World Test Championship Final: Strengths and Weaknesses of Indian batsmen

409

What if I told you that Ravindra Jadeja has been run out more often than he has been Leg Before Wicket in the last 5 years in Test cricket? Unbelievable, right? Yet, true. 13.51% of Jadeja’s dismissals have been run-outs, while only 8.11% of his dismissals have been LBWs in the last 5 years. As less than 24 hours remain before the start of the World Test Championship Final, let’s take a look at what are the strengths and weaknesses of Indian batsmen one by one as they gear up to face the Kiwi challenge.

All the numbers used here, except for the match-ups chart are from the last 5 years in Test cricket. The four figures used in the article are as follows:

  • Fig 1: Averages of Indian batsmen against different bowling types in the last 5 years in Test cricket.
  • Fig 2: Dismissal Types of Indian batsmen in the last 5 years in Test cricket.
  • Fig 3: Match-ups of Indian batsmen vs New Zealand bowlers
  • Fig 4: Bowlers who have dismissed Indian batsmen most times in the last 5 years in Test cricket.

Virat Kohli

Since the infamous 2014 England tour, the general perception has been that Virat Kohli’s weak zone lies in and around the 5th stump, where he reaches out and almost compulsively drives through the covers. Although true to some extent, his bigger issues have come against balls targeted at his pads.

  • 25% of Kohli’s dismissals in the last 5 years have been LBWs — highest for any Indian batsman in this period, except Shubman Gill (Fig 2).
  • Tim Southee has got him 3 times at an average of 36.33, and 2 of those dismissals have been LBW. Even Colin de Grandhomme got him LBW in the last series with a ball that jagged back after pitching.

His trigger takes him across to the off stump and beyond sometimes, leaving him vulnerable to balls on the stumps. This method also seems to have engulfed English cricket as Nasser Hussain, Mark Butcher, and Michael Atherton explained it here.

 

  • He averages the least against Left arm pacers among all types of bowlers — 33 overall and 43 in England and New Zealand against left arm medium pacers, 39 against left arm fast bowlers (Fig 1).
  • Trent Boult and Neil Wagner have both got him 3 times each, albeit Boult at an average above 40 and Wagner at an average of 20.
  • His biggest strengths though, lie against spin, especially balls turning away. He averages more than 100 against left arm off spinners and right arm leg spinners. Although Adil Rashid has got him 4 times (Fig 4), he’s done so at an average of 72.25.
  • Even against off spinners, he averages close to 60.
  • And the type of bowling which is supposed to be his weakness due to his expansive driving and his vulnerable front pad, right arm pace, is not really his weakness, considering he averages around 50 against them.

Ajinkya Rahane

  • The Indian vie-captain averages more than 40 against right arm medium pacers, but that drops to 28.62 in England and New Zealand (Fig 1).
  • He also has a weakness against left arm pacers — average of 30.25 overall and 22 in England and New Zealand.
  • Boult has got him 3 times so far, but he’s also scored more than 100 runs against him. And Although Wagner has got him only once, Rahane looked at sea against him in New Zealand in the 2020 series.
  • Contrary to general perception, he has been pretty good against off spinners, averaging 46.94 overall.
  • But something happens when he plays off spin in England and New Zealand as his average drops to 11.5. Perhaps he feels a sense of relief and tries to attack looking at an off spinner in those conditions, which generally leads to his downfall.
  • He also struggles a lot against the ball turning away, having an average in the early 30s against left arm off spinners and left arm leggies.
  • His Bowled + LBW % is pretty low though, at around 29%. More than the ball coming in, its the ball moving away that troubles him, except if its a left armer swinging it in to his pads.

 

Cheteshwar Pujara

  • Cheteshwar Pujara, surprisingly struggles the most against right arm pacers — average of 34.32 overall in the last 5 years, and 24.75 in England & New Zealand against right arm medium pacers, and an average of 29 against right arm fast bowlers.
  • He’s been dismissed 7 times by Pat Cummins at an average of 24.56, 5 times by James Anderson at an average of 14, and 2 times by Tim Southee at an average of 14.5 (Fig 3).
  • He generally struggles against balls honed in at the top of off stump, moving either way and gets bowled both on the inside and outside edges, and often nicks it to the keeper as well.
  • He has the 2nd highest bowled % among Indian top order batsmen after KL Rahul — 14.63%.
  • Apart from that though, he doesn’t have any particular weakness against any type of bowler. Pujara absolutely dominates left arm fast bowlers and has decent numbers against left arm medium pacers as well, both overall and in England and New Zealand.
  • While Boult has got him 4 times, it has been at an average above 30. Wagner has only got him once, with Pujara having scored more than 60 runs off him.
  • And, don’t bowl spin to him. Just don’t.

