By: Chinmay Vaidya
David Warner was unstoppable.
No matter what Pakistan tried to do, Warner had an answer. He led the Australian run-scoring machine with 335 runs and stayed not out, securing the highest score at Adelaide in a Test match and the second-highest Test score by an Australian batsman in the process. With that triple hundred, Warner inches closer towards the ultimate legacy: a superstar in all three formats of cricket.
Warner has just over 6,900 Test runs, just under 5,000 one-day runs and just over 9,000 T20 runs. He's had to wait his turn in the one-day ranks due to Australia's dominant top orders, but Warner picked up the pace when he got his shot. He's tied for fourth in fastest to 4,000 ODI runs with Virat Kohli, taking 93 innings to reach the milestone. He has 41 international centuries across all formats, tied for 13th of all time. And now, his individual Test milestone allows him to check one more box.
It has been an interesting 24 months for Warner. He was dominating the game as usual before the infamous ball-tampering scandal kept him out of cricket for 12 months. Warner returned for the 2019 IPL and picked up right where he left off, accumulating 692 runs in 12 matches. That was 99 more runs in two less games than KL Rahul, who finished in second place. Warner continued his brilliance at the 2019 World Cup, but Australia failed to defend its title. Then, he had a horrendous Ashes series before returning to home soil and dominating.
As Australia gears up for a huge Test series with New Zealand as part of the World Test Championship, Warner's chase for ultimate greatness comes into focus. He's 33 but looks good to play at least through the 2023 World Cup, a tournament he excels in. Warner put up 345 runs in Australia's 2015 triumph at a ridiculous 120.20 strike rate. He poured in 647 runs in 10 2019 World Cup matches, albeit at a strike rate of 89.36. His three centuries and three half-centuries were big improvements from the 2015 campaign.
Warner is one of 10 players currently holding more than 8,000 T20 runs. Factor in 8,000 one-day runs and that list gets trimmed to four. Add in 8,000 Test runs and AB de Villiers stands alone but Kohli and Warner are close. To be one of only three players to cross the 8k plateau in all formats would be the capper for a player who has already won a World Cup and will likely get two more chances at the T20 World Cup, one more World Cup and a World Test Championship. Ironically, Warner and Kohli's race for these accolades comes at the same time.
To realistically have a shot at crossing 8k runs in the Test and one-day arenas, Warner will have to play through the 2023 World Cup. That'll give him three more seasons and a tournament he historically does well to cross both thresholds.
Warner has 149 Test innings to date with an true average of 46.6 runs per inning. To reach 8,000 Test runs assuming he keeps the same pace, Warner will need just 23 more innings. Throw in some chunk scores and he could cross the milestone even quicker.
In the one-day game, the equation is a bit tougher. Warner arrived late to the party, but still crossed 4,000 runs in 93 innings. He'll likely cross 5,000 the next time he appears in a one-day game in inning No. 115. So how many innings will he need to hit the magic 8k, assuming he hits 5,000 in the next ODI match he plays?
Here's what Warner did to reach 4,000 and 5,000 runs, respectively. Using those scoring rates and factoring in potential decline with age, we can predict if Warner is likely to hit 8,000 one-day runs.
Warner crossing 4,000 runs: 93 innings, 43.01 runs per inning
Warner from 4,000 to 5,000 runs: 115 innings, 45.45 runs per inning
Because Warner arrived late to the one-day party, his production curve isn't exactly typical of someone with these volume milestones. Warner is still scoring at a similar rate despite entering his mid-30s, a good sign for his chase. Still, we should factor in some decline. Let's assume Warner takes roughly 10% more time to reach each of the next milestones. Here's what his inning count would look like and how many runs he would score per inning in each thousand run band.
Warner to reach 6,000 runs: 139 innings, 41.67 runs per inning
Warner to reach 7,000 runs: 165 innings, 38.46 runs per inning
Warner to reach 8,000 runs: 194 innings, 34.48 runs per inning
To hit 194 innings, Warner would have to add 80 attempts to his current tally. A World Cup would take between nine and 11 away from that number in a short span, but that still puts Warner in his late 30s attempting to cross 8k. If he scores at 45.45 runs per inning with zero decline, he'll project to hit 8,000 ODI runs in by inning No. 180.
The 2023 World Cup will be key in Warner's chase. If he can repeat his 2019 performance, that would shave off significant runs from his ultimate chase. He'll hit the Test milestone and his T20 record is already set, but will Warner cement himself as one of the all-time greats across formats with his ODI performance?
By: Chinmay Vaidya
The Hundred has finally arrived.
ECB's long-awaited domestic cricket competition is finally getting up and running. The Hundred will likely replace the Vitality Blast as England's top domestic league and it is taking conventional cricket for a spin.
As you can probably guess, each inning will consist of 100 deliveries instead of the 120 in a typical T20 match. Here's where it gets odd. Each bowler can bowl up to 20 balls in the innings in increments of five or 10 balls at a time. Players will change ends after 10 balls are bowled. This will lead to different strategies and bowler management from your typical T20 match. It'll also likely create some awkward situations initially with players used to an over being six deliveries instead of five or 10.
There were significant conversations on both sides regarding The Hundred, but the player lineup looks outstanding. Aside from the Indian powerhouse names, the rest of the world's stars are set to compete. On a surface level, The Hundred is a cheap innovation of T20 domestic cricket. But this competition was never designed to be just another league.
Differentiation is the key to success when attempting to draw viewers and England has surprisingly struggled to create excitement around cricket, despite the national team's thundering success over the last two years. That could change with the new format. Although the county associations won't stick in this league, people will tune in. The format has intentionally been modified to attract a new audience, not just bring in the old cricket fans.
The Hundred will also allow England's young players to showcase themselves against top international talent, an opportunity they wouldn't have gotten in the IPL, BBL or CPL. This will further help the sport grow in the country with locals coming to cheer on hometown heroes making a name for themselves. There will be at least one player every year fans don't see coming. These domestic leagues can springboard a cricketer to international fame. The Hundred gives England's youngsters that opportunity.
The first Hundred player draft took place Oct. 20 and the eight teams have filled out their roster. There will be changes as players find out their availability, but there is already some shakeup. Chris Gayle and Lasith Malinga, two all-time greats in the shortest format of the game, weren't selected in the initial process. They'll likely find a way to get in as the tournament nears.
The competition will be heavily scrutinized in its initial season and that's good for the sport. People will want to see whether this format is actually fun or just cheap innovation. The Hundred is not conventional cricket by design, but it should attract large viewership and create brilliant moments just the same. Time will tell if the format is here to stay, but the competition has already done its job without a single ball being bowled.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
For 11 matches, Guyana Amazon Warriors were perfect. They had marched through the Caribbean Premier League group stage with an undefeated record and put away the Barbados Tridents in Qualifier 1. The Warriors would face the Tridents in the final in what would be the fourth matchup between the teams this year.
