Vantage point

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Sachin's Weakness?

In 1998, when Sachin knocked out Mark Taylor's Australia, the world hailed him as the best batsman after Bradman. Bowlers universally agreed that the man had no weakness at all, as opposed to Lara who was a flawed genius. This meant that bowlers could not scheme and get Sachin out. They could just hope he made mistakes, like the uppish cut that got him caught at point.

Which is why an article by Steve Waugh last year, i.e in 2003, caught my attention. He said the only weakness he had recently detected in Sachin, was the inseaming delivery that could bowl him through the gate, or trap him in front.

After the dismissals in the Lahore test, I decided to dig up some stats to see if this could be backed up. And sure enough, here is what I found.

I decided to start at the zenith of Tendulkar's batting form, i.e, when he looked like he would easily cross the average of 60 in test cricket. Before the 2001-2002 Kotla test against Zimbabwe, his average was at an all time high of 58.88. After that, it slipped to 55.33 before the Sydney test earlier this year, but has climbed back above 58 due to his 241* and 194*.

Since the Kotla test, he has been dismissed 39 times. Out of these, 9 are bowled and 13 are LBWs. What this means is that 22 out of 39, i.e a staggering 56.4% of his dismissals have been caused by bowlers attacking the stumps. In light of the Bucknors of the world, let us assume that a third of his LBWs were wrongly. Even then, almost half of his dismissals have been caused that way. And even if the dismissals were wrong, it means basically he didnt get a substantial amount of bat on them.

I have observed that Sachin is usually bowled when he is playing forward. And he is LBW when he is playing back. Most of these 22 dismissals have been off deliveries landing on the seam and coming in to him, or they have been in-swingers.

Even the two dismissals in the Lahore test have been off inseaming deliveries.

I tried to jog my memory back and remember the earliest I had seen him get out LBW this way. My mind took me back to the 1998-99 tour of New Zealand, the one where Simon Doull destroyed us in the first test, and some resolute lower order batting robbed us of a then much awaited overseas test win at Seddon Park. Tendulkar had scored a half century and was given out LBW, when he was rapped on the pads, playing back, to a delivery too high to hit the stumps. And as I study the stats, I come across a startling piece of information.

That LBW in Seddon Park, was the first time Sachin was LBW in almost 5 years!!! I counted, and found out that he has gone 50 innings without a single LBW, since 1994-95.

So what has exactly changed? Is Sachin's age having this effect, when he can't pick the length and seam position quickly enough because of slower reflexes? Or is he playing back too much?

Whatever it is, I am sure the champ will sort it out soon.