Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Dravid’s current lean trot and Sachin’s long haul

Failing to recall a single test series since Australia 1999 in which Rahul Dravid failed to pass fifty in any of the innings, I checked up on his career profile @ statsguru and ignored all one-test farces (sometimes called ‘series’). I was fairly spot on. There are only two instances in his 10 year plus career when Dravid has failed to score a fifty in a series of 2 or more Tests – and those two instances occurred in consecutive series: Australia 99-00 (scoreline: India lost 0-3) followed by the 2-0 drubbing from South Africans at home in early 2000.

If India get to a real big total tomorrow and capitalise by putting the hosts under pressure in the first innings then the current series in South Africa might well be an undesirable “follow up act” after seven years. Expect some loud whispers after this Test, irrespective of result. A common refrain will be “Is Dravid over the hill?” “He will be over 34 in another month” would probably rank second.

I have just one advice for any such speculation: “Forget it”. Why? Because I watched the 29 he scored today. It was the most breathtaking under-forty Test score that I have witnessed in quite a while, quite unlike the regular Dravid-ian approach to starting an innings. It was not scored under pressure, but we know a bit about his response to pressure and that is not going to be a point of debate even when Dravid is 60 years old. We are discussing his physical powers as a batsman here. I think he is just fine.

Incidentally I have been feeling exactly the same about Sachin and his physical ability as a batsman for quite a few months. His Durban first innings shots confirmed my belief. I saw nothing that suggested Sachin has become a lesser batsman over the past year of diminishing returns.

Problem is, even though the two players are fairly the same age (they are both 33) Sachin has now played 17 years of international cricket to Dravid’s 10. I have come to believe that as a 5 day game progresses the inevitable mental fatigue of it all starts to show up on the batting of Sachin these days and then, the fatal mistake comes early.
I have fair reason to believe in such a ludicrous-sounding hypothesis on a not-too-old all-time great: of late Sachin’s batting average shows a startling decline as the match wears on. And this trend is observed not only in the period of his off colour performances in the last 2 years but also over a rather long period of four-and-a-half years.

Avg: Career,Eng’2002onwds,since2005

Match 1st innings: 70.08, 65.68, 50.00
Match 2nd innings: 52.06, 39.16, 32.00
Match 3rd innings: 51.47, 48.23, 25.25
Match 4th innings: 34.28, 29.00, 26.00

Overall 54.87, 47.88, 33.85

Sachin always had this less-than-impressive second innings record right through his otherwise glittering career, a deficiency that he acknowledged and wished to improve. The above stat, I’m afraid, indicates that the Sachin of today is less likely to get a big score in the latter part of a Test match than ever before.
At best it suggests a dip in his conversion rate of Test hundreds in this final phase of his career unless he does a Lara hereon. In practical terms, Sachin will probably need to bid adieu to one version of the game soon after the Caribbean World Cup in order to preserve himself and - more importantly - his drive to play the game. And his call may well be a different one from Lara’s.

Coming back to that Dravid stat in the first paragraph, it only goes to show what a ‘wicketkeeper’ (by that I mean ‘an uncebrated but critical performer’ and not his erstwhile one-day role) Rahul Dravid has been to the much improved Test displays put up by Indian sides in this decade. It also reflects the good work that his team has shown during the current series in not depending heavily on a handful of proven performers to put up a creditable ‘away’ show.


amber said...

Sachin's average is not only low in tests but also in ODIs.

Consider Sachin's 40 ODI centuries, more than 25 of them have come when india batted first.

But still his centuries against australia
in sharjagh batting second is still my favorite centuries

angshu said...

But that 2nd innings shortage of centuries in ODI's may be due to a different reason. You may have noticed that in the first innings Sachin often takes singles from 80 to 100 and refuses to hit aerially till he completes his century but often in 2nd innings the situation does not allow him that luxury of ensuring a century.

We need to rate a player by his performance (read average combined with strike rate in ODI's) instead of his milestones (centuries) and I think Sachin is pretty even on that count in ODI's.

He may be the only player in our ODI team history who has a good record while chasing under lights, and that too over such a long career.

Considering all factors I rate Sachin as the best batsman I have seen in ODI's and that is why I feel his quitting tests may redeem his one-day game in this final phase.