Friday, August 31, 2007

Where India lost the plot at Manchester

So India managed to grab defeat from the jaws of victory at Manchester. Losing seven wickets in first 25 overs with only 114 runs on the board, the match was almost over for England. Inexplicably skipper Rahul Dravid preferred to play safe rather than go for a kill, removed pacers and employed spinners in tandem. This tactical blunder from Dravid changed the direction of the game altogether.

As the following table will show you, it was pacers who had done most of the damage till that time. English batsmen looked completely out of sort in dealing with the short ball particularly against Ajit Agarkar. The introduction of spinners from both the ends allowed both Bopara and Broad to settle down. The earlier assault by top-order had already ensured that the asking rate was never going to be too much and the two batsmen could play the waiting game. Neither Powar nor Chawla were able to extract any exceptional assistance from the surface, the pair of Bopara and Broad had no problem in defending most of the balls and making use of occasional bad deliveries. As runs started to come in ones and twos, Indian fielders wilted under pressure doing what they know best - fumbling and overthrowing at every possible opportunity, which in turn led to the bowlers getting panicky and soon there was chaos all around in Indian camp.

England at the time of losing seventh wicket

Balls Runs Wkts Batsmen out of control
vs Pacers   109   93   5      22 (20%)
vs Spinners 35 17 1 5 (14%)

Dravid’s error becomes even more glaring considering the fact that the pacers had 12 more overs to bowl at that stage - seven for RP Singh, four for Zaheer Khan and one for Ajit Agarkar. Not only Dravid used spinners from both the ends, he also used part-timers like Tendulkar and Yuvraj even at the expense of RP Singh, who was grossly underbowled. This complete lack of faith in your frontline bowlers is just baffling particularly after they had dismissed six top-order batsmen in just 18 overs.

One more wicket at that stage and the series would have been levelled at 2-2 as neither James Anderson nor Monty Panesar has any credentials with the bat. But Dravid’s uninspiring and defensive captaincy drifted the game away from India.

One wonders if Dravid is the right kind of captain for India. He is simply too conventional - more like a captain of 1980s as Kapil Dev observed - always preferring ‘not losing’ to ‘winning’. This approach robbed Indians of a certain win at the Oval. At Manchester it turned the game on its head.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Poor travellers ? no more !

Rahul Dravid's reluctance in enforcing the follow-on in Oval Test might have robbed India of a great victory, but his 'safety-first' approach made him the first Indian captain to win a Test series in England in 21 years. India has always been a formidable side at home, but somehow it could not transform the potential it had into wins while playing abroad. That India registered its first Test victory overseas after almost 35 years is a disgrace in itself.

But things are changing now and there is a distinct shift in India's fortunes while playing abroad in this decade. The number of series wins abroad in these 8 years is in fact more than what India has managed to achieve in first 67 years (from 1932 to 1999) !

Summary of India's series-wins abroad
Mts Won Lost Drawn Won%
From 1932 to 1999 46 5 31 10 10.86
2000 onwards 16 7 6 3 43.75

Not only the series wins, the Test victories by India in this short period far outnumber the victories registered in first 67 years.

Summary of India's Test-wins abroad

Mts Won Lost Drawn Won%
From 1932 to 1999 155 13 69 73 8.38
2000 onwards 46 16 15 15 34.78

This is after 21 years India registered a series win in England, the other two occasions were – in 1971 and 1986.

India's series wins in England

Season Mts Result Captain
1971 3 1-0 Ajit Wadekar
1986 3 2-0 Kapil Dev
2007 3 1-0 Rahul Dravid

Mohammad Azharuddin is the most successful Indian captain at home soil with 13 wins and just 4 losses, but his overseas record is pretty ordinary with just one win out of 27 games. When it comes to lead the side away from the comforts of the home, Sourav Ganguly towers over the rest with 11 wins out of 28 games. Ganguly also holds the distinction of winning most series for India on foreign soil, though Rahul Dravid is not very far behind. In fact Ganguly's series tally includes the series against Pakistan in 2003-04, in which Rahul Dravid captained the side in first two Tests winning one and losing one. Ganguly then returned in the third Test to take the series.

