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Numbers prove why VVS Laxman was master at shepherding the tail

Numbers prove why VVS Laxman was master at shepherding the tail

VVS Laxman (R) and Ishant Sharma during their match winning partnership against Australia at Mohali in 2010 © AFP

VVS Laxman was known to be a batsman who excelled in shepherding the tail and making it wag. Arunabha Sengupta puts his record with the lower order under statistical focus.

 

 

Immediately after the magician of Indian cricket bowed out of the international stage, cricketcountry.com carried out a statistical retrospective of his career.

 

And eventually, the art of VVS Laxman’s batting did withstand close scrutiny of science, and he emerged from the numerical drill without losing any colour from the masterpieces painted along the way.

 

In this article we take a detailed look at another facet of his career that has shone through as spectacular. In our memory, he rests as someone who has batted with the tail umpteen times, holding it together, making it wag, and gently guiding it onward. Let us see how this is reflected in figures.

 

When we put this perception under statistical focus, the difference between him and the other middle order batsmen of India of recent times do seem significant.

 

# To do this analysis, we have taken into account all the times the five middle-order batsmen in the comparison have batted with numbers 9, 10 and 11 in the line-up.

 

# We have kept Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag out of this comparison, because it is a bit unreasonable to expect opening batsmen to bat regularly with the tail.

 

# Only one partnership in this regard has been ignored – between Rahul Dravid and Gautam Gambhir at The Oval in 2011. Though Gambhir did come in at No 9 in the first innings, he obviously cannot be considered a tailender.

 

The statistics are revealing. We find that Laxman had as many as 71 partnerships with the tailenders – way ahead of the others. That makes it one partnership with a tailender in every 3.17 times he batted. Only MS Dhoni – perhaps because he comes in lower in the order – has a more frequent rate of one every 2.74 innings.

 

For the rest it is less than one occasion of batting with a tail-ender in every 5.5 innings.

 

Laxman’s stands with the tail also yielded significantly more runs than the rest. He collaborated in as many as 10 half-century partnerships – including three with Anil Kumble and two apiece with Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma. The highest partnership he had with a tailender was the pivotal 81-run association with Ishant Sharma against Australia at Mohali, 2010.

 

Batting

with

Nos. 9/10/11

 

Nos. of

P’ships

 

Unbeaten P’ships

 

Partnership

 Total

 

Highest

P’ship

 

Average

P’Ship

 

100

P’ships

 

50

P’ships

 

VVS Laxman

71

5

1369

81

20.74

0

10

R Dravid

49

1

1077

144

22.44

2

5

SR Tendulkar

41

1

947

133

23.68

2

1

MS Dhoni

39

3

758

84

21.06

0

5

SC Ganguly

34

0

664

100

19.53

1

4

 

Among others, Sachin Tendulkar ends up with the highest average partnership score with numbers 9, 10 and 11, helped along by century stands with Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh.

 

Rahul Dravid did surprisingly well for a regular No 3. Somewhat strangely, the most fruitful partnerships he enjoyed were with his Bangalore teammates, Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad – a 144 run stand with the former being the highest.

 

Every batting position brings with it unique challenges. Facing the opening bowlers at zero for one or 11 for two is perhaps as demanding as being stranded with a rabbit at 177 for eight. And for the greater opportunity of a hundred at the top of the order, one does enjoy the higher probability of unbeaten innings while batting lower down.

 

It is a question of making the best use of the situation. VVS Laxman, spurred on by his immense creative imagination while accompanying lesser men, frequently managed to excel in the final stages.

 

(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)

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