Stats Analysis

The Kohli-Tendulkar comparison in overseas series

Much like Sachin Tendulkar in the 1990s, Virat Kohli has been the only consistent batsman for India on tours to Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa over the last five years

S Rajesh
S Rajesh
Virat Kohli 200; the rest of India 214: that was easily the most striking stat from the sensational Edgbaston Test. Kohli had a stunning game, but his runs only served to highlight the chasm between him and the rest of India's batsmen. It wasn't the first time he had played the lone hand in an overseas Test either: the story was similar on the tour to South Africa earlier this year. In fact, the narrative looks remarkably like the 1990s, when Sachin Tendulkar used to be the one prolific and consistent batsman in series outside Asia.
In the 10-year period between November 1991 and December 2001, Tendulkar played 23 Tests in Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa, and his numbers in those matches are very similar to Kohli's stats in the 17 Tests he has played in these countries since the start of the South Africa tour in December 2013.
Kohli has the slightly better average, but there is little to choose between their conversion rates, or the manner in which both dominated their batting line-ups, scoring a fifth of their team's runs off the bat. (In terms of results, Kohli's India has done better with a 2-10 win-loss record in these 17 games, compared to 0-13 during Tendulkar's 23 Tests.)
Looking at the numbers series-wise, what stands out for Tendulkar is his consistency: in each of the seven series he played in these countries (excluding the one-off Test in New Zealand in 1994), he scored at least one century. Kohli, on the other hand, has been outstanding in each of these series except one, but that one failure was glaring, in England in 2014, when his contribution dropped to less than 6% of India's bat runs. Exclude that series, and Kohli's contribution to India's runs goes up from 20.2% to 25.45%, which means Kohli has scored a quarter of India's bat runs in the remaining 12 Tests.
In both eras, what has stood out is the gulf between the lead batsman and the rest. While Kohli has averaged 54.48 in these 17 Tests, the rest of India's top seven batsmen (Nos. 1-7) have averaged 28.13, which means Kohli's average is 1.94 times that of the other Indian top order. In fact, Kohli has scored as many hundreds as the rest of the batsmen put together. For Tendulkar, the difference is marginally higher at 1.98, because the rest of the batsmen averaged only 26.48.
Looking at the individual batsmen list in each period, what stands out is the number of batsmen who struggled to perform in these conditions. During the Tendulkar decade, while Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman averaged more than 40, there were a host of others - including Mohammad Azharuddin (25.24), Sanjay Manjrekar (23.94), Navjot Sidhu (23.45), and Dilip Vengsarkar (17.55) - who averaged less than 26.
Similarly, in the Kohli era, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul have all clearly been underwhelming, while Murali Vijay's recent stats are extremely disappointing too. In fact, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has a higher average (30.61) than Pujara, Dhawan, Rohit and Rahul, which suggests India missed more than just his bowling at Edgbaston.
India's over-reliance on Tendulkar reduced significantly from the start of 2002, when Dravid became a champion in overseas conditions, and Laxman, Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag all came up with useful contributions in at least one series. Starting in 2002, Tendulkar played 34 more Tests in these four countries, and while he still averaged more than anyone else in these Tests - 51.42, which was marginally higher than Dravid's 50.50, and very close to his own 52.39 in the 1990s - in percentage terms, his contribution to India's bat runs dropped to 16.67%.
The ideal situation for India over the next few years would be if Kohli's percentage contribution drops similarly, despite him being nearly as prolific as he is now. Given the way India's top order has performed overseas recently, though, don't hold your breath on that happening any time soon.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. @rajeshstats