Sunday, December 23, 2007

Garbage Unlimited

Vic Marks, in the Guardian:

"On this tour only Alastair Cook scored more Test runs but Bell has received the most criticism. So he must be a good player. The problem is that he has seldom changed the course of a match throughout his Test career. One consolation for Bell: they used to say the same about Sachin Tendulkar."

With a few nifty jabs, Marks manages to appear sympathetic to Bell while relating him to Tendulkar's predicament without being offensive to either. He's being thoroughly dishonest, and very slithery about it. "They used to say..."? Oh, come on.

Marks' piece, by the way, isn't a particularly good bit of writing. The chief criticism about Tendulkar is that he hasn't won enough matches for India single-handed. This is what I think Marks actually means. Even then, the assumption is simply incorrect. The image of the hero in sport is of a single person battling or blazing away to victory, etc. Is this what Marks subscribes to? When we talk of a batsman winning it, in our minds he has finished the job or nearly completed it. This involves the batsman being present in the second innings, where Tendulkar has been less good (avg: 42.98) than in first innings, where he averages 61.75. Surely Marks knows that to define a batsman by his being there at the end is to shortchange him considerably. What about the set-up, which Tendulkar has done many times? Or snatching the initiative, which is a characteristic attributed to men such as Gilchrist and Sehwag now, and Tendulkar earlier? Statsguru shows us that Tendulkar was often in the middle of India's larger first-innings scores, and often the only person between a decent score and a bad one.

What about presence and averting embarassment? Tendulkar, at a time, made a difference by simply being there.

In first innings where no one else scored a hundred, Tendulkar averages 121.63. The average team score is 322.75. This is against meaningful opposition. Dravid, in comparison, averages 179.83. The avg team score for Dravid's sole-hundred innings is 456.

But take a look at this. In each of these innings (there are six in all), each of Dravid's ten teammates have averaged: 23.3, 20.8, 22.8, 24.7. 30.1, 26.1.

In Tendulkar's eight innings, this is what his mates have averaged: 13.5, 10.7, 22.6, 10.5, 34.8, 17.3, 20.3, 16.9. (Where does Bell fit in here?)

The extras scene is revealing too. In Dravid's case, there are nearly 30 extras per innings added to the Indian total, which tells me the bowlers weren't exactly all there to begin with, or that Dravid drove them to distraction. In Tendulkar's case, the fielding side would concede less than 18 runs on average, which tells us that bowlers kept things quite tight.

Anyway, I meander. I could keep looking at stats all day but there's other work to be done. So Mr Marks, in a nutshell, the damn comparison's all wrong. I'd love to go on but I'd go bankrupt if I kept this up. Thank you for wasting half my day because of one half-wit paragraph.


IDLE MIND said...

great analysis man. I have always wanted someone to explore all these numbers and come out with something. Is it asking for too much if I want you to analyze his second innings scores, his less than hundred scores which actually helped India win the match? Looking forward to more stuff from you.

Rahul Bhatia said...

Thanks. I was planning to do a piece on that too, but slightly differently. Give me a day or two.

Chandan said...

I think you all will love to read this piece on how often Sachin has acted as the lone ranger:

Feel free to come and ask questions here.

Anonymous said...

Rahul, very good analysis. I've seen these figures before but didn't think of them this way.

Unknown said...

excellent post. It is heartening to see that we have some bloggers who do not look for excuses to create some pedestals for themselves and judge SRT harshly.

Rahul Bhatia said...

Thanks, all.

Srini, I'm afraid I've done my fair share of criticizing Tendulkar. It's in the archives here as well as in Cricinfo's.
The objective here was not to defend Tendulkar, but to see if numbers could correct a misconception.

It bothers me that casual remarks by anyone with a cricketing voice almost become fact because they are repeated so often unthinkingly. I want to look at Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, and Inzamam-ul-Haq side by side to see who plays well under pressure, and what pressure actually means. It is taken for granted that Lara has more match-winning innings than Tendulkar because he is better under pressure. I'm not too sure that's correct. Again, not a defense of Tendulkar, but more a suspicion that Lara's epic innings - of which there haven't been many - cloud our judgement of his career vis-a-vis Tendulkar. It's just a feeling I have. Will act on it soon.