In the previous three matches, Guyana won by an average of 29.6 runs. This included a 12-run D/L win. The Warriors never had to chase down a score against the Tridents until the final match. In fact, Guyana only had to chase down a target four times during the entire season. Of those four chases, only two targets were above 150. Only one was above 160. The Warriors were a good batting unit, but it wasn't their strength. Barbados leveraged this minor advantage in the final.
Imran Tahir, Chris Green and Romario Shepherd were the reason for Guyana's undefeated run. The trio combined for 42 wickets, making them three of the top seven wicket takers in the league. The average economy rate for those three bowlers: 6.69. It was incredibly difficult to score off these bowlers for Guyana's opposition, translating to wickets for the Warriors on a regular basis.
Barbados flipped the script in the final. The Tridents maneuvered their way around Tahir, Green and Shepherd. Barbados averaged 7.72 runs per over for these bowlers across 11 overs, which is slightly better than the rest of the league throughout the competition. It was the rest of Guyana's attack that paid the price for this; Barbados averaged 8.77 runs per over for the other nine overs. Jonathan Carter and Ashley Nurse finished the innings with a bang, setting a tough target of 172 for Guyana. Keep in mind the Warriors hadn't hunted down a target this high during the entire league season. The highest successful chase in CPL final history was 148. The pressure was truly on.
Guyana's undefeated season would be the first across the four established T20 leagues in the world (IPL, BBL PSL and CPL). The Melbourne Stars went 8-0 in the league stage of the 2013-14 Big Bash League, but promptly flamed out in the semifinal against Hobart. This would truly be a historic moment for Guyana.
Barbados beat Guyana at its own game with a superb bowling performance from Matt Gurney, Ashley Nurse and Raymon Reifer. The trio combined for eight wickets in 12 overs, yielding only 65 runs. Tahir, Green and Shepherd were outdone by Barbados' attack. Brandon King put on a valiant fight with 43 from 33 but once he got out, things looked bleak for Guyana.
The CPL 2019 final showed how truly difficult perfection is in T20 leagues. When the sport gets condensed to 20 overs instead of 50, it puts teams on a more level playing field. A player can impact the match so heavily once you shorten the game. For some teams, it gives them less of a window to mess up. For others, it gives them less time to assert their dominance. The fact that Guyana was one win away from perfection shouldn't be overlooked.
The Warriors were the best team in CPL 2019; they just weren't the best team in the game that mattered most. This is what draws fans to domestic T20 leagues and sports in general. At the end of the day, you have to win the match that matters. Barbados did, and prevented history for at least one more season.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
It's been a conversation since the 2017 Champions Trophy with the initial noise starting over the prior year. India's middle order was going through a rough patch with an aging Yuvraj Singh admirably trying to hold the batting lineup together. With India's superstar triumvirate of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli cemented at the top, the feeling was at least one player would click every match. India rounded out the rest of its lineup with high-powered hitters while MS Dhoni occasionally played the foundational role late. It worked well; India made the semifinal of the 2015 World Cup, the 2016 T20 World Cup, the 2017 Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup. However, the team's downfall in each ODI event was similar.
India's top order would collapse and suddenly, middle-order players who were used to smashing around the ball had to temper their game. Some were ill-suited for the role and some just didn't perform. After the failure in the semifinal of the 2019 World Cup, the calls for young talent like Rishabh Pant (who played at the end of the tournament) and Shreyas Iyer grew louder. India has made those two regulars in one-day and T20I games, but has either justified being kept in the playing XI?
It's important to preface the following with two points. The first is India might not have better options than Pant and Iyer going forward. Young players will take time to develop. Not everyone is going to turn into Sachin Tendulkar or Kohli. The expectations for both players are through the roof, making even good performances look ordinary. Pant and Iyer still have high ceilings, despite their struggles.
The second point is Kohli's comments in an interview with BCCI TV.
"I think firstly, from the team and the management point of view, we’re very clear on the fact that, even when I came into the team, it’s not like you got 15 opportunities," Kohli said in the interview. "You’ve got 5 and you’ve got the make the most of it."
Clearly, there is internal optimism for emerging talent in India's cricket ranks. If a player can be ousted after five poor performances, that must mean there is someone ready to step up. Guys like Prithvi Shaw, Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan have shown promise in the IPL. Perhaps India's management believes these players are ready for the big show.
Pant is one of the most confusing cases in cricket right now. He's wildly talented and his IPL numbers reflect that. Here are his total runs and strike rates in four IPL seasons.
Runs: 198, 366, 684, 488
Strike Rate: 130.2, 165.6, 173.6, 162.6
Clearly, Pant can play. The question is why he is continually being asked to play in a position he might not be best suited for. He's currently the No. 4 batsman for India and the results in 19 T20I innings have not shown anything for him to continue getting chances in the squad.
In 19 T20I innings, Pant has gotten out on zero or single figures 11 times. Seven of those instances came form the No. 4 spot. That's a whopping 58 percent of his appearances. He's gotten a 50 twice. Ironically, both of his half-centuries have come from the No. 4 spot. If Kohli's claim is true about players having limited chances, how many more does Pant get? And how many of those chances will be at a position he hasn't played well in?
Iyer, on the other hand, might not be a T20I player. He's done incredibly well in the one-day format and should be a regular in that lineup with four half-centuries in seven innings. But on the T20 level, Iyer should not be considered the future at the international level. Here are his IPL numbers in the last four seasons for total runs and strike rate.
Runs: 439, 338, 411, 463
Strike Rate: 128.3, 139.1, 132.6, 119.9
The volume is fantastic, but the strike rate is not. At the T20I level, Iyer isn't even showing the volume. His true average is 14.85 in seven innings with a strike rate just below 102.0. He looks like a star in the making at the one-day level, but Iyer hasn't done enough to justify a spot in India's T20I XI. As the captain said, it could come down to a handful of chances.
An under-the-radar name in India's middle order search is KL Rahul. He's been a regular in India's squads and has produced at both levels. His true average is 32.0 in ODIs and 35.96 in T20Is. He's performed tremendously at the IPL level and can also be a wicketkeeper if needed. Rahul is also versatile enough to open the innings in the shortest format if needed. India has younger players like Gill waiting, but Rahul could be the answer at No. 4 in both formats. He has done well in the chances he's gotten, something Pant and Iyer can't say.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
After the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009 in Pakistan, the latter's future as a major player on the international circuit looked bleak. Criticism about security arrangements and general playing conditions in Pakistan came from anyone and everyone, resulting in the country losing its 2011 World Cup hosting rights and being boycotted by every other cricket board for home series. Pakistan was forced to "host" series in U.A.E., although an occasional match has been played in the country since the attacks.