Most series wins for Indian captains on foreign soil

Sourav Ganguly 4
R Dravid 3
Ajit Wadekar 2
Nawab of Pataudi,jr 1
Kapil Dev 1
M Azharuddin 1

Most Test wins for Indian captains on foreign soil

Captain Mts Won Lost Drawn Won%
Sourav Ganguly 28 11 10 7 39.28
Rahul Dravid 17 5 4 8 29.41
Nawab of Pataudi,jr 13 3 10 0 23.07
Bishan Singh Bedi 14 3 8 3 21.42
Ajit Wadekar 11 2 3 6 18.18
Kapil Dev 14 2 3 9 14.28
Sunil Gavaskar 18 2 6 10 11.11
M Azharuddin 27 1 10 16 3.70

Rahul Dravid has been the most prolific scorer in the matches won by India overseas, but Tendulkar has the highest average and also the most hundreds to his name.

Most successful batsmen in overseas Test wins
(Min. Qualification: 500 runs)
Player Mts Runs Avg 100s 50s
R Dravid 16 1729 86.45 5 7
SR Tendulkar 13 1359 97.07 6 2
SC Ganguly 14 972 64.80 2 8
VVS Laxman 13 873 51.35 2 5
SM Gavaskar 9 756 50.40 3 3
V Sehwag 10 577 44.38 1 0
GR Viswanath 6 533 53.30 2 3

Anil Kumble has taken most wickets in overseas victories, but Erapally Prasanna has the best average and then there is Irfan Pathan with 6-fivers and two 10-wicket match hauls !

Most successful bowlers in overseas Test wins
(Min.Qualification: 25 wickets)
Bowler Mts Wkts Avg SR 5WI 10WM
A Kumble 13 71 21.42 42.14 4 0
Zaheer Khan 13 57 23.46 43.19 2 0
IK Pathan 7 49 16.76 30.39 6 2
BS Chandrasekhar 5 42 17.14 38.38 5 1
EAS Prasanna 7 42 16.50 48.86 3 1
BS Bedi 8 32 25.91 64.81 0 0
Harbhajan Singh 9 26 31.42 67.15 1 0

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Captains not enforcing the follow-on despite big leads

Lead For Opponent Venue Season Result
563 England West Indies Kingston 1929-30 Drawn
445 Australia England Brisbane 2006-07 Won
399 England Australia Brisbane 1928-29 Won
380 Australia England The Oval 1934 Won
340 Australia West Indies Sydney 1968-69 Won
326 West Indies England Georgetown 1929-30 Won
324 Australia New Zealand Adelaide 2004-05 Won
319 India England The Oval 2007 Match in progress

Following are the instances when India chose NOT to enforce follow-on:

Lead Opponent Venue Season Result Captain
319 England The Oval 2007 Match in progress R Dravid
275 New Zealand Ahmedabad 1999-00 Drawn SR Tendulkar
231 Australia Sydney 2003-04 Drawn SC Ganguly

Should Dravid enforce the follow-on

What will Rahul Dravid do? Will he enforce follow-on in the Oval Test or not?

Traditionally enforcing the follow-on is believed to be an aggressive tactics and those captains, who prefer not to enforce it, are made out to be of defensive or negative mindset.

However statistics portray a different picture altogether. There is hardly any evidence that enforcing the follow-on actually works. The following table gives summary of instances of fielding captains enforcing the follow-on vis-à-vis instances of follow-on not being enforced (even when the fielding captain was entitled to do so)

In all Test matches
Mts Won Lost Drawn Won%
Sides enforcing the follow-on 271 205 3 63 75.64
Sides not enforcing the follow-on 41 32 1 8 78.04

In fact in the last three years, teams not enforcing the follow-on have won 83% of the time, but teams enforcing it have won only 67% ! This is amazing considering that teams following on tend to be in worse positions than when the follow-on is not enforced.

Since January 2004
Mts Won Lost Drawn Won%
Sides enforcing the follow-on 15 10 0 5 66.66
Sides not enforcing the follow-on 12 10 0 2 83.33

Some cricket-pundits are of the opinion that if an opportunity arises, the fielding captain should always enforce the follow-on, dismiss the opponent second time and win the match comfortably rather than opting to bat again and add a few more runs to lead he has managed.

However, it is not as straight and simple as it is always thought out to be. There are other factors too, which affect the state of the game. Bowlers may not be inclined to go through that hard toil again particularly after a tiring day in the field.

