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Shocking Results – The most difficult batsmen to dismiss once set

Shocking Results – The most difficult batsmen to dismiss once set
Sir Don Bradman (left) was most difficult to dismiss once he got past 30. On the other hand, Sachin Tendulkar was the most difficult Indian batsman to dismiss © Getty Images

We often hear commentators branding batsmen as ‘difficult to dismiss once set’. However, can we really validate this claim for different batsmen? Arunabha Sengupta looks at the numbers and comes up with rather surprising results.

“He is a very difficult batsman to dismiss once set.”

This is indeed a cricket commentator’s cliché, uttered often enough to rival such stalwart phrases as “when he hits them they stay hit” and “this will go right down to the wire.”

However, are we really aware which batsmen are indeed the most difficult to dismiss once set?

Of course, watching cricket continuously, commentators and fans develop reasonable ideas about the adhesive qualities of certain cricketers. Adherents may close their eyes and think about some batsmen who seem to be well-nigh impossible to dislodge once past the initial flutters. One by one the names may float by – Hashim Amla and Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the modern generation, Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis among the recently retired, perhaps Steve Waugh. Once we go further back in time we recall the hallowed names of Sunil Gavaskar, Geoffrey Boycott and Ken Barrington. Some might vouch for Brian Lara, remembering his huge scores of 400 and 375.

Well, in reality, just like our past analyses about best men against West Indian pace, Sachin Tendulkar centuries resulting in defeats and so on, here too our perceptions can play nasty tricks on us.

Observing the numbers which specifically deal with“batsmen difficult to dismiss when set” we come across some rather counter-intuitive names.

How many would have wagered that Ashwell Prince would be in the all-time top ten of this category?

Some of us who went through the agony of watching Jimmy Adams pad his way through the 1994-95 tour of India may not be surprised by his presence in the top grade. However his position just below Sir Donald Bradman may come as a major surprise to say the least.

And finally, could any commentator of the world have predicted that Ridley Jacobs would be very much among the leaders of a list drawn across the history of the game? Or that Adam Gilchrist would be ahead of both Rahul Dravid and Sunil Gavaskar?

To carry out the analysis, we have done the following:

Taken all batsmen who have passed the score of 30 in at least 25 innings in their careers. Once a batsman has reached 30, we can say with reasonable amount of confidence that he is set.And 25 indicates a significant sample size.

The next step is to look at how these batsmen have fared in those innings in which they crossed 30 – precisely to find out how difficult they were to dislodge once they got set.

When we look at the table, we find without surprise that it is headed by none other than Don Bradman. The legend averaged 156.25 in the 53 innings he crossed 30, reaching a century on 29 occasions along with 13 other fifties.

However, immediately after him is Jimmy Adams, scoring at a whopping 131.00 runs in each of the 31 innings in which he crossed 30.

The severely underrated England opening batsman Dennis Amiss is next on the list with as many as 3027 runs and 11 hundreds in the 31 innings he got set. This may astonish some, but not ones who have followed his career closely.

Steve Waugh is definitely not a surprise, and he had a fantastic conversion rate whenever he went past 30. But, the next two names are bound to raise eyebrows. They are Dean Jones and Ashwell Prince. And finally Ridley Jacobs manages to squeeze in at number ten.

We should add that both Adams and Jacobs have an incredible number of not outs – amounting to over 41% of the 30-plus innings in each case. But then, remaining not out is an integral part of being difficult to dismiss, and both these stalwarts did have a good proportion of 50-plus knocks.

Most difficult to dismiss once set – a look at the record of batsmen in innings they scored over 30

