SRT the match winner

Here we go again, one of those debates about whether Sachin Tendulkar is a match winner, that keeps popping up whenever India is not actively engaged in the cricket field and we need to fill space with something.

This question indicates there are others far more consistent in winning matches for their countries. Admittedly, not many can beat Tendulkar where consistency is concerned but his contribution to winning matches takes a beating compared to Inzamam-ul- Haq and Ricky Ponting.

The yardstick obviously is how many of his centuries have been winning centuries. And how many of these centuries have been scored in the second innings of the match. This, the pundits feel relates to handling of pressure when it matters.

Inzamam’s total number of centuries is 25 but 17 of his centuries helped Pakistan win Tests and the percentage amounts to 68. Ricky Ponting’s 24 Test match-winning centuries are from a total of 38 and the winning percentage is 63 whereas though Tendulkar scored 42 Test centuries, only 16 have helped India in winning Tests. The percentage is as low as 38.

The most important comparison is the number of centuries scored in the second innings. Out of six centuries scored by Ponting five resulted in Australia winning Test matches. That’s 83 per cent. Inzamam had four winning matches out of six centuries — the percentage is 66 but while Tendulkar scored ten centuries, only three saw India win matches. The percentage is 30.

If the styles of these three batsmen are compared, aggression is a common factor but why Tendulkar is not able to convert his second innings centuries into winning ones is something very intriguing looking at the class that he possesses. Is it because of the load of expectations of the country that agitates his mental make-up or perhaps he is unable to handle pressure in the middle?

Makarand Waingankar concedes, after the above excerpt, that even if Ponting arguably was part of a strong batting lineup, Inzy wasn’t.

Granting that, the concession still misses the mark — and the leitmotif of this piece, which seeks to equate centuries and Test wins, is even further off the bulls eye: Tests are won by teams that can bowl the other one out twice in a fixed time span. Any analysis on these lines therefore needs to compare the bowling attacks that backed the batsmen in question, not merely the batting lineups. Do that, and see if the thesis still holds.

I’m not making a case for Tendulkar here — merely making the point that wins and losses in Tests cannot be interpreted as a result of the number of centuries scored by the primary batsman.


22 thoughts on “SRT the match winner

  1. Hmmm.. stumbled on to this Blog.. Sachin has to play for India with such a poor supply of bowling and batting options at his disposal. That we are a fanatical bunch does his cause no good. He is up there because he has played with puffed up overrated bunch of cricketers.. Look at the career graph of so many of the youngsters.. they have mostly all come with the self destruct button on in timer mode.. some survive longer while some are just dragged on like a useless limb.. His greatness can be put into perpective after comparing bowlers from other sides.. Pakistan has mostly played India in the yesteryears while Ricky pointing England (What a laugh).. Look at the bowling they handled.. they were lucky to be on the same side as Waqar/Wasim and Shane/Glen etc.. plus they had some good dependable and batsmen with character unlike apna Tendlya.. He’s up there though he’s dissapointed quitre a few times.. And the media is to blame too

  2. There is one situation in which the batsman can be assessed on whether he is a match winner. That is the fourth innings chase. When other batsmen are unable to deal with the bowlers, if one batsman stands out among them and wins the match against the odds, he can be considered a match winner.

    Tendulkar’s only fourth innings hundred that resulted in a win included good performances from other batsmen too. In fact, that is the story of all his hundreds. They’ve come when other batsmen too have performed and taken the shine off the ball. Nevertheless, he is a great batsman.

  3. We can’t forget that pointing scored a few of his centuries using the special bat. Those actually should be revoked from his record

  4. The parlour game never ends! 🙂

    This article is a clear case of confusing correlation with causation i.e. centuries by star players necessarily lead to wins.

    In addition to the bowling performances in that match, as pointed out by several other readers, the other relevant stat that should compelete this analysis is: how did rest of the batsman perform? A distribution curve of scores for top 5 batsmen in the same matches will reveal how the ‘team’ performed as a whole. Haven’t done the analysis myself, but can bet that such a curve for Ind vs. Aus will show why Aus won much more than Ind did when their respective stars scored a century.

  5. “merely making the point that wins and losses in Tests cannot be interpreted as a result of the number of centuries scored by the primary batsman” ditto my thoughts when I read this piece in Hindu.

  6. I don’t care much for Waingankar wrote. Tendulkar is a match winner but Tendulkar does fail to disappear in big matches like the World Cup 2003 final. He somehow is missing that Michael Jordan type gene which translates to refusing to let his team lose in a big final. What I am glad about is that SRT has been manifesting that gene in the recent past. I am keeping my fingers crossed for WC 2011…

  7. I think some of these comparisons are blinkered in more ways than one. Sachin was able to set-up matches for India but bowlers were not finishing the job.

    Sometime back, I was reading about how Anil Kumble’s record abroad is horrible. Again, how much support he had at other end? How many runs did he have to work with? If you isolate his record in series where batsman performed, you will see that his numbers are no where close to horrible.

  8. Actually, another way to look at this is “In how many matches was India looking like it had a sniff at a win; in those, what was SRT’s contribtution?”

