Kartik Kannan explores via stats and more why India has not been as successful as they should be in Zimbabwe.
Picture This! South Africa and Australia have won 100% of their ODI’s played at Zimbabwe. You’d expect the reigning ODI World Champions (India) record to be similar or close, under normal circumstances, but the truth is chillingly different. If one were to rank ODI sides based on their success percentage in Zimbabwe, India figures a poor 8th, with only Bangladesh and Kenya behind it, success ratio being only 57.14%. Over the last 21 years, India has played 21 games in Zimbabwe, losing 4 times to the host (Zimbabwe), twice to New Zealand, once each to Sri Lanka and West Indies. In the light of this statistic, whether the Indian selectors had made the right decision in selecting an inexperienced team to tour Zimbabwe? Statistics and History say no, while the Indian selectors affirm that infusing young blood would augur well for the future.
Table-1 shows how ODI sides have performed in Zimbabwe ever since Zimbabwe became a full member nation of the ICC.
Table-1 -Success % of ODI sides in matches played in Zimbabwean Soil
|India in Zimbabwe||21||12||8||1||57.14||8|
|SL in Zimbabwe||23||18||4||1||78.26||4|
|Aus in Zimbabwe||7||7||0||0||100.00||1|
|England in Zimbabwe||17||12||4||1||70.59||5|
|WI in Zimbabawe||15||9||5||1||60.00||7|
|Pak in Zimbabwe||15||12||1||2||80.00||3|
|SA in Zimbabwe||8||8||0||0||100.00||1|
|Bangladesh in Zimbabwe||30||13||15||2||43.33||9|
|Kenya in Zimbabwe||13||3||8||2||23.08||10|
|NZ in Zimbabawe||16||10||5||1||62.50||6|
|Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe||154||46||97||11||29.87||Not Applicable|
Digging further, the article aims to look at important factors that correlate with the Indian performances in Zimbabwe over the years, and aims to present the readers the Achilles heel that Zimbabwean soil has been for Indian cricket intermittently. Some of the important statistical cogs in India’s wheel on their Zimbabwean trips are as follows.
a) Contribution of the Top 5 Batsmen
One of the main reasons of India’s ascent in ODI’s in recent times, has been India’s batting and looking into 8 of their ODI defeats in Zimbabwe, 7 of them came when India’s top 5 batsmen have not scored enough runs. India has averaged around 228 in ODI’s on Zimbabwean soil, with the top 5 batsmen contributing 68.19% of the runs. Across all of their 21 matches, 7 of the 8 defeats in Zimbabwe have been a clear case of the top 5 batsmen’s failing to maintain an average of 68.19%, (with the contribution from the top 5 ranging from 15.28% to 64.18% in these games lost as shown in Table 2)
Table-2- Contribution % of the Top 5 batsmen when India has lost ODI’s in Zimbabwe
|Game||Total Runs Scored by India||Top 5 Contribution %||Match Result||Opposition|
|2010-M4||268||64.18||India Lost||Sri Lanka|
|2005-M5||276||75.72||India Lost||New Zealand|
|2005-M1||164||15.85||India Lost||New Zealand|
|2001-M5||274||28.47||India Lost||West Indies|
Excepting one occasion, whenever India’s been all out, India has lost all such matches. So it’s fair to say that once the Indian batting is into its tail, they have not managed to win any game in Zimbabwe since 1993.
When India wins, the average contribution of the top 5 have ranged between 72.94% and 98.35% -9 times out of 12, while India have still managed 3 wins despite the top order contribution having been lesser than the average of 68.19%, which underscores the importance of the number 6 and 7 slot. Table 3, analyses India’s win patterns in ODI’s on Zimbabwean soil, through the contribution of the top 5 batsmen.
Table-3- Contribution % of the Top 5 batsmen when India has won ODI’s in Zimbabwe
|Match Links||Total Runs Scored by India||Top 5 Contribution %||Match Result||Opposition|
One interesting observation on Zimbabwean soil, was the success that Mohamamed Kaif,Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly have enjoyed on previous tours, which shows the importance of defence, technique and flair in the top 5 batsmen, on a tour to Zimbabwe.
Table-4 Outstanding Performances by Indian Batsmen on Previous Tours to Zimbabwe
|Mohammed Kaif||2005 Triangular Series||5||277||92.33||71.2||2/1|
|Rohit Sharma||2010 Triangular Series||4||260||86.66||91.54||0/2|
|Sachin Tendulkar||2001 Triangular Series||5||282||141.00||82.45||2/1|
|Sachin Tendulkar||1998 Bi Lateral Tour||3||198||79||100.63||0/1|
|Saurav Ganguly||1998 Bi Lateral Tour||3||158||79||75.23||0/1|
With the current team selected for Zimbabwe- Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, ,Virat Kohli,Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina vie for the top 5 slots, India need to find the right men for the job who contribute substantially. In recent times, at ODI’s away from home, India’s victory is largely proportional to their top 5 batsmen firing above the average ( contributing more than 68.19%), similar to Table 3, which augurs well for the side(captured in Table 5)
Table-5- India’s Top 5 and Top 7 Contribution in recent ODI matches away from Home
|Match Link||Runs Total||Top 5 % Contribution||Top 7 Contribution||% Impact of Number 6 and 7||Opposition||Result|
b) The Importance of numbers 6 and 7
In Zimbabwe, India had hardly depended on numbers 6 and 7 to bail them out of crisis to win matches, except for 1 match, where India beat Zimbabwe in 2005. On occasions, when India has lost ODI’s in Zimbabwe, their numbers 6 and 7 have contributed between 25-50% of the total runs in 5 losses, but not enough to finish well.
