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Second innings stars
The Rediff Team |
January 23, 2003
One reason why everyone's waiting for February 8 is that on that day, the World Cup officially begins in South Africa. Another good reason is that on that day, all the theorizing and analysis ends -- and it all boils down to who does what, with bat and with ball.
So who will do what? Specially, who are the players who, with bat and ball, can be expected to make an impact at the Cup? What follows, is the first in a series of analytical pieces that breaks the participating teams down into their component parts.
Though South African conditions are expected to provide a more even contest between bat and ball than has been seen in, say, the sub-continent, it is still the bat that will dominate. That raises the question of which batsmen the Cup will anoint as the superstars.
For convenience, we break the game down into those batsmen who are at their best in setting a platform, and those who are at their best when hunting a target down. Take the latter first: the batsmen who shine batting second, facing the pressures of the chase.
The table provides statistical details pertaining to the top 20 batsmen in that category, from the end of the last World Cup to the start of this one -- the second innings stunners, if you will. The criterion selected is that the batsmen should have played over 20 matches batting second.
First up, you notice that three names will not figure in the upcoming Cup -- Steve Waugh, Roger Twose, and Neil McKenzie (the Soutth African, interestingly, lost his place in the team to Boeta Dippenaar, the number three player on this list).
Indian fans will note that the usual suspects -- Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly -- are pretty far down the list, at number 18 and 20 respectively. Intriguingly, it is Virender Sehwag who is way ahead of them, at number 11, just ahead of Australian skipper Ricky Ponting.
From the point of view of team balance, South Africa looks well served with four players in the list; Australia has three (four, actually, but Waugh is not part of the WC side), India has three, and the rest are scattered around among the other participating nations.
There are surprises -- most notably, the fact that it is not Sanath Jayasuriya, who represents the Sri Lankans; rather it is Russell Arnold, up as high as number 6, and Marvan Atapattu, at number 10, weighing in for the former world champions.
What, though, of current form? If you apply the same criteria but only look at the period of the last 12 months, starting January 1, 2002, the list changes quite dramatically. Mathew Hayden retains his place at the top of the order, but Bevan drops two places to number four; Dippenaar drops even lower, to number 8, Lance Klusener is down to number 10 just ahead of his upwardly mobile compatriot Herschelle Gibbs, who makes it into the top 20, at number 11; Nick Knight has dropped out of the list altogether as has Gary Kirsten (and Steve Waugh) -- in fact, the last year has seen a noticeable erosion of form in almost all the stars.
While on the subject, Ganguly, despite a bad end to the year, has actually moved up to number 15 while Tendulkar remains static on 18.
Indian fans will look at the upward mobility of Sehwag, up to number 5; Yuvraj Singh, who storms into the list at number 6, and Rahul Dravid, who has had one of his greatest ODI seasons, to enter the list at number 9 (If you were to extend this list to the top 25, you'll find Mohammad Kaif in, at number 23, just ahead of Adam Gilchrist, at number 24, with Jayasuriya at 21 and Jonty Rhodes at 22, ahead of him).
Team-wise, again, it is South Africa that appears best served with second innings stars -- Kallis and Dippenaar at 7 and 8, Klusener and Gibbs at 10 and 11. Australia, like the Proteas, have four entries, but two of their players are lower placed than the SA stars.
India's presence in the top 20, however, is the most remarkable -- as many as five players make the list, with Kaif, as pointed out, coming in at number 23.
Keep an eye, though, on the two most upwardly mobile of the players -- Andy Flower, in at number two, thanks largely to great runs against India and Pakistan; and Chris Gayle, up at number three -- again, largely at the expense of India.
These tables do not purport to provide a key to the World Cup -- they merely tell one part of the story, which, when taken as part of a larger mosaic over the next few days, will, hopefully, provide the readers with a form guide to the Cup.From June 1, 1999
From January 1, 2002