IPL 2017 – At a Glance

Indian Premier League, 2017 – At a Glance

Results, Fixtures, Points and Ball Difference
MI 20pts,136bd -4 8 1 -3 10 3 1
RPS 1 18pts,49bd 0 -13 48 -43 1 43
SRH 10 -10 17pts,76bd 28 0 4 27 15
KKR -10 -6 12 16pts,171bd 21 22 -12 94
KXIP -29 6 -12 7 14pts,12bd 73 -4 33
DD -79 7 5 -3 22 12pts,-108bd 15 -5
GL 0 12 -13 -33 -13 -4 8pts,-41bd -9
RCB -9 -13 -31 -7 14 -39 7pts,-247bd

Home Team appears in rows
Away Team appears in columns
Fixture scheduled at 10:30 GMT | 16:00 Local
Fixture scheduled at 14:30 GMT | 20:00 Local
Home Win for Fixture scheduled at 10:30 GMT
Away Win for Fixture scheduled at 10:30 GMT
Home Win for Fixture scheduled at 14:30 GMT
Away Win for Fixture scheduled at 14:30 GMT
Number of points and Ball Difference appear diagonally
All underlined cells are links to iplt20.com

Points table using Ball Difference
Teams Mat Won Lost Tie NR Pts Ball Difference
MI 14 10 4 0 0 20 136
RPS 14 9 5 0 0 18 49
SRH 14 8 5 0 1 17 76
KKR 14 8 6 0 0 16 171
KXIP 14 7 7 0 0 14 12
DD 14 6 8 0 0 12 -108
GL 14 4 10 0 0 8 -41
RCB 14 3 10 0 1 7 -247


Largest Margin of Victory and Top Player Contributions

Largest Margin of Victory
# Match Summary Result Ball Difference
27 KKR 131(19.3 ovs); rcb 49(9.4 ovs) Kolkata Knight Riders won by 82 runs (with a difference of 94 balls) 94
45 MI 212/3(20 ovs); dd 66(13.4 ovs) Mumbai Indians won by 146 runs (with a difference of 77 balls) 79
36 dd 67(17.1 ovs); KXIP 68/0(7.5 ovs) Kings XI Punjab won by 10 wickets (with 73 balls remaining) 73
55 kxip 73(15.5 ovs); RPS 78/1(12 ovs) Rising Pune Supergiant won by 9 wickets (with 48 balls remaining) 48
9 DD 205/4(20 ovs); rps 108(16.1 ovs) Delhi Daredevils won by 97 runs (with a difference of 41 balls) 43
Most Valuable Players
Name Team Mts Runs Scored Balls Faced Balls Bowled Runs Conceded Wkts Cts St Run Outs Avg Contribution Total Contribution
DA Warner SRH 13 604 417 10 0.5 08.96 116.45
BA Stokes RPS 12 316 221 264 316 12 5 1.5 09.60 115.23
SP Narine KKR 14 214 120 306 371 10 4 08.00 112.03
AR Patel KXIP 14 227 162 288 362 15 7 0.5 07.82 109.55
GJ Maxwell KXIP 14 310 179 114 125 7 7 06.73 94.24
RV Uthappa KKR 12 386 230 7 6 1.0 06.59 79.07
Sandeep Sharma KXIP 13 7 6 288 398 17 4 06.03 78.38
Rashid Khan SRH 13 11 9 312 347 17 5 2.0 06.01 78.08
SK Raina GL 14 442 307 72 102 1 4 1.0 05.52 77.27
B Kumar SRH 13 4 4 308 358 25 4 0.5 05.90 76.64
Most Valuable Batsmen
Name Team Matches Runs Balls Avg Contribution Total Contribution
DA Warner SRH 13 604 417 08.83 114.82
RV Uthappa KKR 12 386 230 06.24 74.93
RA Tripathi RPS 12 388 257 06.00 71.96
G Gambhir KKR 14 454 355 04.99 69.80
S Dhawan SRH 13 468 363 05.20 67.63
HM Amla KXIP 10 420 288 06.69 66.90
CA Lynn KKR 5 285 153 13.15 65.77
RR Pant DD 14 366 221 04.68 65.47
KA Pollard MI 14 362 256 04.57 63.96
SK Raina GL 14 442 307 04.52 63.26
Most Valuable Bowlers
Name Team Matches Balls Runs Wickets Avg Contribution Total Contribution
Sandeep Sharma KXIP 13 288 398 17 05.88 76.40
B Kumar SRH 13 308 358 25 05.78 75.11
Rashid Khan SRH 13 312 347 17 05.69 73.96
CR Woakes KKR 13 264 386 17 05.21 67.67
AR Patel KXIP 14 288 362 15 04.80 67.21
JJ Bumrah MI 13 290 374 15 05.01 65.14
SP Narine KKR 14 306 371 10 04.65 65.03
Imran Tahir RPS 12 282 369 18 05.25 63.04
JD Unadkat RPS 10 227 279 21 06.28 62.83
Harbhajan Singh MI 11 246 266 8 05.51 60.64
Top Overall Performances
# Name Team Runs Scored Balls Faced Balls Bowled Runs Conceded Wkts Cts Sts Run Outs Player Contribution
37 DA Warner SRH 126 59 2 28.82
31 AJ Finch GL 72 34 1 28.70
3 CA Lynn KKR 93 41 0 25.17
46 SP Narine KKR 54 17 24 29 2 0 24.28
27 CR Woakes KKR 18 21 12 6 3 1 23.56
6 DA Warner SRH 76 45 0 23.07
36 MJ Guptill KXIP 50 27 0 21.65
9 SV Samson DD 102 63 2 21.19
39 BA Stokes RPS 103 63 24 36 0 0 20.70
27 C de Grandhomme KKR 0 2 10 4 3 0 20.57
Top Batting Performances
# Name Team Runs Balls Batting Contribution
31 AJ Finch GL 72 34 28.53
37 DA Warner SRH 126 59 28.51
3 CA Lynn KKR 93 41 25.17
6 DA Warner SRH 76 45 23.07
36 MJ Guptill KXIP 50 27 21.65
9 SV Samson DD 102 63 20.85
41 RA Tripathi RPS 93 52 20.19
19 M Vohra KXIP 95 50 19.71
8 AB de Villiers RCB 89 46 18.87
46 SP Narine KKR 54 17 18.76
Top Bowling Performances
# Name Team Balls Bowled Runs Conceded Wickets Bowling Contribution
27 CR Woakes KKR 12 6 3 22.29
27 C de Grandhomme KKR 10 4 3 20.57
36 Sandeep Sharma KXIP 24 20 4 19.70
27 NM Coulter-Nile KKR 18 21 3 19.10
27 UT Yadav KKR 18 15 1 15.78
55 SN Thakur RPS 24 19 3 14.69
34 LH Ferguson RPS 24 7 2 14.58
45 KV Sharma MI 22 11 3 11.55
19 B Kumar SRH 24 19 5 11.54
55 JD Unadkat RPS 18 12 2 11.17

Point, Game, Set and Match

Tennis matches are won by the player winning the last point.

Football matches are decided by a rare event – a goal. The team scoring the last goal may not win. Cricket uses an accumulative scoring pattern like tennis – plenty of runs are scored in each match. Again, the team scoring the final run may not win. All runs scored in cricket, whether scored by the batsman or the extras conceded by opposition are of equal value. In the final analysis, only aggregate counts. Team scoring more runs (in a completed limited overs match) wins the match.

Tennis follows a distinctive scoring system. There are two teams who take turns to start the point – one player serves and the other returns. The ball remains in play until it is not returned, hits the net or sprayed outside the playing area. A point is awarded at the end of each play. The corresponding call for winning a point is : 0 – “love”, 1 – “15”, 2 – “30”, 3 – “40” and 4 – “game”. Thus team winning 4 points wins the game.

Points won by the server are mentioned first. A score of 40-30 means, serving team has won 3 points and receiving team 2. A score of 0-40, read as love-40, indicates all 3 points for receiving side. A game can’t be won with the difference of a single point. This means that there are no 7 point games in tennis where one team has 4 points and the other 3. In such situations, the game continues for an even number of points – 8, 10, 12, .. until one side takes a 2 point lead.

When both sides have won 3 points, the score will be 40-40 which is read as deuce. The next point does not decide the game but the side winning the point is given an advantage. A score of A-40 indicates serving side has 4 points and 3 points for receiver. Thus 40-A score indicates 4 points for receiving team. Side winning the point after advantage, wins the game. Otherwise the score reverts to deuce (i.e. 40-40).

This scoring system can also be understood by treating A-40 as a 40-30 situation. If the server wins next point then it will be the first to reach 4 points with a difference of 2, thereby winning the game. Else the score will become 40-40 or deuce. If receiver wins the point, then treat it as a 30-40 situation. Receiver will win the game by claiming the next point or the game reverts to deuce.

The serving side has an advantage in winning a point. It is observed that 60-65 percent points are won on serve. Here we will use p=0.64 as the probability of player on serve to win the point. This means the receiver has a chance of q = 1-p to win it. At deuce, server needs to win the next two points – a probability of p*p or p2. The probability of next 2 points shared between two teams is 2pq because either p wins and then loses (q) or loses the point first (q) and then wins (p). After 2 such points, we return to situation of deuce. Combining these two scenarios, we can determine the probability (d) of winning from the position of deuce as p2+2pqd which can be simplified as d = p2 / ( 1 – 2pq). Substituting p =0.64 and q = 0.36, we find that d = 0.76. It means that if a server wins 64% points on serve, the likelihood of winning from a position of deuce is 76%. If player wins 60% points on serve, the chance of winning from deuce reduces to 69%.

It is obvious that the chance of winning from 30-30 is the same as the chance of winning from deuce since both situations require either winning next 2 points to finish the game (one way or the other) or reach 40-40 after splitting successive points.

From the perspective of server, winning 4 points indicates 100% probability of winning the game and losing 4 points means 0% chance of success. It is proved above that the probability of winning from 3-3, 4-4, or any other n-n is 76%. By knowing these 3 constants, it is possible to determine the probability of winning from any other score. At 40-30, a player will either win the next point(pa) to win the game (100% chance of winning) or lose the point(qa) to reach deuce (d). This value is calculated as pa*1 + qa*d which equals to 91% chance of winning the game on serve from 40-30 when the server wins 64% points on serve. The chance of winning from 30-40 can be similarly calculated as winning the next point to reach deuce or losing the next point to lose the game – pa*d + qa*0. This value is slightly less than 50%.

We can extend this logic recursively. At 40-15, a player will either win the point to win the game or lose the point to reach 40-30 which can be calculated using the formula pa*1 + qa* (Probability of winning from 40-30 calculated above). We can successively move backwards to the beginning of the game with both players at 0-0. There is more than 81% chance for the player serving to win the game. In other words, a player is likely to hold his serve in 4 out of 5 situations with the advantage of winning 64% points on serve. The conditional probabilities of a player winning the game on serve from various score lines for pa = 0.64 :

0 15 30 40 Game
0 0.813 0.667 0.455 0.199 0
15 0.894 0.787 0.598 0.311 0
30 0.954 0.894 0.760 0.486 0
40 0.989 0.969 0.913 0.760
Game 1 1 1

For further details about ‘THE MATHEMATICS OF TENNIS’, please refer to this link by Tristan Barnett and Alan Brown.

At the end of a game, winner will get 100% credit and loser gets none irrespective of the number of points scored. A player may win all the 4 points played, or 14 of the 26 points in a game with 10 occurrences of deuce. In both these situations, the net result is 1 game to winner and nothing for loser. Due to these peculiarities, it is possible to lose a match despite winning more points.