A year ago, I noted how much Pakistan cricket has changed since 2009. The country, and more importantly the Pakistan Cricket Board, appears to have made the necessary reparations over the course of a decade to deserve tours once again. Zimbabwe came to Pakistan for a short ODI series in 2015. The West Indies took part in a T20 series. The Pakistan Super League, the country's domestic T20 franchise league, will potentially play a full season in Pakistan in 2020. However, it was going to take an extended tour to get the country back on the international calendar.
Enter Sri Lanka.
A decade after the initial attack, Sri Lanka will return to Pakistan for three ODIs and three T20s. This is the first extended tour of Pakistan since the fateful day in March, giving real hope for an eventual return on the international scene for PCB.
“The upcoming matches will end the long await of the Pakistan cricket fans and supporters to watch modern day stars from both sides live in action," PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani said in a statement. "This is something that will contribute immensely to our revamped domestic cricket structure."
Sri Lanka has undergone its own domestic problems in recent years with a "Golden Generation" disappearing and young players failing to step up. But in returning to Pakistan for what is essentially a trial run, it has shown more willpower and guts than any other board in the world.
This tour is replacing the two teams' scheduled Test fixtures, which were originally going to held as part of the inaugural World Test Championship. That series has now been shifted to December, but both countries saw an opportunity to make a different statement with the opening. Cricket has finally come full circle for Pakistan on the international stage.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
With the rise of T20 leagues around the globe, Canada wasn't going to be left behind. The Global T20 Canada wrapped up its second season with the Winnipeg Hawks taking down the Vancouver Knights to win the title. Winnipeg was led by Shaiman Anwar, who put up 90 runs in 45 balls. Although Andre Russell and Shoaib Malik forced a super over, Chris Lynn and Anwar were able to finish the job for Winnipeg.
GT20 Canada, according to the tournament's website, has 1.5 million subscribers across its social media platforms. It's not on the level of the IPL or BBL, but that's a significant figure. More important, 85% of app users are interacting daily. Retention rates are important for leagues to grow and there's enough traction to here to see GT20 as an annual edition to the cricket calendar. Throw in big names like Yuvraj Singh, Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle and you'll get fans in the stadium. However, those big names come with some big paychecks and that's where the chaos comes in.
According to ESPNCricinfo's Peter Della Penna, the Toronto Nationals and Montreal Tigers refused to take the field for a match due to unpaid wages. Della Penna reported the protest extended beyond those two squads, with several other teams also making it known they would protest until the checks cleared.
Wage protests can be a death nail for a T20 league. Get enough players to protest and it turns off future competitors from joining. According to Della Penna's report, some players hadn't been paid from their participation in GT20 2018 either. It's quite stunning how the league actually came together this year given players likely had knowledge of these problems.
The wage protest added to the overall chaos of the organization of GT20. Fans weren't able to park at CAA Centre and had to use a shuttle service to get to the ground. The ground itself was, obviously, designed for maximum boundary damage and therefore smaller than a standard field. GT20 lasted 18 days in total. Compare that to some of the other established leagues which span several months.
There is promise for the league to grow. Once the official numbers come through, GT20 will likely surpass its projected 150 million viewers from the beginning of the tournament. A final going to the "super over" will help the cause. However, the infrastructure behind the scenes needs to be cleaned up and the tournament as a whole needs to operate like a legitimate league rather than something seemingly hastily thrown together.
There is always a cost to becoming a regular event on the global cricket calendar. Two seasons in, it's unclear whether GT20 is willing to pay it.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
Shortly after the 2019 World Cup, which was a drag through most of the group stage before erupting on an international level in the knockout round and the final, it was back to business as usual for the ICC. Global celebrations of sport rightfully overshadow the people running the show, but reality eventually rears its head.
This time, it's full member Zimbabwe suffering the penalties. On July 18, the ICC suspended Zimbabwe with immediate effect from international cricket for violation of the ICC constitution, which doesn't allow government intervention. Zimbabwe's economy is in chaos and the ICC rightfully feared the government was diverting money from funds intended for the development of the sport into other sectors.
"We do not take the decision to suspend a Member lightly, but we must keep our sport free from political interference," ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar said in a statement. "What has happened in Zimbabwe is a serious breach of the ICC Constitution and we cannot allow it to continue unchecked."
This is the first time a full member has been affected. Nepal and the United States have been suspended for the same reason and Sri Lanka was dangerously close to getting the same punishment. The ICC rightfully wants governments and the boards to be their own entities.
However, this suspension doesn't actually solve the problem. Zimbabwe board members will likely be reinstated and the situation, according to media reports, is going to re-examined in the coming months. However, the funding eventually has to get back to Zimbabwe cricket to grow the game. The structure of the board isn't likely to change. So how can the ICC ensure the situation will be any better at the next checkpoint?
Another somewhat important note; Zimbabwe's economy has been unstable for a long time. There was never fear of the government reaching into Zimbabwe cricket's coffers to divert funds. So what changed now? As Grant Flower details here, Zimbabwe cricket has had operational issues for years. So why take action now?
The problem now is coaches and players are now out of job for the foreseeable future. The best ones will be able to latch on in one of the many T20 leagues around the world, but this could be the end of the line for a lot of others. There is a human aspect of this decision many people won't realize. These coaches and players are the ones truly affected by the decision, both emotionally and financially. If the ICC was so worried about government intervention in Zimbabwe's revenue share, why not deliver the amounts to the players individually?
Here's the part where it gets really stupid. Shortly before the World Cup, BCCI was considering sending a letter to the ICC to ban Pakistan from the tournament due to a recent terrorist attack. You think that wasn't politically motivated? When MS Dhoni sported gloves with an Indian military symbol, Prime Minister Narendra Modi got involved. Pakistan still can't host a tour because of an incident from a decade ago. You think all the world's cricket boards are throwing away decades of significant revenue to take some moral stand against Pakistan entirely on their own? If the ICC wants to keep the government out of sports, it's up to the boards to keep sports out of government agendas.
BCCI isn't getting suspended. We know that. But if the governing body for the sport wants to keep cricket "free from political interference", it can't be selective in its approach. The solution is to provide Zimbabwe with a structure the ICC wants to see. Meet with the members tasked with running the organization. Ensure they're adequately funded and dedicated to the game. Zimbabwe being suspended, as mentioned above, doesn't actually solve the problem at hand. This is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Eventually, you have to actually take the bullet out.
