On June 26, cricket website ESPNCricinfo.com published a piece titled, ‘Which is Best Ball of the World Cup?’ It showcased, using pictures and text, 11 wicket-taking deliveries from the ongoing World Cup in England. Each delivery was a work of art, loaded with pace or guided by guile, and laden with match context. Each made you remember and replay. As many as seven of those 11 deliveries crashed into the stumps—a reminder of the rawest and the most potent form of dismissal in cricket.
Here’s where India comes in. There’s only one delivery by an Indian in that shining list: Kuldeep Yadav foxing Babar Azam and opening the gates for Indian bowlers. But when it comes to dismissals by clean bowled or by leg before wicket (LBW)—the next most potent mode of dismissal—India has done the best among the 10 teams in this world cup. In both batting and bowling departments.
In the bowling department, India has been on the offence and has been breaking through: among the 10 sides, it has earned the highest percentage of its dismissals through these two modes. As many as 23.5% of the wickets taken by Indian bowlers in the 2019 World Cup till July 1 were clean bowled. Another 11.8% were LBW. On both counts, India lead the charts.
The combined share of these two modes of dismissals was 35.3%—twice as many as bowlers of England, the home team, had. The next best was Sri Lanka (32.4%) and Pakistan (27.5%).
In this World Cup, across all the wickets that have fallen, 25.3% have been via these two modes, which shows just how high India is punching.
Conversely, in the batting department, it has defended the stumps resolutely: it has recorded the lowest percentage of dismissals through these two modes among the 10 sides. Only 11.8% of the Indian wickets to fall have either been clean bowled or LBW. To put that in perspective, the figure for Australia is twice as much and that for South Africa is thrice as much. India is followed by England (17.2%) and New Zealand (19.5%).
It’s a testament to just how good India have been in this World Cup. India was always a strong batting unit, but this shows just how much distance the national cricket team has travelled as a bowling unit and why it came into the tournament as one of the best plying their trade in the small and pretty grounds of England.
In both batting and bowling departments, India has improved these numbers significantly over 2015, which though had dipped over 2011. In bowling, in 2015, 16% of scalps claimed by the Indian bowling unit—which was led by Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja—was through bowled and LBW. In other words, they have more than doubled their share since. Similarly, on the batting side, Indian batters have reduced their share of dismissals through these two modes consistently.
Overall, in this world cup, 68% of dismissals across all teams have been catches, either by fielders or by bowlers of their own bowling. The share of catches saw an increase from 2011 to 2015: from 50% to 72%, respectively. It has stayed around similar levels. The other notable change has been the progressive reduction in the share of run-outs: from 9% in 2007, it’s down to 4.8% in 2019.
Coming back to India, the other difference in this side is when it is taking a bulk of its wickets. In the 2011 World Cup, India took only 33% of its wickets till over 30. This increased to 47% in 2015 and stands at 59% in 2019, and this high number is in a tournament when it has gone deep into opposition lineups. Previously, India was taking most of its wickets at the back end, between overs 41 and 50. From 41% in 2011, this figure fell to 32% in 2015 and is now down to 26%.
As of July 2, the highest wicket-taker in the tournament was Mitchell Starc, with 24 wickets. By comparison, the highest Indian was Mohammed Shami, who was ranked eighth with 13 wickets. He was followed by Jasprit Bumrah, who was ranked 20.
The contrast between the absence at the very top on the one hand and wicket-taking effectiveness, on the other hand, is an accolade to the multi-pronged attack that India have managed to forge in recent years. Each bowler has been stepping up at different points in time, and the table-topping showing in World Cup 2019 on the clean bowled and LBW counts is testimony to that.
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