Category Archives: Cricinfo

Who’s more ‘clutch’? Tendulkar, Lara or Ponting?

By Ajit Bhaskar (@ajit_bhaskar)

Who is the most clutch among these three legends from our generation?

The Stage

Given the somewhat sensitive title of the post, I tried to think of a lot of emotional, heartfelt introductory content but I failed miserably. But it suffices to say that these three players are the best from our generation, particularly in the ODI format of the game. A couple of folks (Ian Chappell and Nasser Hussain) have opined on who’s the greatest among the three ‘modern greats’. Honestly, it is a tough ask to rate the three for each is excellent in his own ways.

I’m not here to ‘rate’ which one of them is the best among the three. What I’m going to address, is each batsman’s ability to perform in the clutch, which is one of the measures of a player’s greatness. After all, such performances tend to ‘define a player’s legacy’!

I am going to compare (statistically), the performance of these three players under ‘clutch’ situations.

Also, it makes some sense to compare these three players in particular because:

  • They have played in the same era.
  • They are all top order batsmen and have spent a vast majority of their careers batting in 1-4 spots in the batting order.

Ground Rules/Assumptions

  • I’m going to restrict this conversation to ODIs alone.
  • Clutch’ is defined as chasing a target. I will try to make things more granular as I proceed further.
  • Only India, Australia, West Indies, Pakistan, New Zealand, England and South Africa have been considered for this analysis. Sorry Zimbabwe, Bangladesh et al.
  • Only run chases are considered.
  • The pronouns HE and HIS used in generic sentences encompass BOTH male and female human beings. Do not hassle me with ‘sexist’ and other epithets.

A brief note on ‘clutch’

Various images flash across our minds the instant we hear the word clutch. Like Michael Jordan’s buzzer beating “The Shot” against Cleveland (followed by Jordan jumping in the air and then throwing his elbows exactly three times after planting his feet on the ground), Javed Miandad’s last ball six off Chetan Sharma (I hate Nataraj pencils just for that) and so on. As far as ODIs are concerned, a clutch situation typically involves chasing a target. The pressure that is associated with chasing a target, particularly when two good, competitive teams are playing makes for good drama and excellent cricket. The players who shine repeatedly and consistently under such circumstances become legends of the game.

The reason for emphasis on run chase will become clearer during the course of this article.

The Statistics

These are obtained from Cricinfo directly after applying a filter for ‘fielding first’.

Key observations:

  • They’ve been involved in enough run chases to qualify for statistical analysis
  • Lara has scored nearly half his runs chasing targets!
  • The ‘chasing average’ of all three players is pretty close to their career averages. This suggests that the pressure associated with a run chase doesn’t influence their performance significantly. In fact, Lara (on an average), scores 3 more runs during chasing.
  • All players show the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome, i.e. elevated averages when their teams win during a run chase and reduced averages when their teams lose while chasing a target.
  • It’s the extent of this syndrome exhibited by the three players that is quite intriguing.
  • If we define Differential Chasing Average or D = Chasing Average during Wins – Chasing Average during Losses, it represents the degree of discrepancy in individual performance while a team goes on to win or lose. In principle, a ‘legendary’ player is expected to play the same way and produce at a high level regardless of the outcome of the game and the performance of other players on the team. So lower the D value, greater the degree of consistency of a player during run chases.
  • The D values for Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting are 19.53, 40.11 and 39 respectively.
  • Let’s pause and ponder over this for a moment. Taking Lara as example, when WI chases a total successfully, he tends to score FORTY MORE RUNS than when WI fails to chase a target. While an average of ~68 runs is fantastic during successful a run chase, that also indicates a lot of variation in performance. In other words, consistency is lacking. The same is true of Ponting (Differential = 39). However, the key difference between Lara and Ponting is that when their teams lose while chasing a target, Lara still manages to score a decent 27.5 runs, Ponting manages only 19 runs.
  • Tendulkar, on the other hand, shows the least variation (D = 19.53). In fact, the variation is half of Lara’s and Ponting’s. This indicates more consistent performance during run chases.
  • Lara has the best Chasing Average in Wins by a distance. He scores nearly 10 more runs than Ponting and 16 more runs than Tendulkar during successful run chases.
  • Tendulkar has the best Chasing Average in Losses. It’s is about 13 runs or 67% greater than Ponting’s. He also scores 4 more runs than Lara during unsuccessful rn chases.
 Figure 1. Graphical representation of performance of Sachin Tendulkar (SRT, blue), Brian Lara (BL, Red) and Ricky Ponting (RP, green) during run chases.