Furthermore, the ICC isn't exactly a big proponent of growing the game itself. The most recent World Cup got cut to 10 teams. The 2023 edition is going to be the same. You want to know what it takes for a nation to get involved in the sport? Take a look at this absurdity.
Keep in mind Iceland cricket has zero, and I mean ZERO, incentive to lie about any of this. As the thread states, Iceland wouldn't need help from anyone if it had all those requirements in place to begin with. How does the governing body of an international sport fail to grow the game on this level? If Iceland's government gets involved, the ICC will suspend the team. But if it isn't doing anything to develop the game in the first place, then what's the real difference? Government intervention goes both ways. The ICC has to be capable to differentiating what is and isn't positive government action on behalf of the sport.
If the ICC wants to be taken seriously as a governing body, go after every board for its wrongdoings. Establish real solutions, not meaningless suspensions. Support nations trying to get into the sport from the top down. In short, do more than the bare freaking minimum of putting together a global tournament once a year. Allow a government to be involved in the growth of the sport for the right reasons. At the end of the day, this suspension only affects Zimbabwe coaches and players. They aren't even the intended targets.
The ICC has been backed into a corner over the years and is beginning to fight back. That's encouraging, except it is fighting back at the wrong people.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
The most thrilling match in the history of one-day cricket came down to a tiebreaker; the most number of boundaries hit in the innings. And with that tiebreaker, England has started a potentially historic "Golden Generation" with a World Cup title.
The hosts and New Zealand couldn't be separated after 50 brilliant overs from each team. They couldn't be separated after a "Super Over" each, meaning the final tiebreaker had to be utilized. Should both teams have kept playing "super overs"? Probably. The ICC will have to look at the rules again. Regardless of the final decision, the 2019 World Cup final will be the greatest match in cricket history for a long, long time.
The Blackcaps set up a score of 241, potentially 20-25 runs under par at the start of the day. England got off to a decent start before Matt Henry picked up Jason Roy's crucial wicket. After Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan perished at crucial stages in the contest, England relied on its two middle-order stars to take the chase deep.
Ben Stokes, the most reliable player for England in the tournament, and Jos Buttler gave the hosts a fighting chance at the end of the innings when wickets continued to fall. New Zealand had some bad luck as well despite some stunning catches and excellent ground fielding.
Trent Boult had the chance to flip a ball caught near the rope to a teammate to end Stokes, but he put his foot on the boundary rope. On the next play, a throw in from the outfield ricocheted off Stokes and went to the boundary, resulting in four overthrows and gave England a chance to win with 3 runs from 2 balls. New Zealand then got two run outs to force a "super over". England got 15 in its one over. New Zealand also finished with 15, with a run-out on the final ball needing 2 from 1 resulting in a tie and England winning the tiebreaker.
At the end of the day, both teams had great chances to win at multiple stages of the game. The tiebreaker is ultimately the rule, but additional "super overs" could've cemented this contest as an all-timer. England now gets to start on its "Golden Generation" with a one-day World Cup. Four years of transformation and work have paid off and England is ready to reap the benefits. The team will be favored in the 2020 and 2021 T20 World Cups and should be a contender in 2023 with the majority of this championship squad back in place. It's potentially four years of dominance after four years of rebuilding for the English. They wouldn't have it any other way.
By: Chinmay Vaidya, Aashay Chavan, Aneesh Tyle and Paarth Joshi
After 47 grueling matches, the 2019 World Cup final is upon us. No matter what happens, one country will be lifting the trophy for the first time ever. England and New Zealand meet in the World Cup final four years after both teams were on drastically different paths. The hosts had bowed out in hilariously disastrous fashion in 2015 while the Blackcaps finally broke the semifinal barrier to appear in a World Cup final.
For the first time since 1992, a World Cup final will not feature either India or Australia. The Aussies lost a semifinal match for the first time in their World Cup history. New Zealand bottled up India to advance to consecutive finals, becoming the fifth country ever to do so.
The Follow On crew breaks down England-New Zealand matchup with seven questions, from who the most important players are to who will get that elusive first World Cup title.
1. Does either team have more momentum heading into the final?
Chinmay Vaidya: As the semifinals showed, momentum doesn’t mean anything. Both teams enter after winning the last game but that doesn’t mean anything. England might feel its players are in better form, but New Zealand’s bowlers will also feel confident.
Aashay Chavan: In spite of New Zealand’s thrilling victory against India, I think England still has more momentum. Lest we forget New Zealand finished off on a steep decline, losing three in a row in the group stages after looking almost unbeatable during the first 5 matches. Although this may be the jump start they so sorely needed, I doubt it will be enough to overcome England’s firepower. They barreled their way against a good Australian team.
Aneesh Tyle: England has the momentum coming off 3 straight dominating wins against Australia, India and then Australia again in the semifinal.
Paarth Joshi: England. Despite an incredible win from New Zealand against India, the Blackcaps still had a rough end to the group stage while England has managed to pull of several impressive wins in a row coming into the final.
2. What is the key matchup?
CV: New Zealand’s pace bowlers against England’s openers. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow have been killing opponents in this tournament and are keys for England. The Blackcaps blazed through India’s top order to help cement a place in the final. They’ll be looking to repeat that against the hosts.
AC: New Zealand’s opening pace vs England’s openers Roy and Bairstow. When Roy's on, he’s ON. He can be described as fluid big hitter at worst, a destructive match winner at best. New Zealand’s pacers (Boult, Henry, and Lockie) are in for a challenge but they’ve showed they can defend any total (New Zealand has not scored more than 300 once this entire tournament).
AT: Opening Batsmen vs New Ball. Who can get the all-important early inroads?
PJ: Roy vs Boult and Henry. If Roy can get it going early, New Zealand will be in DEEP trouble.
3. Most important player for England?
CV: For England, Roy is key. He’s been on fire in the games he’s played. If Roy gets going, he can singlehandedly take away the game from New Zealand. If he gets out quickly, England will face a slight setback and it could open the door for more wickets.
AC: I'm gonna go with one of two choices here: Stokes or Bairstow. Stokes can have an impact in all three phases of the game and if he dabbles his hand in each of them, he can singlehandedly change the match. Bairstow – who can lead from the front and get a big score quickly in any game, is also a worthy candidate.
AT: The obvious answer is Jason Roy (since his return, the opening partnerships have dominated), but I'm going to Joe with Root ;). He's the glue in their order and can anchor down or accelerate at will.
PJ: Jason Roy. If he can score 75+ the match is over. Not only is his strike rate amazing, but he has an uncanny knack of demoralizing a bowling attack and taking the fire out of 11 men.
