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Measuring the magic – a statistical retrospective of VVS Laxman

Measuring the magic - a statistical retrospective of VVS Laxman

The two popular claims to fame of VVS Laxman are his record against Australia and his ability to win matches © Getty Images

One cannot measure VVS Laxman’s genius with numbers. Yet, figures do matter. Arunabha Sengupta provides a comprehensive analysis of his career, his record against the best teams, his match-winning abilities and where he stands against his contemporaries and all-time greats.

 

 

To accurately measure the raptures of delight which VVS Laxman’s magical batting generated, one perhaps needs medical apparatus. The racing pulse, breathless emotion, the glad throbbing of the heart and the upswing of ecstatic mood – without taking these into account, analysis of an artist of his ability remains incomplete.

 

Yet, cricket is a game where numbers do matter. And in these result-oriented times, sublime epics have scant value unless they reflect in the bottom line.

 

So here is an attempt to measure the magic in prosaic figures, stripping away the robe and wand and placing the enchanter on the scales meant for all – from the mundane to the lofty.

 

Numbers do have their merits – and a detailed look often produces surprises, counter-intuitive and eye opening inferences. Let us see how Laxman’s career withstands a rigorous analysis.

 

 

Counting the conjurer

 

 

So, how did Laxman fare?

 

His figures are impressive: 8,781 runs in 134 matches, at an average of 45.97 with 17 hundreds. Only a handful of Indian batsmen boast better figures after this long a career.  

 

From this study carried out earlier, we find him to be right there in a very elite bracket, finishing seventh in the all-time list of Indian batsmen – after Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sunil Gavaskar, Mohammad Azharuddin, Virender Sehwag and Mohinder Amarnath. His record has been better than 70% of the batsmen who have played alongside him during exactly the same period.  

 

 

Around the world

 

 

If we look at his career, we find that he has played his best cricket at home, his figures in Australia slightly tarnished because of the dismal final tour.

 

He has made decent runs in most of the pitches around the world wherever he has had the opportunity to bat for long. The sole exception is England. Laxman used the depth of the crease to go back and get that extra fraction of a second which had stood him in excellent stead against pace bowlers, but it did backfire in England where this same technique had him succumbing to the swinging delivery too often.

 

 

VVS Laxman Around the world

 

  

 

Matches

 

Runs

 

Average

 

100s

 

50s

 

in India

57

3767

51.60

8

24

in Australia

15

1236

44.14

4

4

in Bangladesh

3

117

39.00

0

1

in England

11

586

34.47

0

5

in New Zealand

5

322

40.25

1

2

in Pakistan

6

262

37.42

0

2

in South Africa

10

566

40.42

0

4

in Sri Lanka

7

530

48.18

1

4

in West Indies

16

1146

47.75

2

10

in Zimbabwe

4

249

41.50

1

0

 

Home

57

3767

51.60

8

24

Away

77

5014

42.49

9

32

 

 

The two popular claims to fame of VVS Laxman are his record against Australia and his ability to win matches.

 

Let us now turn our attention to these.

 

 

Against the best in business

 

 

Against Australia, he ranks 4th among Indian batsmen of all time, standing atop a compilation of several masterpieces.

 

 

Top 10

Indians

against Aus

 

Minimum qualification  500 runs

 

Matches

 

Runs

 

Average

 

100s

 

50s

 

SR Tendulkar

35

3438

57.30

11

15

GR Viswanath

18

1538

53.03

4

9

SM Gavaskar

20

1550

51.66

8

4

VVS Laxman

29

2434

49.67

6

12

M Amarnath

13

773

45.47

2

4

V Sehwag

20

1711

43.87

3

9

MAK Pataudi

11

829

43.63

1

8

R Dravid

32

2143

39.68

2

13

M Azharuddin

15

780

39.00

2

3

DB Vengsarkar

24

1304

38.35

2

7

 

 

In the lion’s den, Laxman boasts exemplary figures in spite of his poor final series. Only six Indian batsmen who have scored more than 500 runs in Australia have done so at an average greater than 40

 

 

In Australia

 

Matches

 

Runs

 

Average

 

100s

 

50s

 

M Amarnath

8

668

55.66

2

3

SR Tendulkar

20

1809

53.20

6

7

SM Gavaskar

11

920

51.11

5

1

V Sehwag

10

948

47.40

2

4

VVS Laxman

15

1236

44.14

4

4

R Dravid

15

1143

43.96

1

6

 

 

In this regard, Laxman’s dominance over the number one side of his generation is worth a closer look.

 

It is heartening to see Indian batsmen taking the top two ranks against world dominating sides of two different eras. Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath against the West Indians of 1976-94 and Tendulkar and Laxman against the Australians of 1995-2009.

 

The younger men deserve more credit since the records of Gavaskar and Viswanath are diluted by the six Tests during the Packer era.

