What prime fools India are looking like! Insisting on a spinning wicket at the Wankhede and then getting spun out of the game comprehensively—the phrase “just deserts” acquires new respect and authenticity today.
Many questions are being asked, but the paramount one is of course about Sachin Tendulkar. Is it time?
In cricket, looking at the numbers is often a good way to tackle such questions. Emotions run high, certainly when men like Tendulkar are concerned. At the same time, numbers don’t tell the full picture. For example, Steve Waugh’s batting statistics can never fully capture his “value”—of being the most nerveless steel-hearted batsman in cricket history when the chips were down. The numbers can never indicate how many more wickets Malcolm Marshall would have taken if he didn’t have Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft in the same team.
Yes, sure, numbers don’t give the full picture, but in some simple cases, they come very close.
Below is a table of the batting averages of the five Indian batsmen who have played 15 Tests over the last two years (with the exception of Virat Kohli, who has played 12).
But what about Tendulkar? Not only has his average fallen, it has fallen sharply. Fifteen Tests ago, it stood at 60% of his career average, and in the last five Tests, it’s half of even that! In fact, over the course of the last 15 Tests he has played, his average has risen only thrice (only to drop again), and the maximum rise has been by 1.16 runs.
This is not a bad patch, it is a decline.
In fact, it has been a long decline—a steady downhill journey from his career average for his last 30 Tests, or nearly three years (from a match against Bangladesh at Chittagong in January 2010, where Tendulkar scored a century)!
Another conclusion is also nearly inescapable. Going by this time-series data, Tendulkar is the weakest link in India’s batting line-up.
Just for my curiosity, I ran the same checks for his three illustrious contemporaries, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Saurav Ganguly. Here are the numbers:
But both Dravid and Laxman left the game after a bad patch of only five Tests. In Dravid’s case, an average of 30.90 in just five matches no way indicates any lessening of his powers. As for Laxman, in his last 15 games, he was certainly doing better than Tendulkar. And if you look at his decline, it happens only in his last 22 games. The equivalent number for Tendulkar, as I mentioned before, is 30.
Laxman’s batting average in his last five Tests was half of his average in his last 22 games (43.57). For Tendulkar, the average in his last five Tests is 30% of his average in his last 30 games (54).
Clearly, when Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly decided to walk away, they were doing quite a lot better than Tendulkar.
That’s what the numbers say. Now it’s up to the man himself to figure out what he wants to do. India will, of course, wait respectfully for him to come to a decision.