4. Most important player for New Zealand?
CV: I think Martin Guptill is the most important player for New Zealand in this final. He’s been complete garbage this tournament after a sublime performance in 2015. If Guptill can click in the final, it’ll redeem an otherwise forgettable tournament run for the Kiwi opener.
AC: Kane Williamson, without a doubt. He does need to score a tad quicker in my opinion if the Blackcaps hope to put up a score of 330+ versus England. Martin Guptill is also someone to watch out for. I know he’s had a poor cup so far but maybe that run-out throw in the semis will give him the confidence he needs to go back to 2015 World Cup batting form right when his team needs it most.
AT: Kane Williamson- DUH. he's been New Zealand's best batsman this entire tournament. He needs to play the innings of his life to propel the batting order. If Williamson gets out early, then England will have a huge advantage.
PJ: Mitchell Santner. It's a slightly wild choice, but the game will come down to his ability to take wickets. Santner will likely be brought on within the first 15 overs and if he can take a couple quick ones as he has done in the past, England will be on the back foot. Plus he can chip in with the bat if needed.
5. England wins if....
CV: The openers click. Roy and Bairstow are so destructive, as India and Australia witnessed. If the openers get going and stay there for a long time, England might top 400.
AC: If the hosts bat first and score 350+ and have a good bowling powerplay. I don’t think New Zealand has quite the firepower down the order to make up for a slow start in a 350+ run chase.
AT: The hosts bat first and put up 300+. With their bowling, New Zealand won't chase that down.
PJ: Jason Roy scores 75 or more runs.
6. New Zealand wins if....
CV: The pace bowlers take early wickets. Trent Boult and Matt Henry have been consistently delivering breakthroughs for the Blackcaps. Lockie Ferguson is an excellent secondary option that can also change the game.
AC: If it gets to bat first and doesn’t face the pressure of a looming 330+ target. The Kiwis can bat freely, getting 300+ themselves. They’ll back their bowlers to defend any total.
AT: If the Blackcaps can get Roy and Bairstow out in the first powerplay and if Williamson and Ross Taylor play like they have been.
PJ: Ross Taylor scores 75+. He often goes unnoticed, but Taylor is the perfect compliment to any top order batsman in New Zealand's lineup. And once he’s set, we all know he can increase the run rate. Is there one more "Ross Taylor game" left in his career?
7. Final Prediction: Which teams wins and who is the Man of the Match?
CV: I picked England at the beginning of the tournament and switched my pick to New Zealand after 30 games. I’ll stick with the Blackcaps to lift their first World Cup trophy with Trent Boult taking Man of the Match honors.
AC: New Zealand bats first, puts up a 300+ score. England starts strong at about 120-1, but a wicket in the middle leads to a small collapse, and then New Zealand bowlers smell blood, finishing off the game by bowling England out.
AT: I think it'll be another one-sided match. England wins and Eoin Morgan is Man of the Match.
PJ: England is the better side. The hosts will win this contest behind a brilliant, unbeaten century from Joe Root, who will also get the Man of the Match honors and likely the Player of the Tournament award.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
The semifinals are officially set with top seed India taking on New Zealand and second seed Australia battling the hosts England.
India captured the top seed on the last day of the group stage, topping Sri Lanka and seeing Australia lose to South Africa. The Men in Blue have a deadly opener in Rohit Sharma, arguably the best batsman in the world in Virat Kohli and plenty of bowling talent.
Sharma is on fire. He's the frontrunner for Player of the Tournament and will almost certainly win the award should India go all the way. Five centuries, including three in a row, is no easy feat. With Shikhar Dhawan out for the tournament, Sharma has carried the mantle as India's opener. New Zealand has to plan for him.
Kohli has flown under the radar, but he's been stellar in the tournament. The captain has 442 runs, but has yet to play the big innings he's known for. Kohli hasn't had to do much this tournament with Sharma's form, but he's more than capable of carrying India all the way to the title. New Zealand is going to throw a lot of pace at Kohli; will he successfully navigate it?
The issue for India is what happens if Sharma and Kohli don't click. It hasn't happened so far, but usually the law of averages catches up to teams at some point. KL Rahul has played a solid hand in the last three games, but India's supporting cast has been very underwhelming. Here's India's run distribution heading into the matchup with New Zealand.
It's pure comedy that Sharma has been worth the rest of the team on his own up to this point. Kohli is contributing his usual weight and Rahul has chipped in a significant percentage of runs, but the rest of the team has been off. MS Dhoni has been criticized for his approach, but that's just who he is at this point. 2011 Dhoni isn't walking through the door. Hardik Pandya has fired at the end of an innings, but can he rescue a situation? Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav haven't shown the ability to step up.
All this leads to the question of whether India should play both its specialist spinners against the Blackcaps. Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav started off the World Cup on fire, but both have struggled of late. Ravindra Jadeja has been utilized in the field, but could India field him in the playing XI to add an additional bat?
Here's what India's spinners have done up to this point. Chahal and Yadav have played every game together except for the final two contests, where India fielded just one specialist spinner. The former has been the more consistent performer, but has also gone for more runs.
Chahal Figures: 4/51, 2/62, 0/53, 2/36, 2/39, 0/88, 1/50
Yadav Figures: 1/46, 0/55, 2/32, 0/39, 1/35, 1/72, 1/58
India will absolutely play one of Chahal and Yadav. The question is whether Jadeja should get a nod as a member of the playing XI. If Jadeja plays, Chahal likely gets the nod.
New Zealand is dealing with its own issues. After storming through the first half of the group stage, the Kiwis looked like a complete wreck in the last three contests. New Zealand got pummeled by Australia and England, which surely put in dent in the team's confidence. But New Zealand did enough in the early stages of the tournament to create a buffer and advance to the semifinals on net run rate.
One positive for New Zealand is the performance of the three all-rounders. James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner have contributed with both bat and ball, extending New Zealand's batting lineup and giving Kane Williamson additional reliable bowling options. Unfortunately, the contributions with bat and ball haven't all come together in the same games for the all-rounders.
Match 4 was the rained out contest against India. The all-rounders didn't need to bat in Match 1 or 3, resulting in nothing for those contests. If New Zealand can get a complete performance from its three all-rounders, the Blackcaps will be in good shape.
Williamson's form is another thing to watch. New Zealand's openers have been pathetic, failing to create magic after the opening match. Martin Guptill looks washed up and there hasn't been a reliable partner next to him. Colin Munro looked lost after the opening match and Henry Nicholls appears out of his element. If Williamson can't steady the ship in the middle, the Kiwis are doomed. And after a stellar run early, Williamson is struggling.
