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Our Middle Order (2007)
A BanglaCricket Exclusive: The Mirpur Stadium (2006)
A plea with the BCB (2005)
Of myths, destiny and loyalty (2005)
Bangladesh - India ODI series tidbits & some related thoughts (2005)

 
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The author analyzes our middle order and tries to get answers to some crucial questions. Who is serving us there? How are they doing? Who are exceeding our expectations? Who are the under-performers?

Our Middle Order

Published: 14th January, 2007

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We had plenty of joyful cricket memories during the eventful year of 2006.

Our worst defeats had been against the Sri Lanka until our February 2006 series against them. With our performance in that series, we finally made some improvements in our rivalry against the Lankans. We also had a dream opening in the series against the Australians.

In the context of things, below par pitches notwithstanding, we had a reasonable outing in the Champions Trophy. As we later saw, the top teams were screaming about the low quality pitches and the Indians were literally and figuratively gluing the grounds together. The bowlers enjoyed the massacre as the tournament petered out to what was a low-scoring farce.

We also have thoroughly established ourselves in the number 9 position on the ODI ranking table for the first time. Now, we should take a serious look at our level of preparation for the World cup of 2007. Our first warm up match is scheduled for Tuesday, the 6th of March, against the Kiwis.

In 2006, we have found our opener for the long haul. In the least, the #1 batting position has been allotted to Shahriar Nafees. At his present form, Shahriar should remain there for the foreseeable future. At first down, however, it is a different picture altogether. We have not found young Shahriar a suitable running mate yet. Our experimentation continues, from #2, all the way to #8 or #9. These positions seem to be in a perpetual flux.

I had a long look at our middle order. Who is serving us there? How are they doing? Who are exceeding our expectations? Who are the under-performers? Middle order generally is defined by the positions between #3 and #7. This may vary from team to team, depending on each team’s batting depth. In my analysis of the Bangladeshi middle order, I found a few interesting items that I would like to share with you all.

Basis for Qualification for analysis

Based on the proverbial query, “What have you done for me lately?”, I have looked back at the last 21 ODIs we played, starting all the way back from the ODI series against Ponting and Co. Below is the summary of my findings.

Between positions #3 and #7, we have employed the service of a total of 14 batsmen in the last 21 ODIs (ODI # 2365 to 2467). Of them, only 6 qualified for my analysis, by batting in those positions 9 or more times. Why 9? Just because, I did not want to exclude Farhad Reza, that’s all. Here's our ODI middle order, qualified by the above criteria:

  • Aftab – Played 20 of those 21 ODIs
  • Ashraful, Bashar and Saqib – 13 times each
  • Khaled Mashud – 10 times (remember, position 3 to 7 only)
  • Farhad Reza – 9 times.

Performance

Here’s a look at their performance numbers in the last 21 ODIs.

Averages

SAQIB

45.13

BASHAR

30.18

ASH

29.78

FARHAD

28.25

AFTAB

25.5

MASUD

23

Comments

With the advent of playing, and winning so many ODI matches against Zimbabwe, the ODI averages of our batsmen are really looking up. Saqib’s healthy 45.13 from 13 matches is due largely to the 5 “not outs”. Even the clear underperformer, Khaled Masud is boasting an average of 23 runs. Habibul Bashar’s averages show that he has vastly improved his career averages in the last 21 ODIs, from twenty-ish to thirty-ish. A big jump.

Strike Rates

FARHAD

78.20

AFTAB

74.63

ASH

71.09

SAQIB

67.60

BASHAR

63.97

MASUD

49.88

Comments:

Once again, Khaled Mashud seems to be the weakest link in the middle order. Ashraful maintains his middle position here also. The newbie Farhad is a surprise, but Aftab is not. Bashar’s anemic 5th position is not much of a surprise either.

One step further…

Now, let’s say, we expect the middle order to occupy the crèche between the 16th and the 45th over. That is 180 deliveries (30 overs). Naturally, only one or two of our batsmen would get to play a sizable portion of those deliveries. If any one of them gets to play one third of those overs (60 deliveries, 10 overs), we would probably call that a “successful outing”, in the context of our batting. And naturally, whoever boasts the highest strike rate, would make the high score in a hypothetical 60-ball innings.

Fact: At 60 deliveries each, the batsman with the highest strike rate would produce the most runs.

SR
Balls
Runs

FARHAD

78.20

60

47

AFTAB

74.63

60

45

ASH

71.09

60

43

SAQIB

67.60

60

41

BASHAR

63.97

60

38

MASUD

49.88

60

30

Actually, a 60-ball innings by one of our middle-order batsman would surely be called a success. Why? Well, here’s the average “staying power” of these 6 hitters:

Average deliveries faced per match

MASUD

42

SAQIB

41

BASHAR

40

FARHAD

32

AFTAB

31

ASH

29

Yes, Khaled Mashud obviously gobbles up a lot of deliveries. We all know that a good many of those should be turned into ones and twos. Ashraful boasts a much better average and a healthy strike rate than Khaled Masud. He, however, occupies the middle the least number of deliveries.

(One pertinent comment here: The raw data for this “Staying power” number, remains pretty steady, in congruence with the batsman’s batting averages and strike rate. For example, it is not as if Aftab has an incredible strike rate of 200 in one match and a lethargic 14 in the next one. The peaks and troughs remain within a reasonable range, compared to the batsman’s average strike rate)

Next, I multiplied these real “staying power” numbers with the real strike rate for each batsman, to obtain the “Possible Produced Runs per Match”. In my opinion, the results are the number of runs these guys are likely to produce in future matches, based on the analysis of their performances in the last 21 ODIs.

Let’s have a look at possible runs produced per match.

Batsman
Staying Power
SR
Possible Runs

SAQIB

41

67.60

27.72

BASHAR

40

63.97

25.59

FARHAD

32

78.20

25.02

AFTAB

31

74.63

23.14

MASUD

42

49.88

20.95

ASH

29

71.09

20.62

Yup. Ash, with his jittery stay, does fall behind even Khaled Mashud. Saqib, with his limpet-like stay, serves us the most, even with a “low” strike rate. Bashar also makes up for slower strike rate with the longer stay.

Additional comments

These new guys, the likes of Saqib, are showing us a set of number that we have not experienced before. Let’s hope they can do an equally good job against stronger opponents.

Aftab has gotten the most chances at a steady #3 position. If he can last more deliveries, it will dramatically improve our chances. After all, his strike rate is, as we all know, healthy.

Ashraful, quietly and sadly, has slipped from our most valuable to our liability in the middle order. So much so that he is falling behind Khaled Mashud. Is it time to think the unthinkable? We do have a number of guys in the sideline, waiting for their chances.

Farhad should get more chances. However new, he fares rather nicely against other top performers of our middle order.

Regarding Khaled Mashud, it’s time to push the understudy, Mushfiqur Rahim onto the stage, at least in the ODIs. We desperately need as much batting strength as we can get from that position.

One last thought: We ought to settle down with a combination right about now. For better or for worse, we need to back our guys 100% all the way through the 2007 Cricket World Cup. We can resume experimentations after the tournament is over. Right now, our batsmen need to gather as much confidence as they can. A set position in the national side may help boost their self-belief.

 

About the author(s): Besides authoring witty and informative articles on Bangladesh cricket, Masum Billah contributes and shares much more of his insights on our forums, where he goes by the nick "billah".

 

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