    Cricket is a team game; everybody has to set up the win. Once you are in with a chance to win, and your premier batsman blows it, then you can blame him. (Again, not holding a torch for SRT).

    Otherwise, this conversion ratio nonsense is just that – nonsense.

    The other subtleties are: (a) if there was no first innings century, would you even have had a chance in the second innings to blow? and (b), what about match saving innings?

    SRT’s century against Pak in Madras clearly shows all these aspects; Indi only got a sniff at a victory because of him; he got out & the rest blew it. So, that becomes a century in a losing cause.

    Anyway, enought said!

  9. Good point raised Prem. People forget that unlike ODIs, Test matches are about taking 20 wickets with the batsmen playing a supporting role getting the runs for the bowlers to bowl with. People do not raise fingers at George Headley. Tendulkar always has been an easy target when such “discussions” happen.

    • Yeah. What bugs me is, this guy was till recently in charge of unearthing talent or some such for KKR — if you don’t even have your basic fundas straight, god help the ‘talent’.

      • Just taking the KKR bit forward. Not too hard to see why there wasn’t too much talent in the squad and with it came their shambolic 2009 IPL performance. They weren’t too flahs in 2008 either 🙂

        • The KKR IPL debacle had more to do with the rot that had set in right from the top. The team was fairly talented but nobody to make use of that.

          I now know that I should not read this guy’s articles anymore – even if they appear on The Hindu – a newspaper I feel is very good for sports coverage.

          Wonder how Nirmal Shekar let this through.

  10. I wonder what Makarand has to say of Ponting’s matchwinning ability after the Ashes 06-7 when both Mcgrath and Warne retired. It’s well documented that his avg since then hovers in the mid 40’s and Aus have LOST more than they have won.

    Equally I wonder if someone has the time and patience to do a study on Inzy and Ponting and look at their stats in games when either Mcgrath/Warne or both , and similarly Wasim/Waqar or both, haven;t played.

    I guess then things get a tad more clear with whose better. Personally though for me, Lara has been the best of his generation. There is something about the guy that made batting viewing a pleasure. For me his 153* against Aus in Barbados in 1999 remains the best test innings I’ve watched in my 20 odd year of following cricket.

    • Not to forget Saqlain, Mushtaq etc with ref Pakistan. And the line up of high quality support bowlers who have backed McGrath and Warne in their pomp.

      I agree totally about the Lara bit — for sheer electric pleasure, nothing to beat him in his pomp. Actually, I’ve sometimes thought that if Vinod Kambli hadn’t shot himself in the foot when and how he did, he would likely have come the closest to matching the Windies master.

      • Prem

        Kambli though was found out by the West Indian ‘ quicks’ in 1994 on Indian pitches ! I use the word quicks with regret – that line up had Walsh, Cuffey, Benjamin. Ambrose wasn’t on that tour. Not quite the Holding era 🙂 but apart from Walsh, the rest were honestly c**p. So Kambli coming close to Lara ? ooh tough call.

        Actually of all the left handers in the last 20 years who stands out – Lara, Hayden, Ganguly (iffy because he was so suspect against short pitch bowling), Sangakkara, Gilchrist. Can’t think of other left handers who have made batting viewing worth the time 🙂

        • Yeah, but I was banking on a combination of the early promise, and the natural growth you can expect of any halfway decent talent. 🙂

      • Prem,
        Having followed cricket for many many years ,the younger generation seems to ignore Gower ,while they don’t mind putting Ganguly as one of the left hand greats.(Hmm and i am myself still young)But I have had the pleasure of watching Lloyd,Lara,Gower,Hayden,Gilchrist bat -Ambrose,Walsh,Malcom Marshall and others play(The bowlers are mentioned just to highlight the quality which was there).It’s not just centuries which matter I remember Dravid scoring 60 odd in both innings in West Indies and taking India to victory,same I remember his 70+ in Adelaide more than his 200+ in the first innings at Adelaide,I am sure nobody disputes SRT’s greatness,but as a single handed matchwinner-that’s where the doubts exist ala Jordan,a Richards,Ponting,maybe even Kumble who singlehandedly spun India to victory.I have had the pleasure of watching in stadium a SRT century at Chepauk and in Australia.
        Maybe SRT will still do it- he will singlehandedly take India to victories or save India. Sport gives us eternal hope isn’t it?

        I only hope Test cricket does not die out.

  11. The guy has scored close to 30k runs and still people feel that he has not contributed enough towards the team..!..
    IMHO, such articles do not merit a detailed response..!..

    Regarding comparing Ponting’s and Sachin’s matchwinning abilities, like you pointed out about the bowling attacks, if Sachin had Mcgrath and Warne in his team, it would have been different stats.. (no disrespect to Kumble, but still )..!!

  12. I felt exactly the same when I read it this morning. Makarand took the easy way out by not comparing the bowing strengths. Australia and Pak were brilliant bowling sides in the 90s.

    Anyway – I thought this was just an off season rambling – he had to write something to keep Indian cricket fans interested. 🙂

    • Yeah, but that is precisely what pissed me off — Makarand is someone with an in into the administration; he has worked with the coaching academy, with KKR’s talent search program, etc, and so should have great material for off season writing.

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