Scoring in the 40s isn't bad, but it's not helpful either when both your openers are toast in 25-30 runs. Williamson and Ross Taylor (who needs to not try to turn clear singles into impossible 2s) need to re-establish themselves in the middle order. The all-rounders should show up to extend New Zealand's batting lineup, but the captain needs to show why he's a star.
In the second semifinal, Australia will face off with England in a rematch of a thrilling group stage game. England looked like it would chase down Australia with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler in the middle, but Mitchell Starc struck and the Aussies pulled out the win. Starc has been brilliant and Pat Cummins has been a strong partner from the other end of the pitch, but Australia's supporting bowlers need to step up. Here's the wicket distribution among the Aussies.
If England goes into the game looking to see Starc through, Australia could have a problem on its hands. Starc won't concede runs, but he's Australia's most reliable wicket-taking option. If he can't strike, England could do real damage. Joe Root and Stokes have been anchors in the middle, but the opening pair responsible for much of the host's success is back.
Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow have batted together five times in this tournament, averaging 61.6 runs per stand. In the four other games, England's opening pair (Bairstow-Root once and Bairstow-Vince thrice) averaged 35. Roy and Bairstow have two stands of 100+ runs, while the other pairs have two stands under 2 runs. There's no comparison.
This semifinal could be a big moment for two players who have underwhelmed in this tournament. Buttler, a popular pick to be Player of the Tournament, has had a volatile run. He started off the tournament with some fireworks, but has consistently failed to click at the back half of the group stage. Unless Buttler leads England to the title with two monster innings, he's not coming anywhere near the Player of the Tournament honors.
For Australia, all-rounder Glenn Maxwell needs to step up. With the status of Usman Khawaja and Marcus Stoinis in doubt, Maxwell needs to score runs. He's maintained a supreme strike rate at 163.15, but his average is a paltry 17.22. Australia doesn't need the explosive innings; it just needs a real innings from Maxwell.
Buttler has been the slightly better player with an average of 31.63 (he didn't bat in one contest)and his strike rate of 130.41 is great. England just needs him to play the extended knock rather than a quick-fire 25 or 30, unless the situation calls for it. Maxwell, on the other hand, just needs to score some runs. How these players perform could determine which team comes out on top.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
The 2019 World Cup should be the end of the road for Chris Gayle. He'll likely get an honorary selection as the West Indies get set to defend the T20 World Cup crown next year, but Gayle's playing days are probably over on the international level. He'll still be around in T20 leagues raking in cash and sending balls out of the ground, but Gayle's confusing legacy as an all-timer at the international level has likely come to a close.
Gayle is the only player in cricket to have 10,000 runs in the T20 format of the competition and he's led the West Indies to two T20 World Cup titles. He's taken aggression at the top to the next level and at his peak, Gayle could singlehandedly win a match. Unfortunately, that didn't translate to the one-day format.
The West Indies have gone 118-159 in ODIs with Gayle playing. He's played with the likes of Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kieron Pollard and Marlon Samuels so it wasn't like his supporting cast wasn't talented. For an all-time great like Gayle, that W-L mark is part of his confusing place among the game's best. In the ODI format, you could argue Gayle isn't one of the best to play the game. He simply didn't lead his team to anything significant in the one-day arena.
In the T20 format, Gayle is significantly better. The West Indies are 28-24 in T20 internationals when the left-handed batsman plays, but those wins include two championships. Gayle is a devastating T20 player and he's been able to benefit from it. Not only has he extended his playing career, but the earnings from leagues around the world have allowed him to set up The Chris Gayle Academy to help underprivileged children. In this format, Gayle is an all-timer. He's likely the best ever. In the format many consider the future of the sport, Gayle helped create the excitement and interest.
Gayle's tenure has not been without controversy. He has had numerous spats with the West Indies Cricket Board (all of which were justified) and his comment about T20 cricket replacing Test cricket sparked an incredibly unnecessary debate. His comments to cricket presenter Mel McLaughlin in an interview during the Big Bash League were obviously wrong and that will remain with Gayle forever. But his cricket-related controversies have been justified and they've paved the way for WICB to operate better.
So after a disappointing 2019 World Cup campaign where the West Indies will likely finish ninth, where does Gayle's international legacy stand? He scored 242 runs for the West Indies in the tournament as his swan song, but the time has come for the big man to step aside and let the team venture into the future. In the ODI format, Gayle doesn't touch the top 10 and potentially the top 25. In the T20 format, the modern standard for cricket, he's at the top of the list. His off-field record is spotty, but his work on behalf of West Indies players and charitable actions outweigh his childish moments. Very few fans will forget his batting style. Everyone has seen at least one great "Chris Gayle innings". Perhaps that's why he'll always be remembered around the world.
Chris Gayle has been a confusing player to critique for his entire career. His legacy is no different.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
We're officially halfway through the 2019 World Cup and a lot has gone as expected. England, India, Australia and New Zealand have started to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and would be the semifinalists as of this writing.
What hasn't gone to plan is South Africa's tournament. The Proteas have been awful in all phases of the game and got their lone win against a demoralized Afghanistan squad. South Africa needs to win out to have a shot at the semifinal, a massive undertaking considering the remaining opponents. It's been a rough go so far for the team and the leaks of AB de Villiers wanting to be part of the squad and being denied by South Africa management couldn't have helped the mood. West Indies and Pakistan have underwhelmed, but there's still time for them to turn things around. Let's dive into the five big takeaways at the halfway point.
1. Bangladesh believed (and the players have backed it up so far)
This was the World Cup Shakib Al Hasan felt his country could win. It was the fourth World Cup for the core group of Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah. If there was any time to make a mark on the world stage, it was with this experienced group leading the way. Sprinkle in the young talent like Soumya Sarkar, Mustafizur Rahman and Liton Das and there was reason to be excited.
Bangladesh got off to a flying start in its first match against South Africa. Al Hasan and Rahim led the way with scores of 75 and 78, respectively. Mahmudullah put together a splendid 46 from 33 to push the team to 330-6. The bowlers did their job in a big win.
In a big win over West Indies, Bangladesh chased down 321 to prove the team can handle pressure. Al Hasan was the star with a century and Das added 90 from 68 to showcase the Tigers' fighting spirit.
With four games left, Bangladesh stands at fifth with 5 points. The Tigers still have to contend with India and Australia, but should be able to handle Pakistan and Afghanistan. Al Hasan leads the tournament with 384 runs and has the confidence to continue his great performance. This is Bangladesh's moment and it has seized the chance.
2. Rohit Sharma has India in contention
The "Hitman" has two centuries and a half-century to carry the Indian top order in Shikhar Dhawan's absence. Sharma has been tempered when he needs to be, but has flipped the switch at the right time. He's putting up a strike rate of 159.5, an unreal rate through three played games.