At the end of first game, the opponents will serve. The above process is repeated till someone wins 4 or more points with a difference of two. The probability of winning point on serve for the other team will be different. Here, we will treat both sides as equal – it means that both teams have a 64% chance to win a point on serve. Both teams will alternate serves until the set is won. A set is played until one player or team has won six games. Once again, a team must win a set by a difference of two games. It is possible to win a set 6-0, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 or 6-4. If the scores are 6-5, then 12th game is played. Either one side will win 7-5 or the set is decided by a tiebreaker at 6-6.

Just as we calculated the probability of winning a game from various scores, it is possible to determine the probability of winning a set. If the score is 7-5 in favour of the server, then team has 100% chance of winning the set. If the score is 5-7 then the set is lost. At 6-6, the probability of winning the set is equal to the probability of winning the tiebreaker (t). At 6-5, the server will either win the game to take the set or lose it to start the tiebreaker. Like before we can calculate the probability of winning a set at 6-5 on serve as – pga*1 + qga*t. At 5-6, the probability of winning the set will be pga*t + qga*0 because winning the game will start the tiebreaker and losing the game will result in losing the set. The probability of winning at 5-4 can be calculated by knowing the probability for the scores at 6-4 and 5-5. Similarly, we can continue the recursive logic to determine the probability of winning a set after any other game score.

There is no advantage in winning a set whether a player serves first or second in the set. If both players have the same advantage in winning a point on serve, the probability of winning a set from 0-0, 1-1, 2-2, .. is always 50%. Assuming player 1 wins 62% points on serve and concedes 60% while receiving, this nominal advantage will translate to 56.8% chance of winning the set at 0-0, 56.3% at 1-1, 55.7% at 2-2, 55.2% at 3-3, 54.6% at 4-4 & 54.4% at 5-5 irrespective of who serves first.

A tiebreaker game is played at the score of 6-6. The rules of a tiebreaker game are different from a standard service game. First player to reach 7 points with a difference of at least 2 points wins the tiebreaker game and thereby the set. Unlike standard games, server changes frequently during the tiebreaker. Player serving the opening game of the set serves the first point. After that players alternate serving every two points. At the end of 12 points, if both players are still locked at 6-6, two more points are played. Either one player will win both points to claim the tiebreaker 8-6 or two more points will be added with each player on 7 points. Similar to deuce, the process will be repeated until we have the winner. Unlike standard service games, no special calls are assigned to designate points won in a tiebreaker.

The order of serve offers no advantage in winning a tiebreaker. Assuming equal strength of serve, both players will have a 50% chance of winning the tiebreaker at 0-0, 1-1, .. 6-6 etc. A nominal differential of 2% over a base of 60% will result in winning the tiebreak 53.3% at 0-0. It progressively reduces to 53%, 52.8%, 52.6% ultimately down to 52.1% at 6-6 irrespective of who serves first.

Most of the matches are played as best of 3 sets. The player winning 2 sets will win the match. All sets are determined by a tiebreaker if players are locked at 6-6. Sometimes best of 5 sets are played where a player has to win 3 sets. The final set may be played as an advantage set – no tiebreaker used at 6-6. Players continue to serve for 2 additional games until one player wins both.

If both players serve at equal potential, the chance of winning the match is 50% at 0-0 sets, 1-1 sets and 2-2 sets. A 2% differential on a base of 60% translates to nearly 63% chance of winning a 5 set match and 60% chance of winning best of 3.

Once we have rules to calculate the probability of winning a game, a tiebreaker, a tiebreak set, an advantage set, a best of 3 and best of 5 set match (either with tiebreak set or an advantage set in final set) – it is then possible to determine the chance of winning from any score based on points a & b, games c & d and sets e & f won by player 1 & 2 and who serves next.

Based on the varying probability of win after each point, it is possible to derive a value for pressure on a server. If the server leads 40-0, losing next point does not change the outcome of the match significantly but at 40-30 winning the next point wins you the game while losing will lead to deuce. So the pressure increases. At 30-40, the pressure is even higher as losing the next point costs the game. Losing a game in opening set will not change the probability of winning the match as much as it does in the final set. Thus an identical scoreline mentioned above but in the final set will result in greater pressure on serve.

On 1st March, in Dubai, World #116 qualifier Evgeny Donskoy stunned Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(5). The summary scoreline indicates that Federer broke Donskoy in first set at least one more time than he got broken. The next 2 sets were decided in tiebreaker games. Donskoy won 2nd set tiebreak at 9-7 and the final one at 7-5. Now we will translate the point by point data made available at scoreboard.com into an illustrative chart for each set.


Roger Federer, recently crowned Australian Open Champion for a record extending 18th grand slam, was facing qualifier Donskoy in their first meeting. It should have been a straightforward win for Federer. To offer live odds, punters will use a huge differential between points earned on serve for Federer and points conceded to Donskoy on his serve. These charts treat all players as equal and rely solely on match situation to determine who is ahead and the pressure on serve does not vary by rankings.

Above chart shows Federer in red and his serve in pink. Donskoy is represented in shades of blue. The summary stats show Federer winning 28 points to 18. He also leads in points won on own serve ar 18 – 11. 6-3 set score line indicates no tiebreaker. Federer broke serve 2 times with 3 break opportunities. We notice Donskoy broke him back once at the first chance. We also see that there was only 1 deuce on Donskoy’s serve.

On x-axis we see points played in each game. Barring 1 game, others were over in 4, 5 or 6 points. The longest game was 6th which extended to 8 points where deuce is represented as a yellow dot.

There is no mention of scale on y-axis. This is to indicate that the actual value of points allocated is not important – only the relative difference between red and blue curve is important. We have seen earlier that tennis scoring at the end of each game (& set) wipes out the progress made by losing player and assigns entire spoils to the winner. In this illustration, the credit for points earned in losing games is retained. This will give us an idea about the ability of a player to win points irrespective of the game outcome.

We notice that after first 3 games, the difference between two curves is nominal. Federer is winning a few more points than Donskoy purely due to an extra service game. The 4th game ends swiftly in 4 points with red curve rising sharply. It indicates a love-break for Federer. While 0-15 and 0-30 are treated as nominal points, at 0-40, the first breakpoint is assigned additional value hence red curve rises above blue. When Federer breaks serve on the next point, actual points assigned to Federer increase further to convey that Federer has surged ahead in the set.

Federer holds his serve on love in 5th game.,In the 6th game, which was the longest with a deuce, Federer earned another break point which was saved by Donskoy to take the game to deuce. This is clear by the rise in red curve indicating break point and subsequent fall which shows that the break point was saved and yellow dot indicates deuce. Red curve rises on the next two points indicating Federer won next 2 points to get his second break of the set.

Next game on Federer’s serve is 6 points long where blue line rises sharply towards the end. This means that Donskoy won the last 2 points after 30-30 to reduce the deficit. This was followed by a love-hold by Donskoy.

Federer serving for the set at 5-3 in the 9th game. We see that it is a 5 point game which means Federer does not falter – losing only 1 point on serve. There is an even sharper rise in the red curve, the first one indicating set point and the next increase shows that Federer won the set comfortably.

Now we take a look at the height of the background area charts in pink and light blue. These indicate whether it was a routine or a clutch point. Every point is assigned at least half the max value. The differential will vary as we get closer to the result. Losing the first set does not mean end of the road with a chance to recover in next two. The highest rise is noticed on the first breakpoint of the serve. A break of serve is vital in the set and one break is enough to win the set. The second break point opportunity does not significantly increase the likelihood of Federer winning the match hence the ‘pressure on serve’ does not increase as much as the first breakpoint. Same is true for the sole break by Donskoy. Losing the serve still does not cost Federer enough and we see that he manages to close out the set on his next serve. The pressure index actually drops towards the end of the set because Federer could afford to lose a point without affecting the outcome of the set.

This was a routine first set and fails to get any mention in the ATP match report.


The second set finds only one mention in the ATP match report

Federer looked poised to claim his ninth victory of the year when he held match points at 6/4 and 7/6 in the second set tie-break, before Donskoy fought back to force a decider.

We start with summary statistics and immediately notice that Donskoy won more points (43-37) in set despite trailing in points won on serve (30-32). Unlike the first set, there were no break point opportunities for Federer. Donskoy had one chance to break in the 10th game which was the longest at 12 points and 3 instances of deuce. We notice that Donskoy had a chance to break at 40-A after first deuce. This break point was also a set point hence the differential is higher. Federer saved a set point which is a key information that does not appear in the match report.

In tennis terms, at 6-6 both players are level. Here we see that the blue curve is higher than red at the beginning of tiebreak indicating more points won by Donskoy. In the tiebreak we notice red curve jumping above blue indicating a mini break for Federer. One mini break is enough to win the tiebreaker. Next we see a sharper rise when the score reached 6-4 with Federer serving. This was the first match point where Federer was expected to finish the match. He lost that point on serve to Donskoy. Even at 6-5, he held a second match point, but this time it was on Donskoy’s serve so the chances of converting it were lower but that does not reduce the pressure on Donskoy’s serve. Donskoy saved the second match point to level the tiebreak at 6-6.

Federer won the next point on Donskoy’s serve to lead 7-6 for his second match point on serve. Donskoy won the next 3 points – two on Federer’s serve, to win the second set and level the match. While the tiebreak points increase only by 1 unit, the chart shows wilder swings in red and blue curve at the business end of the match by assigning higher weight to clutch points.

In the second set, Federer had opportunities to win the match while Donskoy had his chance to win the set to enforce a 3rd. Clearly the dynamics of second set is different from the first. The pressure index rises higher than first set when Donskoy had a set point. This index goes off the chart towards the end when the match quickly swung from a win for Federer to the set for Donskoy.

This brings us to the exciting upset in the final set.


The ATP match summary describes all the key moments of the 3rd set.

Federer looked to have regrouped when he broke in the sixth game of the third set and served for the match at 5-4, but again he failed to close out victory, losing his serve to 30.

Donskoy then turned the tables as he broke Federer in the 11th game. But, serving for the biggest win of his career against the 18-time Grand Slam champion, the Russian was broken to love as the pulsating match when (sic) to a deciding tie-break.

Federer once again put himself in a commanding position as he led 5/2 with two serves to come. But in an astonishing turn of events, World No. 116 Donskoy reeled off the final five points of the match to prevail in just over two hours.

Federer broke in the sixth game – blue line representing Federer rises.

He lost serve to 30 – red line catches up.

Donskoy turned the tables – Red line takes charge.

The Russian was broken to love – Red line remains flat while the Blue line levels up.

Federer led 5/2 with two serves to come – Blue line continues to march but not high enough indicating this was not as close as the match point situation in second set.

Donskoy reeled off the final five points of the match – Blue line remains flat. Red line initially clears the deficit then takes the deciding lead to close the game.

Tennis Heartbeat – Federer edges Nadal to win 18th grand slam

It was November 2011. Federer faced Tsonga at the ATP Finals to mark the 100th final of his career. A set and break up, he began serving for the match with less than 90 mins on the clock. I turned to my better half reiterating my prediction about winning Wimbledon in 2012. The one who lives in the moment was not too keen to look that far ahead. The unspoken thought was the earlier loss to Djokovic at US Open squandering 2 match points on serve. Tsonga broke Federer and won the set in a tiebreaker, incidentally saving a match point. Perhaps an hour later Federer started serving again for the match. He closed it out without any drama winning 6-3, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 to capture 6th year-end title. That hour or so was spent hardly watching the game, mostly remembering the highs, and reassuring that his game was still solid to win 7 matches over 2 weeks.