 

Cranking up the pressure to ‘ultimate clutch’

While the analysis so far has provided an indication of the extent of consistency of these players, it hasn’t truly separated them as to who is the best among the three. So I’ll up the ante a little bit and crank up the pressure.

I’d like to evaluate these players’ performances under extreme pressure.  In many cases, teams are chasing fairly small targets of 100 or 150. While the task is still challenging, it is not as daunting as chasing a larger target. Say 250.

How do these players fare when chasing targets of 250 or above? The reason for choosing 250 becomes clearer when we take a look at how teams fare when they chase such targets.

Data Acquisition

  • Get the ODI inning by inning list for Tendulkar on cricinfo.
  • Set a filter for ‘fielding first’.
  • Open every single match/scorecard and choose only those where targets of 250 or above were chased.
  • Note the runs scored in each inning under two columns based on whether his team won or lost.
  • Calculate various parameters (Average, average during wins and losses etc.)
  • Not outs are considered as outs for calculating averages
  • Repeat the process for Lara and Ponting. Note that in Ponting’s case, a tied match is included for calculating chasing average.

Here’s how the three batsmen fare:

Key observations:

  • There is a LOT of collective failure! Just take a look at the W-L records. With these legends representing India, West Indies and Australia respectively, they have won ~30, 25 and 40% of their matches while chasing 250+ targets. The collective success rate is just 31%!
  • So, if anybody tells you chasing 250+ is an easy task, just show him this table. Even the ‘invincible Aussies’, who have boasted some of the game’s premier batsmen, bowlers and perhaps some the most balanced sides ever, have failed to win even half the games while chasing 250 or above!
  • Tendulkar’s average while chasing 250+ targets (39.9) is virtually same as his regular chasing average of 40.03. This is remarkable consistency. Lara and Ponting on the other hand, tend to score nearly 5 and 3 runs lower than their regular chasing averages respective, when chasing 250+ targets.
  • Tendulkar also averages the most during 250+ chases. While Tendulkar and Lara are separated by one run, Tendulkar scores nearly 3 more runs than Ponting.
  • The differential (D) values for Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting are 10.3, 34.2 and 46.6 respectively.
  • Let me emphasize a bit more on the D values. Regardless of W or L, you can expect consistent performance from Tendulkar. Lara and Ponting, on the other hand, tend to play extremely well when their respective teams are winning, but tend to score poorly when their sides are on the losing side. This is particularly true of Ponting, whose average of 18.5 when the Aussies lose chasing targets 250 (probability is 26 out of 44 games or 59%) or above is quite frankly, poor!
  • WI has lost 39 out of 52 games while chasing 250+. But even under these circumstances, Lara pretty much assures you 30 runs (chasing avg. during losses).
  • Tendulkar, on the other hand, gets you 7 more runs than Lara and nearly 18 more runs than Ponting on days when your team is not doing a good job at chasing. This is a very significant difference in my opinion, given the fact that India and WI do not end up on the winning side often while chasing 250+ targets.
  • But when their teams win, Lara and Ponting fire and fare much better than Tendulkar. This is clear from their chasing averages during wins.

Figure 2. Graphical representation of performance during 250+ run chases for Tendulkar (blue), Lara (red) and Ponting (green).

Bottom Line

The bottom line is, no matter how high the pressure is, whether the game is being played on earth or elsewhere, no matter what kind of target the team is chasing, Tendulkar provides the most steady, consistent performance. Lara is a gambling man’s pick, while Ponting is (compared to Tendulkar and Lara) more of a hit or miss case. If snoring is a problem, you may need ZQuiet.

To me, this analysis puts Tendulkar and Lara a cut above Ponting. Particularly because Ponting has enjoyed the benefit of better overall teams than Lara and Tendulkar have enjoyed over their careers. But more importantly, the averages of 18.95 during unsuccessful run chases and 18.5 during unsuccessful run chases involving 250+ targets is something I wouldn’t call ‘stuff of legends’.

In a nutshell, if I were to pick one of these three legends to help chase my team a target of 250 or above, which in my book, is a clutch situation given the rate of failure involved, I’d flip a coin. Heads – Tendulkar, Tails – Lara.

Sorry Ponting, you just don’t make the cut on my list. Certainly not in ODIs.

Curtains for Badrinath?