The opener played his biggest hand in India's rivalry game against Pakistan, scoring 140 to lead the way to a monster total. India is cruising in every game it has played and the rainout against New Zealand might be a blessing in disguise. A potential loss against the upstart Blackcaps could've stopped India's momentum. The schedule eases up now for the Men in Blue. With Sharma leading the way, India is firmly in contention status.
3. The ICC's false narrative has been exposed
The 10-team World Cup was supposed to make games "more competitive" by eliminating teams with less proven talent. The idea was to create great games by eliminating the blowout matches. Little did the ICC realize the result of the game is based on execution, not just talent level.
Halfway through the tournament, we've seen exactly four competitive games. Of course, a week of rained out matches hasn't helped the cause but the matches have been largely predictable at the halfway mark. The real reason the ICC wanted this type of format was nine India games, bolstering the revenue of the Cup. It's all about money at the end of the day.
With the World Cup contracting, it's increasingly hard to see avenues for the game to grow. BCCI doesn't care and it appears the ICC doesn't either, but people have taken notice. It's hardly a "world" tournament with 10 teams. The false narrative of more competitive cricket has been exposed.
4. Mitchell Starc is still the best bowler in the world
Coming into the World Cup, Starc's health was a concern. The left-arm speedster was battling a multitude of injuries and his status was important for Australia's chances. Starc has been healthy, alright.
He's tied for the most wickets in the tournament and his breakthroughs have come at key times. His 5-for performance against the West Indies turned the match in Australia's favor and his demolition of Sri Lanka prevented a potentially embarrassing loss. Starc has been everything we expected and more. There's a reason he was the Player of the Tournament in the 2015 World Cup. He's still, when healthy, the best bowler in the world.
5. England is for real
We knew England was the favorite as the host country, but there's always concerns about whether the squad will live up to expectations or flounder. England doesn't exactly have a great track record in World Cups and the 2015 tournament was particularly disappointing. However, that disappointment has led to the turnaround over the last four years. And it's been on full display so far.
England is averaging 328.2 runs per game, by far the best mark in the tournament. The team nearly chased down 343 against Pakistan despite being seven wickets down. That's the batting power in England's lineup. Joe Root has lived up to his superstar billing, checking in at second right now in the run tally with 367.
Root's exploits aren't the only thing driving England. Captain Eoin Morgan set a record of his own with 17 sixes against Afghanistan in a devastating innings. Morgan had hit 194 sixes in 210 innings prior to his record-setting game. The captain himself is now at 249 runs for the tournament.
England is so balanced as a unit it's hard to find a weak spot. Johnny Bairstow and Jason Roy each have more than 200 runs and Jos Buttler has 187. Even Ben Stokes clicked in the opening game. With this kind of lineup, it's hard to plan for any one batsman. Anybody could do damage.
With 24 games gone, England is 4-1 and at the top of the table. The tough part of schedule comes in now with Australia, New Zealand and India in the fold. Luckily, the hosts have done enough work to this point to likely only need one win from these three games to make the semis.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
"After 25 years in cricket I've decided to move on. Cricket has given me everything I have. Thank you for being a part of this journey” - Yuvraj Singh (via BCCI)
Singh officially announced his retirement from international cricket, finishing his impressive career as an all-rounder with 8,701 ODI runs and 111 ODI wickets. His aggressive batting style embodied his resiliency in a historic career, one that will cement him as a top-10 all-rounder in the history of the game.
He struggled early in his international career, showcasing his inconsistency at the 2003 World Cup. His subsequent seasons were marred by the same swings in form, a product of his batting style. Singh was an effective bowler as a part-time spin option, but didn't make a tremendous impact in that area either. Despite these struggles, Singh was a regular member of India's playing XI. He finished his career with 304 one-day matches.
In the 2007 World Cup, the entire Indian team face-planted out of the group stage. Singh had his share of issues as well. He redeemed himself at the 2007 T20 World Cup, the inaugural competition in that format. And that's where he had his first memorable moment.
In his demolition, Singh made the fastest 50 in T20 cricket history. It was also the fastest in any form of the game and it's a record that still stands today.
Despite India's win at the 2007 World T20, Singh again faced fitness issues and was on the fence for the squad. He was in and out of the team over the next several years, most notably being dropped from the 2010 Asia Cup after the 2010 World T20. These questions about his form and fitness forced Singh to once again prove the naysayers wrong and he did so in absolutely sublime fashion.
The 2011 World Cup was extremely important for India. It was the last World Cup for the country's "golden generation" with prominent players like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan unlikely to play in a World Cup again. Newcomers like Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina were determined to etch their names in history. After a disastrous 2007 campaign, MS Dhoni was looking to prove his mettle as a captain. Singh was selected in the side, but it was unsure how much he would play.
The left-handed all-rounder put together arguably the greatest stretch of cricket in a World Cup, tallying 362 runs and picking up 15 wickets to lead India to the title. He scored a century and four half-centuries and became the first player in history to score a half-century and pick up five wickets in the same match. Singh won four Man of the Match awards and eventually was named Player of the Series. His run in the knockout stage in particular burnished his legacy as an all-time Indian great.
Singh took two wickets and scored an unbeaten 57 to dispatch Australia in the quarterfinal. His final boundary shot and the emotion that followed will forever be in the minds of cricket fans across the world. For the first time since 1992, Australia wouldn't be playing in a World Cup final. Singh had slayed the giant.
Against Pakistan, Singh got out on the first ball in what wound up being a tense match. However, he made contributions in the second inning with two key wickets and a catch. In the final, Singh again took two important wickets to help India limit Sri Lanka to 274. His unbeaten 21 as part of the winning partnership capped off his thunderous comeback on the international stage and India's championship.
Perhaps Singh's greatest comeback came off the cricket field. He was diagnosed with cancer in his lung shortly after the World Cup and there were serious questions whether he would ever step on a cricket field again. However, Singh beat cancer and returned in time for India's 2012 World T20. He continued to showcase his brilliance in the international and domestic arena, but wasn't able to make the 2015 World Cup squad. His 2017 Champions Trophy knock against Pakistan in the group stage was his swan song. 53 runs in 32 balls to push India past 300 in a rivalry game. It was a classic Yuvraj Singh innings at the perfect moment.
