Thursday, December 15, 2005

Indian Selectors need to be Proactive, not reactive

There is a lot of debate going on on the exclusion of Sourav Ganguly from the Indian squad for the 3rd test match. Of course, the way in which it has been carried out is hardly gentlemanly and draws comparison with SG's own unceremonious method of nixing Akash Chopra. However, IMO, all these discussions are reactive and will matter zilch when India go to Ahmedabad and, later, to Pakistan.

While the selectors say that they are looking into the future and are, therefore, creating backups for openers and #6 positions, what struck me the most was not the issue of batsmen, but the issue of bowlers.

For this one has to look not much further than the last two test matches. Take a look at the scorecard of the Delhi test, particularly the Indian bowling card for the two innings (taken from cricinfo.com). I have combined them for the sake of this analysis.

...................................O.....W.....R......PO.....PW.....PR
..................................---.....---....---....----....----.....----
Pathan......................36......4......72....20.6...20....15.8
Agarkar....................32......2......85....18.3....10.....18.6
Kumble.....................64....10.....157....36.7...50....34.4
Harbhajan.Singh...40.5.....4......137....23.2...20....30.0
Tendulkar..................2.......0.......6.......1.1.....0......1.3
.................-------------------------------------------------------
.................Total....174.5....20....457...100....100...100.0

PO: percentage of overs; PW: percentage of wickets; PR: percentage of runs

Count Tendulkar out of the equation as the number of overs he has bowled is not significant. That leaves us with four bowlers, who should ideally share the workload as well as the wickets and the runs given. More or less, except that in practice, one of them would be the "strike bowler" while the others rallied around.

But that is not what the figures tell!

Kumble and Pathan have taken 70% of the wickets giving away only half the number of runs scored by the Lankans (extras excluded) while sharing the burden of 57% of the overs bowled. Harbhajan, has taken a fifth of the wickets while giving more runs (30%), but atleast he has bowled a quarter of the total overs bowled. The ever-generous Agarkar, on the other hand, has shared the least of the workload and taken just 10% of the wickets.

What it means is that 82% of the workload and 90% of the wickets are shared between Kumble, Pathan and Singh, Agarkar comes out to be the "also ran". This is not only true for this test, but also happened along more or less similar lines in Chennai.

So, there are three things that come up out of this analysis:

1. We are terribly short of strike bowlers. Agarkar looks good only to take the shine off the new ball, like Gavaskar and Solkar used to do in the earlier days, neither striking (low PW) nor playing a stock-bowler / support role (low PO).

2. We can't go into a test match with 4 bowlers and expect to get the opposition out twice, especially in overseas conditions. What happens if one of the bowlers (now reduced to three effectively) has a bad day?

3. Kumble is getting old (not maturing but getting on in years, mind you) and will soon retire, or get axed. That would leave us with just 2 bowlers with match-winning or 20-wickets-taking capabilities!

I mean, shouldn't we be looking for bench strength in the bowling department?

2 Comments:

Blogger Rajesh said...

Akash Chopra? Are you by any way comparing him to Ganguly? Every player cannot expect a ceremonious exit. However Ganguly, Kumble, Dravid, Sachin and say Laxman deserve better. I agree with your comment of the bowling department.
There we have Zaheer, Balaji, RP Singh, VRV Singh, Nehra, Sree Santh, Munaf Patel ... in the pace department.
They have picked Piyush Chawla as the new legspinner who is seen as a prodigy but hardly has enough first class experience to back that claim. Harbajan is a class of his own and we have to persist with him. In all we are pretty safe in that department. I think the idea this time will be to rotate the pacers to minimise injury. Remember how they exploited Srinath?

Friday, December 16, 2005 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger R# said...

No Rajesh, I am comapring the "process" of easing a player out in the most unceremonious of ways. Chopra was only an example!

Friday, December 16, 2005 1:20:00 PM  

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