Several months and a few dozen posts back, I had made a statement that Subramaniam Badrinath tends to fail in key national games. Someone challenged me to it and I was going to dig into stats and prove my point. I hope to be able to find the time to get around doing it but, for certain, his performance in the ongoing Duleep Trophy game against Central Zone will only improve my statistics. Is this curtains for him or is there still hope? With Rohit Sharma banging on the doors with strong performances in the Ranji finals and Dinesh Karthik not calling quits yet, does Badrinath even stand a chance? While only time will answer this question, my personal feeling is that his performance combined with age will soon place him in the Mohd. Kaif category.

The Duleep Trophy game has raised some interesting thoughts . Is Abhinav Mukund ready for big leagues? Is AS Yadav that terrible, even he has scored a half century? Is Balaji back in the reckoning and has Sreesanth done enough to earn a recall? I am quite impressed with Dinesh Karthik’s attitude, he seems much better placed than Parthiv Patel to qualify for the second wicket keeper spot at this time and his approach to batting provides him an opportunity the likes of Suresh Raina for a middle order spot in the one day side.

All action seems to bode well for an interesting year ahead.

– Srikanth

Cricket news – Good, Bad and Ugly

The cancelation of the tour to Pakistan may have benefited the domestic season more than any recent seasons that I can think of. The last two or three rounds of ranji games have seen all the top players involved actively. It is anticipated that all the Team India players will represent their respective zones in the Duleep Trophy. While the East Zone selectors seem to play stunt regarding MS Dhoni’s participation, they could have dealt it in a professional way and established contact with him way before he went on vacation. I am predicting that he will still lead the side and play. Whatever the outcome, the tournament has never been so exciting for a long time.

The Ranji trophy finals has been a drag so far. UP is trying to attempt a repeat performance from its semi-finals “win” and, as a result, has made the game extremely boring. I seriously think that they should consider changing the rules of the game atleast in the knock out stages, possibly using the Buchi Babu or Moin-Ud-Dowla rules of limiting the number of overs in the first and second innings. It was rather unfortunate to see TN exit in the semi-finals. While TN may not have had the bowling to restrict UP, they had more victories in the earlier stages of the tournament while UP sneaked through to the finals with only one outright victory if I am not mistaken.  It was good to see Rohit Sharma hit form in a crucial game, while Suresh Raina threw away an opportunity by stupidly running himself out.

There have been several positives from this season’s ranji games. Wasim Jaffer continues to be a possible candidate to the opening/one down slot because of his consistency and his success abroad. His 301 in the semi-finals was a beautiful innings. While A. Rahane was consistent through the season, I can see his “playing away from the body” technique as a limitation when playing international attacks. Abhinav Mukund, for me, has been the biggest story of the season. He scores and scores big. All we can hope  is that he continue playing the way he is now and success will come his way. I see him take over India’s opening slot within the next few years. I was disappointed, in general, with the bowling department. If Sunil Joshi continues to be a major force in the domestics, while good for him, it does not bode well for the future of Indian cricket. Apart from the current international bowling lineup, nothing much can be written about domestic talent. The re-emergence of L.  Balaji, is a postive sign however.

English cricket cannot be in a more laughable situation than what it is going through in the last few months. Geoff Boycott, in his column for the Daily Telegraph, states that “We are not the best cricket team but we are the best at making ourselves a laughing stock”. Absolutely true. In my opinion, it all began with the way the ECB handled the IPL/EPL/Stanford saga. The disaster in the carribean and the subsequent handling of the Pietersen/Moores controversy will seriously affect the chances that England may have had to make it a fight during the Ashes series.

– Srikanth

Onwards to Adelaide.

 There are seminal, never to be forgotten times in every one’s life. One such for me was actually being present at the Adelaide Oval during India’s famous victory there in 2003.

I contrived to travel to Adelaide on Business and finish all my meetings by lunch, whereupon I took a taxi across town to the Adelaide Oval to a press pass organised by a relative who was with ESPN.

I watched Dravid get his double from the George Giffen stand and post lunch, went up to the press box from where I watched Ajit Agarkar get his immortal 6-for. This was as close to cricketing heaven as it got. I was directly behind the bowler’s arm. On either side were the Channel Nine, ESPN, ABC and other media boxes.

Tony Greig, Ian Healy, Wasim Akram, Ravi Shastri, Harsha Bhogle, Geoff Boycott-they all came to stretch out in this area and grab a drink or two. Gavaskar played tennis ball cricket with, I think, Jim Maxwell’s son while he was waiting for his lunch of naan and subzi from the local Indian restaurant.

Various print and internet journalists flitted about-Roebuck especially stood out in his kurta-particularly appropriate wear for that hot day. When I gushed to Sambit Bal that Cricinfo was my homepage, he asked politely whether I also subscribed to Cricinfo magazine. When I said no, his look, I imagine, seemed to say “Kanja Pisnaari payal” (Tight fisted so-and-so).

