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Tendulkar and Kohli in ODI chases: who’s better?

September 18th, 2017 | by admin
Tendulkar and Kohli in ODI chases: who’s better?
Cricket Worldwide
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The statistics presented here are current up to the end of the Sri Lanka-India ODI series. Only results against the eight oldest Test-playing nations are considered in all data presented here

This article follows on from this one, which asked how Virat Kohli ranked in comparison to ODI greats of the past, such as Sachin Tendulkar and Viv Richards.

A central reason for the high regard in which observers hold Virat Kohli is his record in run chases, which is, without question, superb. At the time of writing, in successful run chases, Kohli averages 95, an all-time high for any player who has participated in at least 20 successful run chases. In all run chases, he averages 64. This is also an all-time high. AB de Villiers averages 90 in wins and 60 overall. MS Dhoni also averages 90 in wins. In terms of raw numbers, these are phenomenal. It is impossible to achieve these numbers without belonging in the most elite group in any era so far.

While consistency is one reason why many observers rate Kohli to be exceptional, they rate him above Sachin Tendulkar for a different reason. The perception is that Kohli tends to finish run chases while Tendulkar didn’t in his day; judging by the raw numbers, they are not unforgivably wrong in thinking this. When Kohli plays in chases, India have won 55 and lost only 36 ODIs. When Tendulkar played in chases, they won 97 and lost 97. Fans like winners. And they remember players who were there at the end. In this, cricket fans are not abnormal, and are affected by the availability bias. Wins and winning moments are memorable; hence they seem to be more significant in later assessments.

India have now had a very successful ODI side for a dozen years under Rahul Dravid, Dhoni and now Kohli. The captaincy eras of Sourav Ganguly, Mohammad Azharuddin and Tendulkar are a distant memory. Under each of those captains, India had a losing record, with 134 wins and 174 defeats overall. Under Dravid, Dhoni and Kohli, India have a combined record of 147 wins and 110 defeats.

The outstanding player of the outstanding era must be exceptional. Before Kohli, it was Dhoni. Before Dhoni, it was Tendulkar. But there has always been an asterisk against Tendulkar’s name. It seemed to affect him too. More than once, in interviews, the acknowledged supreme batsman of his day would earnestly say that he wanted to win games for India. This in an era in which it was the norm for India to lose, for every opponent who visited Indian shores to be a contender to be reckoned with, and for every overseas limited-overs series to engender hope rather than the expectation that India would be competitive. Those were not the days of India handing out five-nil thrashings to anybody.

“If you want to see exceptional individual performance over a period of time, then this is far more likely to be found in a struggling team than in a successful team”

In reality, Tendulkar and Kohli have had the same amount of (limited) influence on India’s results. It is the players at the other end who account for the difference between the results achieved in Tendulkar’s era and those achieved in Kohli’s. Here are the figures to prove it.

The table below shows the average target, wins and losses for 11 different players in run chases involving these players. It also shows the player’s record and that of the player’s team-mates in these chases. To enable ready comparison, the player’s average and scoring rate have been converted into an expected total over 300 balls faced, and the number of balls faced per dismissal is listed. As long as the player’s dismissal rate is better than 30 balls faced per dismissal, the expected total is simply the scoring rate over 300 balls. In other cases, it is ten times the batting average. The same has been done for team-mates. The final two columns show the extent to which the player or his team-mates exceed or fall short of the average target.

For example, in chases involving Dhoni, the average target was 266. In these chases, Dhoni scored at a rate that would produce 241 runs in 300 balls. At the other end, the scoring rate was 288 runs per 300 balls. However, Dhoni was dismissed once every 58.3 balls, while at the other end, a wicket fell every 32.3 balls. The pattern of chases under Dhoni saw him effectively anchoring the chase, letting the scoring risks fall to the other end. Much of the risk-taking often happened before Dhoni got to the wicket. His apparent mastery in the run chase was made possible by the hitting firepower at the other end. His own hitting ability was a in a sense, a reserve. The result was 79 wins and 58 defeats.

Michael Bevan was similar to Dhoni as a player, capable of scoring boundaries (he once made 185 in 132 against Wasim Akram, Chaminda Vaas, Anil Kumble, Muttiah Muralitharan and Abdur Razzaq) but better known for playing a measured game. When Bevan played for Australia in run chases, the average target they faced was 230. At the end of his career, Bevan scored at a rate of 204 runs per 300 balls, 11.3% slower than the target demanded. However, at the other end, the runs came at the rate of 229 runs per 300 balls, almost the asking rate.

It is expected that the figures for a given batsman and team-mates can fall short of the average target score in this table. This is because chasing teams score only one run more than the target when they win, but they can lose by any number of runs.

In his prime, Tendulkar was an exceptionally brilliant batsman in the run chase. The support at the other end was significantly weaker than it has been for Kohli. This not only meant that Tendulkar had to do a significantly greater amount of heavy lifting compared to Kohli. It also meant that he was hampered in this task a great deal more than Kohli has been.

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