Cricket is a game of aggregation. A run scored is worth the same irrespective of when and how it was scored. Tennis is slightly dissimilar, some points are worth more than the others. It is a game where a player can lose the match despite winning more points. 980 points were played over 665 minutes between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut over 183 games in the final score that read 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. Mahut won 502 points setting a new record for most points won in a match yet failed to qualify for the next round. I wrote about this match earlier and during that epic battle, I kept thinking about a way to represent the ebbs and flows succinctly.

Federer won Wimbledon in 2012 win and regained #1 spot. But my belief that #17 was a week away got severely tested during the 3rd round when Bennettau almost followed Rosol in pulling off a sensational upset. Federer’s back also seemed to be a problem while he continued to progress. Then a familiar obstacle in Djokovic awaited at semifinal stage.

Cautiously optimistic, I decided to test my idea of enhanced tennis points during the match. I checked the final score after each game and live tweeted as below:

5 points played in the opening game with Federer holding comfortably at 15. I allocated 4 units to Federer and 1 to Djokovic. Novak held his serve at love so he moves ahead with a total of 5 units to Federer’s 4. Federer broke in 6th game to win the first set 6-3. Since all points are not equal, he earned extra credit for the break and winning the set.

He eventually defeated Djokovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to face Murray in the final. Feeling confident, this time I decided to record each point in a spreadsheet and published a chart at the end of each set:

After title #17, Federer reached 3 more finals, each one against Novak Djokovic. The first was at Wimbledon 2014 which he lost 7–6(9–7), 4–6, 6–7(4–7), 7–5, 4–6. Not expecting a win, I followed the game without recording each point. The fourth set was one of the best I have ever seen and in the early exchanges of 5th, it looked as if Roger was about to stage an upset. Both these players met again at the same stage in Wimbledon 2015. Feeling more confident this time, the spreadsheet was out as a lucky charm for #18. Unaware of his 100% record in winning grand slam finals when I kept a tally of each point, Roger lost in 4 sets 6–7(1–7), 7–6(12–10), 4–6, 3–6.

Another final at US Open against the familiar foe ended 4–6, 7–5, 4–6, 4–6. 2016 was a repeat of 2013 with no appearance in any slam final. After his semi-final exit, injury kept Roger away for 6 months. Jun 2010 prediction of 20 titles or more was quietly downgraded to 50 QF appearances.

The unfathomable Roger-Rafa final happened at the Australian Open 2017. Spreadsheet was out. All points recorded. The break in opening game of the final set did not diminish the hope and soon 1-3 deficit was overturned by winning the next 5 games.

Federer won 6–4, 3–6, 6–1, 3–6, 6–3. Three sets finished in 9 games but ebbs and flows of each one are different. Following illustrations should help understand how the game unfolded.


In the sparring first set, both treated each other with respect. 4 of the 10 games were held at love and 2 more at 15. 3 other games went as far as 30. The pivotal game was the seventh. Federer went up 0-15. Nadal levelled at 15-15. Federer went ahead 15-30. A perfect drive volley earned him a break point and a wide cross-court by Nadal handed him the game.

Federer won 6-4 in the first set. There were 10 games, each player serving 5 times.The background alternates between blue and dushy pink representing Nadal and Federer serves. Red and Dark Blue colours are used to chart the progress of points won by Federer and Nadal. There are no units or grid lines on y-axis as the actual value of allocated points is immaterial. The state of the game is revealed by the difference between the line curves. On x-axis, each tick represents a point played. Total points played in each game are clearly mentioned. Each player is expected to win on serve hence no additional points for winning a game on serve. We can see that the dark blue curve rises after each tick in the first game while the red one remains at zero. This represents a love hold for Nadal. There are 6 points in the next game with no sharp difference between 2 curves. It means Federer held at 30. Nadal holds at 30 in 3rd game. Federer wins at 15 in 4th. Two love holds in 5th and 6th game. 7th game is the pivotal one where we see the red curve rising sharply denoting a break point. The next tick shows red curve rising slightly which means Federer broke. A love hold in 8th for Federer. Nadal holds a 6 point 9th game. Federer served out in 10th game. Even sharper increase denotes a set point for Federer and the next point concludes the set in his favour.


This the first of three 6-3 sets. Once again Nadal served first and held at 15. Federer dropped only 4 points on his serve in the first set but now his forehand was severely tested in an 8 point game.with 1 deuce (highlighted with a coloured dot). Nadal goes up 0-30 but Federer levels it 30-30. Sharp increase in blue curve represents Nadal’s first break-point which Federer saved. Red dot denotes a deuce. Nadal gets second break point which he duly converts. The difference between red and dark blue at the end of second game shows Nadal’s lead early in the set. The next game is even longer with 12 points. This time Federer earns a break point which was saved by Nadal for the first deuce. He surges ahead but Federer levels for second deuce. The second break point is also saved by Nadal for the third deuce after which he holds to go up 3-0. Federer’s serve is under pressure in 4th game as well. Nadal races to 0-40 earning 3 break points. Federer saves first two hence the blue curve remains flat. Nadal converts 3rd break point to lead 4-0. Federer broke Nadal in 5th to reduce the deficit. No further drama with easy holds in next 4 games. This set ended 6-3 with 3 breaks and a hard fought 4th game that included 2 break points which the final score does not reveal.


Federer won the third set 6-1 but it was not one way traffic. 3 break points at deuce earned by Nadal were saved by aggressive serving in opening game. Aces and double faults were not recorded. If the data were available we could highlight the flurry of aces served by Roger. He doled out 2 love games in 3rd and 5th. Nadal was standing about 8 feet behind baseline. Federer stood no more than a foot behind and capitulated on Nadal’s errors to break him in 2nd and 6th game. In between Nadal held one serve in 4th saving 3 break points in a 4 deuce game. Federer served for the set, two breaks up, but Nadal raced ahead earning first of his two break points. Federer saved the first one and then led to reach set point. Nadal saved it with 2nd deuce then had another opportunity to break. Federer won last 3 points to take the set 6-1.


Momentum shifted again. Federer’s forehand was weakened. Nadal took the opportunity in 4th game to break him with improbable angles. He was under pressure in 5th in a 10 point game without conceding any break points. Federer saved a break point in the 6th game. After that both players held remarkably. The second of 6-3 scorelines was decided by a solitary break.

There were no break point opportunities for Roger in the 4th while his serve was under pressure. Federer took a medical time out before the 5th set ro treat his troublesome groin. ATP physio was also called during the set to massage his thigh.


Nadal broke Federer in the opening game of fifth set. Federer responded with 3 break points on Nadal’s serve but unable to convert any. Federer serves out 3rd game at love. Looking to break even, willing to sit out another 6 months if he had to, he continues to be aggressive earning another break point which is saved by Nadal. An easy hold for Federer in 5th game. Another break point opportunity is saved by Nadal in 6th. After deuce #2, Federer levels converting his 6th break opportunity. An easy hold in 7th. Rafa has shown to have unlimited reserves of stamina. Despite frenetic action, the fifth set is still on server with Roger ahead 4-3. He had to take his chances in the 8th to finish the game quickly carrying on the momentum. He had an opportunity to break in all three games served by Rafa. He wins 3 points in a row to lead 0-40. Surely it is game over now.

Not unexpectedly, Nadal saved all 3 break points. And then a fourth one too. There was a 26 stroke rally in between. But he could not save the fifth one. Roger started the ninth game to serve out for championship. He had conceded only 1 point in his last 3 service games. This should be easy.

In the do-or-die game, Nadal moves ahead at 0-30. Federer pulls one back at 15-30 but soon stares at 2 break points. The collective memories of all the matches, where he failed to close out, overwhelm those on and off the court. Everyone breathes as he saves these break points to move towards championship point. First one is saved though. He earns a second one. He serves again. There is a challenge by Rafa. Hawk-eye replay favours Federer. There was a short delay before he could celebrate winning the 18th slam. Some may argue that the delay was longer.

Indian Test Team Rises to Highest Ever Rating

UPDATE: On 14th August 2017, after Test #2269, India defeated Sri Lanka by an innings and 171 runs to reach its highest ever team rating of 60.37 – past the very difficult barrier of 60 points. 

On 12th December 2016,  after Test # 2239,  India defeated England by an innings and 36 runs to reach its highest ever team rating of 57.47.

Sachin Tendulkar retired in Nov 2013 after a hastily arranged 2 test farewell series against West Indies. India’s Team Rating was 55.98 after that test, the highest since Bangladesh joined as the 10th nation to play test cricket. The next test was a thrilling draw against South Africa at Johannesburg. Chasing a target of 458 on a tricky pitch, South Africa came within eight runs of breaking the world record, thanks to du Plessis and de Villiers. It was a good performance by India setting a stiff target of over 450 runs in an away match. The team rating value dropped slightly after this match to 55.71. India was ranked 2nd behind South Africa at the time. In the next year and half, team performances dipped. India was ranked 7th, with 42.37 points, after losing the opening test at Galle against Sri Lanka in August 2015. This was the last test featuring Harbhajan Singh.

India has played 17 more test matches in 5 test series since that loss. Recovering after that early loss, India won next 2 matches to beat Sri Lanka 2-1. South Africa visited in Nov-Dec 2015 for a 4 test series. Excluding a rain affected draw, India won remaining 3 matches with 108, 124 and 337 runs. A tour to Carribean, after a prolonged gap, in Jul-Aug 2016 for a 4 test series followed. India won 1st and 3rd test easily and the other two were drawn. This was the time when India, England, Australia and Pakistan were neck to neck in team ratings. England, Australia and India exchanged a place at the top of the rankings within a space of 15 days. India climbed upto 54.39 points after a win in 3rd test to reach #1 spot.

Black Caps toured for a 3-test series in Oct-Nov 2016. Batting first in all 3 tests, India registered big wins by 197, 178 & 321 runs. There was a further marginal improvement to 55.41 points mainly due to size of victory since India was expected to beat New Zealand at home. Team Ratings were fairly close to all time high but a tough opponent was waiting.

India not only lost to England in earlier two away visits but also lost a home series despite winning first. Not unexpectedly, honours went to England at Rajkot in the opening test. England was ahead 59-34 in the drawn test. This was the first reversal for Indian Team since the lost test against Sri Lanka. After that loss, India had won 10 test matches and enjoyed the upper hand in 3 draws. A tense finish was on the cards in this 5 test series.

3 comprehensive wins on the trot followed. In an anti-climax the series has been decided with 5th test yet to play. This is the 5th consecutive series win. India is unbeaten for 17 test matches with 13 wins. This is the best streak ever especially when we account for the margin separating two teams. India has now reached its highest ever team rating of 57.47 (since Jan 2002).


Axis on right hand side shows the steady increase from about 42 points to recent rise reaching nearly 58. Each of the 13 wins took India a step higher with occasional breaks applied after each of the 4 draws.

Cricket is a team game and this is a fantastic team. 18 test matches are covered in this post. Only 2 players – Ashwin and Kohli – have featured in all these tests. 21 other players were involved for anything between 1 to 17 tests. 7-8 or even more players start regularly when a team is on a streak. It is evident that there were hardly any passengers in this squad. The bench strength ensured that replacement openers, wicket keeper and bowlers operated at more or less the same level as first choice players.

6 players are featured in above chart as the top contributors for India. Without any doubt, R Ashwin is the most valuable player for India. Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph:

There is an immortal in the making in the Indian Test side and it isn’t Virat Kohli. If Ravichandran Ashwin was to retire tomorrow, he would, arguably, be the best all-rounder in India’s Test history. Better than Vinoo Mankad, better even than Kapil Dev. We think of Ashwin as a young man making his way in the world. He isn’t. He is 30 years old and he has played 41 Test matches. He isn’t a veteran yet, but he’s an experienced player in his cricketing prime.