It was an unforgettable day, made particularly eventful when India won the next day.

Here’s hoping there’s an encore this time around and we are celebrating it in full measure over the Australia Day/Republic Day long weekend!

Soundar

At last…something on fielding

Anand Vasu from Cricinfo has interviewed Robin Singh on his aproach. I found it very heartening to listen to someone from the Indian camp sounding balanced and professional. His comments, specially in relation to comparing Indian fiedling standards with those of Oz are quite insightful.

Paddy

England Vs India: Test 2 Day 3 — England claw back…

On an intriguing day of Test cricket, England had their first good session of the ongoing Test match between England and India at Trent Bridge.

However, things did not go Englands’ way to start off. India had a solid first session on day-3 and did exactly what the doctor ordered — to see off the new ball and keep the scoreboard ticking. Ganguly looked assured and played with hunger. He was often seen egging his more illustrious partner on whenever Tendulkar played and missed to Sidebottom. The fire and hunger seemed to back in Ganguly. So also the swagger. He had even hooked Tremlett for a huge six over squre leg! And what’s more, to rub salt into the bowlers’ wounds, he made Tremlett wait at the top of his bowling mark as he turned sideways to admire the shot on the grounds’ TV screen! He was doing a Ganguly as only Ganguly can! This was a session that was India’s all the way. The forecast would have been ominous for England at lunch time. The scoreboard read 338/3. India had made 82 runs in 28 overs, had seen off the new ball and were playing Panesar with aplomb. Tendulkar was on 87 and Ganguly was on 53. Tendulkar was looking good for a century and even though Ganguly was 47 runs away from a three-figure mark, it seemed almost inevitable that he’d cross the three-figure mark too — he was playing as well as I have seen him play in a long time.

The first session of day-3 was clearly Indias’. Our session-by-session score card would have read 5-0 to India after 6 sessions of the match had been played.

At lunch time, England would have been looking for inspiration from somewhere. Maybe even an extra pair of legs! Maybe a fresh body? And that they did find. Suddenly, in the post-lunch session, it appeared as if England were playing with 12 players!

They clawed their way back into the match and even recruited an Australian to help them along in their journey. Tendulkar and Ganguly were sent packing by the Antipodean and England managed to get Dhoni out with their normal complement of players. Session 2 of day-3 had belonged to England.

Simon Taufel had a bad day at the office and unfortunately, the next time one of our Indian media pundits (or couch potato fans) adjust their spectacles, settle themselves comfortably into their chair/couch, dig the record book to say “it has been X innings since Ganguly/Tendulkar scored a century“, or “the last time Tendulkar/Ganguly scored a century was against a minnow“, the fact that the two players were robbed of certain centuries will have been forgotten. The record books merely state “SR Tendulkar lbw b Collingwood 91” and “SC Ganguly c Prior b Anderson 79“. And that is all there is to it. And that is all the scoreboard can say. You accept the good with the bad and move on. As Ganguly said phlegmatically, in his post-match, “You have to live with it“.

Just as Cook was not out, but given out in Englands’ first innings, the Indian team has to live with these two shockers from the normally good Antipodean.

And we should not really be making a big deal out of these screw-ups. We have to accept the good with the bad and move on. That’s exactly what Tendulkar did, and after a brief mind-fuse, Ganguly seemed to have accepted it too.

However, the worrying thing for Taufel would be his form. He has made some good decisions in this series so far. Of that there is no doubt. But he did send (if I am not mistaken) Dravid and Pietersen packing in the first Test. His handling of Cook, Tendulkar and Ganguly in this current Test could be the onset of a pattern. Just as players need to look at their form and their match preparedness, perhaps it is time for Taufel to stand back to take stock?

Jonathan Agnew, in his BBC blog, says that these two decisions ultimately “did not affect India’s position unduly“. Firstly, it is irrelevant whether or not it did. Secondly, I think it could well affect India’s position. Time will tell. However, I predict — perhaps foolishly — that there may well be a few more twists left in this match! More of that later.

England used their luck as a platform to claw their way into the match. Some will even say that they created their slice of luck — and that would be fair enough in my books! They stuck to their task manfully. Apart from Anderson who had suddenly started to look like the Anderson of old, all the other bowlers stuck to their task. Sidebottom and Panesar were particularly impressive. Their fielding never waned. Their players continued to chirp and chatter. One such monologue from Pietersen had perhaps crossed the line. It certainly caused Zaheer Khan to advance towards the slips cordon, threatening to introduce Pietersen’s face to the bat makers’ label. Perhaps Pietersen had asked about Zaheer Khan’s bat contract! As Andrew Miller says on Cricinfo, England need to talk less and bat more.

