England’s Highs and Lows

Over at Debatable Land, Alex Massie offers a compelling theory of what a good batting team needs to be good. In cricket, he says, it’s not just about averages (Tendulkar’s 55, or Dravid’s 57, or whatever), but about highs and lows. So, when a batsman strikes good form, he needs to really make it count and dominate a series and, one hopes, even a summer. Foreign teams throw up a number of such figures: Mohammad Yousuf for Pakistan, circa 2006-7; Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Matthew Hayden (to name only a few) for Australia; Kevin Pietersen for England last year. These guys are always good, but during their good days, their averages went through the roof, allowing their teammates to group around them.

The problem with England, however, is that no one is currently really firing, and it doesn’t look like anyone will. Pietersen fights a lonely fight, but too often he is erratic (and too often, he thinks Jacques Kallis is someone worthy of his wicket). The rest are all very, very competent, but hardly charismatic or confident enough to arouse fear in the opposition. Massie instructively compares this lot to Clarke’s in Australia, because when that guy gets going, he averages over 60. England, however, only has 40s and high 30s, which don’t cut it anymore.

I haven’t looked at the statistics, but I wonder if India have settled on a different formula. All their top four have already gone through stellar periods when their averages could not be touched by mere mortals (and Tendulkar’s green patch lasted all of the 1990s). Of late, however, it seems like the Big Four have all melded into one identity, drawing off each other and staying within the pack. Take the England tour last year, when none of them made a century, or even South Africa’s recent tour in India, with only Dravid and Sehwag making centuries (of course, Sehwag’s 319 was something else).

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