In these 18 tests, Ashwin has bagged an astonishing 123 wickets while scoring 740 runs. Every finished test is assigned a total of 100 points to be shared by 22 players. Ashwin averages over 11 points in each test. He was not only the best bowler in 8 of those 18 tests, he once managed to be the best batsman too. On the opening day of 3rd test against West Indies, he joined Rahane as #6 with India struggling at 4-87. It soon became 5-126 when wicket keeper Saha joined Ashwin. Both of them scored centuries while adding over 200 runs for the 6th wicket. India eventually won that test by 237 runs.

In the same period Herath has bagged 88 wickets in 15 matches also scoring 424 runs averaging 8.8 points. Jadeja, despite playing only 12 matches, is 3rd in that list with 56 wickets and 433 runs. Moeen Ali featured in 21 tests scoring 1053 runs and taking 55 tests. All-rounders tend to lead such lists. Kohli, a specialist batsman, scoring 1633 runs in 18 tests is ahead of Bairsow(1713) and Root(1784) who played 3 more tests. Broad, Stokes and Cook complete the top 11. Barring Herath, this list features players from India and England only. To the credit of this Indian Team, they have reached an all time high by beating an in-form team comprehensively.

Ashwin, Jadeja and Kohli are the architects with able support from Pujara, Rahane and Murli Vijay who played in 15, 17 & 14 tests respectively. 4 specialist batsmen followed by Ashwin and Saha have done the job for India while batting. Ashwin and Jadeja were primarily supported by Mishra/Shami and Umesh Yadav to form the bowling unit.One opening spot and fitness of pace bowlers are the causes of concern.

All 23 players who have played for India appear in the next illustration. Those who scored the most points over 18 tests appear at the top. Plenty of players did not get a chance to play in all the tests.Some may have missed tests due to fitness, others for lack of form and a few warmed the bench for a regular player. Amit Mishra will feel bad for being left out despite solid performances. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Jayant Yadav have stepped up when they got a chance.


Above illustration does not clearly show relative peaks attained by each player. It can be seen as a visual aid to composition of Indian team. Harbhajan made a solitary appearance in the lost test against Sri Lanka. Ojha was a replacement for Saha in Sri Lanka. Recently this role went to recalled Parthiv Patel who has done well as keeper/batsman. Gambhir was also recalled briefly for the opening slot. Nair and Rahul have filled in for specialist batsmen. Aaron was a replacement bowler in the Caribbean. Binny was dropped. Ishant and Rohit Sharma were given extended runs. Dhawan has partnered Vijay most often. Umesh Yadav, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami have shouldered responsibility in the pace department. Disappointment for Mishra as Jayant appears to replace him with an added advantage of wonderful footwork. His 100 from #9 position was vital in winning the most recent test.

Finally, we take a look at percentage contribution. Let us first understand what is meant by Par value. Every completed match is assigned 100 points. Par value for each team is 50 points or half the total points from incomplete matches. These 50 points per team are then further divided amongst 11 players. Thus par value for each player is about 4.5 points. Par for the opponents is 50 points but India won most of the matches comprehensively reducing the actual value to only 36.5%. This was the key to India’s assent to all time high ratings.


6 players are featured in above chart. Only 2 of these played in all 18 matches. Hence rest of Indian team varies between 5 and 8 players. Ashwin alone has secured 1/8th of total available points vis-a-vis a par value of 1/22 that is nearly 3 times the expected value. Jadeja is the surprise in second position. He earned 7.3% of gross points despite appearing in only 12 of the 18 matches.

Kohli is the in-form batsman. In 2016, he has outperformed everyone else in all formats – not limited to test cricket alone. Pujara and Rahane are hovering just around the par values followed by Vijay who is a little under. Points assigned by Relative Value model are a zero-sum game. Absolute values such as 100s, 200s or 5-for, 10-for do not matter as much as the context of the game. If 3 players score over 100 runs, then the value of the tallest score will not be as high in the zero-sum world. Ashwin is on a miracle run. Assuming his extra points are counting towards the winning margin, the rest of the team is doing admirably well by performing around near-par or just above. Pujara and Rahane as the 4th and 5th player have done an excellent job to return figures just above par. Vijay appears slightly under-par but his figures must be read in the context of 5 other players ahead of him.

How the rest of the team performed is the most impressive aspect revealed by this chart. Collectively they have risen above the average. This macro figure can be understood by taking into account all the tricky situations which the team found itself in and how different players shouldered the responsibility to carry the team to safety. Cricket is a team game and this team has done an admirable job in winning 5 back-to-back series. We have to keep in mind that the best this team has achieved for India is far from the best. Australian team of 2003 is the gold standard who reached an astounding 68 points out of 100. South Africa around the same time scaled over 62 points despite playing with the most dominant side ever. England went one better with 63 points in 2012. Sri Lanka has never reached the top spot but managed to reach over 60 points in 2007. This Indian team should set itself new targets to first reach 60 points out of 100.

Is Kohli better than Tendulkar? The simple answer to that question is Yes – in T20 cricket. Kohli is not only better than Tendulkar, he is the best ever batsman. In ODIs, Tendulkar is second behind Viv Richards. Kohli is a top-20 batsman in the all time ODI list. To rise in relative terms, he has to outperform as a batsman even more significantly because runs have become cheaper. Tendulkar is merely a very good test match batsman and should not be the yardstick to judge upcoming talent. In any case, I recently compiled the Fantasy Indian XI where Kohli failed to make the cut. He needs to carry his current form into a sustained run before we can include him as a first choice middle order batsman.

Absolute numbers are important but these have a limited usage. Every tall score requires above average support from the team. In Relative Value terms, a lower score may fetch more points when you run out of partners. Looking for individual brilliance in a team game is the key attraction of this sport. We still have to remember that a player will earn more points for the same contribution if the team fares better. A good batting knock needs support from the bowling unit to translate it into a win. Being part of a winning unit helps a player raise his relative score. Good collective performances, not individual brilliance in a mediocre pool, helps the team to earn more points. Each one has to play well for the team to excel. An excellent team will help individuals earn more relative points. It is a virtuous cycle where better individual performances result into greater team success which in turn earns more value for the individual.

If this Indian team continues its glorious run, the individual members will start replacing the members of Fantasy XI selected soon after 500th test. Here is  wishing them all great success!


India won the 3 test series against Sri Lanka in Aug 2017 to break the 60-point barrier. This feat was already achieved by Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and England indicating a sustained period of dominance over its rivals.

Since the last update, India managed to beat England by an innings in the last test of the series. After that India hosted Bangladesh for a solitary test. Despite scoring 687/6d and restricting the tigers to 388, follow on was not imposed. India won the test by 208 runs but the margin of victory was diminished. India reached a career high rating of 59.12 after that test.

Continuing the upward run was going to be difficult in the 4-test home series against Australia. Winnin in itself is not sufficient – the margin of victory must remain high to add more rating points when the base is already close to 60. Australia began the series with a comprehensive 333 run win. India lost 2.22 rating points due to the unexpected home loss against the run of successive wins.

India won the next test, drew the third and won by 8 wickets in the last one to marginally improve the rating points by 11 basis points.

Playing away after a long home season, India faced Sri Lanka. 2 years earlier, India lost the first test at Galle descending to a low value of 42.57. In the opening test, India earned a sizeable first innings lead of over 300 runs but chose to bat again. A comprehensive win by 304 runs was measured as a roughly 65-35 win. An innings defeat is worth at least 75 points but often many teams like to give the bowlers some break. Indian team gained a few tens of basis points after this comprehensive win.

Yet crossing the barrier of 60 appeared remote. The margins of victory had to be even more comprehensive. India scored over 600 runs in the second test and bundled Sri Lanka for 183. This time follow-on was imposed. India won the test by an innings and 53 runs after Sri Lanka batted much better in the second innings. This win was rated around 76-24 taking team rating points to a round 59.

In the last test, India scored 487 runs batting first. Sri Lanka collapsed twice for 135 and 181 handing India a victory by an innings and 171 runs. This was a massive 82-18 win. For the first time, India went past the 60-point barrier with 60.37 points.

The three charts explained earlier in this post regenerated below:


KL Rahul appears in this updated chart who now outperforms the injured Murali Vijay in the combined performances over 2 years.


Jadeja has contributed more than Ashwin in recent tests. Similarly Pujara was better with the bat compared to Kohli.


And finally, the team composition chart shows that Hardik Pandya had a very good debut series. Also Shikhar Dhawan did well as a returning opener in place of Murali Vijay.

India XI

India defeated New Zealand by 197 runs in Kanpur while playing its 500th test match. To mark this occasion BCCI asked fans to vote for their all-time dream team. The results were announced during the closing stages of the win on 26 Sep:

The above team includes 11 who justify their selection through weight of their achievements. Only 12th man Yuvraj Singh is out of place in a TEST team because he enjoyed his success in limited overs format. Sunil Gavaskar is the oldest to play in this team who made his debut in 1971, about 40 years after India started playing Test Cricket. There could be a recall bias in this selection and hence another attempt to select India’s Best Test XI based on objective data. The numbers used are updated at the end of second test between India and New Zealand at Eden Gardens celebrating India’s 250th test at home.

Here we first set a few guidelines on selection, then identify multiple players for each role and eventually get to the toughest part of elimination. Elimination over selection highlights achievements of those that failed to make the final cut. Those who are eliminated are deserving and we get a chance to talk about their accomplishments too.

Till 3rd October 2016, India has played 250 tests at home and 251 away. The first ever test was a 3 day match against England in June 1932 played at Lord’s. First home test was played 18 months later at Gymkhana Ground in Mumbai against the same team in a 4-day affair. India lost both matches. India’s first encounter against a non-English side was a tour down under, soon after gaining independence, in late 1947 for a 5 test series. Don Bradman made merry with 715 runs in 4-0 series win supported by Lindsay Hassett who scored 332 runs. Bowling honours went to Johnston (16-182) and Lindwall (18-304). Top contributors for India were Dattu Phadkar (314 runs, 8-254), Vijay Hazare (429 runs, 7-382) and Vinoo Mankad (306 runs, 12-630).

The only drawn test of the series was played at Sydney where less than 10 hours of cricket was possible over 6 days. Phadkar, who did not play the first test, contributed on debut with both bat and ball. He was part of a 70 run stand after India lost 6 wickets for 95 to reach a team total of 188. He claimed 3-14 with the ball as Australia was bundled for 107. The match is now remembered widely for the run out of Bill Brown by Vinoo Mankad when non-striker Brown moved down the pitch and Mankad whipped off the bails. In an earlier tour match, Mankad warned Brown first and then ran him out. There was no warning during the test and this form of dismissal which is completely legal yet controversial continues to be called ‘Mankading’.

Next year India hosted West Indies for another 5 match series losing it 1-0. Subsequent 5 match home series against England in 1951-52 was drawn 1-1 where India recorded first test win at Chennai inflicting an innings defeat. India hosted Pakistan in 1952. The 5 match series ended 2-1 to hand first series win for India. New Zealand visited in 1955 to lose 2-0. Vinoo Mankad was the top performer scoring 526 runs and picking 12 wickets. Subhash Gupte was the wrecker-in-chief who took 34 wickets. He earlier took 21 wickets in a drawn series against Pakistan.

India’s first away series win was against West Indies in 1971 with Ajit Wadekar at helm. Sunil Gavaskar made his debut scoring 774 runs. The established quartet of Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna & Venkataraghavan then carried that form further to record a home and away series win against England.

In 1986, Kapil Dev led India to another away series win against England. Dilip Vengsarkar was in great form supported by Mohinder Amarnath.

Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble were individually brilliant in 1990s. The team enjoyed sustained success in 2000s with Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman and Harbhajan Singh peaking together. Dhoni took over from Ganguly with the same core and Zaheer Khan as the prominent pace bowler to become the most successful Indian captain.

This brief history gives us an idea about the names likely to appear in the selectorial basket. Some of the players will select themselves. There will be competition for other spots. We need to define some parameters to assess players across era for a fairer comparison.

285 players have represented India in test matches. Senior Pataudi played for England before representing India. After the partition, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Gul Mohammad and Amir Elahi played for Pakistan too. Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid played the one-off super test against Australia as part of the ICC team.

The first step is to find a shorter list of players who have played sufficient tests representing India. 48 players earned a solitary cap. Shute Banerjee and Mantu Banerjee both took 5 wickets in the only test played. Incidentally both took 1 and 4 wickets in the two innings bowled. 5 wickets per match is a good return but one swallow does not a summer make. Hence we will not consider 17% players who did not get another chance to play second test.

Another 119 played between 2 to 10 tests. Vijay Merchant and CK Nayudu are notable in this group. CK led India in the inaugural test. A player still remembered by his initials, he was the first Indian cricketer to endorse a brand as far back as 1941. A stroke maker known for his sixes – he once hit a six crossing the River Rea which was the boundary between Warwickshire and Worcestershire while batting in a tour match at Edgbaston. Despite an exceptional first class span between 1916 and 1964, he featured in only 7 test matches.

Vijay Merchant with a first class average of 71 finds a place between White George Headley and Black Don Bradman but he too played in only 10 test matches, all against England, over a period of 18 years. He recorded his highest test score at the age of 40 in his last appearance. His test match batting averages were covered in this post to understand G and µ, the preferred averages of this blogspace.  As a Test selector, he was responsible in opting for Ajit Wadekar as captain of India over Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi. His radio show on Sundays was keenly followed by cricket fans. Merchant was a great philanthropist working for the blind and the handicapped. He will be remembered forever for his achievements on and off the field but his short test career makes it difficult to objectively judge his cricketing achievements vis-a-vis others. A further 42% players, including these two, will not be considered for lack of sufficient data.

Vinod Kambli, another flashy stroke player, was a precocious talent. In a school match he put on an unbroken 644 run partnership with Sachin Tendulkar. He scored two centuries and two back-to-back double hundreds in his first 7 tests reaching the milestone of 1000 runs in 14 innings – a feat bettered only by Sutcliffe, Weekes, Bradman and Harvey. Fantastic against spinners at home, he was found out against the short ball in a less than favourable away career. He signed off with 1084 runs in 17 tests.

Narendra Hirwani played 17 tests too. His career started off even more spectacularly. Against the mighty West Indies, albeit at the tailormade Chepauk, he claimed 16 wickets for 136 on debut breaking the record of Bob Massie. He followed it by taking 8 and 7 wickets in next two tests. He discovered that away games were not played on his favourite surface and the wickets dried. After 31 wickets in first 3 tests, he added 35 more in remaining 14. His career ended with the arrival of Anil Kumble.

Other than Kambli and Hirwani, 30 more players played between 11 and 20 tests. Very few manage to start on a scintillating note but it is evident that sustaining an above average performance for a period of 20 tests is very difficult.  No player with career spanning 20 or fewer tests will be considered for selection.

27 more players in the next slab of 21 to 30 tests. This list includes active players like Dhawan and Rahane who may eventually enjoy a very long career. Lala Amarnath and Vijay Hazare are notable performers from an era when test matches were infrequent. Likely that each one would have played far more tests had they plied their trade when the rewards became better? Not easy to discard these names but in the absence of objective data for fair comparison, it is best to leave them out too. Salim Durani, Rusi Surti, Syed Abid Ali, Roger Binny, Dilip Sardesai, Eknath Solkar and Sandeep Patil also served India with distinction before the 1990s. Pragyan Ojha, Venkatpathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan have decent home record as slow bowlers. India does not include 3 spinners away from subcontinent where faster bowlers are preferred. Sreesanth & Ajit Agarkar bowled faster and played their part in scripting rare away wins. None of these bowlers appeared in more than 30 tests though.

Some players were outstanding but did not play enough tests for lack of opportunities. Some started on a brilliant note but could not sustain in alien conditions. And then we have the case of Irfan Pathan. He made his debut at 19 in 2003. A talented left arm bowler with brisk pace AND a sensible batsman who could bail his team out – he seemed like the allrounder India missed. Alas… Injuries played their part, his pace dropped significantly and eventually he did not reach the heights expected. Irfan played only 29 tests! So we can make it a condition that maintaining fitness over a sufficient period is a key criterion for selection.

It means 226 out of 285 players are ineligble because they participated in 30 or fewer tests. On the other hand 59 is still a very high number to study individual careers in detail. So the second step is to pool candidates for specific roles – Openers, Middle order batsmen, Allrounders, Wicketkeeper, Captain, pace bowlers and slow bowlers (legbreak, offbreak and orthodox). There will be additional quantitative criterion to ensure that those with very long careers do not trump others by virtue of gross figures alone.

Let us commence with allrounders. Who qualifies as an allrounder? An allrounder could be a bits and pieces player who can bat a little and bowl a little. A quality allrounder joins the team as a specialist batsman or a specialist bowler who also provides decent support in bowling or batting. A remarkable allrounder is one who can win a match with both his bat and the ball. A unicorn allrounder is one who does this match after match. Here we will consider any player with an average of more than 2 batting points AND 2 bowling points. For every completed test match, Relative Value Model assigns points out of 100 to each player. Fewer points are allocated for draws depending on the progress towards result. These are normalised values to ensure comparison between runs scored in a high scoring match with wickets taken in a low scoring one.

Name Tests Runs Wickets Avg Bat Pts Avg Bowl Pts MVP (Win)
R Ashwin 38 1510 207 2.39 6.63 8
MH Mankad 44 2109 162 2.88 4.45 5
Kapil Dev 131 5248 434 2.06 3.81 3
M Prabhakar 39 1600 96 2.28 2.88 1
RJ Shastri 80 3830 151 2.49 2.68 1
DG Phadkar 31 1229 62 2.03 2.54 0

MVP (Win) indicates the number of tests where the team won when player was the top performer – sort of total Man of the Match awards in an Indian test win.

Phadkar bowled right-arm offbreak as well as Fast-Medium. Kapil Dev & Manoj Prabhakar were pace bowlers and Ashwin, Shastri and Mankad are slow. Vinoo Mankad was an opener. Ravi Shastri selected for his bowling started as a #11. With time he eventually moved up the order to become an opener scoring a double hundred in Australia but then he was used more as a stock bowler. It shows that roles change over a long period. Career figures need not capture the essence of any player. Besides Phadkar played just enough to warrant selection while Kapil Dev played in a 100 more tests. For a fairer comparison, we now look at the peak performance measured over 30 tests.

Name Avg Total Pts Start Test Year Started
R Ashwin 9.47 6 2012
Vinoo Mankad 8.72 10 1948
Kapil Dev 7.13 13 1979
Ravi Shastri 6.17 20 1983
Manoj Prabhakar 5.84 3 1989
Dattu Phadkar 4.71 1 1947

Ashwin is in a remarkable form. In fact his current streak makes it to the top 10 ever recorded. Mankad got in his stride by 10th test and hung his boots soon after the peak. Kapil Dev managed to put in 3 different streaks due to a lengthy career. His best streak was fairly early in his career listed above at 7.13 starting in 1979. Second one started in 1985 (averaging 6.01) and last one in 1989 (avg 5.14). These three players will figure in our final selection. Eventually we will select the best allrounders that offer the right team balance in the company of our chosen specialists.

Next we need a wicketkeeper. Before Adam Gilchrist this was a specialist fielding position and keepers were not judged by their ability to bat. These days keeper is someone who can bat aggressively or defend based on match situation as a link between middle order and the tail. Now it is rare to see a wicketkeeper bat below a specialist bowler. There is no quantitative measure that captures chances created (through quick stumpings or difficult catches), chances missed, runs saved or conceded etc. Wicketkeeping skills are judged subjectively and this is a predominantly objective exercise. Hence we will choose one or two wicketkeepers based on available data such as dismissals per test and batting averages.

Name Tests Runs Catches Stumpings Avg Bat Pts MVP (Win)
MS Dhoni 90 4876 256 38 2.85 1
Kiran More 49 1285 110 20 1.50 0
Nayan Mongia 44 1442 99 8 1.94 1
Syed Kirmani 88 2759 160 38 1.70 0
Farokh Engineer 46 2611 66 16 3.06 0

Farokh Engineer and Mongia batted in middle order. Kirmani and More were specialist keepers batting in late order. Dhoni is the modern keeper-batsman typically playing #7 role behind specialist batsmen. Engineer was the best batsman but he has the worst rate of under 2 dismissals per match. This is not a reliable measure though as the dismissals depend on the bowling standard of the team too. Dhoni is the only keeper averaging over 3 dismissals per test and he is second in batting behind Farokh. There should not be any doubt in choosing Dhoni as the sole candidate once we disregard the achievements of Kirmani and More on the post-Gilchrist standards.

Now we move to another subjective role – that of a Captain. It is possible to look at the number of times a player led his team or the win percentage but that does not reveal how weak or strong the team was and how the skills of the captain lifted the performance of his team. Mike Brearley was a skilled captain but an average batsman. The circumstances under which he took over from Ian Botham to stage a remarkable Ashes recovery marks him as an exception – not a yardstick. Typically the best or the seniormost willing player becomes the captain. Two Indian captains are worth a mention though. Ajit Wadekar won only 4 matches for India but those included important series wins including captaincy mind games played against the strong West Indian outfit led by Sobers. Sourav Ganguly too stands tall for improving the record of an inherited team. Yet none of these attributes can be quantified. So we will take a look at those who led India more than 30 times along with their win percentage.

Name Matches Won Win %
MS Dhoni 60 27 45.00
Sourav Ganguly 49 21 42.85
M Azharuddin 47 14 29.78
Sunil Gavaskar 47 9 19.14
MAK Pataudi 40 9 22.50
Kapil Dev 34 4 11.76

Dhoni and Ganguly have the best record. The stability of their reign and the success rate means only these two will be evaluated in final selection to lead India.

Now we move to the bowling unit. Initially we will separate slow bowlers from the fast ones. Back in 1932 at Lord’s, India opened bowling with fast bowlers Mohammad Nissar and Amar Singh. The backup was offered by medium pace as quality spinners were not easy to find. This changed with the arrival of Vinoo Mankad and until 1970s spinners were the best bowlers with a stock bowler employed to take the shine off the new ball. Dattu Phadkar and Karsan Ghavri were the exceptions to this tradition until Kapil Dev stamped his authority as the strike bowler. Srinath and Zaheer Khan carried his tradition forward. Here we look at the record of all medium pacers with at least 50 wickets.

Name Tests Wickets Avg S/R Avg Bowl Pts MVP (Win)
Zaheer Khan 92 311 32.95 60.40 3.90 2
Kapil Dev 131 434 29.65 63.92 3.81 3
J Srinath 67 236 30.49 64.00 3.74 2
Ishant Sharma 72 209 36.72 66.62 3.54 1
Karsan Ghavri 39 109 33.54 64.55 3.20 0
Venkatesh Prasad 33 96 35.00 73.34 3.09 0
Manoj Prabhakar 39 96 37.30 77.86 2.88 1
Dattu Phadkar 31 62 36.85 96.68 2.54 0
Madan Lal 39 71 40.08 84.46 2.24 0

Unlike batting average which does not treat not out situations properly, bowling average is a very good indicator of the quality of a bowler. Kapil Dev leads in longevity (no injuries), number of wickets and an average below 30 with only Zaheer Khan ahead in strike rate. Average Bowling Points is a propreitary measure that normalises bowling performances across test matches. Zaheer leads on this metric narrowly edging out Kapil. Srinath is not far behind these two. These 3 have also won matches for India as MVP multiple times and are undoubtedly the best candidates. Let us also look at their peak performances too.

