There is a popular perception that batsmen of the subcontinent – particularly Indians – are tigers only at home, while the ones belonging to the champion teams perform consistently around the world. Arunabha Sengupta looks at the numbers to find that in modern cricket the truth is drastically different.
Cricket is riddled with popular perceptions – and many of the fallacies that do rounds in the fan-world take the form of gospel across boundaries.
One very common trait is to rampantly bestow the sobriquet “flat-track bully” on batsmen from the subcontinent, primarily the Indians. There is an overwhelming tendency to look for collapses abroad, to act as confirmation bias for the “Tigers at Home” tag. The other side of this prevalent belief is that batsmen of champion teams score runs all over the world with impeccable consistency.
However, as so often happens, if we evade the pitfalls of popular belief and take an unbiased look at the figures, the results emerge as shockingly counter-intuitive.
Some of the Australian batsmen seem poor travellers as well
When we consider the modern batsmen – who have donned the national colours and plied their trade at home and abroad in this millennia – it is not surprising to find Mahela Jayawardene as the one whose performance undergoes the most pronounced dip when the action shifts overseas. This Sri Lankan stalwart has an impeccable average of 61.12 at home which plummets to 37.35 abroad, resulting in a difference of 39%.
However, when we look down the table of modern men with over 5000 runs (the second table at the end of the article), it is revealing that the next three positions are taken up by Australians. Michael Clarke, Michael Slater and Michael Hussey turn out to be poor travellers, each with more than 30% decline in their numbers when faced with the vagaries of foreign conditions. And after the trio with the same first name, Matthew Hayden is ninth on the list of nose-dives away from home.
At number seven, Marcus Trescocthick’s figures perhaps underline the well-known psychological afflictions he had to suffer while touring abroad.
The first Indian on the list is predictably Virender Sehwag, who comes in at number 13 with 20% decline of average. But the names that follow close behind him are seldom uttered in the same deprecating breath as far as fluctuation of fortunes in foreign shores is concerned. Kevin Pietersen is at number 16 with a 19% dip, Ricky Ponting one place below him, his august average also affected similarly. Brian Lara’s figures take a hit by 18%, Justin Langer’s by 15%.
The second Indian on the list is VVS Laxman with 18% drop. This is also surprising since we have always marked him as one of the better performers abroad.
Often what we remember emerges on top of plenty of submerged performances that are lost in the recesses of memory –and hence the tables given below may be quite unbelievable.
The two great Indian batsmen of the era, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, actually improve their figures abroad very slightly.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Proteans seem to enjoy batting away more than they do at home. Graeme Smith’s average climbs by 22% when Tests are played in foreign lands, Hashim Amla improves his figures by 32%, while AB de Villiers hikes it up by a mammoth 41%.
It seems that among the great Australians, only Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist relished batting on foreign soil.
If we extend the list to cover batsmen of all eras – keeping the 5000 run cut off – Dilip Vengsarkar tops the list with his incredible home average of 55.59 slipping to 32.73 abroad, marking a drop of a whopping 41%.
Finishing as close second with a 40% dip is the opening batsman of the champion team of that era, Desmond Haynes. Of the modern men, Jayawardene, Clarke, Hussey and Slater do enter among the all-time list of greatest declines away from home. A couple of revered names like Denis Compton and Doug Walters also surprisingly make their way into the top ten.
Batsmen worst affected by foreign tours (minimum qualification 5000 runs)
|No||Batsman||T||Runs||Ave||Runs at Home||Ave at Home||Runs Away||Away Ave||Dip abroad|
|1||DB Vengsarkar (India)||116||6868||42.13||3725||55.59||3143||32.73||41%|
|2||DL Haynes (WI)||116||7487||42.29||3868||56.05||3619||33.5||40%|
|3||DPMD Jayawardene (SL)||138||10806||49.56||6846||61.12||3960||37.35||39%|