After the 2000-01 Calcutta Test - when India made a remarkable comeback and won the Test after being forced to follow-on - captains have become vary of enforcing the follow-on. Australia has implemented a rather peculiar strategy to deal with such situations. It will still enforce the follow-on if it does not have enough time in the match. But if it has sufficient time, Australia more often than not bats again, makes runs at a blazing pace and invariably gives opposition a fourth innings target of more than 400, which is almost impossible for any side to get

This strategy has worked wonders for Australia. It has a cent-percent winning record in six occasions, when it did not enforce the follow-on. On eight occasions, Australia has enforced the follow-on, it has won seven and drawn one.

However India should apply the strategy adopted by Australia with a pinch of salt. What has been very successful for Australia, may not be as productive for India. Dravid should also take into consideration the fact that on two occasions when Indian captains did not enforce the follow-on - v New Zealand at Ahmedabad in 1999-00 and v Australia at Sydney in 2003-04 - India could not deliver a knock-out punch in wrapping up the opposition innings on the fifth day.

Mts Won Lost Drawn Won %
India while enforcing the follow-on 26 16 0 10 61.53
India while not enforcing the follow-on 2 0 0 2 -

So Dravid will have to make a decision taking into consideration all these factors. One more factor that needs his attention is that despite losing eight wickets England batsmen still managed to score 302 runs on day three. Although England is still 338 runs behind, Dravid would not like to be in a position when he has to chase a small target with no time left in the match as rain is likely on the fifth day.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A rather forgettable match for Matt Prior

It was not just English bowlers who suffered during Indian onslaught, wicket-keeper Matt Prior had a nightmarish match also.On the opening day of the Test, he conceded 21 byes, which is a record for the first day of a Test match.Prior conceded 12 more on day two and got his name entered in the list of worst wicket-keeping performances.
He is now at the joint second place in this list. Interestingly all the first four places are held by England keepers. It may be noted here that the Frank Woolley (at the top of the list) was not the specialist wicket-keeper. He had to stand in when the regular keeper (Les Ames) was injured. So Prior's performance is now the worst ever for a specialist wicket-keeper.

Byes Keeper Opposition (Score) Venue Season
37 FE Woolley (Eng) Australia (327) The Oval 1934
33 JT Murray (Eng) India (390) Mumbai BS 1961-62
33 JM Parks (Eng) West Indies (391) Kingston 1967-68
33 MJ Prior (Eng) India (664) The Oval 2007
31 WL Cornford (Eng) New Zealand (387) Auckland 1929-30
31 ATW Grout (Aus) Pakistan (366) Lahore 1959-60
30 M Bisset (SA) England (417) Cape Town 1909-10
30 W Carkeek (Aus) South Africa (329) Nottingham 1912
30 EAC Hunte (WI) England (327) Georgetown 1929-30
30 TG Evans (Eng) New Zealand (189) Wellington 1950-51

Note: Prior has conceded 70 byes in the series so far.
The Test record of most byes in a three Test series is 73 by Jack Blackham which was set in 1893.

All eleven reaching double figures & most 50-stands

A look at the scorecard of the Oval Test reveals an interesting statistics. All eleven Indian batsmen moved into double figures. This provided the 11th such instance in Test cricket and fourth for India. The details:

County Score Opponent Venue Season Lowest
England 475 Australia Melbourne 1894-95 11
South Africa 385 England Johannesburg 2005-06 10
England 636 Australia Sydney 1928-29 11
South Africa 358 Australia Melbourne 1931-32 10*
Australia 575-8d India Melbourne 1947-48 11
India 397 Pakistan Calcutta 1952-53 11
India 359 New Zealand Dunedin 1967-68 12
India 524-9d New Zealand Kanpur 1976-77 10*
Australia 471 Sri Lanka Colombo SSC 1992-93 10*
England 470 West Indies The Oval 2004 10
India 664 England The Oval 2007 11

Another interesting fact was that first 8 Indian batsmen - from Karthik to Kumble - made a contribution of at least 25 runs. This is only the second such happening in Test chronicles. There is only one better performance and that came against India!