Name Avg Total Pts Start Test Year Started
Zaheer Khan 5.06 47 2007
Kapil Dev 4.87 10 1979
J Srinath 4.70 22 1996
Ishant Sharma 4.31 6 2008
Kapil Dev 4.22 47 1983
Kapil Dev 3.80 88 1987
Zaheer Khan 3.55 16 2002
Manoj Prabhakar 3.52 3 1989
Karsan Ghavri 3.35 7 1977
Ishant Sharma 3.21 42 2011
Venkatesh Prasad 2.96 1 1996
Dattu Phadkar 2.62 1 1947
Madan Lal 2.55 3 1974

The same three appear at the top when we evaluate them for peak performance over 30 tests. Zaheer Khan started slowly at the beginning of his career but peaked after 2007. On a subjective note, his contribution goes beyond his bowling efforts as he nurtured his pace partners once he matured into his role. Kapil gave his best at the start of his career starting from 1979. He declined as a bowler while improving as a batsman but even his second and third best is ahead of other bowlers including early Zaheer. Srinath’s best is not far behind Kapil. So the same trio get our approval for selection in list of probables.

A cliche calls India as the land of snake charmers and spin bowlers. Before Kapil Dev, matches were won by spin bowlers – Vinoo Mankad and Subhash Gupte got a mention here already. Ghulam Ahmed, Chandu Border and Salim Durrani were key performers until the golden era of Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Venkatraghavan. With that rich tradition, it is better to categorise our probables by style. There are four types in spin bowling based on arm used (left or right) and technique (wrist or finger). Since we do not have any chinaman bowlers (left-arm unorthodox) in our probables we will look at the remaining three styles separately. Let us begin with left-arm orthodox bowlers i.e. finger spinners.

Name Tests Wickets Avg S/R Avg Bowl Pts MVP (Win)
Bishan Bedi 67 266 28.71 80.32 4.95 6
Dilip Doshi 33 114 30.72 81.77 4.90 2
Vinoo Mankad 44 162 32.32 90.65 4.45 5
Maninder Singh 35 88 37.36 93.39 3.56 0
Bapu Nadkarni 41 88 29.08 104.15 3.10 0
Ravi Shastri 80 151 40.96 104.31 2.68 1

Bishan Bedi is the obvious choice being the most successful bowler and the best average. Vinoo Mankad is already included as an allrounder. These two have won matches for India most often. Bapu Nadkarni will be remembered for his accurate bowling to stifle a batsman but the under-30 average is primarily for leaking fewer runs when we need wickets to force a win. Peak performance list below confirms Bedi and Mankad as probables.

Name Avg Bowl Pts Start Test Year Started
Bishan Bedi 6.00 28 1972
Vinoo Mankad 5.27 10 1948
Dilip Doshi 5.26 1 1979
Maninder Singh 3.96 6 1983
Ravi Shastri 3.52 20 1983
Bapu Nadkarni 3.36 12 1960

Indian spin quartet is the collective name given to Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Venkatraghavan. All four started against England at Edgbaston in 1967. Collectively they played 231 test matches claiming 853 wickets. This quartet was instrumental in producing many Indian Test victories against West Indies, England, Australia and New Zealand. Yet barring the aforementioned test, one of the off spinners, Prasanna or Venkataraghavan was always left out. A right handed finger spinner is also called an offbreak bowler. We take a look at the leading exponents below:

Name Tests Wickets Avg S/R Avg Bowl Pts MVP (Win)
R Ashwin 38 207 25.14 51.41 6.63 8
Harbhajan Singh 103 417 32.46 68.54 5.23 11
Erapalli Prasanna 49 189 30.38 75.94 4.37 2
Shivlal Yadav 35 102 35.10 81.96 3.65 0
Venkataraghavan 57 156 36.12 95.37 3.54 1

Harbhajan Singh is the second highest wicket taking off-spinner behind Muttiah Muralitharan. He established himself by taking 32 wickets in a memorable series victory against Australia in 2001 when no other Indian bowler scalped more than 3 wickets in a 3 match series. He partnered Kumble regularly while playing on the subcontinental surfaces but was left out when a sole spinner was used abroad. Ashwin has enjoyed tremendous success in the subcontinent racing to 100 wickets in 18th match and later the second fastest to 200 when India defeated New Zealand by 197 runs in Kanpur. His rate of 8 MVPs in 38 tests is exceptional. Only Don Bradman and Lohmann enjoy a better success rate. Let us check the peak 30 year performances to determine whether anyone else got closer to him.

Name Avg Bowl Pts Start Test Year Started
R Ashwin 6.89 6 2012
Harbhajan Singh 6.35 64 2008
Harbhajan Singh 5.95 10 2001
Erapalli Prasanna 5.20 7 1967
Venkataraghavan 4.09 14 1969
Shivlal Yadav 3.79 1 1979

Only Harbhajan has played sufficient tests to have 2 separate 30-test streaks. His best streak in the middle of his career is a little behind Ashwin’s phenomenal start. Ashwin, already selected as allrounder, oins Bedi as the specialist offspinner in our list of probables.

A legspinner is a right arm bowler using wrist spin. Sometimes spin bowling is used interchangeably to mean leg spin bowling. Flight and turn generated by a legspinner is harder to read compared to an offspinner. Skilled bowlers make the ball behave unexpectedly such as a googly which is an offbreak bowled with a legbreak action.

All bowlers get to bat but a specialist batsman does not bowl. So who will be called a specialist bowler? Someone who cannot bat, at all! There are a few bowlers who simply do not score enough runs and typically play as #11 or Jack in the pack. Bhagwat Chandrasekhar belongs to that unique club. He has scored only 167 runs, fewer than the 242 wickets taken. A consistent performer for India, he carried forward the tradition of Charlie Grimmett. There was a time during 1980s when the West Indian pace battery was so successful that pace bowlers were used exclusively. At that time Abdel Qadir kept the tradition of legspin bowling alive. Success enjoyed by Shane Warne and Anil Kumble signal that the concerns about death of spin bowling were greatly exaggerated.

Name Tests Wickets Avg S/R Avg Bowl Pts MVP (Win)
A Kumble 132 619 29.65 65.99 5.78 13
Subhash Gupte 36 149 29.55 75.73 4.45 0
Chandrasekhar 58 242 29.75 65.96 4.29 2
CG Borde 55 52 46.48 109.52 1.07 0

Subhash Gupte was India’s first great spinner known to possess two different googlies. He took 9 wickets at Kanpur against West Indies and the tenth batsman was dropped by the keeper off his bowling. Anil Kumble managed to get all 10 against Pakistan at Delhi when teammates from both side assisted once the rare feat seemed likely and the result of the match was certain. Any one of Kumble, Gupte and Chandra will be an excellent fit in India’s dream XI based on their bowling average but we can see that on relative value measure Anil Kumble contributed more to his team. Both his 30-test streaks are significantly better than the other two too.

Name Avg Bowl Pts Start Test Year Started
Anil Kumble 6.98 65 2001
Anil Kumble 6.03 27 1996
Subhash Gupte 4.90 4 1953
Chandrasekhar 4.72 19 1971

Kumble is the only legspinner to captain any side and the gentleman is the next player to join our list of probables.

For the choice for openers we take a look at the list of qualifying bastmen who sport an average µ > 35 & G > 20. Read this for details about µ & G which represent the Arithmetic and Geometric Average of scores adjusted for not outs. µ is similar to traditional batting average whereas G is used to unmask the effect of few very high scores on arithmetic average that hide a string of low scores.

Name Tests Runs Avg Bat Pts µ G MVP (Win)
Virender Sehwag 104 8586 4.26 48.36 26.86 5
Sunil Gavaskar 125 10122 4.21 48.19 25.23 1
Murali Vijay 41 2794 3.83 40.09 22.44 0
Gautam Gambhir 56 4046 3.72 41.78 21.90 2
Navjot Sidhu 51 3202 3.57 41.05 24.14 0

Sehwag, Lara and Bradman are the only three batsmen who have scored over 275 runs thrice with two triple hundreds. He is another player in the mould of Gilchrist who transformed the traditional expectations. As an aggressive opening batsman, who holds several records for scoring big and quick, he scored his last 11 centuries by going past 150. He has an enviable record in first innings but the returns are modest in second. Gavaskar is the traditional opener admired for his technique especially against fast bowlers. In 1977-78 he scored three consecutive Test centuries in the second innings touring Australia. His record is impressive especially in the fourth innings when India was battling to win or save the match. Gavaskar and Sehwag complement each other and should be everyone’s choice to open in the dream team. Incidentally Gavaskar has the better 30 match streak averaging 5.62. Sehwag is at second position slightly behind at 5.24.

And now we take a look at the most difficult choice – selecting Indian middle order. In the golden age of Indian middle order batting, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman came together like the famed spin quartet. No one will bat an eyelid if these 4 are selected in the dream team. But our selection pool reveals plenty of candidates that meet the tough criterion of an average µ > 35 & G > 20.

Name Tests Runs Avg Bat Pts µ G MVP (Win)
C Pujara 37 2713 4.74 44.33 25.21 2
Rahul Dravid 164 13288 4.40 47.76 26.47 7
Sachin Tendulkar 200 15921 4.21 49.50 27.24 6
Virat Kohli 47 3326 3.81 41.92 22.68 0
G Viswanath 91 6080 3.50 39.75 22.33 4
M Azharuddin 99 6215 3.40 42.55 23.49 2
Sourav Ganguly 113 7212 3.33 39.23 23.46 1
VVS Laxman 134 8781 3.29 40.27 23.49 2
Dilip Vengsarkar 116 6868 3.25 38.21 21.10 4
Polly Umrigar 59 3631 3.23 39.26 20.99 0
M Amarnath 69 4378 3.03 39.61 24.64 0
Vijay Manjrekar 55 3208 2.88 35.77 21.42 0

The list above reveals that those batting at #3 & #4 tend to have higher average batting points than those at #5 & #6. It is fairly obvious that the best batsmen should bat higher in the middle order where they score in the company of openers above them and specialist batsmen below. This maximises team chances to set up a total, defend or chase as the case maybe. Hence Dravid and Tendulkar fare high but it is important to balance average batting points by the batting position too. Pujara and Kohli are active players likely to remain the backbone of Indian middle order and there stats will change over time. Umrigar, Amarnath and Manjrekar had relatively shorter careers. Measuring peak performances over the sufficiently long 30 test span allows comparison between personal high of each player.

