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Two-horse Race or A Closing Pack?

February 4, 2009

Team 1: WWWWLWLLLL
Team 2: LWWWWLWWW
Team 3: WLWWWWWWWW

Last ten ODI results for two teams, ending with the latest results. The first, a 50% win-record, the second, a flattering 90%. So, team 1 is an average team, teams 2 and 3 are obviously world-beaters. Ok, so we know statistics conceal as much as reveal, we want to know, how many games were played against test-class opposition and how many were played at home?

Team1 played 9 at home, 1 away. They also played 6 games against “test-class” opposition, 3 against a certifiable minnow and 1 against one that has played like one for nearly a decade now. What’s worse, 4 of the 5 wins were against the minnows and the ‘almost-minnow’.

Team 2 played 4 at home, 6 away. 6 games against a test-class opponent, 4 against minnows. The two losses were against the test-class teams.

Team 3 played 5 at home, 5 away. Both their opponents in those 10 games are “test-class” in their performances over the last few years. The solitary loss was therefore, against a test-class opponent.

The string of L’s makes it clear that team 1 are the team formerly called Australia. Team 2 and 3 are the newest challengers to the “most fearsome team” title; South Africa and India respectively. If the sport under discussion here was Rink football or yachting or bridge, I’d logically end the discussion with: Team 1 sucks, 2 is alright and 3 rules. But wait, this is cricket, things are hardly ever that simple.

South Africa played superlative cricket, clawing back into games they were out of, in hostile conditions to comprehensively beat the Australians. The bulk of the load was carried by relatively new guys, Duminy and Morkel. But they might be the next team to see some high-profile retirements in Kallis, Boucher, Ntini. What then?

India has played only at home and in Sri Lanka in their last 10 games, not very alien conditions. England, the worst travelers in the game, and a below-par Sri Lanka have been their opponents. Most of their runs have been scored by Yuvraj, Sehwag and Gambhir. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not as ‘new-age’ as some make the team out to be.

What of Australia? Marsh, Warner, Hilfenhaus and a resurgent Tait. A few positives, lots of rebuilding to do, meaning, stringing together a bunch of individual performances into game-winning efforts. They might not be that far off the pace as they currently look.

The season will make for interesting jockeying for position.

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