Also Read : A comprehensive analysis of New Zealand's batsmen against different bowling types

Rohit Sharma

  • If you look at Rohit Sharma’s numbers in Fig 1, you won’t find any particular weakness there, except a slightly lower average against Right arm fast bowlers. And that is primarily because of his struggles against Kagiso Rabada, who has dismissed him 5 times at an average of 20.
  • He is also a strong LBW candidate, given more than 20% of his dismissals have been LBW in the last 5 years.
  • But what is surprising, and possibly assuring to know for Indian fans, is that he has got out to left arm pace only twice in his career, and not even once in the last 5 years.
  • Rohit averages above 43 against all kinds of spinners.
  • But he does have a tendency to get out to left arm off spinners quite a lot. Jack Leach and Keshav Maharaj have got him a total of 6 times combined. Even Mitch Santner has got Rohit twice, at an average around 20.
  • If New Zealand play Ajaz Patel, this might turn out to be Patel’s most favourable match-up.

 

Shubman Gill

Shubman Gill’s Test career is only 7 matches old, and there isn’t much to look for in terms of patterns.

  • One number which strikes out though in Fig 1, is his average against Right Arm Fast bowlers — 12.83. Pat Cummins has dismissed him thrice.
  • It’s not as if extreme pace is a problem with Gill. He faced 94 balls off Mitchell Starc in his debut series, and scored a scarcely believable 91 runs at a strike rate of almost 100, without getting dismissed.
  • The problem might lie in his generally expansive stroke-play, which saw him nick-off to slips a lot in Australia. To succeed against the Dukes ball in English conditions, it is imperative that he remains careful and decisive about his drives and punches outside off.
  • He also has a pretty high Bowled + LBW %, throwing up a similar combination as his opening partner’s — average of infinity against left arm pacers and a high LBW %. Expect sparks to fly when the unstoppable force of New Zealand’s left arm pacers meet the immovable objects that are the Indian openers (at least in terms of records against left armers in the recent past).
World Test Championship Final : Matchups of Indian batsmen vs New Zealand Bowlers

Rishabh Pant

  • Rishabh Pant loves pace on the bat. He averages 60 against left arm fast bowlers and infinity against right arm fast bowlers.
  • And if you are a spinner who turns the ball in to Pant, well, good luck.
  • It’s against medium pacers though, that he somehow struggles, averaging 26 against left arm medium pacers and 29.23 against right arm medium pacers overall, which drops to 19.6 in England and New Zealand.
  • Josh Hazlewood and James Anderson have got him 3 times each.

There won’t be any express pacers for Pant to face in the WTC Final, and in all probability there will be substantial movement in the air and off the pitch. His defensive game has improved by leaps and bounds in the last few months, yet, it will be one of his toughest challenges so far, more so because now, he has the weight of expectations on him. If he sticks around, and if Ajaz Patel comes on to bowl to him, rest assured the World Test Championship Final will be lit up.

Hanuma Vihari vs Ravindra Jadeja

The one debate which has been going on for quite a while now has been regarding India’s 6th batsman. While some feel Hanuma Vihari is ahead of Ravindra Jadeja if you look at it from a purely batting perspective, others believe Jadeja trumps Vihari on batting alone, leave alone his other skills. Let’s try to settle this.

  • If you look at Jadeja and Vihari’s columns in Fig 1, you can observe that Vihari struggles quite a lot against right arm pacers, averaging 20 against right arm fast, and 26.3 against right arm medium fast bowlers.
  • That average against right arm medium pacers drops to 18.5 in England and New Zealand.
  • Jadeja meanwhile, doesn’t have any particular weakness in that regard. His average against left arm medium pacers in England and New Zealand and his average against right arm fast bowlers is on the lower side, 29 and 31 respectively. Yet it is much higher than Vihari’s lowest averages.
  • Coming to their strengths, Vihari enjoys facing left arm pacers — averaging 56 and 46 against left arm medium and left arm fast bowlers respectively, and right arm off spinners — averaging 68.67.
  • While Jadeja’s strengths include left arm fast bowlers — average of 44, right arm medium pacers — average of 41 overall which surprisingly increases to 68 in England and New Zealand, and basically all kinds of spin bowling known to mankind.
  • It’s safe to say there’s no one particular weakness to target Jadeja on, whereas with Vihari, teams can get their premier right arm pacers to hone on his off stump and get it to nip either way.
  • Southee, Hazlewood, Cummins, and Jason Holder have dismissed Vihari a combined 9 times, and all of them are the kind of bowlers who keep it on a string in the channel.
  • Jadeja meanwhile has got out most number of times to Adil Rashid(4) and Nathan Lyon(3), averaging 22 and 41 against them respectively.

While Vihari is one of India’s best First Class batsmen, Jadeja has simply been better in the last few years with the bat. Yes, Jadeja’s overall numbers are bound to look skewed given he bats at 7 or 8 and Vihari bats in all the difficult positions, but when the breakdown of his numbers start looking better as well, that’s when you should start believing in Jadeja, the pure batsman over Vihari the pure batsman, at least in his current form.

India announced their playing XI while this article was in the process of being written, and they’ve picked Jadeja over Vihari, kind of vindicating the points made above.

 

The weather forecast for the Final is bleak, to put it lightly, with rain expected on all playing days. Perhaps the rain gods also want a first hand experience of possibly the most significant match in Test cricket history. All we can do then, is keep our fingers crossed, and depending on which team we support, hope that either the Indian batsmen overcome their weaknesses, or the New Zealand bowlers overpower their strengths.