du Plessis argued, what was the difference between saliva mixed with Gatorade and saliva mixed with mint? Second, the very nature of the offence meant that de facto transgressions occurred frequently, and only some of these, chosen arbitrarily, ended up being penalised. Whether players intend it or not, foreign substances are applied regularly to the ball because players eat, drink and chew substances, and wear clothes and accessories on their bodies. Third, the role of a broadcaster in providing the evidence was ambiguous.
As the MCC said in its review, Law 42.3 is clear. 42.3(a) provides instructions about what a fielder may legally do. "Any fielder may (i) polish the ball provided that no artificial substance is used and that such polishing wastes no time. (ii) remove mud from the ball under the supervision of the umpire. (iii) dry a wet ball on a piece of cloth."
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