|4||DCS Compton (Eng)||78||5807||50.06||3963||60.04||1844||36.88||39%|
|5||MJ Clarke (Aus)||89||6989||52.54||4156||64.93||2833||41.05||37%|
|6||Zaheer Abbas (Pak)||78||5062||44.79||2444||58.19||2618||36.87||37%|
|7||M Azharuddin (India)||99||6215||45.03||3412||55.93||2803||36.4||35%|
|8||MJ Slater (Aus)||74||5312||42.83||2842||52.62||2470||35.28||33%|
|9||MEK Hussey (Aus)||79||6235||51.52||3794||61.19||2441||41.37||32%|
|10||KD Walters (Aus)||74||5357||48.26||3065||57.83||2292||39.51||32%|
Modern day batsmen with 5000 plus runs – in the order of their dipping averages abroad
|Runs Away||Away Ave||Dip abroad|
|1||DPMD Jayawardene (SL)||138||10806||49.56||6846||61.12||3960||37.35||39%|
|2||MJ Clarke (Aus)||89||6989||52.54||4156||64.93||2833||41.05||37%|
|3||MJ Slater (Aus)||74||5312||42.83||2842||52.62||2470||35.28||33%|
|4||MEK Hussey (Aus)||79||6235||51.52||3794||61.19||2441||41.37||32%|
|5||PA de Silva (SL)||93||6361||42.97||3290||52.22||3071||36.12||31%|
|6||Mohammad Yousuf (Pak)||90||7530||52.29||3067||65.25||4463||46.01||29%|
|7||ME Trescothick (Eng)||76||5825||43.79||3472||51.05||2353||36.20||29%|
|8||IR Bell (Eng)||83||5699||46.71||3123||54.78||2576||39.63||28%|
|9||ML Hayden (Aus)||103||8625||50.73||5210||57.88||3415||42.68||26%|
|10||RR Sarwan (WI)||87||5842||40.01||3494||45.37||2348||34.02||25%|
|11||S Chanderpaul (WI)||146||10696||51.67||5496||58.46||5200||46.01||21%|
|12||MP Vaughan (Eng)||82||5719||41.44||3271||46.07||2448||36.53||21%|
|13||V Sehwag (India)||102||8559||50.05||4629||55.80||3930||44.65||20%|
|14||MV Boucher (SA)||147||5515||30.3||3001||33.70||2514||27.03||20%|
|15||TT Samaraweera (SL)||81||5462||48.76||3123||53.84||2339||43.31||20%|
|16||KP Pietersen (Eng)||92||7414||49.42||4149||54.59||3265||44.12||19%|
|17||RT Ponting (Aus)||168||13378||51.85||7578||56.97||5800||46.40||19%|
|18||BC Lara (WI)||131||11953||52.88||6217||58.65||5736||47.80||18%|
|19||KC Sangakkara (SL)||115||10045||55.8||5697||61.25||4348||49.97||18%|
|20||ST Jayasuriya (SL)||110||6973||40.07||4114||43.76||2859||35.73||18%|
|21||VVS Laxman (India)||134||8781||45.97||3767||51.60||5014||42.49||18%|
|22||Younis Khan (Pak)||79||6565||51.69||1898||59.32||4667||49.12||17%|
|23||JL Langer (Aus)||105||7696||45.27||4428||48.65||3268||41.36||15%|
|25||MA Atherton (Eng)||115||7728||37.69||4716||38.97||3012||35.85||8%|
|26||CL Hooper (WI)||102||5762||36.46||2555||38.13||3207||35.24||8%|
|27||TM Dilshan (SL)||85||5255||40.42||2688||42.00||2567||38.89||7%|
|28||AJ Stewart (Eng)||133||8463||39.54||4650||40.78||3813||38.13||6%|
|29||ME Waugh (Aus)||128||8029||41.81||4019||43.21||4010||40.5||6%|
|30||JH Kallis (SA)||159||13040||56.94||6798||58.60||6242||55.23||6%|
|31||N Hussain (Eng)||96||5764||37.18||2833||38.28||2931||36.18||5%|
|32||SC Ganguly (India)||113||7212||42.17||3180||42.97||4032||41.56||3%|
|33||GP Thorpe (Eng)||100||6744||44.66||3343||45.17||3401||44.16||2%|
|34||MS Atapattu (SL)||90||5502||39.02||2671||38.71||2831||39.31||-2%|
|35||SR Tendulkar (India)||194||15645||54.32||6940||53.79||8705||54.74||-2%|
|36||HH Gibbs (SA)||90||6167||41.95||3055||41.28||3112||42.63||-3%|
|37||R Dravid (India)||164||13288||52.31||5598||51.35||7690||53.03||-3%|
|38||AJ Strauss (Eng)||100||7037||40.91||4045||39.65||2992||42.74||-8%|
|39||AC Gilchrist (Aus)||96||5570||47.60||2936||45.87||2634||49.69||-8%|
|40||CH Gayle (WI)||95||6691||42.08||3011||39.61||3680||44.33||-12%|
|41||G Kirsten (SA)||101||7289||45.27||3384||42.30||3905||48.20||-14%|
|42||SR Waugh (Aus)||168||10927||51.06||5710||47.58||5217||55.50||-17%|
|43||AN Cook (Eng)||87||7117||49.42||3408||44.84||3709||54.54||-22%|
|44||GC Smith (SA)||106||8570||49.25||3572||44.09||4998||53.74||-22%|
|45||HM Amla (SA)||66||5389||50.83||2322||43.81||3067||57.86||-32%|
|46||SP Fleming (NZ)||111||7172||40.06||2947||33.87||4225||45.92||-36%|
|47||AB de Villiers (SA)||81||5961||49.26||2643||41.29||3318||58.21||-41%|
While looking at the figures, please remember that the last column is an indication of home-versus-away performance. The ‘Dip Abroad’ column is not an indicator of how great or ordinary a batsman was. To get an indication, the figure has to be considered in conjunction with the home and away averages.
It will also be prudent to remember that any player has to appear in approximately half the Tests on home soil, so a poor home record is as undesirable as a dip of average abroad.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix