The economy rate!

Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin... coping well with ODI stress.-AP

What is the supreme performance index for bowlers? G. Viswanath analyses.

The economy rate — runs conceded in an over — in the limited overs format of the game (50 overs and Twenty20) is generally viewed as a superior performance index than the average and strike-rate achieved by a bowler. What indeed cannot be ignored though are the wickets taken by a bowler and this singular achievement seen with the other parameters places the discerning in a better position to judge bowlers.

There was much hue and cry when the International Cricket Council (ICC) incorporated a set of rules in its Standard Playing Conditions for ODIS in 2012. The spinners viewed the fielding restrictions that applied to the non-Powerplay overs (35 overs in all) — only four outside the 30-yard circle — as a major deterrent to their intent to function as wicket-taking bowlers. The use of two new balls (one for either end) and heavier bats made the bowlers, the spinners in particular, feel let down by the ICC’s move. India literally positioned itself in the vanguard of a campaign against what it believed was harsh against the spinners.

The spinners’ concerns were justified, but it was they who responded to the new circumstances remarkably well when juxtaposed against the fast and seam bowling ilk in the 357 matches played under the new fielding restrictions rule that came into effect from the match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand at Pallekele on November 4, 2012. There have been many instances of batsmen going on the rampage in the last 10 overs in the 50-over format and the last five in Twenty20, but India’s own slow men, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, managed to hold their nerve and maintained an economy rate much lower than the aveage achieved (5.20) in the 357 matches.

After the 2012 ODI rules, Ashwin played 59 matches, took 83 wickets at 32.01,conceded 4.85 runs in the 3286 balls he sent down and Jadeja played 63 matches, took 87 wickets at 30.26, conceding 4.74 an over in 2633 deliveries. In the same period leg spinner Amit Mishra played 12 matches, took 26 wickets at 19.35 conceding 4.68 runs an over. The immediate question is whether India’s leading and most experienced leg spinner was given a raw deal by the selectors and captains. Left-arm spinner Axar Patel played 15 matches, took 18 wickets at 27.33 and conceded 4.61 in 640 balls. Clearly Jadeja, Patel and Mishra — with their stock ball leaving the bat — managed their skills efficiently. New Zealand’s seasoned campaigner Daniel Vettori, played 23 matches, took 23 wickets at 34.52, conceded a miserly 4.12 in 1157 balls.

While Ashwin and Jadeja showed their intelligence to deal with the four-fielder restriction in the non-Powerplay overs, India’s seam attack, barring Bhuvneswar Kumar, did not have the tactical acumen to check the flow of runs in the first Powerplay block and in the last 10 overs, especially while playing in India. Kumar played 47 matches, took as many wickets at 36.67 and conceded 4.65 an over in 1760 balls. Mohammad Shami was oustanding; he played 47 matches, took 87 wickets at 24.90, but conceded 5.54 runs an over in 2345 balls, Ishant Sharma played 29 matches, took 42 wickets at 29.90, conceded 5.62 runs an over and Umesh Yadav played 33 matches, took 51 wickets at 26.61, conceded 5.55 an over in 1468 balls. Mohit Sharma played 21 matches, took 24 wickets at 32.17, conceded 5.19 runs an over in 893 balls. Varun Aaron turned out to be the most expensive; he played only five matches and conceded 7.48 an over and Vinay Kumar conceded 6.68 an over in nine matches.

The set of rules introduced in 2012 were (1) only two fielders outside the 30-yard circle in the first block of powerplay (10) overs of an innings, (2) three fielders in the batting powerplay overs (5) and (3) not more than four in the non-powerplay overs. The rough rule of the thumb is that a bowler is considered good if he manages to keep the economy rate under five runs an over. In this conext Ashwin and Jadeja rank high, with the left-arm spinner turning out to be far superior in home matches with 33 scalps in 20 matches and conceding 4.84 an over as against Ashwin’s 31 wickets in 21 matches and conceding 5.17 an over. The ER for the seamers in home matches were: Mohammad Shami 5.67, Ishant Sharma 5.42, Umesh Yadav 4.97, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4.63 and Mohit Sharma 6.93.

The relevant Standard Playing Conditions for ODI matches to be played from July 5, 2015 are: (1) no compulsory catchers in overs 1-10, (2) no batting Powerplay between overs 15-40, (3) 5 fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle in overs 41-50 and (4) “no balls”, not just “foot faults”, to result in a free hit. An extra fielder in the last 10 slog overs would make the captains rework their bowling resources. The seamers have been smashed all over on featherbed pitches and perhaps the spinners may be tactically used.