34. Do Indian Batsmen Still Slow Down In The Nineties?

They do, but nowadays Australian batsmen slow down more

I wrote a controversial and possibly “anti-national” piece in Mint in January 2016. India was playing an ODI series in Australia then, and had lost two games after Rohit Sharma had scored hundreds in both games. Glenn Maxwell had remarked that India had lost the games because Sharma slowed down for his century. The comment predictably sparked outrage, and counter-outrage.

My analysis confirmed Maxwell’s analysis - Indian batsmen did indeed slow down markedly in the 90s. Australian batsmen did not. And among Indian batsmen, Rohit Sharma was the biggest culprit in terms of the drop in strike rate from the 80s to the 90s. Striking at 150 runs per 100 balls in his 80s, his scoring dropped down to 98 in the 90s. Shikhar Dhawan, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar were the other big culprits.

The way my piece got shared was interesting - common fans of the game shared it widely, but I didn’t get a single share or retweet by someone deeply connected with the sport (including sports journalists). I had been told by the editor that the story would go on page one. It appeared on the back page of Mint.

It’s nearly four years since that piece came out, so it’s a good time to see if teams still slow down in their nineties, and who are the biggest culprits. The short answer to the first question is that - they all do. Looking only at ODIs from 1st January 2016 onwards, we find a drop in strike rates from 80s to 90s among all teams (I’ve used ball-by-ball data from Cricinfo for this).

Look at the shaded region in this graph. The decline in strike rate is constant (only English batsmen don’t seem to slow down for the 90s - that’s primarily due to Jason Roy who accelerates in this period). Once again, West Indian batsmen see their strike rates dropping the most (thanks to Chris Gayle who slows down dramatically). Interestingly, Australia’s strike rate drops by more than India’s.

Indian batsmen drop their strike rates by less than 5 points when moving from the 80s to the 90s. Australian batsmen, on the other hand, drop their strike rates by 13 points at the same transition!

One Australian who doesn’t slow down in the 90s is Steven Smith. In his 80s, he scores at 94 runs per 100 balls, which he almost doubles to 174 in his 90s! The Australian drop is primarily due to captain Aaron Finch, whose strike rate drops from 105 to 85 as he enters the 90s. David Warner and Shaun Marsh also slow down as they enter the 90s.

And Rohit Sharma might be one of India’s best ODI batsmen in the last few years, but he continues to slow down for his 100. His strike rate drops by 32 points (122 to 90) when he moves from the 80s to the 90s. The only saving grace is that his strike rates shoots back up to 124 after he has got his century!