While launching his latest book on Tuesday, former cricketer Aakash Chopra says Rahul Dravid had a greater impact in Indian performances than cricket’s ‘God’ Sachin Tendulkar.
Aakash Chopra, who has established himself as a commentator and analyst in the last few years, was speaking at the launch of his third book -- co-written with Jaideep Varma, founder of cricket data analysis company Impact Index. Former pacer Zaheer Khan and commentator Harsha Bhogle were also present at the book launch.
The book titled “Numbers Do Lie” delves into the stories of several players whose performances often did not receive the adulation they deserved.
By comparing scorecards of individual matches, looking at the performance of each player in context to the match and the tournament, comparing those results with other players of their era and other such variables, former Delhi batsman Chopra and Varma were able to identify subdued stories from the international cricketing world.
One of the 61 stories in the book concerns the impact Rahul Dravid had on matches despite Sachin Tendulkar ultimately winning them.
“In terms of Test cricket, Rahul Dravid is rated ahead of Tendulkar. In the 1990s, when Sachin was just the lone ranger, nobody was supporting him. If I have to put it this way, Sachin never had Rahul to support him to win matches, but Rahul always had Sachin to support him to win matches,” said Chopra.
Chopra went on to say that Rahul Dravid helped stabilise the pressure in multiple matches just after India had dropped its first wicket. According to Chopra, this contribution from Dravid, which isn’t considered in traditional data crunching, was the reason Tendulkar could bat carefree and win India the game.
“Rahul absorbed more pressure because batting at No 3 and No 4 are two different things. So Rahul was invariably batting at 10 for one and had Viru (Virender Sehwag) for company. By the time Sachin came in it’s just that the pressure was not the same all the time. Also, Rahul’s overseas performances have been the clincher,” Chopra added.
Chopra and Varma explained that use of these methods of in-depth data analysis could help selection committees, especially if applied to domestic cricket.
As far as selecting a starting XI for a T20 game though, the jury is out on the best data-based method that can be used.
This, Chopra highlighted was down to the nature of the format and the fact that it has thrown light on never-before tabulated factors like dot-ball percentage.
Zaheer Khan and T20 cricket
Zaheer Khan, however, declared that he relied on his own methods which would help when selecting a team for the 2017 Indian Premier League season.
“I’m a big fan of the words situational awareness. I think in T20 format, that’s the most critical word for any player to create an impact,” Zaheer said when asked about his preferred selection method.
“The game is moving at a fast pace and you need to be on top of the game and understand the situation. You need to understand at what situation, what is the best percentage option. I look at players and see how many of them are playing consistently in certain situations that we target.
“What I like to do is look at impact players to see which player can fit into which situation to see how he can impact the game.”
Predicting Virat Kohli’s success
When discussing current Indian team captain Virat Kohli, Chopra opined that his meteoric rise to the top of the game was actually plotted as early as the 2011 World Cup if the numbers were dissecting according to his and the Impact Index method.
Highlighting that single performances were not the only criteria, Chopra said Kohli’s performances throughout the tournament, which went under the radar, proved that he was effective in chasing a game.
Emphasising that although he played a small part in the final against Sri Lanka, it was Kohli’s contribution that helped India to a famous victory.
“There is a story about Virat Kohli (in the book) that what he did throughout that world cup went unnoticed. Now that he has become who he is, people say we noticed his contributions then. But let’s be honest, he was a marginal player at the time who was shuffled up and down the order.
“He scored a century against Bangladesh in the first game of the tournament. When you look at the numbers, Kohli was absorbing pressure throughout the tournament. Even in the final, he scored 31 (*sic. Kohli had actually scored 35) before he got caught and bowled by Dilshan. But before that, he had steadied the ship,” Chopra said.
Zaheer echoed his opinion, backing it up with experience of having seen the aggressive batter playing from a young age.
“I actually saw Virat in Sri Lanka (India tour of Sri Lanka in 2009) and he was also part of the RCB team for the IPL. Basically, I had seen him from his under-19 days and I always thought that this guy has got something special about him.
“It’s easier to say it now that he has stacked up the numbers. But even then, looking at him during the Ranji Trophy days, you could tell that this guy is going to play for India. So those kinds of things, as a cricket, you have that instinct to be able to spot the talent,” Zaheer said.