The India-England match that ended in a tie on 27 February was one of the more thrilling matches seen so far in this cricket World Cup. However, the England-South Africa game on 6 March was even more fascinating. Simply because, while the former was a slogfest, the latter gave bowlers an equal chance. It was that rare One-Day International when you see batsmen and bowlers square up as equals, where the flingers come to the fore and batsmen have to draw on all their skills—not just brute strength—to score runs.
Sadly, such matches are infrequent now with the advent of Twenty20 (T20) and bald pitches, which celebrate mindless smashing and slogging, where sixes are as common as Pakistan wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal’s fluffed catches and missed stumpings. This World Cup has certainly been influenced by T20, at least as far as hitting boundaries is concerned.
Runs scored through boundaries as a percentage of the total have peaked during this World Cup at 41.17%, according to data from website Castrol Cricket. This is more than the 35% seen in the previous two tournaments. Indeed, the last World Cup in which the boundary hitters had such a field day was during the previous edition in the subcontinent in 1996 when Sanath Jayasuriya and Co. pioneered hitting through the top in the opening overs.
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Of course, as with any analysis comprising such a small sample size, caveats abound. The pitches in the subcontinent are mostly batting pitches, the boundaries are smaller, bowlers— especially those from the associate nations and Piyush Chawla —can be profligate; the aggressiveness of field settings, etc., are factors which can’t be adjusted.
Unsurprisingly, India figures near the top of the list of those who scored most of their runs through fours and sixes in this World Cup. West Indies tops the chart at 50.41%, helped by the easy target against Bangladesh (chasing 59 last Friday) which it scored within 13 overs of field restrictions. New Zealand finds itself in second position at 48.53% after Ross Taylor and his cohorts looted Pakistan for 115 runs in the final six overs of their innings on Tuesday.
While the crowds go berserk at the sixes of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, these numbers could well be interpreted differently. The high proportion of runs scored through boundaries means that India haven’t been overly concerned about running singles and turning over the strike, the classic way in which the Australians, particularly Michael Bevan, set about winning matches some years ago.
A day after the India-England tie, a Mumbai Mirror article bemoaned the fact the Indians played out 140 dot balls and even if 62 runs had been scored from those, the total would have gone to 400.
However, this is where the numbers throw up a googly. India has played the least proportion of dot balls in this tournament. They didn’t score off 44% of the deliveries they faced. (These numbers don’t include Wednesday’s game with the Netherlands) That is just a tad below England’s 44.6% and South Africa’s 47.82. In other words, Indian batsmen have more scoring shots and shot options, it seems, compared with other line-ups, at least so far in this tournament. Unfortunately, numbers reveal only part of the story.
When it comes to stealing quick singles, converting ones into doubles and twos into threes…now, that’s another matter altogether.
Graphic by Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint
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