"I have never stopped believing in myself...always believe in yourself" - Yuvraj Singh (via BCCI)
Remember him for his brilliance. Remember him for his all-around skill. Remember him for his 2011 World Cup. But most importantly, remember him for his resiliency. Yuvraj Singh never quit, even when everything seemed to be going against him. He rose to the occasion every single time and his playing style embodied his journey. He's an all-time great and an Indian cricket legend. Yuvraj Singh's legacy has been cemented.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
85 from 107 balls in a win over Kenya in 2007. 131 not out from 124 balls in a win over Pakistan in 2011. It never happened in 2015 and it likely won't happen in the upcoming 2019 World Cup in England.
I'm talking, of course, about the infamous "Ross Taylor Game". Taylor has long been dubbed a star in New Zealand's lineup, but he rarely consistently delivered strong performances, especially in World Cups. He would pop off occasionally, usually only for one match. That match would then be called the "Ross Taylor Game".
But in the 2015 World Cup, something strange happened. The "Ross Taylor Game" never showed up. Taylor strung together foundational performances of 56, 42, 30 and then 40 in a loss in the final against Australia. He never exploded to create the magical match-winning innings to keep his streak going. For New Zealand, it obviously wants Taylor to be more consistent and anchor the middle order. The last two years of cricket offer a glimpse into what Taylor can do and how it benefits the Kiwis in the 2019 World Cup.
The methodology is straightforward. Taylor has played 203 career innings and I've taken his career average, century rate, half-century rate and strike rate from those innings. In the last two years, Taylor has been remarkably consistent even as he hits age 35. I've compared his numbers in 41 innings from 2017-2019 (before the World Cup) to his career numbers. Here's what we see. Average and strike rate are up first. The career numbers are on the left and the numbers from the last two years are on the right. The graph for average is on the left and the graph for strike rate is on the right.
As you can see, Taylor's strike rate hasn't changed. His aggressiveness isn't on display, but his average has climbed by almost 15 runs. It's the difference between a solid start and converting that start into something bigger. If Taylor keeps averaging 53.65 runs, that allows the batsmen around him in New Zealand's middle order to fire at will. Taylor used to be the aggressor, but his role as an anchor will be more favorable for the Kiwis this summer. Here are his century and half-century conversion rates from his career and from his last two years. The career numbers are on the left and the numbers from 2017-19 are on the right. The century rate graph is on the left and the half-century rate graph is on the right.
As the data shows, Taylor isn't really converting the big scores. However, he's scoring 50s at a much better rate due to his newfound role as an anchor rather than aggressor. Taylor is not playing the big shots or looking for quick runs in this setting. He's building the foundation for others around him to pick up the run rate. In New Zealand's middle order filled with all-rounders, Taylor provides a great floor and a safety valve. He's learned how to become an anchor and it bodes well for the Blackcaps at the 2019 World Cup.
Unfortunately, this means we likely won't get a "Ross Taylor Game" from the middle-order batsman at the Cup. I'm sure fans would love to see Taylor fire off a blazing century while dusting opposing bowlers in the process. However, that approach usually has come back to bite New Zealand later in the tournament in the past.
This time around, Taylor won't be swinging for the fences recklessly. He's going to be an anchor, supporting the rest of New Zealand's batsmen as they look to go for broke. It won't result in one-game heroics, but it could result in the Blackcaps hoisting the World Cup trophy for the first time in history. And for Taylor, that would be far sweeter than firing in one match.
Note: All statistics as of May 25, 2019
By: Chinmay Vaidya
Many casual cricket fans won't remember Steve Smith's early playing days. I however, as many Australia fans and die-hard cricket fans, do remember. Smith has come a long way from his early matches as a bowling all-rounder.
Yes, you read that right. Steve Smith used to be a bowling all-rounder for Australia. So how did this guy transform from a young legspinner into one of the best top-order batsmen in the world?
Obviously, it took a lot of patience on Smith's part. While he honed his batting skills, legends like Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke held the No. 3 spot down. Even George Bailey got his chances at the position. During a time of confusion about the lineup, the Australians even experimented with Mitchell Marsh and Adam Voges at the spot. But when Smith eventually needed a bigger role, he got the most coveted position in Australia's lineup.
It also took a lot of work from Smith. Players don't just suddenly flip a switch and become good at something they weren't known for, especially on the international level. Smith was an average bowler at best globally. As a batsman, he's one of the four or five best in the world. Let's dive into the numbers illustrating this amazing transformation of one of Australia's best players.
In the first four years of his career, Smith was primarily a bowler. He would often bat at No. 6 as a traditional all-rounder, but he was in the team to make a difference with the ball. Here's his batting and bowling stats from his first four years of ODI cricket.
Steve Smith Statistics (age 20-24)
Batting: 399 runs, 17.35 average, 0 100s, 0 50s
Bowling: 149.5 overs, 22 wickets, 5.2 economy, 35.45 average
So when exactly did Smith flex his batting chops?
The first sign that a change in his playing role was coming happened in August 2014. Australia was involved in a triangular series with South Africa and Zimbabwe, with the latter playing hosts. Smith batted at No. 3 twice in this series, scoring 36 and 10. Not exactly a performance worthy of anointing him at the de facto option at the position, but it was a start. The confirmation happened in Australia's next ODI series.
Smith scored a century in Australia's opening ODI against Pakistan at Sharjah. He faltered in the next match, but went on to make 77 in the third and final ODI of the series. In that three-game set, Smith poured in 190 runs and cemented himself as a true batsman. In Australia's tour of South Africa, Smith scored 254 runs as a middle-order batsman in four matches. His century and two 50s confirmed his batting chops and Australia reacted accordingly. Smith was set as the No. 3 batsman in a Tri-Series with India and England in Australia ahead of the 2015 World Cup. He scored an unbeaten 102 and 40 in two matches against England, giving him a platform to build on for the World Cup.
In the 2015 World Cup, Smith shined. He churned out 402 runs in seven innings with one century and four half-centuries. His 105 in the semifinal against defending champions India was the highlight of the tournament. Smith followed that up with 56 not out to help Australia capture its fifth World Cup title. The transformation was complete with a trophy as icing on the cake.
Here's how Smith has performed with bat and ball after his first four years in one-day cricket. In case you were wondering, he basically doesn't bowl anymore.
Steve Smith (age 25 - present)
Batting: 3,032 runs, 42.70 average, 8 100s, 19 50s
Bowling: 24.3 overs, 5 wickets, 6.16 economy, 30.20 average
Heading into the 2019 World Cup, there's no confusion about Smith's role in the team. This is his first major international competition since the ball-tampering scandal and his IPL campaign left a lot to be desired.
There's questions whether Smith's best days have passed. It'll be up to the Aussie star to prove the doubters wrong in England. He's done it once in his career by switching from ball to bat. This time, it'll be about showing why he's still one of the best batsmen in the world.
Note: All statistics as of May 25, 2019