In the last 8 ODI’s away from home, as listed in Table-5, India has relied heavily on its top 5 to win them matches, and when India’s top have scored below 70% of the total runs, India have seen their number 6 and 7, contribute substantially, but not enough to make India win. If for some reasons, India find its top order in trouble, India needs a strong number 6 and 7 to help India finish well. This is a specialized position and India will do well to test if Rahane or Rayudu can complement Ravindra Jadeja at this position, in the absence of India’s best finisher-MS Dhoni. It will be interesting to see how infusing inexperienced talent like Rayudu/Rahane in the middle order works, since India’s past attempts in Zimbabwe, had not paid dividends. Youngsters like Samir Dighe, Reetinder Sodhi and JP Yadav have fallen by the wayside, after one flash in the pan performance, while other youngsters like Hemang Badani, Naman Ojha and Venugopala Rao had been miserable failures with the bat, in Zimbabwean conditions.
c) Pace or Spin?
India’s batsmen, have shown no preference for the pacers/seamers or spinners when it comes to forcing the runs with the run rate being constant at 4.90 against either of the types of bowlers, but have demonstrated a capacity to lose more wickets to pace with an average of 35.6 against pace, as against an average of 45.92 facing spin bowling. The upcoming Zimbabwe tour, being a bilateral series, will not have other established sides hurling down a swinging cricket ball at high pace, but will see medium pace bowlers from Zimbabwe in action. The Zimbabwean bowling, though performed well against New Zealand and Bangladesh, would need to maintain their line and length against a strong Indian batting line-up.
d) Indian Bowling
Indian bowlers have performed well in Zimbabwe, largely under the leadership of Saurav Ganguly. A lot of success was attributed to the fact that each time India played under Ganguly, the bowling unit was mature and managed to capture wickets. Whenever India had experimented with in-experienced bowlers on a Zimbabwean tour, India had performed badly, notably the 1997 tour and the 2010 tour. In Zimbabwe, India has heavily relied on pace than spin to bowl oppositions out. Indian Pacers have taken 89 wickets at an average of 28.85, while the spinners have toiled hard for little returns, taking 37 wickets at a rather high average of 44.76.
But one of the encouraging signs that India are seeing is that Spinners have outperformed pacers in their last tour to Zimbabwe in 2010, with 12 wickets to the 6 that the pacers took. The 2010 tour was India’s worst in terms of bowling, as India picked up only 21 wickets out of a possible 40. India’s pace department struggled for rhythm, with their 6 wickets coming at an average of 69 runs.(way above the average of 28.85 that Indian pacers have in Zimbabwe), as opposed to the 46.75 runs a wicket that the spinners conceded. On the 2010 tour, India experimented their bowling with Ashok Dinda, Umesh Yadav, Amit Mishra, Vinay Kumar and Pankaj Singh, all of whom came a cropper, largely due to collective inexperience.
The years 2001 and 2005, were the best tours India have had in Zimbabwe, when the Indian bowlers picked up 39 and 34 wickets out of a possible 50 wickets in 5 matches, while the worst tours were 1997 and 2010, when they did not have a strong leader and had an inexperienced attack. India’s current team will miss the strength and leadership of MS Dhoni, as they deal with an interim captain and an inexperienced bowling attack.
India’s bowling arsenal this year for the Zimbabwe tour is very similar to the 1997 and 2010 tours, with no real leader of the bowling unit. India’s bowling unit sports a whole bunch of inexperienced bowlers in Shami Ahmed, Jaydev Unadkat, Mohit Sharma and Pervez Rasool. The bowling attack will largely rely on the experience that Ravindra Jadeja and Vinay Kumar bring to the table, apart from expecting the new comers to come good.
Table 6 analyses India’s bowling in Zimbabwe by series and by bowler types.
Table 6- Indian Bowling statistics for ODI’s in Zimbabwe by tours
|Matches||Total Wickets||Pacers Wickets||Spinners Wickets||Pacer Avg||Spinner Average||Pace Eco Rate||Spin Eco Rate|
|2010 Tri Series||4||21||6||12||69||46.75||5.93||4.88|
|2005 Tri Series||5||39||28||8||25.21||42.5||5.00||4.86|
|2001 Tri Series||5||34||28||4||26.10||74.75||4.16||4.53|
|1998 Bi Lateral Series||3||22||12||8||32.25||36.25||4.55||5.00|
|1997 Bi Lateral Series||2*||2||1||1||86||37||4.82||4.63|
|1992 Bi Lateral Series||1||10||7||1||20.71||57||4.01||4.38|
*- While 2 matches were scheduled, only match is taken for computation as the second ODI in that series in 1997 was washed out without a ball being bowled.
Based on the current form, will India’s swagger help in mowing down Zimbabwe, or will India’s inexperience lynch them at their familiar Achilles heel? Many questions show up, as India prepare for their future, in the hope that they brush aside history.