Friday, October 19, 2018

Mazher bhai - Stat is not Damning, it is Meaningless

Mazher Arshad, Pakistan's Superstar Statistician, tweeted a damning stat about Pakistan cricket yesterday.

That really is quite damning, but it also got me thinking.

If you look at the Pakistan test XI that is currently playing against Australia in Abu Dhabi, 5 out of the top 7 have test centuries, and most of them have multiple centuries.

Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, and Sarfraz Ahmed all made their debut before 2010.

Out of the two who do not have a test hundred, both made their test debuts after 2010.

But one of them is Fakhar Zaman, who made his test debut 3 days ago and has had an incredible first test.

He was unfortunate to miss a debut test hundred in the first innings, but 160 runs across two innings in one's first test is remarkable in my view.

The other, Babar Azam, has been playing tests for two years now and in 14 tests he should have got a few test hundreds, but an unbeaten 90 and a 99 shows that he too has been unfortunate.

He surely has had a slow start to his test career, especially when compared to his limited overs performance, but I have no doubt that he will catch up.

So a Test XI with only two batsmen out of the top seven who do not have a test century made their test debuts after 2010.

That is not really damning.

Just shows that Pakistan have a stable batting line up with batsmen who have many years of first class cricket experience.

When you look at the bowling line up in the current test, you will see that 3 of them - Mohammad Abbas, Yasir Shah, and Bilal Asif - have 5 wicket hauls.

In fact Abbas and Yasir have shown that they can win tests single handedly, and Bilal Asif just made his test debut and had one of the best bowling figures in an innings by a debutant.

All 3 of them made their first class debuts before 2010.

Actually, Bilal Asif made his first class debut in 2011, but I just realized that in his tweet, Mazher mentioned pacers and not spinners.

The fourth bowler in this test, Mir Hamza, is currently playing his debut test, so surely he can't be counted among this "damning" list.

Still not damning I say.

It is a great thing that Pakistan's test cricketers have been around the first class cricket scene for a decade or more.

So who are these cricketers who made their first class debuts after 2010 and have not yet scored a test century or taken a 5-wicket haul for Pakistan?

Imam Ul Haq?

Well he made his test debut this year, has played 4 tests, and in his debut test he scored an unbeaten 74 to guide Pakistan to a successful chase of 160 against Ireland after they were precariously placed at 14-3.

A match winner no doubt.

He also had a good test against Australia in Dubai with a 76 and 48, and I have no doubt that he will be churning out test centuries very soon.

Shadab Khan? Faheem Ashraf?

They too made their test debuts this year and have already played some match winning and match saving knocks in test cricket.

That too in English conditions over the summer, where main Indian batsmen struggled to score.

Plus considering the positions that Shadab and Faheem bat in, they will not be scoring many test hundreds, but they will definitely continue to win and save tests for Pakistan.

If we dig a little further and look at all the test centurions for Pakistan since 2010 (besides the ones playing the current test), the names you see are the usual suspects Younis Khan and Misbah Ul Haq, along with Taufeeq Umar, Salman Butt, Shan Masood, Khurram Manzoor, Ahmed Shehzad, and Shoaib Malik.

All of them made their first class debuts before 2010.

If you think about it, Pakistan's test cricket batting since 2010 has really been about Misbah, Younis, Azhar, Asad, Hafeez, and Sarfraz.

Stable lot who have been around first class cricket since the early 2000s or earlier.

Besides the three names mentioned above, the only batsmen I can think of who made their first class debut after 2010, played test cricket for Pakistan, and have not scored a test hundred are:

Sami Aslam and Iftikhar Ahmed.

Iftikhar Ahmed played only one test. Not enough chances. So can't be judged.

Sami Aslam was around for 13 tests and given his domestic record he should have reached a test century. He did manage 7 fifties in his 13 tests and perhaps was not persisted with enough.

So the only two batsmen that Mazher's tweet is referring to out of the 620 first class debutants since 2010 are Babar Azam and Sami Aslam. I really don't think this stat is damning. Just misleading!

As for pacers, there is only Hasan Ali and Ehsan Adil besides the one mentioned above who made their first class debuts after 2010 and have played test cricket for Pakistan.

Hasan has played 4 tests and has been in and out of the team. There is still a question mark over whether he is test material or just a limited overs format champion.

Ehsan Adil played three tests and was a disappointment.

So again there is really just a couple of batsmen and bowlers who Mazher is judging.

620 players is a lot of cricketers, but hardly any of them have played test cricket. So if they haven't played how will they score a hundred or take a 5 wickets haul or win a man of the match award?

It does not mean Pakistan does not have world class cricketing talent.

It just means they have a stable test team, which not too long ago was number 1 in the test rankings. They have a young test team that drew a series in England this summer, a team that is on the verge of winning a test series against Australia.

Don't damn it with irrelevant and misleading stats like these please.

Why not talk about the great stuff that Pakistan's test cricketers have done since 2010!

Like Azhar Ali, who is one of the leading run scorers in test cricket since 2010.

And Asad Shafiq, who has scored more test centuries at number 6, not only since 2010, but since the time test cricket started! He is also has the world's leading run scorer at number 6 in test cricket since 2010. Well ahead of Ben Stokes who is mentioned in the tweet.

What about Yasir Shah, who is the world's leading wicket taker among leg spinners in tests since 2010, the world's 6th highest wicket taker among all spinners in tests since 2010, and the world's 16th highest wicket taker in tests since 2010.

Have you forgotten Mohammad Abbas? Forget since 2010, he has the best test bowling average in over a 100 years for all test bowlers with at least 50 wickets!

Pakistan's current test captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, is the 5th highest run scorer among wicketkeepers since 2010 - behind only the England duo, Prior and Bairstow, Dhoni, and Rahim.

Younis Khan and Misbah Ul Haq have been retired for over a year now, but even then YK's 18 test centuries since 2010 are bettered by only Kohli, Cook, Amla, Warner, and Smith; while only Cook and Kohli have scored more test runs than Misbah as captain since 2010.

There is so much success that Pakistan have had in tests since 2010 and we should really focus on highlighting that rather than meaningless stats like 620 first class cricketers since 2010 who haven't done this or that - ofcourse they haven't because they haven't even played test cricket!

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