Name Avg Bat Pts Start Test Year Started
Rahul Dravid 5.85 62 2002
Sachin Tendulkar 5.70 61 1998
Dilip Vengsarkar 5.10 72 1984
C Pujara 5.10 4 2012
Rahul Dravid 5.03 18 1997
Sachin Tendulkar 4.86 153 2008
G Viswanath 4.80 21 1974
Rahul Dravid 4.67 131 2008
Sachin Tendulkar 4.64 14 1992
Sachin Tendulkar 4.57 96 2002
Virat Kohli 4.38 14 2012
Rahul Dravid 4.23 93 2005
M Azharuddin 4.23 48 1992
VVS Laxman 3.97 100 2008
Sourav Ganguly 3.94 77 2004
VVS Laxman 3.86 21 2001
Polly Umrigar 3.83 6 1952
Sourav Ganguly 3.67 1 1996
M Amarnath 3.57 31 1983
M Azharuddin 3.51 12 1986
Dilip Vengsarkar 3.46 7 1977
VVS Laxman 3.44 64 2005
Vijay Manjrekar 3.40 13 1953
G Viswanath 3.18 52 1979
Sourav Ganguly 3.09 45 2001
M Amarnath 2.85 1 1969
Dilip Vengsarkar 2.71 38 1981

Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar are simply the best. The incredibly long career is a testimony in itself but the consistency over that period is astounding. Both have 4 streaks listed and even their worst sequence is better than the best of others. Rahul Dravid (2002) and Sachin Tendulkar (1998) should be on every list but a quick glance at the fan poll shows that while practically everyone chose Dravid, 1 in 4 does not select Tendulkar.

The 3rd name in above list, Dilip Vengsarkar, also makes it to the very bottom. He would have been rated #1 batsman in mid 80s but just like Ravi Shastri we have a case where career figures are deceptive. In the early 80s, selectorial judgement could be questioned but in a few years he reached the summit justifying the faith in him.

What is the utility of a dream team? I guess it is to compete with the very best of other nations. And when you are selecting the best, it is worth selecting them when they were at their respective personal best. Vengsarkar around 1981 was not a match to the world beating Vengsarkar around 1984. Tendulkar around 2002 was a shadow of his best around 1998. To his credit he rediscovered his form to get closer to his former glory days. That is why Vengsarkar is selected in out list of probables. There is a toss-up between Pujara and Viswanath – Pujara has played his relatively short career in a much stronger Indian team vis-a-vis Viswanath. A look at his average µ & G reveal much better consistency. Hence Pujara gets in the list of probables. All four players typically batted at #3 & #4. VVS Laxman gets in to the list of probables for batting lower down the order and shepherding the tail. Sourav Ganguly is already in the list as a captain.

We have largely relied on career figures to find a team of probables. The next step is to compare them over a respective best ever 30 test period. Let us compare the batsmen first with an honourable mention to allrounders.

Name Inns NO Runs 100 50 HS µ G Points
Dravid 48 7 3029 10 11 270 65.89 37.12 175.52
Tendulkar 54 6 3251 13 11 217 61.55 37.40 170.86
Gavaskar 50 3 3216 14 11 221 66.20 37.81 168.57
Sehwag 52 2 2774 8 7 309 54.96 30.25 157.01
Vengsarkar 46 12 2344 9 9 166 54.56 32.95 153.04
Pujara 53 6 2474 8 6 206* 47.39 27.45 152.84
Laxman 52 10 2250 4 19 176* 44.09 25.69 119.20
Ganguly 52 6 2156 4 12 239 44.29 31.49 118.07
Mankad 46 5 1550 3 5 231 35.50 15.55 101.75
Dhoni 50 7 1667 2 10 224 35.28 18.34 97.74
Ashwin 44 9 1175 3 5 124 28.57 13.75 76.26
Kapil Dev 45 4 1110 1 5 116 25.31 14.84 64.29

This table is sorted by gross batting points earned by each player over a 30 test period. Gavaskar at his best produced a 50+ score in 25 out of his 50 outings over a 30 test period. Although he trails in total batting points, by scoring over 3200 runs at an arithmetic average of over 66 and a very high geometric mean above 37 mark him as the best Indian batsman ever. Scoring 4 fewer hundreds yet matching him very closely in µ, G & total runs scored is the ever dependable Rahul Dravid. Actually there is very little to separate these two despite playing in very different teams. Gavaskar had to bat at the top of the innings more or less trying to save a match or avoid defeat. Dravid batted in the middle order in a settled team where wins were not that rare. Tendulkar’s peak was between these two. Although he scores 5 fewer runs per innings in terms of arithmetic average, the geometric mean is almost same. A higher value of G despite lower µ point to fewest absolute batting failures. On the other hand, when he got going he did not post huge totals either. His best batting period does not coincide with relative team success and that may explain why 1 in 4 who voted were comfortable in excluding him out despite his monumental batting. Sehwag at #4 in this list is a little behind these 3 illustrious stalwarts. His strength was converting his start into a match winning score more regularly than anyone else. Tendulkar, Sehwag and Dravid played a lot of matches together and fortunately for India, Sehwag and Dravid peaked around the same time beginning 2002. Tendulkar peaked a little earlier around 1998 and suffered a relative slump when the other two were going great guns. India has never won a test series in Australia. If, and that is big one, Tendulkar too peaked at the same time, the 2003 farewell series of Steve Waugh could have ended in India’s favour.

There is no doubt that Indian XI must feature Gavaskar, Sehwag, Dravid and Tendulkar at the top. It is a coincidence that the 4 top performers played at opening, #3 and #4 position too which makes their selection even easier.

Next we have two eliminations. Vengsarkar and Pujara essentially go head to head with Dravid for the one-down spot. Both have scored less than 2500 runs with middling average relative to top-3. Indian team has enjoyed greater success when these two peaked so there contributions in terms of gross score need not be high yet it was sufficient in terms of match context. Pujara and Vengsarkar could very well have been part of another middle order but the stellar figures of Dravid means they will not be able to make it in this team.

Dhoni is the sole wicketkeeper and thus an automatic inclusion. His position in the table below specialist batsmen and just above bowlers, who can bat a bit, confirm his role as the link between specialists and tail.

Kapil and Ashwin pitch in with sufficient 50+ scores and occasional 100s from the lower order to merit their selection as allrounders. Mankad was the third allrounder in the list of probables. Unfortunately his low averages despite playing as a top order batsman work against him. A very low geometric average of around 16 for an opener indicates that his batting successes overlap with frequent failures. Mankad is the 3rd player after Pujara and Vengsarkar to be excluded.

Laxman and Ganguly will both be selected if we choose 6 specialist batsmen. We must single out one if the team needs 5 specialist bowlers though. So let us review our bowlers to help us make that decision.

Name Wickets Average S/R Bowl Points
Kumble 171 27.27 58.30 209.31
Ashwin 166 24.34 50.54 206.83
Bedi 145 25.21 71.66 180.01
Mankad 122 29.20 88.43 157.98
Zaheer Khan 126 28.03 51.45 151.68
Kapil Dev 131 25.66 53.56 146.15
Srinath 132 27.23 54.63 141.09

Ashwin has made a frenetic start to his career. Kumble hit his stride circa 2001 around the middle of his career. The figures at the peak are very similar and there is very little to choose one over the other. One of them is a legspinner and the other bowls offbreak. Without any doubt these two should be the first choices offering variety.

In the pace department – Srinath took most wickets, Kapil has the lowest average and Zaheer has the best strike rate. Zaheer leads in the normalised bowling points adjusted for match context. Kapil edges other two due to his allround skill. Zaheer takes the second spot due to higher match points earned for the team. Srinath will be the third choice seamer if we pick all three especially for matches outside subcontinent.

That leaves Bedi and Mankad. Despite the lowest number of wickets, poorest average and a very high strike rate we have to remember Mankad for his total contribution to the team adjusted for era. As an offspinner he misses out behind Ashwin. As an opener he was not a match to Gavaskar and Sehwag. Yet he is the best allrounder produced by India. With a very heart, he is excluded in the interest of team balance.

On the subcontinental wickets, India should play to its strength with 3 spinners. Bedi is the ideal choice as a slow left arm bowler complimenting the right armers. His strike rate and wicket haul is inferior to Kumble and Ashwin but much better than seamers. Of course it does not make sense to compare across discipline because this team will always start with 2 seamers and 2 spinners.

We started with 16 probables. So far we have excluded 3 players – Vengsarkar and Pujara as middle order batsmen and Mankad as allrounder. That leaves us with 13 players. Laxman/Ganguly as batsmen and Bedi/Srinath as bowlers are still in the probables list.

Objectivity gets us this far. Subjective choices are required to prune this team further. 9 players selected so far make India a formidable batting and potent bowling unit at home. The away record especially outside the subcontinent should be kept in mind to choose the remaining squad. Do we need 6 specialist batsmen? Will two seamers suffice? How good is the line-up with 5 specialists, a keeper batsman and 2 bowling allrounders?

We must play 3 pace bowlers for away matches. One of them is surplus in familiar conditions so the 3rd seamer becomes the 12th man. This cements inclusion of Srinath in dream team. Laxman is chosen over Ganguly as the specialist batsman to join the XI.

The remaining spot is to be decided between Bedi and Ganguly. On spin friendly pitches, should we play a 3rd specialist spinner or use Sehwag and Tendulkar as third choice to include Ganguly as the 6th batsman? 

After deliberating the decision is to play 3 specialist spinners at home. Indian batting is stronger than bowling so 5 specialists must do the job while 3 seamers or 3 spinners will always play depending on the surface. The last spot goes to Bedi.

On review, we find the same XI as selected by the fans, except Bedi replacing Yuvraj as the 12th man. Yuvraj has solid credentials in limited overs cricket but his selection to Dream Test Team was highly questionable. We can infer that that crowdsourcing, soliciting data from a large online community, is very effective as long as the choices offered (or the end results) are curated.

Finally, we see the peak period of each player plotted against time to understand how many of them peaked simultaneously.

Dream Team - India XI

In-form batsman does not get dropped. Gavaskar, Dravid, Sehwag and Laxman did not miss any tests at their summit. Tendulkar missed one series against Sri Lanka due to injury.

Bowlers are played according to surface. A top bowler may get overlooked either due to injury or selectors’ view that the surface may not suit the him. Bedi, Srinath, Kumble, Zaheer and Ashwin have all missed tests. Kapil Dev is an exception and his injury free longevity is rare for a pace bowler.

Gavaskar’s success as a batsman coincided with Bedi and Kapil as bowlers but not at the same time. During late 1970s Gavaskar and Bedi were key to India’s fortune then Kapil Dev took over from Bedi during early 80s. After a lull, Tendulkar reached his zenith along with Srinath who was not an automatic choice on all surfaces. Kumble started peaking towards the end of Tendulkar’s reign. Fortunately for India, both Dravid and Sehwag hit top form at the same time as Kumble. Later Zaheer and Laxman enjoyed a period of superiority together. It can be seen that though a number of core players played in the same XI for a long period, there wasn’t any time when 4-5 of them were at pinnacle of their career. Indian team is currently ranked #1 in Tests but it must be underlined that its success coincides patchy performances from others. We still wait for a time when an Indian outfit enjoys sustained success both home and away beating strong opponents. Hope it will be soon!

India becomes #1 Test side during Rio Olympics

Day 16 has ended at the Rio Olympics 2016. It is the eve of fourth and last Test match between West Indies and India at Port of Spain.

India is yet to win any medal at Rio Olympics. Indian cricket team has become the #1 Test side after beating West Indies in 3rd test match at St Lucia on 13th August after a gap of over 20 years.

Great Britain is placed 2nd in medals tally despite starting slowly. About a week earlier Piers Morgan lamented the lack of gold medals for Team GB.

Contrast it with the Olympic Creed –


Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee,  adopted the quote after listening to Ethelbert Talbot, an Anglican bishop from Pennsylvania speak to Olympic athletes during services at the 1908 London Games who said,  “The important thing in these Olympics is not so much winning as taking part.”

A few days before Piers Morgan, Shobhaa De took a dig at the Indian contingent.

