Test Match Batting in Asia


31st October, 2016.

We have seen recently, with the demise of Australia in Sri Lanka, and England drawing 1-1 in Bangladesh (and coming close to losing the test they won), and the predictable heavy defeat for New Zealand in India, that countries orientated towards seam bowling at home have major issues in the sub-continent.  

While this concept in general seems nothing new, it seems even more apparent lately, with a failure batting against spin even more obvious, as well as an inability for spin bowlers from Australia, England and New Zealand to create the havoc that relatively unheralded bowlers from the Asian nations are able to do on a consistent basis.

In the first part of a two-part article, I want to look at test match batting over and under performance in Asia, with the second part looking at bowlers.  The first thing I did was collate data of batsmen from 2010 onwards, until yesterday (including the Bangladesh vs England 2nd test) who had completed (e.g. were out) a minimum of ten innings batting in Asia.  I then compared this to their worldwide data in this time period and calculated a ratio of their batting average in Asia compared to their worldwide batting average.

The following players were the best over-performers in Asia, from 2010 onwards:-

Overall figures



Asia

Asia

Asia

Overall

Overall

Overall


Player

Nation

C/Inns

Runs

Ave

C/Inns

Runs

Ave

Asia/Overall Ave Ratio










VVS Laxman

IND

13

1088

83.69

39

1864

47.79

1.75

KOA Powell

WI

13

560

43.08

39

1072

27.49

1.57

I Sharma

IND

19

226

11.89

50

408

8.16

1.46

DM Bravo

WI

27

1563

57.89

83

3386

40.80

1.42

CA Pujara

IND

29

1999

68.93

58

2855

49.22

1.40

S Dhawan

IND

14

746

53.29

38

1464

38.53

1.38

M Morkel

SAF

10

140

14.00

43

439

10.21

1.37

RG Sharma

IND

15

760

50.67

32

1184

37.00

1.37

MR Marsh

AUS

10

327

32.70

25

600

24.00

1.36

SK Raina

IND

12

425

35.42

29

768

26.48

1.34


These players all generated an average much higher in Asia than in other countries, and we can see that the vast majority (six) of these players were Indian, with VVS Laxman leading the way, with a huge 1.75 average ratio in Asia compared to the rest of the world.

Indeed, Laxman scored 1,088 runs in 13 innings in Asia, but a mere 776 runs in 26 innings (average of 29.84) away from Asia.  Current players Cheteshwar Pujara, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma weren't far behind, all averaging in excess of 50 in Asia but 29.51, 29.92 and 24.94 respectively away from Asia.

It is obvious from this data that Indian batsmen find batting in their home continent vastly easier than away from home, which means that they are almost certainly well versed in being able to play spin.  This also is likely to give us a solid idea as to why mediocre, non-test regular spinners struggle in the subcontinent (for example, Gareth Batty and Zafar Ansari, of the current England team) as I mentioned here.  Put bluntly, if these players are masters of spin, English county bowlers are certainly not much of a threat to these players.

However, these players would look to be very vulnerable when playing away in England or Australia, for example, on tracks that would suit the home bowlers.

England captain Alastair Cook (14th on the list, ratio of 1.28) was the best batsman from England, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa in the ratio list.  

Overall figures



Asia

Asia

Asia

Overall

Overall

Overall


Player

Nation

C/Inns

Runs

Ave

C/Inns

Runs

Ave

Asia/Overall Ave Ratio










F du Plessis

SAF

14

298

21.29

43

1823

42.40

0.50

N Pradeep

SL

13

32

2.46

21

100

4.76

0.52

MM Ali

ENG

10

176

17.60

46

1546

33.61

0.52

DJG Sammy

WIN

17

220

12.94

46

1032

22.43

0.58

BJ Haddin

AUS

11

186

16.91

65

1862

28.65

0.59

JM Bairstow

ENG

11

269

24.45

51

2083

40.84

0.60

JP Duminy

SAF

14

263

18.79

35

1065

30.43

0.62

MJ Clarke

AUS

19

592

31.16

97

4717

48.63

0.64

BA Stokes

ENG

10

216

21.60

47

1557

33.13

0.65

DW Steyn

SAF

12

121

10.08

47

715

15.21

0.66


The table above illustrates the players with the worst batting average ratio in the sub-continent.  All these players have hugely struggled in Asia throughout their career and it is no surprise to see the list dominated by players from pace bowling orientated nations, such as England, Australia and South Africa).

National selectors should strongly consider whether the specialist batsmen highlighted here (we can except Pradeep and Steyn, as bowlers, and Haddin/Clarke, who have retired) should merit consideration for tours in the sub-continent, as it is almost certain that they are not strong players of spin in the slightest.  Perhaps a 'horses for courses' approach might suit teams best, and continuity of selection in such a dramatic difference of conditions, may actually be an approach that yields negative expectation.

Whilst we have established that individual batsmen from the subcontinent have thrived in their home arenas, and those from other parts of the world have struggled in Asia, the final area I want to look at is how the regular players for each country performed as a group.

The table below indicates the combined records for each player who has completed a minimum of ten innings for each country in Asia, from 2010 onwards:-


Asia

Asia

Asia

Overall

Overall

Overall


Country

C/Inns

Runs

Ave

C/Inns

Runs

Ave

Asia/Overall Ave Ratio









IND

472

19594

41.51

927

33419

36.05

1.15

PAK

447

18735

41.91

678

25166

37.12

1.13

SL

558

19848

35.57

842

27913

33.15

1.07

BAN

299

10894

36.43

401

13787

34.38

1.06

WIN

143

5413

37.85

423

15358

36.31

1.04

ENG

194

6779

34.94

957

35451

37.04

0.94

NZ

160

5016

31.35

603

21253

35.25

0.89

SAF

112

3789

33.83

419

16654

39.75

0.85

AUS

151

3848

25.48

664

23114

34.81

0.73

 
We can see here that the four teams based in Asia - India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - all had combined batting averages much higher than at home than away (ratios >1) whilst the West Indies also surprisingly batted a little better in the sub-continent.

However, the four main nations which favour pace bowling at home struggled, with Australia particularly so.  On this basis, their defeat to Sri Lanka in the recent series probably shouldn't be considered as much of a shock as many people may have done.

England, as the best of the bad nations, certainly shouldn't be too disheartened, but the data would obviously make them a heavy underdog to win in India (as the betting odds suggest), and it's worth noting that their overall ratio was boosted by Kevin Pietersen (ratio 1.06 from 19 innings) significantly.  What England would do for a peak Pietersen in their current team...

It is clear that there is something of a divide in Test cricket.  Teams are preparing wickets which suit their players, and that is their right, but it looks to be getting harder and harder to achieve success away from home in Test cricket, and that there is an inability of English, New Zealand, South African and Australian players to play spin, and likewise a huge issue for players from Asian nations versus pace, when away from the sub-continent.

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