Batsman # Inn with 30+ score Runs Ave 100s 50s
DG Bradman (Aus) 53 6719 156.3 29 13
JC Adams (WI) 31 2358 131 6 14
DL Amiss (Eng) 31 3027 112.1 11 11
SR Waugh (Aus) 118 9391 110.5 32 50
DM Jones (Aus) 37 3032 108.3 11 14
AG Prince (SA) 38 2905 107.6 11 11
FMM Worrell (WI) 39 3325 107.3 9 22
GS Sobers (WI) 83 7038 106.6 26 30
MJ Clarke (Aus) 75 6785 106 26 27
RD Jacobs (WI) 29 1793 105.5 3 14
JH Kallis (ICC/SA) 146 11791 103.4 45 58
WR Hammond (Eng) 73 6304 103.3 22 24
S Chanderpaul (WI) 137 9894 102 29 62
A Flower (Zim) 55 4164 101.6 12 27
HP Tillakaratne (SL) 52 3681 99.48 11 20
KWR Fletcher (Eng) 36 2677 99.14 7 19
AC Gilchrist (Aus) 65 4927 98.54 17 26
KC Sangakkara (SL) 112 10051 98.53 35 45
MS Atapattu (SL) 50 4399 97.75 16 17
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) 77 6600 97.05 24 33
SR Tendulkar (India) 170 14234 96.82 51 68
HM Amla (SA) 65 5320 96.72 20 27
RT Ponting (Aus) 142 11776 96.52 41 62
AR Border (Aus) 136 9714 96.17 27 63
IR Bell (Eng) 75 5768 96.13 20 39
L Hutton (Eng) 76 6217 95.64 19 33
KF Barrington (Eng) 76 6211 95.55 20 35
Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak) 99 7734 95.48 25 46

In the above table we have included batsmen who have averaged over 95 in the innings they have got set. Quite a few names in the list are surprising.

While Marvan Atapattu’s penchant for playing some huge innings alongside many very short ones can throw light on his being ahead of Sachin Tendulkar, Gilchrist ending ahead of Allan Border, Hashim Amla and Ken Barrington can startle many. Similarly stunning may be the presence of underrated stalwarts like Hashan Tillakratne and Keith Fletcher.

Also of interest may be the comparison between the two greatest all-rounders of all time. While Sobers is mostly considered to have been slightly more versatile, Kallis was more of a limpet at the crease. However, the analysis shows that once set, Sobers was actually prone to score marginally more than the South African.

Names such as Sunil Gavaskar (94.77), Greg Chappell (93.32), JavedMiandad (93.01), Brian Lara (92.39) do not get into the 95 + category, but end up close.

Another surprising result is perhaps the languid elegance of VVS Laxman (92.85) finishing ahead of the celebrated impregnability of Rahul Dravid (91.24).  And Sachin Tendulkar proves to be the most difficult Indian batsman to dismiss once set – a result surprising for many media-driven perceptions but quite predictable for the analysts.

Some other names that are synonymous with the sticky quality are Geoff Boycott(87.59) and  Bill Lawry (89.34). Both end up lower than expected on the list, reminding us once again that perception can be misleading, and there can seldom any substitute for scoring runs while occupying the crease.

The table below looks at the top 10 Indian batsmen in this category.

Most difficult to dismiss once set – the Indian top 10

Batsman # Inn with 30+ scores Runs Ave 100s 50s
SR Tendulkar 170 14234 96.82 51 68
SM Gavaskar 106 9004 94.77 34 45
VVS Laxman 105 7428 92.85 17 56
R Dravid 151 11770 91.24 36 63
M Azharuddin 67 5232 87.2 22 21
V Sehwag 94 7729 84.93 23 32
PR Umrigar 43 3088 83.45 12 14
MS Dhoni 53 3498 83.28 6 28
RJ Shastri 40 3004 81.18 11 12
DB Vengsarkar 88 5991 80.95 17 35

How does one justify Ashwell Prince, Jimmy Adams and Ridley Jacobs ending up in the all-time top ten?

No, it has nothing to do with statistics resembling a bikini or any similar cliché. These men were indeed difficult to dislodge once set. A proper look at the numbers will show exactly why they did not quite end up high in the overall career records. They just did not get set too frequently across their careers.

The following table looks at the counter intuitive names and finds out why they were not that successful across their careers.

Difficult to dislodge once set, but not really great batsmen – the reasons why

Batsman Career Ave #Inn over 30 Total Inn % Inn  Over 30
Jimmy Adams 41.26 31 90 34.44
Ashwell Prince 41.64 38 104 36.53
Ridley Jacobs 28.31 29 112 25.89
Hashan Tillakratne 42.87 52 131 39.69
Marvan Atapattu 39.02 50 156 32.05

Let us contrast this with some of the bona fide all-time greats.

Some great batsmen – the reasons why

Batsman Career Ave #Inn over 30 Total Inn % Inn  Over 30
Garry Sobers 57.78 83 160 51.88
Sachin Tendulkar 53.78 170 329 51.67
Brian Lara 52.88 122 232 52.59
Greg Chappell 53.86 78 151 51.66

The great batsmen simply crossed 30 much more regularlythan the not so great ones.

In other words, consistency is an essential ingredient for greatness.

(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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