We’ve saw it happen again yesterday. A wicket falls, and the now-familiar sight of MSD walking in at No.3. The innings is pretty much the same – lasts about 20 or so deliveries, gets an average of 1 boundary (possibly hit hard enough to destroy a fielder or an umpire from the face of the earth), a few quick singles and twos, an attempt at upping the tempo, and the invariable dismissal.
A quick look around some of my daily reads ( Late, Prem ) gives you the flavour of the day. The aforementioned folks quite beautifully sum up the flaw in Messrs. MSD occupying the No.3 position . Not wanting to be left out of the bandwagon, F&F echos the same thoughts in this section (and pretty much the reasoning), but tries to look some numbers at the same time.
For posterity’s sake, let’s have a quick comparison between the numbers from the 50 over format and the T20 international format. This will give us the basis for comparison. Some quick differences though:
1. T20 is like the highlights package of 50.
2. Strike rate is key
3. 50 Overs probably requires a little more planning and understanding of the game as it happens. T20 is a little more slam bang
4. There are definitely going to be many less one-sided games in T20 than in the 50 over format. In fact, there definitely are more close games (keep this in mind).
50 Over format
We all know that the captain is an immensely successful 50-over cricketer. Have a look at the numbers , and let’s compare him to 2 other cricketers:
1. Yuvraj Singh – dangerous Bat and a definite feature in any Indian 50 over and 20 over team
2. M. Hussey – often acknowledged as one of the best players in 50 over cricket
50 Over Comparison
That is quite stunning no matter how you look at it. Dhoni’s average and even strike rate in fact betters two of the best in business (though the strike rate is a little less signficantly different here).
An important feature here is the % Not outs, which is implies that there’s about a 26% chance that Dhoni remains not out at the end of the innings. Sweet! Hussey’s % Not out is a jaw-dropping 36% , giving him bradman-esqe averages here, but let’s not forget that he also bats at No.5 or so. FYI, I also checked MSD’s averages and %Not Outs in innings he played at No.3 or No.4 and they aren’t significantly very different either.
T-20 : 50-Lite
Now in this format of the game, let’s have a look at MSDs performance, and compare it with his own teammates . This should be fair enough, since the Indian team is supposedly the best on paper. Going by the same standards, we can imagine the average to go significantly down, the SR to well up, but hey that’s all good since it is a smaller format of the game. Right?
T-20 International Record -Indian Team
1. Purely by looking at the numbers, Dhoni’s record in the 50 over game is quite phenomenal so far. He’s a definite asset no matter how you look at it.
2. While Yuvi’s SR significantly increases in the T20 game, Dhoni’s does too, but not by much.
3. Dhoni’s SR in the T20 game is the lowest – and lowest by a decent distance – in his own batting line up! I’ve included Irfan Pathan and Robin Uthappa too in there, the former from an “bowling” all rounder’s capacity, and the latter- just for laughs .
1.I’m not saying that MSD is a liability. Far from it. I think he’s a pretty good leader, and he’s also a great player. His keeping skills have improved leaps and bounds from before, and he provides quite an entertainment with some of his unconventional shots. And I must make note of his running between the wickets – definitely the amongst the best in Indian and world cricket.
2. What he is not (right now-take note again) is a T20 India No.3 batsman- yet. A T20 innings has 120 balls. Let’s assume your top 6 batsmen play well enough to consume all that. Thus, per head, they get 20 balls each. Dhoni will, on the average, fetch you 21 runs in those 20 balls . Raina – 25. I’m not saying he will do that every time. But those 4 extra runs are far more crucial in a T20 game, than in a 50 over game (due to the differences between the 2 formats noted above). Yousaf can fetch even more perhaps – but consistency is key too. The key here is to give the best chance for the strongest batsmen to propel the score over a longer period of time , eh -for more than 20 deliveries.
3. Imagine you’ve got Dhoni and Raina who’ll atleast play 10 deliveries each. Let’s assume they play it out and take their singles and twos, and even a boundary on a loose delivery. Now who will you bet on being there for 20 more deliveries after that, and maximizing the score? Not saying that MSD can’t do it, but I think the smart money should be on someone like Raina (you know I love him).
4. Shots : Dhoni’s got some, but I think even he’ll admit that the bowlers have him figured out for now. Which is why he cannot afford to occupy a pivotal position and screw up. For now, we see MSD getting out in a similar manner. He might have cut down the risk of him getting out to his vulnerable deliveries, but he finds it more difficult to score BIG off them.
There will be a process of evolution. For a person who’s also the captain and wicketkeeper (and Media Protector) of the Indian Team, the process might be a little slower. Remember Sachin from before (early 90s ) and the Sachin now (post 2000)? Bowlers , laptop coaches et al. continuously figured him out, and yet, he kept evolving.
* I had a section with snapshots on “Sachin” here, but it was a complete dud on my part as I had the wrong player itself!! Thanks to Tifosi for catching that. I’ll try to get better info up next time. Apologies on the brain-fart.”
MSD can emulate a Sachin too- Evolve. If he works as hard in his batting as he did in his wicket-keeping (and that’s asking a LOT out of him right now), he’ll reach greater heights. But that is asking a lot out of him right now in the middle of the tournament.
India had a glorious opportunity to get Raina or Yousaf a bat in the previous 2-3 games, and we sort of missed a trick there.