Deep dive | India’s route to Test#1

Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Adelaide Oval

Image via Wikipedia

I blogged about some stats and when i was cross checking I noticed something was off and I did the correction. Also, while i was doing the corrections, I wondered what attributed to India taking #1 position and how did Dhoni impacted that revolution. What I found was a revelation of facts that a lot of is was favorable and because of Australia and SA not doing their best and India matching up their worst or just being a little better.

To begin with the correction from earlier post is: India streak in tests not loosing a match is 14. Started on 10/9/2008 against Australia (Draw) and ended when they lost to SA on 2/6/2010. during this period India went from 3rd position (100 points) to 1st position (124 points). Also note that during period Australia dropped from 141 points to 116 and SA went from 116 to 120 points and were 2nd in rankings when they beat India.

Lets see how India, Australia and SA fared in this time period:

Played Wins Loss Draw Home Away Wins Home Wins Away Opponents – Home Opponents Away
India 31 15 6 10 19 12 9 6 SA, Aus, Eng, SL, NZ SL, NZ, Bng, SA
Australia 37 17 13 7 21 16 9 8 NZ, SA, WI, Pak, Eng WI, Ind, SA, Eng, NZ, Pak
SA 28 13 8 7 12 16 5 8 Ban, Aus, Eng, Ind Ind, Eng, Aus, WI, Pak
Home % Home Win% Away Win% Win % Loss %
India 61 60 40 48 19
Australia 57 53 47 46 35
SA 43 38 62 46 29

So a pattern clearly emerges – India played less matches in this period and their matches played at home were significantly high. They just played 4 series against Aus and SA and rest were against weaker test teams like WI and Bangladesh (note Australia was not winning enough either and were declining)

Australia were loosing heavily and given their better win rates in 2004-2007, they were loosing points because of the 3-year cumulative match in the ICC Ranking system. That how even in some periods where they were not loosing, they were loosing on points because they played lesser cricket and were playing against teams way below them compared to in 2004 where they were facing top teams.

South Africa were kind of neutral, but definitely played more matches abroad and had series against India and Australia consistently.

Also, note that India remained on top because their Loosing % is significantly higher than other two, while their win percent is almost same. This means they were drawing a lot more than others.

Overall, it clearly presents a case where India has been more conservative on their test playing strategies – playing less, playing at home, don’t loose and play safe to draw.

Now, if all that was played just as I can see all of those, good strategy to be number one. It is like saying “Let the others fight and diminish their resources and we will come on top because of their losses.”

Now – please tell me what did Dhoni do to take India here – it just happened. With a good team and safe strategy forces were in our favor. I am happy we are number one, but Dhoni did nothing in all this to happen. As a captain he could not do what all others in the past have struggled – improve our performance overseas. Change that – and then be called a Great Captain.

Cricket WC2011 – The end of the group stages

Starting March 23, it is going to be a very interesting stage and world-cup at this time is up for grabs. If I believe history repeats itself, then there are only 4 countries who can win this cup – Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand or West Indies. Wonder why – read why others are doomed because of the history of world cup.

Tomorrow is the last day of the group stages that has two matches which do not have any bearing on the qualifications on Quater-finals. However, the tussel between India and West Indies, will decide who plays who. The combinations:

  • India beats WI: they end up 2nd in the group and go onto play Australia
  • WI beats India: This will lead to a situation on where India ends up with their NRR and they could either be playing Sri Lanka or Pakistan

All those are very good sides and India will have to play very well to advance into the semi-finals. In last couple of weeks, I have heard many people saying, we should find the weakest of the opponents to play in the quarter. But, it is important for India to win tomorrow against the WI and get that confidence and momentum with them. In the entire group stages, India has not won even one match against the better teams and WI is still a formidable force that will give us the hope and confidence we have been looking for since the first day when we played against Bangladesh.

Lets focus a little bit on how the various teams fared and if I do look upto one such team as a winner at this stage. There is none. The group toppers – Pakistan and South Africa have also lost matched to big guns and in a very dis-heartening manner. Every team has just managed to qualify (more so in the Group B). No one team who is going to be playing in the quarterfinal, has looked formidable and un-penetrable. Looking back since 1996; we had certain candidates early in the world cup that had some indications to who may win the cup that year:

  • 1996: Sri Lanka came up very strong and were followed very closely by Australia and India. Sri Lanka eventually won beating India in semis and Australia in the finals
  • 1999: In England, Australia was followed closely by South Africa and Pakistan. Australia eventually won it
  • 2003: Australia and India were going all guns blazing. They met in the finals with Australia winning all their matches, and India only loosing one against Australia. Eventually, the final as predicted was between Australia and India, with India winning
  • 2007: Australia were closely chased by Sri Lanka and New Zealand. They went on to beating South Africa in semis and Sri Lanka in the finals.

But, this year there is no clear one side leading the groups and no clear winner for me. If you ask me south Africa and Paksitan have a great chance. However, South Africa has never won a single match in elimination stages – yeah NEVER – we will find out if their luck has changed when they play New Zealand in quarter-finals.¬† And, no host country has ever won the world-cup; so it rules out India and Sri Lanka. This time ICC’s decision of not allowing Pakistan to host the world cup may just turn out to be lucky for them.

Cricket WC2011 – Mid-term assessment

Today in World Cup cricket the 24th match was played, that takes us to just past mid-way of the group matches (total being 42). There are 14 teams which have 10 test playing nations and 4 from the associations and at this stage there are only two teams who look somewhat formidable in this stage. Let us start with Group A.

 

Group A

Pakistan looks quite good sitting at the top of the table winning all the three matches and two of them against the minnows, but their performance against the Sub-continent side Sri Lanka was impressive – and that was not expected. However, Australia who lost one against India in the pre-cup games, is doing quite well winning 2 out of 2 but not against top sides. Their first test of the cup was against Sri Lanka, but then it was washed out. So their only next test before they get into Quarter finals will be against Pakistan late in the schedule. Until that happens no one knows where Australia will be. New Zealand seems to be doing average and most probably will qualify given Zimbabwe, Canada or Kenya wont be able to win against the Kiwis.

 

Group B

This is a more interesting group. Let me start in a very interesting way. India beat Ireland, Ireland beat England, England beat South Africa and South Africa beat West Indies. This does not mean that India is doing best. It simply means that this is a very open group at this point. Ireland is a surprise package, only if they would have beaten Bangladesh they had a good chance of qualify into Quarterfinals. South Africa was doing very well until they ran into spinners from England on a turning pitch. That showed how can they not play spin well. England lost to Ireland and was a surprise win over South Africa; but overall their bowling have been dis-appointing where they gave more than 290 runs in more than 2 occasions and two times it was against Ireland and Netherlands; India was the third occasion. India has not been doing very well either. Their decision to include Piyush Chawla over Pragyan Ojha or Ashwin came back to haunt them against England where he gave away 3 sixesin the penultimate over and India ended up with a draw where they could have won. And then against Ireland he was most expensive giving a boundary in every over he bowled. But, India’s consolation is their batting looks like holding up very well , they are not cracking under pressure. Yuvraj is back in form and so is Sehwag and Tendulkar and Kohli. India’s next big test will be in last 2 group matches against West Indies and South Africa.

 

For me from Group A, Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand will qualify. And from Group B it will be India, South Africa, England and West Indies. However, I do not have a prediction of who will move to the semi-finals yet. Maybe after another 2 weeks when some of the giants have faced each other is when I can make up my mind.