By Anantha Narayan
If the great Indian mathematician Brahmagupta had lived to see the year 1878, he would have been particularly proud of Ned Gregory - a pioneer in his own right. He was the first-ever Test cricketer to boldly go where no man had gone before. Yup, you guessed it right; he was the first batsman to score a duck in Tests.
A little birdie of yore tells us that he was so mightily chuffed with his performance that he decided to retire from test matches, lest his fans seek an encore!
Inspired by ‘Noughty’ Ned, Mohammad Jahangir Khan (later to be the father of Pakistan cricketer Majid Khan), made history for our country in the second innings of United India’s first Test (played in 1931 versus England) by scoring an immortal zero in the only ball he faced.
It’s been raining ciphers ever since. The indefatigable Zaheer Khan has painstakingly pieced together 25 ducks from 113 innings. But his ‘stellar’ national record was just not good enough to pip Courtney Walsh’s jaw-dropping collection of 43 zeroes.
One bloke who’s been practising hard to somehow breach the Walsh milestone is New Zealander Chris Martin. Having notched up a niggardly 112 runs from 94 innings, Martin is the exceptional man with more wickets than runs - the last guy who got noticed for such talent was Bhagwat Chandrasekhar.
Where the Kiwi pacer outclasses Walsh is with his humungous appetite for scoring pairs (duck in both the innings). In a short career spanning 65 Test matches, Martin collected a peerless six pairs which kinda dwarfs the four-pair achievement of Merv Dillon, Walsh, Muttiah Muralitharan, Marvan Atapattu and Chandrasekhar.
So who is the worthiest suitor for the coveted “Donald Duck Award”? If one goes by the shallow world of statistics, one might be tempted to give it to Walsh. But being a connoisseur of ciphers, I feel, handing it to Walsh is akin to gifting the best musician award to a composer with the most symphonies. What about quality, I say?
It’s easy for a tailender to just walk in without any batting skill and nick one to the wicket-keeper. What’s even tougher is to elegantly sacrifice your wicket, braving all criticism, just for the nirvana of embracing nothingness.
But how does one measure this zen-like stomach for the sunya? This is where the Ande Ka Funda (AKF - Hindi for ‘pegging the egg’) offers us a new ray of hope.
AKF is a simple measure that estimates the percentage of times the batsman chucked it all away for the bliss of the‘boojyam’. It follows a simple formula: Number of zeroes divided by number of innings played.
For example, Sachin Tendulkar has an AKF of 4.82%. What that means is out of 100 innings, the Master Blaster will end up scoring a duck just 4.82 times.
I’ve computed it for almost every cricketer worth his balls. The result is a veritable eye opener.
At the bottom of the table is a breed of batsmen who’ve never scored a zero in their Test career. Brijesh Patel leads this pack from India. Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal and Darren Barvo are some other current players who share this hard-to-imagine ignominy.
Failing the AKF litmus test are leading lights like Clive Lloyd (2.29%), Kumara Sangakara (2.79%), Rahul Dravid (2.8%), Javed Miandad (3.17%), Ricky Ponting (4.71%), John Wright (4.73%), Geoff Boycott (5.18%) and Graeme Smith (5.36%).
The Top 10 tailenders are: Merv Dillon (38%), Dilip Doshi (36.84%), Chris Martin (34.04%), Zaheer Khan (30.12%), Danish Kaneria (29.16%), Chandrasekhar (28.75%), Glenn McGrath (25.36%), Walsh (23.24%), Ajit Agarkar (23.08%) and Muralitharan (20.12%).
The Top 10 batsmen are: Suresh Raina (19.23%), Wasim Bari (16.96%), Atapattu (14.10%), Heath Streak (14.02%), Andrew Flintoff (13.08%), ML Jaisimha (12.64%), Shahid Afridi (12.5%), Lala Amarnath (12.5%), Vijay Manjrekar (11.96%) and Navjot Singh Sidhu (11.54%).
Now that we’re down to our long list, it’s time we applied the filter of ‘Duck Duck Karne Laga’ (DDKL) for arriving at the deserving winners of the “Donald Duck Award”. For the Bollywood-challenged, DDKL is the lilt of the chest thump that the audience can hear when the player in question is about to face the ball of death. In psychological parlance, we can term it as ‘visible signs of nervousness’ that makes the batsman run to the pavilion.
If this were the criteria, there are three men who should make the cut: Ajit Duckarkar for his almost suitcase number lock like ‘00000’ in 5 successive innings against Australia in 1999-2000, Mohinder Amarnath (AKF – 9.73%) for his binary codesque ‘001000’ against the West Indies in 1983 and Atapattu for his epic debut.
For staking his entire career to score just one run from his first six innings, I think Marvan Samson Atapattu deserves to be crowned as the true champion of champions. His zero tolerance of runs in the pure pursuit of absolute zero deserves nothing less than an outright knighthood. As for the rest, they are mere quacks!
(Anantha Narayan is an accomplished scholar from the University of Timepass. After squandering his life away in mining engineering, sales, advertising, naming, blogging and other things mundane, he found peace sitting on an arm chair with a laptop for company. Perhaps the most vocal Delhi Daredevil supporter in Chennai, he hopes to hang his boots, the day they win the IPL.)