But then they did claw their way back into the game. Session-3 of day-3 also belonged to England, in my books. Although they did let Kumble get some runs and, in the process, develop a 50-run partnership with Laxman, they did polish off the India tail. They then batted sensibly and positively for the remaining 16 overs to end the day at 43 for no loss. England was helped by some poor bowling by Sreesanth. He seemed to be all over the place. He seemed to have lost his balance, his rhythm and his composure. He seemed horribly undercooked. Nasser Hussain, in his TV commentary, commented that Sreesanth did not bowl a single ball of pace in the morning nets! He bowled leg-spin instead! While Sreesanth appeared to be falling apart, Hussain commented, “I have no sympathy for the lad really.” Sreesanth’s final over of the day lasted nearly 7 minutes as he stuttered and spluttered his way to completion in an embarassing manner. It didn’t help either that Zaheer Khan and R. P. Singh seemed to be intent on bouncing out Strauss and Cook. But Sreesanth was the major disappointment for me. He would, I think, need an extended session in the nets with Venkatesh Prasad. If he doesn’t get his act together — and quickly — we could well see Romesh Powar as an extra spinner in the team for the 3rd and final The Oval Test match.

The match is delicately poised. My session-by-session score card reads, India 5, England 2. India is clearly in front. And they will be looking to Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan to deliver them the goods. They’d need a solid bowling performance on a somewhat unhelpful pitch. The first session of day-4 could again hold the key. India should, I believe, adopt a batten-down-the-hatches-at-one-end policy while they attack from the other.

England have another 240 to get India to bat again. If the England openers build a good foundation, like the Indian openers did, then a Pietersen cameo can help wipe off the lead. From there on, it could be anyones’ match, in my view. England have their work cut out. But India have not done enough to ensure they do not bat again. As I said earlier, I don’t think the chapter on this Test match can be written, completed and set off to the sub-editors’ desk. The pitch is still playing reasonably well. Day-3 may have been the best day for batting, but I did not see any signs that would indicate that the pitch would deteriorate dramatically on day-4. The odd ball is keeping low, which would lead me to conclude that day-5 could be extremely tricky on this pitch. Which is why I don’t agree with Jonathan Agnew. Another 60-70 runs would have meant that India cannot lose this match. Although India is clearly in the drivers’ seat, if England have an exceptional day-4, it could lead to an extremely interesting day-5 of this game. The weather forecast is for two good days.

All I can say is “bring it on”.

— Mohan

Possible India-A Team (Edit)

Given the recent comments on this blogsite on my original post on this topic, below is a fuller list of potential India-A players.

Openers:
Virender Sehwag, Aakash Chopra, Robin Uthappa, Shikar Dhawan

Middle-order bats:
Dinesh Mongia, Suresh Raina, Mohammed Kaif, S. Badrinath, Venugopala Rao, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli

Wicket Keepers:
Parthiv Patel, Puneet Bisht

Pace-bowlers:
Munaf Patel, Ajit Agarkar, V Yo Mahesh, Rakesh Patel, Ashish Nehra, Irfan Pathan, Joginder Sharma, V. R. V. Singh

Spinners:
Harbhajan Singh, Rajesh Pawar, Piyush Chawla, Murali Kartik, K. P. Appanna, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Sayyed Iqbal Abdulla, Shahbaz Nadeem

Given this scenario, it is possible for us to construct an India-A and an India-B as follows (each with 16 players in them):

India-A
Virender Sehwag
Shikar Dhawan
Dinesh Mongia
Mohammed Kaif
S. Badrinath
Suresh Raina
Parthiv Patel
Piyush Chawla
Ajit Agarkar / V Yo Mahesh
V. R. V. Singh / Ashish Nehra
Murali Kartik / K. P. Appanna / Sayyed Iqbal Abdulla / Shahbaz Nadeem

India-B:
Aakash Chopra
Robin Uthappa
Cheteshwa Pujara
Venugopala Rao / Rohit Sharma
Manoj Tiwary / Virat Kohli
Puneet Bisht
Irfan Pathan
Harbhajan Singh
Rakesh Patel / Joginder Sharma
Rajesh Pawar / Pragyan Ojha / Amit Mishra
Munaf Patel

The one other player that perhaps could be added is Gagan Khoda. But that would be at the exepense of one of the lefties — perhaps Abdulla…

— Mohan