Two athletes set new national records at Rio Olympics. Lalita Babar improved the national record by 7 seconds in 3000m steeplechase clocking 9 minutes 19.76 seconds to become the first Indian woman athlete in 32 years to make it to a track final at the Olympics despite finishing fourth in her heats. She lost automatic qualification to Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya (9:17.55), Emma Coburn of USA (9:18.12) and Habiba Ghribi of Tunisia (9:18.71). In an 18-woman final race decided over 4 heats, she was amongst the 6 top performers excluding 12 automatic qualifiers. Sophie Hitchon became the first British woman to win an Olympic hammer medal by setting a new British record of 74.54m. She managed to win only a bronze because Pole Anita Wlodarczyk broke her own World Record to throw 82.29m on that day. China’s Zhang Wenxiu earned a silver with 76.75m. Sometimes an athlete’s personal best, which could also be the national best, is not enough when we judge it on Piers Morgan scale of ‘Gold or not’.

Sri Lanka was playing Australia in the 3rd test at Colombo when I started writing this post. Chasing 324, Australia folded in 45th over for 160 as player of the series Rangana Herath scalped 7 for 44. In the process, Australia handed over number one ranking to India in the official ICC Test Rankings developed by David Kendix. ICC provides historical rankings going back to June 2003. India has twice topped this list – for 21 months between Nov 2009 & Aug 2011 and briefly at end of Jan 2016.

I have my own Test Rankings. According to my methodology India topped this list after winning the 3rd test on 13th Aug. This methodology accounts for the margin of victory (or defeat), the nature of draw, current ranking of opponent and the home/away performance with dynamically diminishing weight for performance in older tests (unlike the ICC method where only two weights of 100% and 50% percent are used and rankings may change overnight at the end of May when weights change overnight). According to my method, updated after every single test, India last reached the summit in 1995 when debutant Lee Germon captained New Zealand at Bangalore in the first of 3 test series. ICC ranked India ahead of England until the end of India in England series of 2011 which England won 4-0. My methodology placed England at the top of rankings starting from Nov 2010 when England started winning Ashes away to Australia. South Africa was the top nation between Nov 2009 and Nov 2010 twice losing the crown to Australia – once after a drawn test at Port of Spain and later when Australia beat Pakistan at Lord’s.

That was a digression. This post was not meant to be a comparison between my methodology vis-a-vis ICC version. It was about how well a player/team may perform on its own and yet fail to reach podium. And the corollary – winning the top spot due to poor performance by others. Since Cricket gets far more resources than other sports in India and I own a custom database of cricket analytics, it will be easier to make the point that Olympics (or any other sport) is primarily about participating to best of own ability. The results are secondary which are decided by the (non-)performance of others.

Let us restrict the coverage to last 5 years – the period after India lost 4-0 to England despite #1 spot in ICC rankings. It began by India beating West Indies 2-0 at home in a 3 test series. This was followed by a loss, another 4-0 whitewash away to Australia. Then beat New Zealand at home 2-0 followed by a loss at home 2-1 to England in a 4-match series. An emphatic 4-0 win at home against Australia was followed by a hastily arranged 2 test series against West Indies when Sachin Tendulkar retired after playing 200th Test. India reached its highest score of 56 (out of 100) by beating them by an innings in both tests. Even though Sachin failed to score a Test hundred in that series, it can be argued that he left the scene when India was strongest. During this period, India rose to #2 rank behind South Africa. The proteas were unbeaten in that period who beat Kiwis 2-0 at home (both by an innings), then defeating Pak 3-0 at home (by 211 runs, 4 wkts and an innings),  drawing 1-1 against them in UAE (lost by 7 wkts and won by an innings), and finally beating India 1-0 at home (this included a memorable draw where South Africa reached 450/7 chasing 458 which I covered in this post followed by a 10 wkt win).

Now let us compare this scenario with India reaching #1 status after more than 2 decades despite reaching only 53 (out of 100) points. In this period other teams dropped more points than India. India dethroned Australia to reach #1 who held this spot since Aug 2015 when they lost the Ashes 3-2. They beat New Zealand & West Indies 2-0 at home which was followed by a visit across Tasman to win by same score. But they were hovering around 52-54 points which got pulled down by losing away to Sri Lanka 3-0.

Since the 2-0 loss down under in a 4 test series, India has played a rain affected draw against Bangladesh,  beaten South Africa 3-0 on spinning minefields, posted a rare 2-1 away win against Sri Lanka and are now leading 2-0 against West Indies away. This sequence has lifted India to just above 53 points when other teams are struggling. England drew 4 match series against steadily improving Pakistan. 4 teams India, Pakistan, Australia and England are placed in a tight band of around 51-53 points which means they may swap ranking spots quickly with one another; but qualitatively there is not much to separate them.

And there we can see that India has regained the top spot after a long time partly through good results but helped by average performances by its contenders. On the other hand, its much better run coincided by an even stronger performance by South Africa who are a miserable 7th with about 40 points now.

Chapter 2, verse 47 of Bhagavad Gita is addressed to all the sportspeople –

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 47 ||

They may work on individual performances but they are not entitled to a gold medal.




IPL 2016 – At a Glance

Indian Premier League, 2016 – At a Glance

Results, Fixtures, Points and Ball Difference
GL 18pts,-13bd 3 39 -33 13 -18 12 -20
RCB 45 16pts,105bd -7 15 -10 -7 3 49
KKR -14 -10 16pts,73bd 23 -7 35 53 7
SRH 6 7 -12 16pts,34bd 15 -13 -44 13
MI -2 12 12 -50 14pts,-19bd 37 -34 -20
DD -2 -13 12 0 2 14pts,-27bd -7 39
RPS -2 -8 -5 -7 -11 28 10pts,14bd 0
KXIP -16 -2 -19 -4 -20 2 8 8pts,-109bd

Home Team appears in rows
Away Team appears in columns
Fixture scheduled at 10:30 GMT | 16:00 Local
Fixture scheduled at 14:30 GMT | 20:00 Local
Home Win for Fixture scheduled at 10:30 GMT
Away Win for Fixture scheduled at 10:30 GMT
Home Win for Fixture scheduled at 14:30 GMT
Away Win for Fixture scheduled at 14:30 GMT
Number of points and Ball Difference appear diagonally
All underlined cells are links to iplt20.com

Points table using Ball Difference
Teams Mat Won Lost Tie NR Pts Ball Difference
GL 14 9 5 0 0 18 -13
RCB 14 8 6 0 0 16 105
KKR 14 8 6 0 0 16 73
SRH 14 8 6 0 0 16 34
MI 14 7 7 0 0 14 -19
DD 14 7 7 0 0 14 -27
RPS 14 5 9 0 0 10 14
KXIP 14 4 10 0 0 8 -109


Largest Margin of Victory and Top Player Contributions

Largest Margin of Victory
# Match Summary Result Ball Difference
45 rps 103/6(17.4 ovs); KKR 66/2(5 ovs) Kolkata Knight Riders won by 8 wickets (D/L method) (with 53 balls remaining) 53
37 SRH 177/3(20 ovs); mi 92(16.3 ovs) Sunrisers Hyderabad won by 85 runs (with a difference of 48 balls) 50
50 RCB 211/3(15 ovs); kxip 120/9(14 ovs) Royal Challengers Bangalore won by 82 runs (D/L method) (with a difference of 49 balls) 49
44 RCB 248/3(20 ovs); gl 104(18.4 ovs) Royal Challengers Bangalore won by 144 runs (with a difference of 45 balls) 45
22 srh 118/8(20 ovs); RPS 94/3(11 ovs) Rising Pune Supergiants won by 34 runs (D/L method) (with 42 balls remaining) 44
Most Valuable Players
Name Team Mts Runs Scored Balls Faced Balls Bowled Runs Conceded Wkts Cts St Run Outs Avg Contribution Total Contribution
DA Warner SRH 17 848 560 4 09.89 168.13
V Kohli RCB 16 973 640 6 13 6 1.0 09.21 147.42
AB de Villiers RCB 16 687 407 19 07.38 118.10
YK Pathan KKR 15 361 248 36 33 1 3 07.17 107.54
CH Morris DD 12 195 109 264 308 13 8 2.3 08.83 105.97
B Kumar SRH 17 43 27 396 490 23 6 1.0 06.06 103.02
SR Watson RCB 16 179 134 339 485 20 6 2.5 06.16 98.50
KH Pandya MI 12 237 124 187 236 6 2 0.5 07.75 93.00
S Dhawan SRH 17 501 429 5 1.0 05.32 90.49
RV Uthappa KKR 15 394 289 10 4 4.0 06.01 90.22
Most Valuable Batsmen
Name Team Matches Runs Balls Avg Contribution Total Contribution
DA Warner SRH 17 848 560 09.86 167.62
V Kohli RCB 16 973 640 09.12 145.94
AB de Villiers RCB 16 687 407 07.22 115.47
YK Pathan KKR 15 361 248 06.63 99.50
S Dhawan SRH 17 501 429 05.24 89.08
Q de Kock DD 13 445 327 06.49 84.42
RV Uthappa KKR 15 394 289 05.61 84.13
AJ Finch GL 13 393 299 06.20 80.65
G Gambhir KKR 15 501 411 05.23 78.47
RG Sharma MI 14 489 368 05.58 78.07
Most Valuable Bowlers
Name Team Matches Balls Runs Wickets Avg Contribution Total Contribution
B Kumar SRH 17 396 490 23 05.40 91.73
Mustafizur Rahman SRH 16 366 421 17 05.15 82.39
R Ashwin RPS 14 264 319 10 05.13 71.76
SR Watson RCB 16 339 485 20 04.44 70.99
YS Chahal RCB 13 295 401 21 05.39 70.06
Sandeep Sharma KXIP 14 300 366 15 04.89 68.52
DS Kulkarni GL 14 294 364 18 04.81 67.29
A Mishra DD 14 276 344 13 04.81 67.28
JJ Bumrah MI 14 312 406 15 04.76 66.65
MJ McClenaghan MI 14 320 436 17 04.66 65.23
Top Overall Performances
# Name Team Runs Scored Balls Faced Balls Bowled Runs Conceded Wkts Cts Sts Run Outs Player Contribution
45 YK Pathan KKR 37 18 0 40.35
50 V Kohli RCB 113 50 1 27.55
47 KH Pandya MI 86 37 13 15 2 0 0.5 25.26
44 AB de Villiers RCB 129 52 2 24.58
15 DA Warner SRH 74 48 0 24.45
12 DA Warner SRH 90 59 0 22.40
23 CH Morris DD 82 32 24 35 2 0 22.15
50 CH Gayle RCB 73 32 18 25 0 1 20.60
11 Q de Kock DD 108 51 0 19.50
51 SK Raina GL 53 36 2 19.29
Top Batting Performances
# Name Team Runs Balls Batting Contribution
45 YK Pathan KKR 37 18 40.35
50 V Kohli RCB 113 50 27.37
15 DA Warner SRH 74 48 24.45
44 AB de Villiers RCB 129 52 24.23
12 DA Warner SRH 90 59 22.40
47 KH Pandya MI 86 37 21.46
11 Q de Kock DD 108 51 19.50
51 SK Raina GL 53 36 18.95
8 G Gambhir KKR 90 60 18.53
1 AM Rahane RPS 66 42 18.19
Top Bowling Performances
# Name Team Balls Bowled Runs Conceded Wickets Bowling Contribution
49 AB Dinda RPS 24 20 3 15.57
22 AB Dinda RPS 24 23 3 14.55
22 MR Marsh RPS 24 14 2 14.02
7 A Mishra DD 18 11 4 13.56
49 A Zampa RPS 24 21 3 13.23
51 DR Smith GL 24 8 4 12.74
22 R Ashwin RPS 24 14 1 12.21
2 AD Russell KKR 18 24 3 11.04
37 A Nehra SRH 18 15 3 10.81
28 AR Patel KXIP 24 21 4 10.72