The first thing that comes to mind when we talk of cricketers like Ricky Ponting, Sanath Jayasuriya, Sachin Tendulkar, Vivian Richards, etc. is about them being amongst the greatest to have played this game. There’s something else too which is common. Let’s have a look at this interesting statistics:
Even though average is an archaic measure given that it violates some of the basic mathematical norms, it can still be considered as a good metric to judge when a longer time frame is taken into account.
What the above figures depict is the dramatic fall that their records have had over the last few years of their career. While one could always argue that it is but natural that a player may not be at the prime of his game, but does the argument justify the fact that their averages have gone down by more than 15-18%? The fact that these names have had such a huge impact on us is probably one of the reasons we have not really delved into these details.
One is tempted not to believe that this is the general trend. My observation is, as far as batting is concerned, that the counter-examples are far and few for e.g. Mark Waugh. Why I say this is because there are examples galore to prove it otherwise as far as bowling is concerned. Let’s see the figures of some of the greats on the bowling side:
Their averages still hover around the same mark as during their entire career. This, to me, is a conundrum for I have delved deep into this but haven’t found any robust logic as to why this would happen differently for these two facets of the game
However, the bigger question that lurks is: Did these gentlemen have an inkling if their time was up or was it their love for the game that over-powered it?
Well, there are multifold arguments one could put as to why they would continue in a phase which is way below their best:
- A cricketer might face multiple bad phases throughout the career and hence would consider start of such a period as one phase
- The best alternative replacement for the player wouldn’t be good enough to cause any such worries
- The cricketer would have earned the right to decide so
The first reason posts a serious issue of how to distinguish between “a bad phase” and “I did my time”. However, given the time frame considered in the statistics (3-4 years), I think it would be only fair to consider that a bad phase cannot possibly last for such length and hence after a year, the correct decision could have been made.
The second reason accompanies questions like, “How would we replace such a player”? This arises due to the innate tendencies of comparing with the players’ past records which is a fallacy as the current track record has substantially deviated from the same.
The third reason emphasizes the fact that the selectors get redundant when we consider the above mentioned cohort of players. This should ideally never be the case for the objective is to put your best eleven on the field which definitely the player doesn’t decide.
On the basis of these arguments, let’s move to the curious case of Jacques Kallis:
The batting average has reduced by more than 30% over this time period. With the 2015 world cup in mind, South Africa’s (SA) team has a key decision to take in hand. He is supposed to play the major role i.e. batting at position 3. However, the data suggests otherwise and the recent performances against India and Sri Lanka only corroborate this fact. It seems like he is still going to get a few chances. That would mean players like Faf du Plessis sitting out. As quoted by Jacques himself, “I don’t see it as goodbye because I still have a lot of hunger to push South Africa to that World Cup in 2015 if I am fit and performing”. The performance part has definitely been a big let-down. While it is evident that he would want to have one last shot at the trophy, I am not sure if that is the best way going forward to achieve the title that has been eluding SA for long now. In fact, the idea of him wanting to add a world cup win to his illustrious CV is too individualistic. Rather, whatever it takes to enrich SA’s cricket CV needs to be done and in this light, the selectors need to take a bold decision now before realizing that they have committed suicide which is worse than choking which they are used to!
This is a guest post by Gautam Anchalia, an avid cricket fan who has played in University Tournaments of Cricket Association of Bengal. Currently, a student @ IIM Ahmedabad