Sunday, February 12, 2012

The legacy of India's greatest generation of batsmen is sadly just personal numbers and home wins

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Over at ESPN Cricinfo in a piece, titled Which teams are the worst travelers?, S Rajesh digs up some numbers since the end of Australia's reign as a super power on the field. I add 'in the field' because I don't even for a minute want to cast any doubts on who the super power is in the board rooms of the ICC.

The numbers reveal trends that are largely to be expected. On the surface it is evident that Asian teams struggle outside of Asia and non-Asian teams struggle in Asia. 

However England, South Africa and Australia as a unit, compete far more effectively in Asia compared to Asian teams in Australia, South Africa and England combined. But these visiting teams have little to show in terms of real wins in Asia. However Asian teams simply refuse to show up and offer any sort of competition to home teams outside Asia. 

The period covered in the analysis is since 2005. Roughly the time Australia lost its claim to being a truly dominating side after losing the Ashes to England. It is also the period when India's undisputed all time greats Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid have been collectively prolific

What was hard to swallow is that in this period India, amongst Pakistan and Sri Lanka did not even have the best Win/Loss ratio in Tests in England, South Africa and Australia. That distinction goes to Sri Lanka. For all its troubles and controversies; although self inflicted; Pakistan have only 1 win less than India.

And that led me to think....what value are our current greats truly bringing to the team? Their personal legacies are unquestionable. However what of India's? Younis Khan and Mahela Jayawardhane will probably never be given the same respect in India as say a Sachin Tendulkar or a VVS Laxman or a Dravid. However the likes of say a Sangakara, Jayawardhane, Younis Khan; they are part of teams that have done better or as worse as India when it comes to competing out of their comfort zones.

It is harsh but I have to say it...beyond personal numbers India's greats have not been able to make an ounce of a difference to their country's fortunes. The problem may lie with the openers, with the bowling but the numbers are painful nonetheless.

I then went on a trip down India's history since the beginning of time.

How have the current greats helped India in away series compared to Indian teams of the past. To simplify I broke up India's away history into 3 periods

The first that began with the Nawab of Pataudi Jr, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi. Who by all accounts was the first to inculcate, in his own words, 'A winning mindset'. This period include the rise of India's great spinners and ends with the retirement of Sunil Gavaskar and the fading of Kapil Dev as a real threat. The period between 1968 to 1986 of 18 years. A period where the captaincy went from Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi to Kapil Dev.

The second period is a transitional period of 13 years between 1987 and 2000. A period, or rather the mindset, we often refer to as the '90s mindset'. This was when winning a Test abroad was never entertained even as a stray thought. It started with the captaincy being awarded to Dilip Vengsarkar as just reward for long service to the country. There was no other cricketing reason for Vengsarkar to be made captain. The period ended with Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammed Azharuddin playing musical chairs with the captaincy. Many of the current greats made their debuts in this period but Indian wins in this period were templatized to win big at home. Score runs and spin the hapless tourists out. Something that Gautam Gambhir pines for even today. 

The 3rd period, is popularly known as the Golden era of India's middle order. One of the greatest in the game. This one is the period of 12 years since 2001. Post match fixing to early IPL era. The actors in this period are well known and current. 

To keep things comparable, I excluded tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa since these opportunities were unavailable to all periods. Having won no significant number of matches or any series in either Sri Lanka or South Africa, I think this only reflects favorably on the current team

In all honesty, I was hoping to find that our Golden Generation has a lot more wins to show for all the individual runs they have scored. During this period, mind you, India have had world class bowlers in Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan.

But try and digest this...

In the last 12 years India have lost 39% of their matches away from home compared to 36% between 1968 and 1986. There isn't much to shout about in the win column as well. 22% wins for the current bunch compared to 19% between 1968 and 1986. In fact India won 12 matches combined in Pakistan, England, West Indies, New Zealand and Australia in this period compared to only 10 since 2002. For the record India did not win a single Test match away from home in these countries between 1987 and 2001

Even our record in Australia was better during the 70s and 80s than now. If Ajit Agarkar had not happened one afternoon in late 2003, our Golden Generation would not have much to show for all their runs.

