Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Why India are number 1 in Tests": the batting part

Steve Waugh was asked during his recent India visit if the Indian Test side deserved to be ranked number 1 even as it is struggling to bag 20 opposition wickets. Steve responded, tongue in cheek: "If the team continues to struggle to take 20 wickets, there will be no wins and top position will automatically go away".

I agree..and see it happen soon if things do not change.

However the current exercise is not to explore the future of the #1 team in Tests. We only are trying to find out what got them there.

Let us look at this list from cricinfo's S Rajesh. It shows the top 10 Asian batsmen in terms of 'averages in Asia'. We can see that 2 of the current Indian players are in the top 5, and another is hobbling just outside that list (Rahul with current Asian avg of 50.52). Enough reason why India have been scoring heavily at home in recent times.

Now look at this list. This is the list of Asian batsmen with highest 'away from Asia' Test averages of all time. You can see that out of the top 15, India has 4 current batsmen and another one (Ganguly) who retired fairly recently. In other words, 5 out of the six batsmen in the batting order for better part of post-2000 performed remarkably well offshore.

Probably this rare combination of batsmen succeeding both at home and away, along with the A-Z bowling combo in away Tests (Anil-Zaheer, before you assume I am hinting at hidden bowling riches), led to India's consistent successes culminating in the number 1 ranking.

Rahul back to his post-35 struggle (something that keeps itself away from Sachin):
At the top of the heap on this 2nd list is the currently struggling Rahul Dravid with a run'away' average of 57. I am surprised as a Sachin-Dravid fan. The surprise is not exactly because the average is still so far ahead of everyone else's (including Sachin's) away average, but because I had seen Rahul's away average touch 65 odd about 4 years back and this is quite a fall from those standards. Probably the failures in 2007 in SA & England took their toll.

I was also checking Rahul's recent series averages to check if he is struggling to keep his place. It appears he has done rather well in all Test series since that post 26/11 England team's visit of India in late 2008. He has kept his Test form up till he landed in Sri Lanka a few weeks back. These long gaps between Test series are surely no help to a 37 year old batsman who is picked only for Tests. But like it or not, Rahul looks like having another personal battle on his hands going into the 3rd Test.

He beat the 'final demons' once in end 2008, just after I made this near-farewell post on him. Can he do it again??

Update 1: Perhaps on SL tours RD needs a 'Bagger Vance' all of his own who can clear the webs in his mind so that RD can 'let the shot find him’ and ‘get out of his own way’.

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