Most batsmen from top of the order scoring at least 25 runs in an innings
No. For Total Opponent Venue Season
9 West Indies 644-8 India Delhi 1958-59
8 India 559-7 England The Oval 2007
7 Australia 729-6 England Lord's 1930
7 Australia 526-7 South Africa Cape Town 1949-50
7 England 558 Australia Melbourne 1965-66
7 Australia 481 England Perth 1974-75
7 Pakistan 624 Australia Adelaide 1983-84
7 India 521-6 West Indies St.John's 2006

Actually each of first 8 Indian batsmen made at least 35 runs, which makes it the first such instance in Test cricket. The previous record was of 7 batsmen doing so on three occasions

There were 8 partnerships of 50 and more in the Indian innings - 62 for the first, 127 for the second, 77 for the fourth, 76 for the fifth, 63 for the sixth, 91 for the seventh, 62 for the eighth and 73 for the tenth wicket. The only failures were third-wicket partnership (between Karthik and Tendulkar) that produced 10 runs and ninth wicket partnership (between Kumble and RP Singh) that produced 21 runs.

This provides the first instance in Test annals of a side with eight fifty-plus partnerships in the same innings. No side had even managed seven fifty-partnerships before.

Friday, August 10, 2007

India's highest totals in Test cricket

India's first innings total of 664 in the Oval Test is their fourth highest total in Test cricket against all opponents. The details:

Total Opposition Venue Season Result
705-7d Australia Sydney 2003-04 Drawn
676-7 Sri Lanka Kanpur 1986-87 Drawn
675-5d Pakistan Multan 2003-04 Won
664 England The Oval 2007 Match in Progress
657-7d Australia Calcutta 2000-01 Won
644-7d West Indies Kanpur 1978-79 Drawn
633-5d Australia Calcutta 1997-98 Won
628-8d England Leeds 2002 Won
610-3d Bangladesh Dhaka 2007 Won
609-6d Zimbabwe Nagpur 2000-01 Drawn
606-9d England The Oval 1990 Drawn
603 Pakistan Faisalabad 2005-06 Drawn
600-4d Australia Sydney 1985-86 Drawn
600 Pakistan Rawalpindi 2003-04 Won

The Total is also the highest for India in England. The previous highest was achieved in 2002 at Leeds as listed below. All the three wins were by innings margin.

Total Venue Season Result
664 The Oval 2007 Match in progress
628-8d Leeds 2002 Won
606-9d The Oval 1990 Drawn
591 Mumbai 1992-93 Won
560-6d Chennai 1992-93 Won

Kumble's feats

Anil Kumble today established a new world record of a batsman scoring his maiden Test hundred after playing most number of Tests. Oval Test is Kumble's 118th Test and he surpassed Sri Lanka's Chaminda Vaas' record who was playing his 97th Test when he scored his maiden 100.

The following table lists top-5 batsmen taking most Tests to score their maiden Test hundred:

Test# Batsman For Span
118th A Kumble Ind 1990-2007
97th WPUJC Vaas SL 1994-2006
71st JN Gillespie Aus 1996-2006
56th HH Streak Zim 1993-2003
51st SM Pollock SA 1995-2000

At 36 years 297 days Anil Kumble has become the oldest Indian to score a maiden Test century. The previous record was held by Vijay Hazare.The following table lists the oldest Indians at the time of scoring a maiden Test century:

Age Batsman Opponent Venue Season
36 Y 297 D A Kumble (110*) England The Oval 2007
32 Y 321 D VS Hazare (116) Australia Adelaide 1947-48
31 Y 322 D RG Nadkarni (122*) England Kanpur 1963-64
31 Y 241 D M Prabhakar (120) West Indies Mohali 1994-95
30 Y 265 D MH Mankad (116) Australia Melbourne 1947-48

Kumble is the sixth Indian (on seventh occasion) to score a Test century while batting at number eight.Kapil Dev has done so twice. Kumble's score is now the third highest by an Indian at this position. Interestingly out of seven centuries scored by Indians at number 8, five have come against England!

Highest scores by Indians at number 8
Score Batsman Opponent Venue Season
116 Kapil Dev England Kanpur 1981-82
115* A Ratra West Indies St.John's 2001-02
110* A Kumble England The Oval 2007
110 Kapil Dev England The Oval 1990
110 DH Shodhan Pakistan Calcutta 1952-53
109* AB Agarkar England Lord's 2002
102 SMH Kirmani England Mumbai 1984-85

Kumble now also holds the record for having the most wickets taken by a test centurion beating Kapil Dev's record.