By Jatin Thakkar and Soham Sarkhel
Disasters often strike without any prior warnings. Sadly in the case of India, the English precursor to what might happen to them in Australia was blissfully ignored. The result, a 4-0 whitewash against the Aussies. Fearing the diminishing interest in the sub-continent the broadcast provider- in this case STAR Cricket wasted no time in airing a promo and tried to rekindle interest amongst the viewers. After all it’s the World Champions facing off against the World Cup runners up and the Aussies side by side.
Sadly though, all the three teams are just a shadow of their former self especially when it comes to their overseas ODI performances. The fact that all the three teams have lost their last overseas one day series shows their susceptibility to foreign conditions. That being said, this series would indeed be the perfect foil for all the three teams to get their act right. With all the three teams riding high on their youth quotient, the youngsters will too look to prove their mettle on the international circuit. Impact Index here analyses the chances and the opportunities for all the three teams in the upcoming tri-series.
Here is the chart of best players in various departments for all the teams based on Career IMPACT of all the players involved.
Michael Clarke has had a productive last one and a half year in the ODI format and will look forward to carry his brilliant test form this summer into the shorter format. He has been the batsman with the highest impact for Australia in the last one year (2.19) and is a potential game changer especially in the ODI format.
The other two senior members in the side have also hit a purple patch of late and things can only augur well for Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. Though there have been many critics of Ponting asking for his head, he has actually managed to string together decent one day innings’ in the past one year, with his century against the Indians in the World Cup headlining his act. The only problem with him however has been his 50 to 100 conversion. His batting impact of 1.80 in the past one year shows that his contributions have been crucial to his team on a regular basis. Although Michael Hussey was the top scorer for Australia in the one day series against South Africa his Batting IMPACT for the last one year has been a meager 1.24 and he will look to improve on that.
Together, Hussey, Ponting and Clarke will also lead Australia’s ability to absorb pressure while batting given their expertise in the department over their careers.
David Warner has not yet been able to build on his starts in the one day format and he too will want to cement his place as an opener for his team. Matthew Wade is yet to debut in the ODI format but his man of the match performance in the first T20 match against India should be a good precursor to his batting talent. Mitchell Marsh and Daniel Christian on the other hand will both be trying to fill in that all-rounder’s spot which is up for grabs. Again both of them are relatively inexperienced in the international stage and this tri-series will be a good stage to test their cricketing acumen.
David Hussey being the rustic sort of player he is, will be a key utility player for the Aussies in this tri-series. His career Bowling IMPACT of 0.98 shows his ability to bowl off spinners during the middle overs complimented with his career Batting IMPACT of 1.53, Hussey should be able fill in the spot of an all-rounder if both Marsh and Christian fail in that role.
Australia’s bowling department is reasonably inexperienced and it will be up to Brett Lee to spearhead a promising fast bowling attack. Brett Lee clearly heads the bowling IMPACT list with his Bowling IMPACT of 2.38 in the last one year. An even better understanding of his role can be gauged by the fact that his failure rate of 8.33% in last one year is the lowest amongst all the bowlers in this tri-series. Over his career, Lee has shown great calibre for Big Match performances and series defining ability and is the best bowler on that count in this series.
Ryan Harris and Mitchell Starc haven’t featured in many ODI’s for Australia but whenever they have been given the chance, they have performed commendably in that scenario. One more success story for Australia has been the performance of the left arm off spinner Xavier Doherty. Doherty in the last one year had a bowling IMPACT of 1.99, the best amongst all the other spinners.
Without going into any debatable discussion of what a century might do to Sachin Tendulkar’s career; this will actually be the first time he will be featuring in the Indian ODI line up after the World Cup final win. His one day records are unparalleled and hence there is absolutely no element of surprise in the fact that his career Batting IMPACT of 2.61 is the best amongst all the other Indian batsmen. Tendulkar is also the highest impact batsman in the series when it comes to Big Match performances and Series Defining abilities. His performance in the 2008 CB series also conforms the above mentioned fact.
His partner Virender Sehwag is having a lean form with the bat in Australia and his last one year Batting IMPACT of 1.60 shows a drop in comparison to his career batting impact of 1.75. If one takes out his innings of 219 against the West Indies then it will further drop to 1.30. Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli on the other hand have been the lynchpin of India’s batting order lately. Their chasing impact of 0.28 and 0.30 respectively over the last year is right at the top amongst all the current players and shows their effectiveness in the top order for India.
Rohit Sharma had a brilliant series against the West Indies and his pressure impact is the highest amongst all the Indian players. Another player who has a good pressure absorbing capacity is Ravindra Jadeja, his pressure impact of 0.23 is the second highest amongst the Indian team members. The Indian captain on the other hand is having a torrid time presently but if one has a look at his one day records, he has done exceptionally well. Dhoni’s career impact of 4.04 is the highest amongst all the players playing in this tri series. His failure rate is 45% as a batsman (second only to Tendulkar in this series) beyond which he has also handled the burden of captaincy and wicket keeping exceptionally well for India.
With Zaheer Khan spearheading the attack, the inexperienced bowling line up will have a lot to prove in the upcoming tri series. The importance of Zaheer Khan who ended as the highest wicket taker in India’s world cup winning campaign is well accentuated by the fact that his bowling impact in the last year has been a staggering 2.84 compared to his career impact of 2.1.
The Indian selectors have shown plenty of faith in Vinay Kumar throughout this tour but if one has to take a look at the numbers, it will come as a bit of a shocker that Irfan Pathan actually has the second highest bowling impact in the team with an impact of 2.06 compared to Vinay’s dismal impact of 1.51. Pathan is also India’s highest impact bowler when it comes to building pressure with quick wickets.
Coming to the spin department, Ashwin will considerably enjoy the change in the format where he has an IMPACT of 2.05 and also is India’s highest impact bowler when it comes to bowling economically as well as breaking partnerships. His failure rate of 23.53% in the last one year shows his importance to the team. Rahul Sharma on the other hand would be looking to make a mark in this tour. The Australian pitches will suit his type of spin bowling and it will be interesting to see what he does if given a chance.
Sri Lanka has had a torrid run in the last year and a half, having lost 4 out of 5 bilateral series. In the only series that they have won, they won it against a lack-luster West Indian side. Their run to the World Cup finals has been the only silver lining for them at a time when their team went and is still going through rapid transformations. The loss of Muralitharan has jolted them hard and one gets the feeling that they are still reeling under the same pressure on the bowling front.
The Sri Lankan mainstay for the last 6-7 years have been the duo of Kumar Sangakarra and Mahela Jayawardene and therefore it doesn’t come quite as a surprise that they do indeed head the batting impact chart for their team with Impacts of 2.25 and 2.01 respectively in the last one year.
One surprising revelation though in this factor has to be the performance of the opener Upul Tharanga in comparison to his partner Tillakaratne Dilshan. The consensus would go by the fact that Dilshan is a far superior player than Tharanga. However the latter has performed more regularly in his usual laid back attitude and has a batting impact of 1.80 compared to Dilshan’s 1.53 in the last one year.
Angelo Mathews is the only genuine all-rounder (Batting and Bowling IMPACT above 1) in the Lankan lineup. His pressure impact of 0.15 (highest in the team) shows how crucial a cog he has become in the Sri Lankan middle order. His career failure rate of only 38% shows his importance as an all-rounder to his team.
Lasith Malinga as always holds the key for Sri Lanka in the bowling department for Sri Lanka in this tri series. His bowling IMPACT of 2.20 and a failure rate of only 31% in the last one year shows his importance as the strike bowler in the team.
Nuwan Kulasekara’s form has dipped in the recent past and he has repeatedly failed to take wickets regularly upfront for Sri Lanka in the recent past. His last year’s woeful bowling IMPACT of only a 0.9 is a far cry to his career bowling IMPACT of 1.8. For Sri Lanka to perform well, it will be necessary to have both Malinga and Kulasekara perform consistently with the new ball given that both also show the highest ability to build pressure (Pressure Building IMPACT) on batsmen with quick wickets amongst Sri Lankan bowlers.
Even though Rangana Herath has performed reasonably well in the test format in the recent past, his one day exploits has been unheard of. For a bowler to fill Murali’s boots is no mean job. According to IMPACT Index, in the last one year before Muralitharan retired he had a Bowling IMPACT of 2.57 whereas Rangana Herath has a career Bowling IMPACT of only 1.28.
The rest of the bowlers in the team including the likes of Chanaka Welegadara and Dammika Prasad have been relatively untested. Although Welegadara has an impressive bowling IMPACT of 1.96, Dammika Prasad needs to improve on his bowling IMPACT of 1.40 to warrant a place in the team.
Thisara Perara and Farveez Maharoof will fight it out for the number seven spot in the Lankan team. Although Perera is likely to get the nod due to his superior batting as well as bowling impact than Maharoof, a direct result of his bowling skills and his hitting abilities with the bat.
Comparing all the three teams, it is very much evident that Australia holds the slight advantage going into the tournament with their TEAM IMPACT of 3.27 overpowering India’s 2.87 and Sri Lanka’s 2.34.
Going by the IMPACT numbers, it seems that Sri Lanka will have a really tough job on their hands to overshadow the other two teams especially in the batting department. The Batting Index calculation for the Top 7 batsmen for Australia shows 2.13, for India it is at 2.07 but for the Sri Lankans, well they have a really tough mountain to climb if they have to have any chance of salvaging some pride in this tournament. Their batting index of 1.68 is a far cry compared to the other two teams’ batting line up and may find themselves wanting in the batting department. Their shameful 43 run all out act against the South Africans a few days back gives testimony to that fact.
When it comes to impactful hitters, the Indians have surely got a huge advantage. India’s Strike Rate IMPACT of 0.12 is almost the double that of next placed Australia who have a 0.06 IMPACT, Sri Lanka closely follow them with an IMPACT of 0.05.
An all-rounder always determines the elasticity of a team’s line up and it is in this case that Australia are lacking the strong guns. The fact that only Michael Clarke has a batting and bowling index over 1 might be a worry-worry sign for the Australians. India and Sri Lanka on the other hand both have specialist all-rounders in the form of Ravindra Jadeja (although his Batting IMPACT of 0.92 is little short of 1) and Angelo Mathews filling up that spot. Although the Aussies have Mitchell Marsh and Dan Christian as all-rounders in their squad, they both are relatively inexperienced in the international arena and will be severely tested in this series.
All in all, even though it seems that Australia are the slight favourites going by the numbers. This tournament promises to be an evenly battered out cricketing contest. Sri Lanka will completely enter the tournament as the dark horses but counting them out will be the last thing both India and Australia would want to do. The Sri Lankans have always revelled with their underdog tags (remember 1996 World Cup) but having said that their chances of winning this tri-series looks very bleak.
If India wins the first few matches of the tournament then there’s a very good chance that they might end up winning this one. This Indian team thrives on momentum and some good wins in the initial stages of the tournament will definitely augur well for MS Dhoni’s brigade. Australia on the other hand enter as favourites but it remains to be seen whether their inexperienced team can cope up with the travails of a tri-series tournament.
FINAL VERDICT - India and Australia should make it to the finals. India have higher impact players when it comes to Series defining and Big Match ability, thus giving them a crucial edge to win, provided they don’t fail to qualify for finals in the first place.
(For more information, go to www.impactindexcricket.com)