 

 

Against WI of 1976-1994

 

 

Top 10 against the best

 

Matches

 

Runs

 

Ave

 

100s

 

50s

 

GR Viswanath (India)

10

752

57.84

3

3

SM Gavaskar (India)

21

1867

56.57

9

3

ME Waugh (Aus)

14

947

45.09

3

5

GA Gooch (Eng)

26

2197

44.83

5

13

RA Smith (Eng)

15

1028

44.69

3

6

SR Waugh (Aus)

16

1020

44.34

2

6

DB Vengsarkar (India)

25

1596

44.33

6

7

AJ Stewart (Eng)

10

716

42.11

2

2

DC Boon (Aus)

22

1437

39.91

3

8

AR Border (Aus)

31

2052

39.46

3

14

 

 

Against Aus 1995-2009 

 

 

Top Ten against the best

 

Matches

 

Runs

 

Ave

 

100s

 

50s

 

SR Tendulkar (India)

24

2380

58.04

8

11

VVS Laxman (India)

24

2204

55.10

6

10

KP Pietersen (Eng)

10

963

53.50

2

6

V Sehwag (ICC/India)

15

1483

51.13

3

7

BC Lara (ICC/WI)

22

2082

50.78

8

5

S Chanderpaul (WI)

15

1210

48.40

4

7

MP Vaughan (Eng)

10

959

47.95

4

1

AB de Villiers (SA)

12

879

43.95

3

6

MR Ramprakash (Eng)

10

749

41.61

1

4

R Dravid (ICC/India)

27

1860

41.33

2

11

 

 

If we take the other country considered to be the most challenging to tour, South Africa, Laxman does not return with flattering figures. But, he is one of the only two Indians to have an average of over 40 against the Proteans in their lair. 

 

 

In South Africa

 

 

Indians averaging

more than 40

 

Matches

 

 

Runs

 

 

Ave

 

 

100s

 

 

50s

 

 

SR Tendulkar

15

1161

46.44

5

3

VVS Laxman

10

556

40.42

0

4

 

 

As a match-winner

 

 

The match-winning records always have a habit of ending up as counter-intuitive. As in almost all the tables above, Sachin Tendulkar leads here as well, in spite of the numerically challenged and metronomically moronic criticism about his abilities in this regard. But, VVS Laxman also ends up right there at the top.

 

In a more robust statistical test (Mann-Whitney technique), Laxman comes behind Tendulkar and Dravid in the analysis carried out to test relative match winning records.

 

 

Best Indian batsmen in

Won Matches

 

Matches

 

Runs

 

Ave

 

100s

 

50s

 

SR Tendulkar

63

5594

66.59

20

22

R Dravid

56

5131

65.78

15

23

V Sehwag

37

3201

57.16

7

16

VVS Laxman

47

3410

55.90

7

23

M Azharuddin

22

1609

55.48

5

4

GR Viswanath

20

1637

49.60

4

8

G Gambhir

21

1557

48.65

4

9

DB Vengsarkar

18

1187

47.48

4

4

MS Dhoni

26

1453

46.87

3

10

SC Ganguly

37

2284

46.61

4

14

 

However, where Laxman really clinches the top spot is in is his ability to finish matches. In the 4th innings of won matches, he has an amazing average of over a hundred. However, it may come as a surprise that even in this category, the man immediately behind him is Tendulkar.

 

 

4th innings of

matches won

(Min: 300+ runs)

 

Matches

 

Runs

 

Ave

 

100s

 

50s

 

VVS Laxman

16

402

100.50

1

3

SR Tendulkar

23

653

72.55

1

4

R Dravid

24

511

56.77

0

3

V Sehwag

14

364

40.44

0

3

 

Measuring the magic - a statistical retrospective of VVS Laxman

VVS Laxman sculpts his figures and curves a noble niche for himself in the history of the game wielding the willow like a refined chisel of the virtuoso master © Getty Images

 

One of the best lower middle-order batsmen of all time

 

Finally, VVS Laxman does end up in a very elite group. He finishes in the top bracket of batsmen in the lower middle order positions of No 5 and No 6. Considering all the innings played in these positions, he stands at No 15 in the all time list. Among Indians in this group he is second, and again Tendulkar somehow creeps in ahead of him.

 

 

All time top 20 batsmen at No 5 & No. 6

 

Mat

 

Inn

 

Runs

 

Ave

 

100s

 

50s

 

CL Walcott (WI)

29

38

2033

61.60

8

9

S Chanderpaul (WI)

101

168

7912

57.33

21

46

MJ Clarke (Aus)

68

106

5422

57.07

19

19

AB de Villiers (SA)

57

82

3937

56.24

10

20

GS Sobers (WI)

63

94

4509

55.66

15

19

A Flower (Zim)

58

96

4372

 

 

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