The one thing our current greats have achieved, that past teams did not, is series win in Pakistan. That is all.

Outside of that series, series wins in West Indies, New Zealand, England have been achieved before by previous Indian teams. Even the World Cup was won before. Indians held individual batting and bowling records before.

The legacy of India's greatest generation of batsmen is sadly just personal numbers and home wins. They are no different than past greats and I see no reason why future generations cannot do what India has always done. Win big and often at home, score lots of 100s and keep fans happy.


Harsit Garg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vaibhav Sharma said...

If a batsman scores 200 runs in a test but still the team loses that match due to any reasons. Do you think the batsman is at fault?

Bala said...

Yes..I feel there is something genetically wrong with us wich is not allowing us to win overseas. So BCCI should invest on a Genome Project which will help us win abroad by tinkering some DNAs. Or else like Gambhir has suggested we should wait with the spinning tracks for the 'Revenge Series' to start. Whatever sells !! That is the game ...
(P.S : But we should first find some spinners who can use those tracks !!) In any case why are we obsessed with this overseas thing ?Just sour grapes !!

Golandaaz said...

Vaibhav, no fault of anyone. But isn't it sad that even after a million runs and almost 1200 wickets between Harbie, Zak and Kumble we have the same results in away tests as the teams from 70s and 80s?

I don't think I have said the batsmen are to be blamed?

What I am implying is that there is no point holding on to the greats. The next generation will do what India has always at home and flop away.

Golandaaz said...

Bala, or we can ask Pakistan to chuck Ajmal our way...

Bala said...

I don't agree individuals should be called 'Great' only if the team ends up winning.
What was the win percentage of WI when Lara was playing or of NZ when Hadlee played ? Can we say then Lara and Hadlee were only as good or as bad as others ? For me, neither SRT or RD campaigned that they would deliver the Australian win if they were selected. We chose them because they gave us more chances of winning ( Again no guarantee !!).

Going by your logic that nothing is worser than 4-0 so anybody could have played,even i could have played instead of SRT as the result could not have been different:)

Golandaaz said...

I am acknowledging these guys as the greatest generation of indian cricketers. Just that collectively they have done nothing great that previous greats did not do...

also if some of us have lived through the 'high' of seeing indians scale individual greatness via Gavaskar and Kapil. I was yearning for more from the current lot. Sadly over the last 8 tests it all came back to where india started in the 70s 80s

Bala said...

Now the rotation policy of some seniors has started to give a long run to some the youngsters in the ODIs. It will be curious to see if Tendulkar comes in and scores big in the next match ( Which i feel is very likely in the adelaide track against the SL attack) will they still continue to pick Sehwag ( who is continuing his natural game a.k.a mindless swish) or settle for the 11 without Sehwag for the rest of the series.

Golandaaz said...

Personally, I am not a fan of Sehwag in the ODIs and certainly not a fan of his attitude lately. When he started he was a much better batsman. Off late he bats more like Kapil Dev than Sehwag. Of course Kapil had 3-6 wickets to show in addition to whatever quick runs he would score.

This rotation policy is all bull shit. It should be called "The policy that will allow Sachin Tendulkar to score his 100th 100 without interfering in Dhoni's desire to groom well deserved youngsters" or something just as subtle as what I just said

I mean come on. India does not play international cricket for a few months now and no one wants to wait that long for Sachin's (by now completely meaningless) 100

The policy will vanish when Sachin gets his 100. One of the 3 will conveniently get injured...Most likely Sehwag or Sachin and all will be well....

Bala said...

I don't think anybody is even thinking about sachin's 100th century right now. It will not have the sheen if it comes now after the test drubbings. If the talk about it raises again it can be only in the finals of this series( If India gets there..) Gambhir has redeemed himself with the ODIs so far. So if Sachin scores big now i suspect Sehwag will be the one looking at the barrel. But it is not easy to drop someone who has scored an incredible double century in the last series ( Though in home conditions). Hence this complicated rotation policy !!!

Golandaaz said...

lets see. I think he will score it tonight in a loss.